How and When to Get Students Interested in STEM Subjects

When did you know what career you wanted to pursue? Was it in college? High school? Middle school? Earlier?

Studies show that students need to be introduced to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects at an early age in order to pursue STEM careers later in life, according to the MindShift article “Should Computer Science Be Required in K-12?” In the Microsoft survey Audrey Watters quotes in this article, data showed

  • Nearly four out five students pursuing a STEM degree knew they were going to go after a STEM career in high school or before.
  • One out of five said they made the decision in middle school or earlier.
  • 70% of girls said they made the decision due to a specific class or teacher.
  • However, only one in five of the students said their K-12 schooling prepared them for their college courses.

In an article by Education Week, according to a recent survey by Intel Corp, most teenagers have never considered a career in engineering.

This is a concern to those who believe there needs to be more American students interested in STEM subjects as the working world becomes increasingly dependent on technology. However, the survey also showed that there might be a simple way to turn the numbers around. In a study of 1,004 teens:

  • 63% have never considered a career in engineering.
  • 61% said they are more likely to consider a career in engineering after learning engineers can make $75,000 a year on average.
  • 53% are more likely to consider a career in engineering once learning more about what engineers do.

Even though it’s predicted that programming will be among the most important skills of the 21st century, very few K-12 districts offer computer science courses that teach students how to build new technologies and no states require computer science for graduation, according to the above MindShift article.

If you belong to one of the many schools that don’t offer a computer science course, how can you interest a student in STEM subjects? There are many free options available online. If your school can’t introduce a computer science course, you can incorporate programming skills in another discipline. Try programming software like Scratch that is free, easy to use, and kid-friendly. For your students next research project, suggest they make an interactive story or game using programming software as extra credit or as their presentation.

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