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Abstract

With the growing demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs in the U.S., the attainment of college degrees in these areas is of paramount importance. Both federal and state governments have established initiatives to grow the number of STEM degrees earned by women and racial minorities, as these groups graduate in STEM disciplines and work in STEM fields at a lower rate than that of their majority counterparts. The factors that can deter women and underrepresented minorities from pursuing STEM careers have been identified with one of the most prominent being low self-efficacy, or a reduced belief in one’s capability of accomplishing a goal or task. This study aimed to assess the current level of self-efficacy of Chatham County, Georgia high school students in the STEM disciplines and their interest in pursuing a STEM career. No difference in the levels of self-efficacy in mathematics and science was reported by females and males; however, males reported significantly higher self-efficacy in engineering and technology compared to females. When asked about the future, females and males reported no difference in interest in a variety of STEM vocations; however, males had a significantly stronger preference for jobs in the areas of physics, computer science, medicine, energy, and engineering compared to females. Race did not influence self-efficacy in the three STEM areas, but interest in careers in the physical sciences was low among underrepresented minority students. Continued implementation of strategies to create and maintain female self-efficacy and interest in STEM, especially in engineering and technology, remains a necessity. While underrepresented minority students appeared to possess self-efficacy in the STEM disciplines during high school, strategies are needed to ensure their successful progression through STEM degree programs and later obtainment of a STEM job.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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