New Survey Finds Many Misconceptions and Questions around Careers in STEM

Diversity in STEM

As companies pledge to make their workforces more diverse, there remains much more to be done, especially in the field of STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math – which is projected to grow faster than other occupations, and the need for minority workers is already critical. Unfortunately, the biggest misconceptions around switching to in-demand STEM careers is that training is “too expensive, learners don’t know where to start, and don’t know enough about digital credentials,” according to the survey of 14,000 students, career changers, and job seekers in the United States and 15 other countries.

Six out of ten workers worldwide say they’re in the market for a new job and there is a huge interest in STEM careers. However, there are a lot of questions and misconceptions about the right pathway to attaining those jobs, according to a new survey from IBM and Morning Consult.

Here’s the breakdown.

  • 61% of students and career changers are actively looking for a new job now or plan to within the next year
  • More than 80% of all respondents have plans to build their skills in the next two years
  • At least 90% are confident they can develop skills or learn something new from an online program.
  • 61% of respondents think they are not qualified to work in a STEM job because they don’t have the right academic degrees
  • 40% of students say the greatest barrier to professional or technical skill development is that they don’t know where to start
  • 60% of respondents worry that digital credentials may be costly to obtain
  • Being able to continue to work while earning a credential is particularly important to career changers.


IBM Study Shows Misconceptions and Opportunities in Tech and Beyond

The IBM / Morning Consult study revealed perceptions from interviewed students, career changers, and job seekers who are interested in a role in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM):

Misconceptions around STEM training: it’s too expensive, learners don’t know where to start, and don’t know enough about digital credentials.

Awareness of options around different STEM roles across industries is low, and many are concerned these careers won’t pay enough.  

  • 50% of respondents are interested in pursuing a STEM-related job
  • 64% of career changers are not familiar with STEM jobs
  • Many respondents are unsure of which careers are considered to be a STEM job
  • 62% of respondents share concerns that they won’t be able to find a STEM job that pays enough to support themselves or their family

Respondents are optimistic that roles in STEM fields across sectors will increase in the future, and that digital credentials are a good way to supplement traditional education and increase career opportunities.

  • 66% of all respondents think that STEM jobs across industries will increase over the next decade
  • 86% of those respondents who have earned a digital credential agree that it helped them achieve career goals
  • 75% of all respondents agree that digital credentials are a good way to supplement traditional education
  • Increased career opportunities and qualifications were the top reasons why respondents across the globe said they wanted to earn digital credentials


For minorities, a Pew Research Report finds uneven progress in diversifying STEM fields. It reports that while Hispanics make up 17% of employed adults, they represent only 8% of STEM workers. Blacks, according to the report, make up 9% of STEM workers, but make up 11% of employed adults. 

Black and Hispanic adults are less likely to earn degrees in STEM than other degree fields, and they continue to make up a lower share of STEM graduates relative to their share of the adult population. And while women now earn a majority of all undergraduate and advanced degrees, they remain a small share of degree earners in fields like engineering and computer science – areas where they are significantly underrepresented in the work force.

Asian and White students remain overrepresented among STEM college graduates compared with their share of all college graduates in 2018. Students from other groups, including Native American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and people who identify with two or more racial groups, are earning bachelor’s degrees in STEM in rough proportion to their share of all degree recipients.

According to the Pew Research report, women earned 53% of STEM college degrees in 2018, smaller than their 58% share of all college degrees. The gender dynamics in STEM degree attainment mirror many of those seen across STEM job clusters. For instance, women earned 85% of the bachelor’s degrees in health-related fields, but just 22% in engineering and 19% in computer science as of 2018. In fields where women have been especially scarce, there have been incremental gains over the past decade. The share of women earning a degree in engineering is up 2 points since 2014 at the bachelor’s and master’s level.

Black and Hispanic adults are also underrepresented among those earning advanced degrees in STEM, especially among those earning Ph.D. or other research doctorates. Representation of Black and Hispanic adults is lowest in math, physical sciences and engineering degree fields.

To overcome the generational wealth gap and help untapped talented diverse students, María Fernanda Trochimezuk launched IOScholarships a platform connecting underrepresented talented students to STEM scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate education. “I want to level the playing field so all diverse students can go to college and pursue these careers that are the highest paying careers in the market” says Trochimezuk. “The scholarships are the gateway for students to be part of the STEM pipeline”

Trochimezuk says the platform has access to over $48 million dollars in funding for Hispanic American, African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian Pacific Islander students. Most of that funding comes from private sources such as corporations and nonprofit organizations. 

To date, more than 11,000 students have used the platform which partners with the National Scholarship Providers Association. Trochimezuk encourages students to approach scholarship money as a part-time job. “I always tell students if you invest 10 hours in a $10,000 dollar scholarship and you win it, that’s $1,000 dollar per hours. That’s a very good investment and hourly rate.”

Read this article for more information about how to avoid student debt.


New survey finds many misconceptions and questions around careers in STEM