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.
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