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Choosing STEM Majors

Abstract

Drawing on findings from the interview study and SALG survey, this chapter focuses on the factors underlying students’ interest in STEM and their initial choice of STEM major and the relationship between these factors and eventual attrition from STEM fields. Interest, enjoyment, prior achievement, and career aspirations were the primary reasons that students initially selected STEM majors. Altruism and a desire to make a difference were important motivations for a small group of students, notably women and students of color. Students’ selection of STEM was also rooted in parental influence and, to a lesser extent, inspiring K-12 teachers. Parental influence contributed to switching when the influence was perceived as pressure, rather than support or encouragement, to major in a STEM field. A significant group of students were largely uninformed about their initial choice of STEM major in terms of the degree program and pathways and the career options within the discipline. Uninformed students were more likely to switch to a non-STEM major or to relocate to another, more suitable STEM field. Engineering students were the most likely to be uninformed about their initial major because of a lack of exposure to engineering fields in their prior schooling.

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Correspondence to Heather Thiry .

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Thiry, H., Weston, T.J. (2019). Choosing STEM Majors. In: Seymour, E., Hunter, AB. (eds) Talking about Leaving Revisited. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-25304-2_4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-25304-2_4

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