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Inside the STEM pipeline: Changes in students’ biomedical career plans across the college years

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Science Advances  30 Apr 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 18, eabe0985
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe0985
  • Fig. 1 Biomedical pipeline in the current study: Attrition occurs at two points.

    Model based on sample of 1193 introductory biology students interviewed at time of graduation. Sample comprised 763 women and 430 men. One hundred seventy-three students were from URM groups, and 1020 students were from racial/ethnic majority groups.

  • Fig. 2 Changes in career plans among the 921 students who remained in the pipeline and maintained biomedical career plans.

    Sample comprised 579 women and 342 men. One hundred twenty-five students were from URM groups, and 1020 students were from majority groups.

  • Table 1 Aspects of career plan changes coded from interviews.

    N = 422 students who changed their career plans within biomedical fields. Forty-six students gave responses too vague to classify in terms of attraction versus disenchantment.

    Types of career plan change within biomedical fields
    FrequencySample responses
    Changed to career that involves
    same amount of education
    228“I was pre-med when I took Biology my freshman year. I alternated between
    pre-med/dental and getting my Ph.D. until I looked at the salaries and quality of
    life of the 3 professions and chose dentistry.”
    “I was originally pre-med, until I realized that I am not a patient contact person
    and would rather teach and do research. An independent project for class made
    me realize that I would rather earn a Ph.D. than an M.D..”
    Changed to career that requires
    more education
    37“Changed from maybe physician assistant school to med school.”
    “I discovered the M.D./Ph.D. program through my advisor and The P.I. of the lab
    that I worked in as a research assistant. I decided to commit to it my senior year.”
    Changed to career that requires
    less education
    157“I realized I didn’t want to go to medical school because of the time and cost. I also
    realized I couldn’t have the life balance I wanted if I was a physician. I chose to go
    the Nurse Practitioner route for these reasons.”
    “I still wanted to work in the private sector but I wanted to get a Ph.D. which in the
    past year and a half I realized I didn’t really want.”
    Was change in career plans due to attraction or disenchantment?
    FrequencySample responses
    Disenchantment with original
    career path
    131“I intended on going to dental school. After applying and not getting any
    acceptances, I began to reevaluate my future plans. This made my senior year full
    of stress and anxiety. I eventually decided to apply to chiropractic school.”
    “I wanted to go to medical school – my plans changed when my sister got sick and
    spent a year and a half in the hospital. Spending that much time in that
    environment made me realize the constraints of working in the field.”
    Attraction to new career path186“I previously wanted to go to medical school, but decided that a I would prefer a
    pharmacist lifestyle, and I was more interested in the drug aspect of the medical field.”
    “I originally thought I would do nursing but then realized I wanted a career that
    required the use of more science.”
    Both disenchantment and
    attraction
    59“I went from wanting to be an OB-GYN to wanting to be a midwife. I decided that
    I didn’t want to go to medical school and that midwifery is better suited toward
    my personality.”
    “I planned on going to medical school and becoming a doctor. Now I am Pre-P.A.
    and plan on being a physician assistant. I changed my mind because I do not want
    to be in school for as long as medical school takes and I want a career that offers
    more time to have my own life.”

Supplementary Materials

  • Supplementary Materials

    Inside the STEM pipeline: Changes in students’ biomedical career plans across the college years

    Emily Q. Rosenzweig, Cameron A. Hecht, Stacy J. Priniski, Elizabeth A. Canning, Michael W. Asher, Yoi Tibbetts, Janet S. Hyde, Judith M. Harackiewicz

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