Looking Closer: The U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index and High School Interest

We introduced the U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index in a previous blog post. Now, let’s take a closer look at one of the sub-indices which comprise the overall STEM Index: High School Interest.

High School Interest comprises 11% of the total STEM Index and is based on a single indicator. That indicator, intuitively enough, is the percent of high school students who express interest in STEM. The data was gathered from My College Options, the nation's largest college-planning program operated by the National Research Center for Colleges & University Admissions. In 2013, approximately 2.4 million high school students were asked about their attitude toward STEM fields.

So what did they say?

Overall, the STEM Index saw a brief decline in high school interest in the years following 2000, the baseline year of the Index. However, beginning in 2004, disparate trends among STEM areas began to emerge. Interest in math and science began to increase, reaching a peak in 2009. From there, interest seems to have stagnated or decreased. Conversely, interest in engineering and technology decreased from 2004-2009 and has since gained traction among high school students.

A finding that is most likely unsurprising to many is that male students expressed a much higher level of interest in engineering and technology than females. However, both genders indicated a similar level of interest in science and math.  

Unfortunately for STEM employers in need of a constant pipeline of STEM talent, interest alone may not be enough.

 A recent study suggests that students’ – especially female students - negative perceptions of their mathematical ability creates a roadblock to pursuing STEM subjects. Furthermore, students who pursue STEM degrees may even decide not to pursue a career in STEM.

It may be more important now than ever to identify younger students interested in STEM and keep them engaged.