Perceived Impact of COVID-19 and Other Factors on STEM Students’ Career Development
Keywords:STEM, COVID-19, career choice
In early 2020, colleges shifted abruptly from traditional in-person to remote distant instruction due to COVID-19 potentially exacerbating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students’ recruitment and retention. This preliminary study using survey methodology was conducted with STEM students at a small (700 students) private college to examine questions related to students’ perceptions of natural science careers, career decision-making factors, barriers influencing students’ career path, including effects of COVID-19 on career goals, mental health, and perceived quality of instruction. A Qualtrics® survey was sent to 180 STEM students, from which we received 53 responses (29.4% response rate). Consistent with other studies, family was one of the most important factors supporting their career path. Students had a relatively upbeat career outlook despite being in the middle of a global pandemic and were only moderately worried about the impact of COVID-19 on their future career. Despite these relatively positive outcomes, the abrupt switch to online instruction was viewed unfavorably by most respondents, who valued the hands-on learning experiences obtained with traditional in-person instruction. It is possible that respondents’ views of online instruction may improve over time as instructors become more adept at using new instructional tools. Future research should evaluate this aspect and whether students’ career goals change across time as the pandemic unfolds.
Auerbach, R. P., Alonso, J., Axinn, W. G., Cuijpers, P., Ebert, D. D., Green, J. G., … Bruffaerts, R. (2016). Mental disorders among college students in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. Psychological Medicine, 46(14), 2955–2970. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291716001665
Baloran, E. T. (2020). Knowledge, attitudes, anxiety, and coping strategies of students during COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Loss and Trauma. https://doi.org/10.1080/15325024.2020.1769300
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Prentice Hall.
Beier, M. E., Kim, M. H., Saterbak, A., Leautaud, V., Bishnoi, S., & Gilberto, J. M. (2019). The effect of authentic project?based learning on attitudes and career aspirations in STEM. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 56(1), 3–23. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.21465
Brinson, J. R. (2015). Learning outcome achievement in non-traditional (virtual and remote) versus traditional (hands-on) laboratories: A review of the empirical research. Computers & Education, 87, 218–237. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2015.07.003
Chen, X. (2013). STEM attrition: College students’ paths into and out of STEM fields (NCES 2014-001). National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
Craig, C. J., Verma, R., Stokes, D., Evans, P., & Abrol, B. (2018). The influence of parents on undergraduate and graduate students’ entering the STEM disciplines and STEM careers. International Journal of Science Education, 40(6), 621–643. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2018.1431853
Deer, L. K., Gohn, K., & Kanaya, T. (2018). Anxiety and self-efficacy as sequential mediators in US college students’ career preparation. Education & Training, 60(2), 185–197. https://doi.org/10.1108/ET-07-2017-0096
Education & Human Resources (2020). STEM education for the future: A visioning report. National Science Foundation.
Goetz, J., Cude, B. J., Nielsen, R. B., Chatterjee, S., & Mimura, Y. (2011). College-based personal finance education: Student interest in three delivery methods. Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning, 22(1), 27–42.
Haynes, N. A., & Jacobson, S. (2015) Barriers and perceptions of natural resource careers by minority students, The Journal of Environmental Education, 46(3), 166-182. https://doi.org/10.1080/00958964.2015.1011595
I?ik, E. (2012). The relationship of career decision self-efficacy, trait anxiety, and affectivity among undergraduate students. Psychological Reports, 111(3), 805–813. https://doi.org/10.2466/01.09.10.PR0.111.6.805-813
Kia-Keating, M., No, U., Moore, S., Furlong, M. J., Liu, S., & You, S. (2018). Structural validity of the depression, anxiety, and stress scales-21 adapted for US undergraduates. Emerging Adulthood, 6(6), 434–440. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167696817745407
Lent, R. W. (2013). Social cognitive career theory. In S. D. Brown, R. W. Lent, & E. W. Lent (Eds.) Career Development and Counseling: Putting theory and research to work. John Wiley & Sons.
Lent, R. W., & Brown, S. D. (2019). Social cognitive career theory at 25: Empirical status of the interest, choice, and performance models. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 115, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vb.2019.06.004
Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (1994). Toward a unifying social cognitive theory of career and academic interest, choice, and performance (monograph). Journal of Vocational Behavior, 45, 79-122. https://doi.org/10.1006/jvbe.1994.1027
Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., Brenner, B., Chopra, S. B., Davis, T., Talleyrand, R., & Suthakaran, V. (2001). The role of contextual supports and barriers in the choice of math/science educational options: A test of social cognitive hypotheses. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 48(4), 474–483. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-018.104.22.1684
Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (2000). Contextual supports and barriers to career choice: A social cognitive analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47(1), 36–49. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-022.214.171.124
Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., Schmidt, J., Brenner, B., Lyons, H., & Treistman, D. (2003). Relation of contextual supports and barriers to choice behavior in engineering majors: Test of alternative social cognitive models. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 50(4), 458-465. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0126.96.36.1998
Lent, R. W., Morris, T. R., Penn, L. T., & Ireland, G. W. (2019). Social–cognitive predictors of career exploration and decision-making: Longitudinal test of the career self-management model. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 66(2), 184–194. https://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000307
Lovibond, S. H. & Lovibond, P. F. (1995). Manual for the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales. Psychology Foundation.
McWhirter, E. H. (1997). Perceived barriers to education and careers: Ethnic and gender differences. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 50, 124-140. https://doi.org/10.1006/jvbe.1995.1536
McWhirter, E. H., Crothers, M., & Rasheed, S. (2000). The effects of high school career education on social–cognitive variables. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47(3), 330–341. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0188.8.131.520
Mohammadi, A., Grosskopf, K., & Killingsworth, J. (2019). Workforce development through online experiential learning for STEM education. Adult Learning, 31, 27-35. https:/doi.org/10.1177/104515919854547
National Center for Education Statistics (2020, June, 27). The Condition of Education. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cta.asp
National Governors Association (2020, March 19) Coronavirus State Actions Archive. https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/unemployment-rate-rises-to-record-high-14-point-7-percent-in-april-2020.htm?view_full
National Survey of College Graduates (2017). NSF. United States Census Bureau.
Peña, C. J., Inda, C. M., Rodríguez, M. C., & Fernández, G. C. (2016). Perceived supports and barriers for career development for second-year STEM students. Journal of Engineering Education, 105(2), 341–365. https://doi.org/10.1002/jee.20115
Raque, B. T. L., Klingaman, E. A., Martin, H. M., & Lucas, M. S. (2013). Career-related parent support and career barriers: An investigation of contextual variables. Career Development Quarterly, 61(4), 339–353. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2013.00060.x
Regehr, C., & Goel, V. (2020). Managing COVID-19 in a large urban research-intensive university. Journal of Loss and Trauma. https://doi.org/10.1080.15325024.2020.1771846
Rozek, C., Svoboada, R. C., Harachiewicz, J. M., Hulleman, C. S., & Hyde, J. S. (2017). Utility-value intervention with parents increases students’ STEM preparation and career pursuit. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - PNAS 114, 909–914. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1607386114
Rudenstine, S., McNeal, K., Schulder, T., Ettman, C. K., Hernandez, M., Gvozdieva, K., & Galea, S. (2020). Depression and anxiety during the COVID?19 pandemic in an urban, low?income public university sample. Journal of Traumatic Stress. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22600
Sauter, M., Uttal, D. H., Rapp, D. N., Downing, M., & Jona, K. (2013). Getting real: The authenticity of remote labs and simulations for science learning. Distance Education, 34, 37-47. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2013.770431
Slovacek, S., Mui, V., Soto, K., & Ye, H. (2019) Supporting STEM in Higher Education. International Journal of Education and Practice, 7(4), 438-449.
STEM Education Data and Trends (2014). What does the S&E job market look like for U.S. graduates? https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/sei/edTool/data/workforce-03.html
Swanson, J. L., & Woitke, M. B. (1997). Theory into practice in career assessment for women: Assessment and interventions regarding perceived career barriers. Journal of Career Assessment, 5(4), 443–462. https://doi.org/10.1177/106907279700500405
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020, June 27). Unemployment rate rises to record high 14.7 percent in April 2020. https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/unemployment-rate-rises-to-record-high-14-point-7-percent-in-april-2020.htm
Wang, C., Pan, R., Wan, X., Tan, Y., Xu, L., Ho, C. S., & Ho, R. C. (2020). Immediate psychological responses and associated factors during the initial stage of the 2019 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic among the general population in China. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(5). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17051729
World Health Organization. (2020, August 7). Timeline: WHO’s COVID-19 Response. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/interactive-timeline
Workman, J. L. (2015). Parental influence on exploratory students’ college choice, major, and career decision making. College Student Journal, 49(1), 23–30. https://doi.org/10.1177/1069072714565782