June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.624.1 - 14.624.11
Factors Influencing High School Students Career Considerations in STEM Fields
While sporadic gains have been made in recent years in attracting minority and female students to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, there yet remains a significant underrepresentation of females and minorities who pursue academic degrees in these areas. This study assessed different variables that could influence high school students to consider STEM career options. Ninety-four high school students (43 male and 51 female; 52 African American and 42 Caucasian) attending a summer technology academy participated in the study. These students were nominated by their respective high schools as demonstrating potential in STEM academic areas but, due to inhibiting factors (gender, minority status, and/or financial issues), might not choose to pursue these academic and careers options as young adults. During the course of the program, students were asked to provide information on factors such as peer influences, family, school, and media that they felt were influential in their consideration of viable careers. While several areas assessed were consistent across gender and race, notable differences were identified. This paper highlights the importance of better understanding of influences in career considerations as crucial to help guide interventions to improve STEM career selection for women and minorities.
Representation Issues and Career Choices in STEM Fields
Although STEM field populations have grown, this pace has not keeping up with the overall labor market.1 In 2006, STEM professionals accounted for 5 percent of all the employment in the United States; this was down from 5.6 percent from 2001. This decline mirrored post secondary enrollment in STEM degree fields.2 While the actual enrollment in STEM degree fields increased from 519,000 students in 1994-1995 to 578,000 students in 2003-2004, the proportion of undergraduate degrees awarded in STEM fields actually declined from 32 percent to 27 percent of all degrees awarded. This decline has significant economic implications3 since the U.S. needs to produce more graduates in the STEM fields to maintain America’s competitive advantage in technology areas.
The demographics of the U.S. will change dramatically over the next few decades.3 It is predicted that the current Caucasian majority will cease to be the majority of the total population by 2050.3,4 The African American population over this same time frame will double in size and the Hispanic-Latino population will quadruple. This increase, however, does not necessarily mean that many of these individuals will choose careers in science and engineering unless major changes are seen. These individuals present a strong, albeit largely untapped, resource for building the nation’s scientific workforce.5
African Americans and Hispanics-Latinos compromised only six percent of the science and engineering labor force in 1993. From 1995 to 2005, non-Hispanic minorities showed no increases in proportion to undergraduate engineering enrollment and Hispanics made minimal gains from seven percent to nine percent.4 With these demographic trends in mind, the National
Kauffmann, P., & Hall, C., & Bosse, M., & Batts, D., & Moses, L. (2009, June), Factors Influencing High School Students’ Career Considerations In Stem Fields Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/4811
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