College & Workforce Readiness

Student Interest in Science, Health Jobs Doesn’t Match Need

By Caralee J. Adams — August 23, 2011 1 min read
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Hospitals and labs may be where the jobs are, but it’s not where student interest lies.

A survey of high school students conducted by Harris Interactive for the University of the Sciences reveals that 49 percent are “definitely or probably not” considering a career in science or health care—up nearly 9 percent from the year before. And among those 13- to 15-years-old, nearly 60 percent registered a lack of interest in the fields.

Russell DiGate, provost at the University of the Sciences, a private college in Philadelphia, says he was surprised by the drop in interest over last year’s survey, and it has him concerned. “The jobs in science and health-care industries are one of the few sectors of the economy that are predicted to increase dramatically over the next decade, and [the interest] is not aligning,” he says.

Why weren’t students considering a career in health care or the sciences?

The top reason (24 percent) students cited was they didn’t know enough about careers in those fields. Another 18 percent felt they weren’t good enough at science, and 12 percent said they were not prepared for a career in health care/science, the survey found.

Of those who are considering careers in these fields, students cited parents as the biggest influence on their decision (27 percent), followed by teachers (11 percent) and school guidance counselors (4 percent.)

“We can’t turn a blind eye to a part of the economy,” says DiGate. “Health care is so important for many different reasons. It’s not just about good jobs; it’s about patient care and doing good.”

More needs to be done to reach out to students to build awareness about the variety of jobs available in health care and the sciences, says DiGate. Hands-on experience and job-shadowing can give students a taste of the profession and spur interest, as well.

But kids also need to have engaging science teachers, informed counselors, and parents who work in the field to encourage them to pursue these careers.

“If I ask anything of high school science teachers, it would be to not count anybody out,” says DiGate. “Encourage as many people as you can into the field. We need them. They are going to have a great job and be doing good. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

The online survey was conducted in April with 533 respondents.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.