'Hard work' turns students away from science, tech?

'Hard work' turns students away from science, tech?

Summary: Are traditionally difficult career paths in tech and science suffering due to how intimidating they have become to pursue?

TOPICS: IT Employment

According to new research data conducted on behalf of ASQ, many students are shying away from STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries as they consider the path to get there too difficult to attempt.

This survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of ASQ in December 2011. 713 young people between the ages of 10 and 17 were surveyed, and an extended study was also sent among 327 U.S. parents.

According to the survey, young people viewed the industries offering most opportunity as:

  • Doctors - 34 percent
  • Engineers - 26 percent
  • Teachers - 19 percent
  • Lawyers - 17 percent
  • Entrepreneurs - 16 percent
  • Sales and Marketing - 11 percent
  • Accountants - 11 percent

"It's encouraging to see that more students see the value of STEM careers like engineering but clearly STEM professionals and educators can be doing more to support students along this career path," said Jim Rooney, the chair of ASQ.

Many teenagers are unwilling to pursue STEM professionals as they believe that the challenges represented by such careers are 'too much work'. Careers as doctors and engineers were seen to present the most opportunity, but 67 percent of those surveyed were unsure if they would attempt to pursue such career paths. 25 percent of respondents stated that their grades in mathematics and science subjects were not good enough to consider these as possible future jobs.

One of the main concerns teenagers felt is the rising cost and time associated with obtaining degree qualifications did not offer enough return on investment. 26 percent believed that the cost and difficulty of qualifying these fields outweighed the future benefits as future career choices. Additionally, most of these students saw the career paths as too challenging with too much study involved.

The subject which appears to heavily influence young people in steering away from certain career choices is mathematics. 54 percent stated it is their most challenging subject, and out of the age 16-18 bracket, 30 percent of girls and 19 percent of boys 'strongly agree' it is the most difficult.

When it comes to the challenges today's generation of learners face, rare as it may be, parents and their children agree. 53 percent of parents surveyed demonstrated concern over their children's future prospects if they chose to pursue a STEM subject. A main cause for concern is that 26 percent of parents believed that the school system does not prepare students enough to cope with the challenges they would have to face in STEM fields.

However, it may not simply be the school system -- perhaps it is how young people now prefer to use their time. If a student wishes to become a doctor or engineer, they must expect to dedicate a large proportion of time to extra study.

Half of students surveyed stated they spend time after school playing games or online. This in itself may not be a problem, however, 54 percent of parents indicated that more time is spent in this way than on schoolwork.

STEM careers are traditionally difficult, and require a lot of drive and determination in order to succeed in these fields. Perhaps it is due to a shift in mentality of the next generation, or because there is a decided lack of job stability in the current market that students feel it is 'not worth the effort' involved.

Image credit: Alena Navarro-Whyte


Topic: IT Employment

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  • STEM jobs are subject to globalization

    hence the wages in these fields are expected to drop to those in third world countries in order to be remain competitive in USA.
    I call this pragmatism rather than 'hard work'.
    The Linux Geek
    • Competitiveness is not part of liberals' vocabulary.

      If you tell them to compete w/ workers from other nations on equal terms they'd call you an evil capitalist trying to pay them sub-minimum wages.
  • Lack of Job Stability is What I Tell Young People

    Between offshoring, cheap imported workers, veiled ageism, cultural/education background biases and the like, working in IT has become an unstable and unprofitable career choice as compared to fields like accounting, law and sales/marketing.
  • Students turned off by hard work...

    ...really aren't the people we want going into science or tech anyway.
    John L. Ries
    • RE: 'Hard work' turns students away from science, tech?

      @John L. Ries This is essentially what I said in my post that got mysteriously deleted (damned crappy ZDNet Talkback). It's a motivation issue. Chances are the people that find STEM Jobs too much work will also do lousy in the "easy" majors as well. If you don't have interest and dedication to your field of study, then you're not really going to make it.
      • RE: 'Hard work' turns students away from science, tech?


        The problem as I see it is that apparently lawyers, business people, and accountants don't get NEARLY enough math or science. This makes Washington D.C., the mortgage crisis, and the finance meltdown make much more sense.
  • RE: 'Hard work' turns students away from science, tech?

    "<i>the rising cost and time associated with obtaining degree qualifications did not offer enough return on investment. </i>"<br><br>I have to agree completely with both The Linux Geek and ancientprogrammer above (except for the comment about law, my field, which is massively overloaded). Nowadays a B.S. in science or tech generally consists of around 160 semester hours, which schools sometimes try to cram into 4 years although that's really 5 full years of coursework. Most people with a PhD in science will tell you straight out, "I actually didn't need a PhD to do the work I do, a masters would be fine. But in science, no one takes you seriously without a PhD. You can't get research grants and it's almost impossible to get published." Plus, a science PhD will generally take 10-12 years total from freshman year through post-doc.<br><br>Another problem in tech is "big projects require big money". Look at NASA. Once a major project shuts down, thousands of engineers and related people suddenly find themselves unemployed <b><i>and unemployable.</i></b> The local market is flooded with laid-off tech experts and distant employers aren't interested in the significant expense to retrain a scientist or engineer in a completely different specialty compared to paying a newer person who has the same <b><i>transferable</i></b> skills. (I like to use the example that during the 1960's Vietnamese translators were in demand, but not now. Learning some new language to continue work as a translator isn't a matter of going to a community college for six months and you'll have the same skill set as someone with 10 years in the new field.)
  • Maybe it's just me, however...

    I do think that the "1%" are thinking that STEM/STEAM (who cares?) people are the new "mill workers" who can be press-ganged into high pressure, low wage positions that can be dropped like they were hot when "times and the nature of the economy change." That and they seem to think that people will rush to this (as in China now and back in the Industrial Revolution) as a way out of (more like a way into) the hell they perceived themselves to be living in.<br><br>That and when you try to talk to these people pushing this argument, they just don't know why they want all these tech-trained/qualified people, they just know they need them for the moment.
    • Be free!

      You can resist them by failing to learn any skills whatsoever! That way no one will be able to exploit you. This is how it used to work, back before there were 1%ers and 99%-ers... no one did anything. The Big People fed us and clothed us.
      Robert Hahn
  • RE: 'Hard work' turns students away from science, tech?

    I'm actually amazed they found any kids that actually wanted to work at all lol.
  • RE: 'Hard work' turns students away from science, tech?

    Its a lot of work but it is well worth. I see so many jobs open in the Electronics Engineering field that will make your head spin. I decided to enroll at the age of 26 after being out of HS for 8 years. Now I am almost done with my B.S. It was challenging but is not hard if you're willing to learn. Plenty stuff you have to memorize if you want to get chip or circuit design job. Troubleshooting and swapping out parts is most likely what graduates is going to be doing anyway.