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

Are traditionally difficult career paths in tech and science suffering due to how intimidating they have become to pursue?
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

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


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