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Discover STEM Careers


Grade Range
Group Size
1 student
Active Time
1 hour
Total Time
1 hour
Key Concepts
STEM careers, career discovery, self-awareness, personal interests, career pathways
Science Buddies
start discovery careers by science buddies


Each student will get the chance to identify their own uniquely interesting STEM careers by tapping into the insights of the Career Discovery Tool.

Remote learning adaptation: This lesson plan can be conducted remotely. During the Engage section, students can "order" their favorite ice cream using a poll on video chat. During the Explore section, students can access the Career Discovery Tool remotely as long as they have a device and access to the Internet. They can complete the Explore component remotely using Student Worksheet #1 as a guide. The Engage and Reflect sessions can be conducted over a video chat.

Learning Objectives


Background Information for Teachers

This section contains a quick review for teachers of the science and concepts covered in this lesson.

STEM occupations are projected to grow more than twice as fast (8%) as all non-STEM occupations (3.4%) by 2029,¹ and by 2025, there will be an estimated 3.5 million STEM jobs that need to be filled in the U.S. As of 2019, STEM jobs had a median annual wage of $86,980, more than double that of non-STEM jobs at $38,160.² But a small share of students, especially in lower-income schools, will be ready for future high-paying opportunities available with STEM degrees.³

Many students don't know about the potential of even aiming for STEM degrees. A challenge is that economic opportunities are changing faster than young people can learn about them on their own:

  • 50% of students surveyed in an OECD PISA study expect to work in one of 10 popular jobs by the age of 30 (similar to results in 2000) despite vast economic, scientific, and technological change. Young people are not reacting to labor market signaling.
  • A top-ten popular career in the U.S. is doctor. But there are accessible, high-growth jobs with similar qualities (like Cardiovascular Technologists) that students can also consider.

Many of these high-demand careers are available with two-year degrees or certifications. So, how can teachers seize this opportunity to spark students' interest in achievable pathways to pursuing a variety of interesting STEM careers?

First, to get students interested in STEM in a way that lasts, start in middle school. In a study of STEM college majors, those who expected to pursue a STEM career in middle school were 1.9 times more likely to actually pursue a STEM career.⁴ And "...developmental and brain research confirms that by middle grades, students are capable of making connections between their academic work, their personal interests and career aptitudes."⁵

Second, since middle school students are developmentally ready, using a tool like the Career Discovery Tool can be vital in broadening students' perceptions that STEM opportunities connect to their interests and potential educational pathways. The program may surprise some students that STEM careers do connect to their own interests. Other students may realize at a deeper level why a certain STEM career has always appealed to them. And teachers guide them in this discovery.

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020). Employment Projections: STEM Occupations.
[2] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Employment Projections: Employment in STEM Occupations.
[3] NRC Research Center. (2018). National college progression rates for high school students participating in the National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker service. High School Benchmarks - 2018.
[4] Tai, R.H., Liu, C.Q., Maltese, A.V., & Fan, X. (2011). Pipeline persistence: Examining the association of educational experiences with earned degrees in STEM among U.S. students. Science Education Policy, 5(1): doi: 10:1080/2331186x.2018.1558915
[5] SREB Middle Grades Commission. (2011). A New Mission for the Middle Grades.

Prep Work (30 minutes)

Engage (5 minutes)

Explore (35 minutes)

Reflect (10 minutes)


Free science fair projects.