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Intel Study Explores Teens' Interest in Engineering

A new survey of more than 1,000 teens conducted on behalf of Intel has revealed what may be the major stumbling blocks to encouraging more students to major in engineering, and offered ideas on how to motivate students to take up the field. 

While 29 percent of teens polled did not know of potential job opportunities in engineering and 13 percent did not think that majoring in engineering in college would lead to greater job opportunities, a majority were more likely to consider the field after learning about its impact in the world and the average annual income for engineers.

The majority of teens surveyed were also influenced by learning more about engineering in general:

  • Fifty-three percent were more likely to consider engineering after learning about the role of engineers in the development of music and video games;
  • Fifty-two percent were motivated to consider the field by feats of engineering, such as saving the Chilean miners who were trapped for 69 days;
  • An even fifty percent were influenced by the understanding that engineers make driving, texting, and social networking possible;
  • Sixty-one percent were influenced after learning engineers make an average annual income of $75,000;
  • More than 50 percent were more likely to consider the field upon learning that the unemployment rate amongst engineers is more than 4 percentage points lower than the national rate.

"The results of this survey show the importance of providing teens with opportunities to gain knowledge about engineering," said Intel CIO Diane Bryant in a statement. "We need to offer teens real-world, hands-on engineering experience and interaction with engineers, like that found in robotics programs and science competitions, to improve the likelihood that they'll get hooked on the subject and pursue it in college."

In support of the Presidential Jobs Council's initiative to graduate 10,000 more engineers each year from U.S. colleges and universities, Intel has committed to double the number of engineering internships offered in 2012 and has launched a new program in which Intel executives visit college campuses across the globe and speak to students about the benefits of engineering careers.

According to a recent study, the majority of students who concentrate on STEM fields in college make the choice during high school. However, not all aspiring engineers end up entering the field. A recent New York Times article cited studies that found roughly 40 percent of students planning STEM majors like engineering "end up switching to other subjects or failing to get any degree."

Intel conducted the survey of 1,004 U.S. teenagers ages 13 to 18 in collaboration with the nonprofit Change the Equation. Demographics were aligned as closely as possible to U.S. Census data. The margin of error is +/- 3.06 percent.

About the Author

Stephen Noonoo is an education technology journalist based in Los Angeles. He is on Twitter @stephenoonoo.