Inspiring students to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) begins in the classroom. When you incorporate STEM into your classroom curriculum, you’re encouraging students, especially underrepresented populations like minorities and women, to get involved in a field with projected growth, an array of career paths, and the opportunity to make impactful contributions to society.
Not sure how to get your students excited about STEM careers? Get creative based on your students’ interests and ages! We’ve included 8 ideas below to get you started:
Partner with a Local University
Engaging with a local university to create a STEM mentorship program is a great way to inspire students of all ages while also providing valuable volunteer experience to college students. Offering a free tutoring option for STEM subjects helps students build a strong foundation for going on to higher education.
For example, the State University of New York (SUNY) system has a mentorship program that gives graduate students and postdoctoral fellows the opportunity to mentor middle school students in high-needs school districts in Brooklyn — a win-win for all (SUNY, n.d.)!
Host a STEM Career Day
Get students excited about careers in STEM by reaching out to your community and personal contacts to put on a STEM career day. Invite professionals in to talk about their jobs in large groups and break out sessions. Whether you decide to break it up into weekly presentations or make a full day of it, career days can help students get a deeper understanding of different careers and the possibilities offered by a STEM degree.
Another great option is to simply present and discuss one career per week as part of a weekly STEM lesson.
Assign a STEM Career Project
Hands-on projects are often more engaging than presentations, can encourage creativity, and are easily adaptable based on the interests and ages of your students. Have students find and research a role model in the STEM field, assign different STEM careers, or challenge them to create something using STEM principles. You can outline specific requirements for the project or leave it open-ended to foster innovation.
Plan A Field Trip
Reach out to local businesses and see if they’re willing to do a tour and/or have a mentorship day to inspire local students. Field trips offer students a behind-the-scenes look into a day in the life of STEM professionals and provide the opportunity to chat with people in the field. Plus, students are always excited to get out of the classroom for a day!
Outline the Facts
Sometimes all you need are the facts. Try doing a presentation or an activity to let students know about the various careers available in STEM, examples of companies they can work for, salary information, and other key data. Here are some fun facts to get you started:
- STEM jobs are forecasted to grow by 8% from 2017 to 2029, outperforming non-STEM jobs. Some jobs, such as software development at 22%, are expected to grow even more rapidly!
- The median hourly wage for STEM jobs is $38.85.
- On average, individuals in STEM careers earn $100,900 per year (Barone, 2022).
Provide Access to STEM Scholarships
The cost of college is a barrier to many students, so offering a more affordable path can be the push students need to follow their dreams. Collaborate with fellow teachers, school leaders, and guidance departments to find STEM related scholarships for students. There are many different scholarships available, you might just need to do a little digging.
There are many national, state, and private scholarship opportunities available each year. The Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program, for example, is funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) and is a combined educational and workforce development opportunity for STEM students. In New York State, The NYS STEM Incentive Program provides tuition awards to students who are New York State residents attending a public degree-granting college or university located in New York State. The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) helps students move forward in their educational journeys by providing a wide range of programs and scholarship opportunities.
High schools should provide students with resources to help them find scholarships that they are eligible for. This can be as simple as a section on your school’s website.
Hold a Mock Career Fair
Get teachers or local professionals to volunteer for a mock career fair. Not only will this give students exposure to the idea of a career fair, but it also gives them the opportunity to explore their interests and ask questions about STEM job requirements, expectations, salaries, and more.
November 8th is National STEM Day
Educating students about the benefits and opportunities that STEM careers offer can encourage young minds to pursue diverse career paths that are critical to the future of our society. Whether you’re engaging young children with fun activities or educating high school students about applying for STEM programs and jobs, your efforts are sure to make an impact and inspire students for years to come!
Barone, Ryan. (2022). The State of STEM Education Told Through 25 Stats. iD Tech.
SUNY. (n.d.). STEM Afterschool Mentoring Program. Power of SUNY – Strategic Plan.