Students in STEM Fields Typically Outperform Their Peers, Report Says

July 29, 2009

Using data from three national studies completed from 1995 to 2006, the U.S. Department of Education released a report today that profiles the characteristics and higher-education outcomes of the roughly 15 percent of students who major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics at postsecondary institutions.

The report says that 23 percent of first-time students in 1995-96 declared majors in one of those areas, known as STEM fields, at some point from 1995 to 2001. A higher proportion of those students identified themselves as male, young, and a dependent. They were also more likely to be Asian/Pacific Islander students, foreign students, people who spoke a language other than English as a child, and students who came from advantaged backgrounds.

Students in the STEM fields also did better than their non-STEM peers. Students who majored in STEM subjects generally were more likely than non-STEM students to obtain a bachelor's degree within six years of their initial college enrollment. About one-third of students who declared a STEM major during their first year switched to a non-STEM field over the six-year period.