Teens Are Losing Interest in Science, Survey Finds

Public service is the second most popular adolescent career choice.

The number of students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics declined significantly this year, despite projections of a substantial boost in number of jobs available in those fields in the next five years, according to a new survey.

The survey of 1,025 teens, released Wednesday by Junior Achievement USA and the ING U.S Foundation, found a 15 percent decline – to 46 percent – since 2012 in the number of teens interested in pursuing a career in STEM or medical-related fields. This decline suggests that demand for STEM talent may continue to outpace supply, as the Labor Department projects STEM employment opportunities to increase by 17 percent through 2018.

While the survey showed a decline in interest in STEM jobs, it’s important to note that STEM fields were still the most popular among teens out of all of the fields surveyed. Surprisingly, public service was the second most popular field among teens, with 17 percent of the vote, followed by arts (14 percent) and owning a business (12 percent). Sports ranked the lowest on the list for career choices, with just 9 percent of the vote.

In addition, teens noted that “passion” and “areas of interest” were the number one factor guiding their career choices. As a result, the report emphasized the importance of inspiring these students to develop passions for STEM work, in part through mentorships and other programs.

“It is crucial that we reinvigorate teens about pursuing opportunities in STEM and medical-related careers,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “These fields drive our economy and innovation; they are not only high-growth career paths but also creative outlets where teens can apply their passions.”