A new study from the University of Georgia has found that more students switch paths in the STEM pipeline than leave the science, technology, engineering, and math career path entirely.
Funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation and carried out in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, the study examined interviews, surveys and institutional data with 1,193 students from a University of the American Midwest for more than six years to observe a unique area of the STEM pipeline: areas of biomedical study.
Of 921 students who stayed in the biomedical pipeline until graduation, almost half changed their career paths in biomedical fields.
“This was almost double the number of students who left biomedical fields entirely,” said Emily Rosenzweig, study co-author and assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the Mary Frances Early College of Education. “This suggests that if we are to fully understand why there are shortages in certain careers in STEM, we need to look at those who change plans in the pipeline, not just those who exit.”
Rosenzweig examined students’ motivations for changing career paths and found that students were more often inspired to make a change because a new field seemed more attractive.
This finding highlighted an under-explored area of research to which educators, policy makers and administrators should devote more attention in the future. Rather than focusing only on what makes students disenchanted with a particular career, consider the factors that make other career paths seem valuable to students.
“The large number of changes made by students who have stayed in the biomedical pipeline highlights the diverging paths students take in their career decision-making,” said Rosenzweig. “We shouldn’t just assume that students stay on track and progress smoothly towards planned careers just because they haven’t left the school. [STEM] pipeline.”
Ultimately, the research provides new insight into the motivations for students to choose various careers in the STEM pipeline and demonstrates the importance of understanding this group if schools are to promote retention in particular STEM careers.
Source of the story:
Material provided by University of Georgia. Original written by Lauren Leathers. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.