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Abstract

Pre-college student enrollment in engineering courses increases every year in the United States, yet little is known about the relationship between taking these courses and subsequent science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career interest. Through multinomial logistic regressions, and while controlling for student background variables and prior STEM career interest, this study addresses two research questions: (1) Does completing a pre-college engineering course increase the likelihood of an engineering career interest at the end of high school? (2) Does completing a pre-college engineering course have a different influence on career interest in engineering than on career interest in other STEM fields (namely science, technology, and mathematics)? The study uses data from the Outreach Programs and Science Career Intentions survey (N 5 15,847), a large U.S. sample of college students enrolled in mandatory English courses. Our analysis reveals that the relationship between completing a pre-college engineering course and interest in a STEM career appears to be field-specific. Students completing a pre-college engineering course were two times more likely to want to pursue an engineering career than those without such a course, after controlling for a host of other relevant variables. By contrast, taking a pre-college engineering course was not associated with heightened interest in other science, technology, or mathematics careers. These findings suggest that high schools should offer engineering courses as an effective way to foster students’ career interest in engineering. This effect appears to apply similarly to all students, independent of gender, race/ethnicity, and other background variables.

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