By WRAL Tech Wire STEM News

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Solid grounding in science is widely considered to be crucial for the next generation of American leaders. Yet, for the second consecutive year, high school students don’t agree.

From biochemists and pharmacists to physician assistants and physical therapists, the future of the U.S. job market lies in the fields of healthcare and science. However, an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive for University of the Sciences shows that 49 percent of all high school-aged students are not interested in pursuing these careers.

The 49 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 who say they are “definitely” or “probably not considering” a career in science or healthcare represents an 8.9 percent increase over last year’s survey.

While it’s too soon to know if this is a trend or not, it does concern the leadership and faculty at USciences, especially since the lack of interest among younger teens (aged 13-15) grew and stands near 60 percent.

“It is essential that the sciences remain top of mind for America’s teenagers,” said Russell J. DiGate, PhD, provost at University of the Sciences.

Students not considering a career in healthcare and science cite numerous reasons for their lack of interest in these fields.

Twenty-four percent said they feel they don’t know enough about careers in these fields. Eighteen percent feel they’re not good enough at science while another 12 percent said they are not prepared for a career in healthcare/science.

Additional study highlights include results for females and racial minorities as well as influencers for students.

Sixty percent of females in grades 9-12 indicated they are “definitely” or “probably considering” a career in healthcare or the science, while only 39 percent of males the same age feel similarly. African Americans (47 percent), Hispanics (37 percent), and other minorities (38 percent) are more likely than White students (24 percent) to consider these future career fields.

Understanding why some high school-aged students want to pursue healthcare and science careers may help to encourage younger teens to more actively consider a future in these industries. Although considered to be among the most lucrative, nearly six in 10 students cite “earning good money” as their reason for considering a career in this field.

Schools are not a major influencer, based on the numbers.

Of high school students considering pursuing a career in healthcare and the sciences, only 11 percent state influence from a teacher, and 4 percent said guidance from a school counselor are reasons for their interest. Students’ parents are the most likely group to encourage students in pursuing these careers (27 percent), the survey concluded.

This survey was conducted online from April 14-20, 2011, among 533 students in grades 9-12. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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