School & District Management

Survey: Minority Students Show Interest in IT Careers, Want Hands-On Experiences

By Jordan Moeny — March 05, 2015 2 min read
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Information technology is a top potential career choice for minority teens, says a new survey from Creating IT Futures. The survey, released this week, also presents some options for schools looking to provide students with career-related information and encouragement.

The survey involved 336 black and Hispanic high school students from across the country, all of whom were from low- or middle-income families in urban areas. Most (92 percent) attended public schools, and all identified as B or C students in their last two years of high school.

The study’s authors noted that these types of students are generally overlooked in studies about STEM careers: “Often left out of the equation are the students ... whose grades may not identify them as standouts for high-profile STEM tracks (e.g., engineer, physician, mathematician) but who can still achieve success in the practical, hands-on world of information technology.”

As the philanthropic arm of the IT trade association CompTIA, Creating IT Futures obviously has a vested interest in attracting students to IT and convincing schools to offer more IT programs. In addition, the report is also missing some information about how the survey was conducted, notably what language was used to describe IT.

Even so, the results provide some interesting fodder for schools looking to boost or leverage minority students’ interest in technology.

Overall, 42 percent of the students surveyed said that a job working with computers or technology was one of the three fields they were most seriously considering, more than any other field. (In addition to the three jobs highlighted in purple below, “web or app developer” and “database administrator” were selected by six percent and four percent of the respondents, respectively.)

Only 21 percent of teens knew for sure what the abbreviation IT stood for, with another quarter saying they were “pretty sure.” Once the details of a job in IT were explained, however, 70 percent of surveyed teens said they might be interested in the field.

The survey also looked at where students get career advice. Parents came in first by a long shot—68 percent of teens said they talk to their parents about career options, whereas just 29 percent talk to their teachers (the next most popular response).

When asked what the best ways to learn about potential jobs, students expressed an interest in direct experience, with job-shadowing, site visits, and after-school and summer internships making up four of the five most popular options, along with “online career exploration tools and apps.”

The survey provided some information about the best ways to get students involved. For example, large numbers of students said they would be interested in working on their IT skills or learning more about the field if it involved a paid job while in high school (94 percent), if doing so could help them get into college (90 percent), and if they received high school credit for their work (88 percent).

Maybe it’s not new information that teens are more likely to do something if they get paid for it, but the responses to that question in particular suggest that teachers and schools could be able to get students interested in any number of subjects—whether IT, STEM, or something else entirely—by connecting academic programs to students’ existing career or life plans.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.