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Reports Find Untapped Interest in STEM Fields

A significant number of high-school students are interested in fields related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics—the STEM disciplines—but do not plan to pursue a STEM degree in college, according to a report released on Wednesday by ACT Inc., the nonprofit group that owns the ACT examination.

That finding is among the results of a study of students’ self-reported intent to pursue a STEM occupation and students’ responses to the ACT Interest Inventory, a battery of questions that measure preferences for different types of work.

Nine percent of ACT-tested 2013 high-school graduates expressed no intent to pursue a STEM field despite inventory scores that indicated they were a good fit for STEM fields. Forty-eight percent of students had either self-reported or inventory-measured affinity for STEM, but only 16 percent had both.

“The good news is that student interest in STEM is high over all,” Jon Erickson, the ACT’s president of education and career solutions, said in a written statement. “The bad news is that a sizable number of students may not be connecting the dots between their innate interests and a potential STEM-related career.”

A separate report released on Wednesday by Burning Glass Technologies indicates a dearth of STEM graduates, despite strong demand from employers. Forty-eight percent of all entry-level jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher are in STEM fields, while only 29 percent of bachelor’s-degree graduates earn a STEM degree, according to the report.

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