High School Students Are Thinking about STEM Careers in the Wrong Ways - Student Research Foundation

High School Students Are Thinking about STEM Careers in the Wrong Ways

In 2015, Ranstad US asked 1,000 students ages 11-17 what they knew and thought about STEM careers. The results of the survey, which were published in 2017, showed that most students in that age group are harboring misconceptions about what it means to pursue a STEM career.

Here are some of the more surprising findings.

Most Students Don’t Understand Where STEM-Related Jobs Can Be Found

87 percent of respondents thought that STEM jobs exist primarily at tech-centered employers like NASA. Only 40 percent realized that STEM-related opportunities exist at a company like Instagram, and only 26 percent realized they can be found at Coca-Cola.

The mandate for parents and educators is not to think of STEM careers too narrowly. Educators should strive to “fill in the dots” by telling students where what they are learning can be applied in the real world.

Students Lack Critical Contacts and Knowledge Resources about STEM

52 percent of the students who responded to the survey said that they didn’t know anyone who has a job in a STEM-related field. And 27 percent said they had not spoken with anyone about STEM jobs.

The mandate for parents and educators is to increase mentoring and internships that put students into contact with engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals.

Students Are Missing Real-World Knowledge about STEM Careers

49 percent of respondents said they don’t know what kind of math-related jobs exist in the real world. And a surprising 76 percent reported that they didn’t understand what engineers do.

The mandate for parents and educators is to increase knowledge about real-world jobs in STEM-related fields. One option is to invite working professionals to speak with students in science and math classes.

Attitudes about STEM Are Still Split along Gender Lines

The study found that girls are 34 percent more likely than boys are to say that STEM jobs are “hard to understand.” And only 22 percent of girls named technology as one of their “favorite subjects,” compared to 46% of boys.

The mandate for parents and educators is to encourage girls to speak up in class and take leadership of STEM-related projects and initiatives. If educators don’t take the lead in changing the current state of affairs, many girls with strong technical aptitudes will continue to escape notice.

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