Interest in Science Careers Varies by Race, Ethnicity

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Black and Hispanic teens are less likely than their peers to express interest in a job in the sciences.

A recent Pew Research Center analysis of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed a racial and ethnic gap among students seeking such careers.

Among Asian and white high school seniors, 59 and 45 percent, respectively, say they would like a job that involves science.

By comparison, only 40 percent of Hispanics and 39 percent of blacks indicated they wanted a science-related career.

“Some experts have traced the relatively low share of blacks and Hispanics working in STEM professions to differences that emerge at an early age, and NAEP’s figures suggest that racial and ethnic differences in wanting a career in science may emerge at the high school level or earlier,” Monica Anderson, a research associate at Pew Research Center, noted in a recent blog post. “For example, just over a third (37 percent) of black eighth-graders agree they would like a job that involves science, compared with 44 percent of whites and 55 percent of students of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.”

The finding lends credence to the idea that students need earlier exposure to careers in STEM — an acronym for jobs that involve science, technology, engineering, or math.

A national survey released this summer found that although more than three-fourths of respondents were interested in science-related job shadowing and career counseling, few students reported having access to such opportunities.

“Many teens lack access to engaging, real-world science experiences, which is limiting their chances to pursue science any further,” the report noted. “These findings are a call to action for anyone who is committed to inspiring the next generation of American scientists and innovators.”

Explore the latest data and learn more about NACAC’s STEM College and Career Fairs — a great way to help students to explore their options.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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