Number of High School Graduates Who Plan to Teach STEM Low, Unlikely to Meet Expected Demand
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Despite high interest in STEM overall, the number of 2014 high school graduates who plan to teach STEM subject areas is small and unlikely to meet future demand, according to The Condition of STEM 2014, a new report released today by ACT.
Among the more than 1.8 million 2014 U.S. high school graduates who took The ACT®, nearly half—close to 900,000 students—were interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) overall. Just 4,424 of those students, however, indicated they planned to teach math, while a meager 1,115 said they intended to teach science.
“The numbers we’re seeing are not likely to meet the expected demand for future STEM teachers,” said Jon Erickson, ACT president. “Highly qualified teachers play an essential role not only in preparing students to succeed but also in raising awareness of and interest in STEM careers, which are vital to our nation’s competitiveness in the global economy.”
In 2010, a report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology projected a nationwide demand for approximately 25,000 new STEM teachers per year over the following decade.
“Meeting the growing demand for STEM teachers across the nation is critical to give students the STEM education required to thrive in a fast-changing, knowledge-based economy,” said Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, co-chair of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council in Iowa and one of the nation’s strongest advocates for STEM education. “ACT’s finding that few 2014 graduates want to teach math or science tells us we must do more to attract and keep top STEM teachers and target existing resources more strategically. All students deserve an outstanding STEM education.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM careers are growing at a fast pace and tend to pay higher-than-average salaries.
While student interest in STEM is high overall, readiness in STEM subject areas continues to lag. Among those ACT-tested graduates interested in STEM, just half met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in math, while fewer than half (43 percent) achieved the benchmark in science. ACT research suggests those who meet the ACT benchmarks are more likely to persist in college and earn a degree than those who don’t.
Other report findings:
- Nearly half (49 percent) of STEM-interested students express an interest in pursuing a STEM major or occupation but do not appear to have an inherent interest in STEM based on their ACT Interest Inventory results. The report recommends intervention strategies that help those students understand the requirements of specific STEM occupations and create an educational plan to meet their goals.
- Another 17 percent of STEM-interested students (9 percent of all ACT-tested graduates) have an inherent interest in STEM but no plans to pursue a STEM major or occupation, representing an untapped pool of students who could potentially benefit from pursuing a STEM career.
- Interest in STEM is stronger among males than females, but the actual number of STEM-interested females remained high.
- Male interest in STEM tends to be driven by engineering and math, while female interest tends to be driven by medicine/health care and the sciences.
The reported gaps between students’ interests and their intentions are of concern, as ACT research has shown that students whose interests are aligned with their chosen college major are more likely than others to remain in their major, persist in college and complete their degree in a timely manner.
The report recommends that more be done to identify and foster STEM interests earlier in students’ educational experiences. It also calls for greater efforts to keep interested students engaged in STEM fields as they move into postsecondary education and transition into the workplace.
The Condition of STEM 2014 reports for the nation and for each state can be accessed for free on ACT’s website at www.act.org/stemcondition.