Study choice and career development in STEM fields: an overview and integration of the research

  • Cathy van TuijlEmail author
  • Juliette H. Walma van der Molen


Although science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) study paths and STEM work fields may be relatively difficult and therefore not appropriate for everyone, too many children prematurely exclude STEM-related study and work options, based on negative images of the field or negative ability beliefs. In the present article, we provide an overview of the literature from different research perspectives that shows that study choice and career decisions made by young adults have their roots in earlier in childhood. In our view, the literature reviewed points to three interrelated factors that are important in the study choice and career development of children aged 8–16: knowledge, affective value, and ability beliefs and self-efficacy building. Based on this review, we argue that knowledge of the STEM field, and of the self in STEM activities, and parents’ and teachers’ knowledge of the early circumscription processes of children aged 8–16 needs to be broadened. Also, negative and often-stereotypical affective values adhered to STEM study choices or careers among parents and teachers need to be countered. With regard to ability beliefs, we argue that we should focus more attention on turning pupils’ entity beliefs into incremental ones.


Career development Study choice STEM Stereotypes Childhood 



This research was supported by a research Grant from the National Center of Expertise in Technology Education “TechYourFuture”, The Netherlands.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cathy van Tuijl
    • 1
    Email author
  • Juliette H. Walma van der Molen
    • 2
  1. 1.Saxion Applied UniversityEnschedeThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands

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