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Careers in Healthcare and Science? "Not Interested" Say Half of U.S. Teens

PHILADELPHIA, June 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Solid grounding in science is widely considered to be crucial for the next generation of American leaders. From biochemists and pharmacists to physician assistants and physical therapists, the future of the United States job market lies in the fields of healthcare and science. Yet, for the second consecutive year, an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive for University of the Sciences ( shows that half (49 percent) of all high school-aged students are not interested in pursuing these careers.

The 49 percent of 9th-12th grade students who say they are definitely or probably not considering a career in science or healthcare represents an 8.9 percent increase over last year's survey.  While it's too soon to know if this is a trend or not, it does concern USciences' leadership and faculty, especially since the lack of interest among younger teens (aged 13-15) grew and stands near 60 percent.

"It is essential that the sciences remain top of mind for America's teenagers," said Russell J. DiGate, PhD, provost at University of the Sciences. "As a university dedicated solely to science and healthcare studies, we know the value of pursuing these fields and the imminent need for scientists of all genres. Our graduates leave not only with the skills and experience necessary to excel in today's marketplace, but the dexterity to create and flourish in the careers of tomorrow."

Students not considering a career in healthcare and science cite numerous reasons for their lack of interest in these fields:

  • 24 percent feel they don't know enough about careers in these fields
  • 18 percent feel they're not good enough at science
  • 12 percent are not prepared for a career in healthcare/science

Additional Study Highlights Include:

Females and Racial Minorities

An overwhelming majority of students interested in careers in the sciences are among females and racial minorities. Sixty percent of females in grades 9-12 indicate they are "definitely" or "probably considering" careers in healthcare or the sciences, while only 39 percent of males the same age feel similarly. African Americans (47 percent), Hispanics (37 percent), and other minorities (38 percent) are more likely than White students (24%) to say they are definitely considering these future careers.

Why a Career in Healthcare and Sciences?

Understanding why some high school-aged students want to pursue healthcare and science careers may help to encourage younger teens to more actively consider a future in these industries. Although considered to be among the most lucrative, nearly six in ten students (56 percent) cite "earning good money" as their reason for considering a career in this field.  Overall, "interest in the category" (70%) and the "want to help people" (61%) were ranked most important motivators.

Furthermore, while scientists (28 percent), doctors (28 percent) and nurses (21 percent) are among the most sought out careers, interest in other healthcare careers such as physical or occupational therapists and physician assistants is also high (21 percent).

Schools are Not a Major Influence

Of high school students considering pursuing a career in healthcare and the sciences, only 11 percent state influence from a teacher, and a mere 4 percent say guidance from a school counselor are reasons for their interest. Students' parents are the most likely group to encourage students in pursuing these careers (27 percent).  

"Rewarding futures are synonymous with science and healthcare," said Dr. DiGate. "It is our responsibility to encourage the youth of America to engage in scientific activity from a young age and cultivate aspirations for scientific enrichment. The future scientist, whether in chemistry or pharmacy, biology or occupational therapy, will play an increasingly vital role in the years to come."

To watch Dr. DiGate further comment on the 2011 survey results, visit

About the survey

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the University of Sciences between April 14-20, 2011 among 533 students in 9th-12th grade. Ten to 17 year old results were weighted as needed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, parental education, school location, and region. Eighteen-year-old results were weighted as needed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients - stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit

About University of the Sciences

At University of the Sciences, students embark on a challenging learning experience in a proving ground for successful professionals in the science and healthcare-related fields. A private institution dedicated to education, research, and service, and distinguished as the nation's first college of pharmacy, the University has produced leaders in the science and healthcare marketplaces since its founding in 1821. Students in USciences' five colleges learn to excel in scientific analysis and to apply their skills to improving healthcare in the lives of people worldwide through such disciplines as pharmacy, biology, physical therapy, healthcare business, and health policy. For more information, visit or follow University of the Sciences on Twitter.

Twitter @USciences

SOURCE University of the Sciences
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