College major and career choices of alumni of two specialized schools of mathematics, science, and technology

Date of Completion

January 2005


Education, Mathematics|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Sciences|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




A relevant review of literature suggests that the majority of American students---even those with an aptitude or interest in mathematics or science---are not making choices to pursue (or are not persisting in) majors and careers in mathematics, science, and technology. This is somewhat surprising, given the increasingly technological world in which these students live. Specialized schools of mathematics, science, and technology offer many features that are conducive to the development of mathematics and science talent. Little existing research details the later experiences of graduates of these specialized schools and, specifically, whether they have chosen majors or careers in mathematics and science and the factors influencing their choices. ^ The purpose of this study was to investigate the factors that adult alumni of two specialized schools of mathematics, science, and technology (MST) (one public magnet high school and one independent middle school) perceive as influencing their decisions to choose (or not choose) mathematics and science majors and careers. A self-administered mail questionnaire was used as the primary data collection method. Demographic data, as well as information regarding the participants' choices of majors/careers and ratings of the influence of the factors behind their choices (i.e., source of influence variables), were collected from a sample of 267 adult alumni of the two schools. Quantitative methods, including chi-square and logistic regression analyses, were used to analyze the data collected. ^ Results indicated that 76.8% of alumni of these two specialized schools selected college majors in MST and 23.2% selected non-MST majors. For those respondents in the work force (n = 149), 38.9% of the alumni selected careers in MST and 61.1% selected non-MST careers. Source of influence variables (personal, family, academic/experiences, and academic/teachers) were found to reliably predict both choice of major and choice of career for these alumni. Source of influence variables did not reliably distinguish between females with MST college majors and males with MST college majors, or between females with MST careers and males with MST careers. ^