STEM leads the pack followed closely by career paths in arts and athletics, though the gender gap persists in several fields.
The Boy Scouts of America surveyed 150,000 students in eighth to 12th grade in order to gauge their interest in more than 200 career options, and here's what they found: When it comes to America's future workforce, it's apparently all about STEM, with a whopping 45 percent of the respondents reporting they were interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-related fields.
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Four of the top 10 most sought-after career options were in the health care field—registered nurse came in at number one, followed by sports medicine at number 5, physician/surgeon at number 6, and veterinarian at number 7. And while professional athletes, singers, and actors snagged the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th spots and photographer took the 9th, other science and engineering fields drew interest from 18 percent of respondents, with mechanical engineer rounding out the most popular list at number 10.
"This is the generation that grew up with technology at their fingertips and have seen how STEM innovations can truly transform entire ways of life," BSA Exploring spokesperson Diane Thornton explained to Parents.com. "Seeing their interest in a variety of areas within STEM, from healthcare to engineering, tells us that we have an important opportunity to introduce them to the many facets and opportunities STEM has to offer so they can find the path that fits best with their interests."
Of course, career ambitions evolve as kids get older. In fact, middle school respondents were twice as likely as 12th graders to select careers in athletics and the arts, while interest in health and business careers increased as respondents entered high school. Not exactly breaking news. I mean, if my job aspirations didn't shift from my tween years, I wouldn't be sitting here writing this article right now—I'd be off somewhere practicing my triple Lutz.
Meanwhile, the survey also revealed that gender differences still persist among youth, with female respondents expressing less interest in engineering, business, and trades than men, while male students expressed less interest in healthcare, social services, and the arts.
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"When considering which profession to pursue, many young adults are choosing their career based on social familiarity rather than a thorough understanding," Thornton told us. "These survey findings highlight the need to ensure that young people have the opportunity to experience career options well before they need to decide what path to take so they can see for themselves that people from all walks of life can succeed in a wide range of fields."
Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.