Student Career Planning

STEM Fields are Top Choice for Gen Z Students, New NSHSS Survey Shows

Results from a survey of over 11,000 U.S. high school and college students, conducted by the National Society of High School Scholars in February and early March, offer insights into Gen Z’s career choices and show that a majority of respondents are planning for future jobs in STEM fields.

The 2022 Career Interest Survey surveyed 11,495 “high achieving” students born after 1997 from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. military bases overseas, and U.S. territories, according to the survey report from NSHSS.

About three-quarters of respondents were high school students, the report said, and about 40% were White, 19% Black, 17% Latino, 10% Asian American/Pacific Islander, 8% multi-racial, and 1% Native American/Alaskan Native.

Following are key findings from the NSHSS survey report:

Employment & Career Findings

  • More than 1 in 4 students said they plan on staying in their first full-time job for one year or less.
  • 82% of respondents — primarily high schoolers — plan to have an internship before their first job.
  • STEM fields were respondents’ No. 1 choice of career fields, and this response continues to grow particularly among female students and students of color, the report said.
    • 27% said they plan to enter a medicine or health-related field.
    • 20% said they plan to work in the healthcare field.
    • 19% said they plan to enter a business or corporate career field.
    • 18% said they’re planning on a career in engineering.
    • 18% said they’re planning on a career in the sciences.
    • 16% said they’re planning on a career in business.
    • 12% said they’re planning on a career in technology.
    • 7% said they’re planning on a career in math.
  • Of the career fields respondents said they’ve “moved away from” considering, education (17%), the arts (14%) and legal (14%) fields were the three most popular answers.
  • When asked about working for the government, the top three most attractive agencies among respondents were the CIA (31%), the FBI (29%), and the CDC (27%).
  • Less than a fourth of respondents, 23%, rated the option to work remotely as “very important” or “extremely important” because they have grown weary of online learning and crave in-person experiences, NSHSS said.

Benefits & Compensation Findings:

  • Respondents ranked health benefits, flexible work schedule, and time-off benefits as more important to them than salary.
  • Median salary expectation for their first full time job was $50,000-$69,999K.
  • 67% said they want jobs that will offer opportunities to continue learning skills that will advance their careers.
  • 63% said they expect their future employer to provide in-person training.
  • 44% said they expect their future employer to help pay off their student loans.
  • 38% said they expect their future employer to offer tuition reimbursement for a master’s or other post-graduate degree.

Education Plans and Family Status

  • 24% said they will be the first in their family to attend college — an increase from 2020’s survey, NSHSS said. This figure represents increasing proportions of students of color indicating they plan to be the first in their family to attend college:
    • 45% Latino
    • 33% Native Hawaiian
    • 30% Native American/Alaskan Native
    • 27% Other
    • 24% Multi-racial
    • 22% Asian American/Pacific Islander
    • 21% Black
    • 19% White
  • The percentage of respondents planning to attend graduate school continues to decline, dropping from 81% in 2016 and 62% in 20202 to 59% in the latest survey, NSHSS said.

Download the full survey report at the NSHSS website.

About the Author

Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].