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While job opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions may be plentiful, many teenagers are unwilling to pursue a long-term career in these fields due to the challenges they present. According to a new study conducted by ASQ, students in sixth through twelfth grade felt that careers as doctors and engineers would offer the most job opportunities upon graduating from college, but 67 percent were unsure if they would pursue these careers, due to the numerous challenges they present.
Chief among these challenges is the cost and time it takes to get a degree. According to the survey, 26 percent of respondents felt that the cost and difficulty of pursuing professionally qualifying education in these fields were too high compared with other fields. Additionally, 25 percent of students felt that these career paths were too challenging and involved too much studying.
Careers as doctors and engineers were not the only places where students saw opportunities, though. According to the survey, the career fields offering the greatest opportunity were:
- Doctor - 34 percent
- Engineer- 26 percent
- Teacher- 19 percent
- Lawyer- 17 percent
- Entrepreneur- 16 percent
- Sales and Marketing- 11 percent
- Accountant- 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, ASQ chair and quality engineer with ABSG Consulting.
That is because, according to the survey, 25 percent of teenage respondents stated their grades in math and science aren't good enough to pursue a future career in those subjects. For once, parents agreed with their children, as 53 percent of parents who responded in a similar survey were worried about the challenges these fields presented to their children. Just over a quarter of parents, 26 percent, also felt that teachers were not preparing their children enough for future careers in STEM fields.
Another factor contributing to the nonpursuit of STEM jobs is the growing gender gap in education. According to the research, 30 percent of girls stated that math was their most challenging subject, compared with 19 percent of boys. Additionally, 33 percent of girls admitted they felt teachers did not prepare them enough for future careers in STEM careers, compared with just 9 percent of boys.
The information in this survey is based on the responses of 713 students and a complementary survey of 327 parents with children between the ages of 10 and 17. The survey was conducted for ASQ, a self-described "global community of people dedicated to quality who share the ideas and tools that make our world work better."