Few STEM-capable students want to teach

Very few young people with strong math and science skills want to be teachers, according to ACT’s STEM Educator Pipeline report.

The proposed federal STEM Teacher Pathway program seeks to produce 100,000 new, high-quality math and science teachers in the next decade, notes ACT. But, of 1.3 million ACT test takers in 2012, only 0.25 percent who’ve picked a future occupation want to be math teachers; 0.06 percent want to be science teachers.

Of the 3,877 who wanted to be math or science teachers, only 2,502 met ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks in math or science.

Some college students interested in teaching might be persuaded to specialize in math or science, ACT predicts. But it will be harder to persuade math- and science-proficient students who aren’t considering teaching to change their career goals.

I’ve met Silicon Valley engineers who dream of becoming math teachers when they retire.  But it’s not easy to make that transition.

About Joanne


  1. Spartan says:

    The interesting thing is, is that the industry veterans are exactly the types you want teaching science and math.

    My best teachers were all men (yes, men) who had been something else before becoming a teacher. The biggest complaint about science and math classes is “this stuff is not useful in the real world”. These guys showed, from their own personal experience, exactly how useful science and math were.

    Heck, even my shop teacher once said “weren’t you guys paying attention in math class?” (geometry) when none of us could properly cut up wood into specific sections with no tape measure.

    I would love to be a math, science or shop teacher but, quite frankly, I don’t have the patience to wade through teaching school first.

  2. Considering all the crap that teachers have to put up with these days, I’m surprised that anyone wants to be a teacher.

  3. When I was in hs in the 90s, I thought about going into teaching and was told by teachers that dealing with administration wasn’t worth it. I got a PhD in a STEM subject, did a postdoc, and started teaching at a CC. One of my students had been a hs math teacher and said that he left because of parents and administration issues (he was a great student who worked in an engineering field but was interested in the biology that I taught).

    I had thought about hs teaching once my young kids were school-aged, but hearing complaints from friends about the ed courses I’d need to take and the lack of admin/parent support that teachers deal with caused me to reconsider.

    My current job at a homeschool co-op is, in many ways, a teacher’s dream. Parents deal with any (rare) discipline issues, parents expect their kids to do their work (and don’t blame me when they don’t), and as long as I follow the state content standards, I can design my course however I want. I would love to reach more students, since they seem to enjoy the labs and the real-life lab stories, and I know other STEM folks who feel the same way. I think that some of the qualities that make you good at science jobs may make teaching jobs be perceived as a bad fit.

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    And why would they want to? The “reform” crowd is doing everything they can to get rid of teachers, and as a 20 year veteran I would NEVER advise anyone to become a teacher.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      The “‘reform’ crowd” is trying to get rid of all the teachers? Wow. I didn’t know that.

  5. After I had earned my master’s in math, I had briefly toyed around with the idea of teaching in public high school. But the thought of having to jump through the nonsense of the ed schools just to get a teaching certificate turned me off. If the ed school taught practical thing like how best to structure a course or how to create a good exam, then it would probably be worth it (although that type of thing could just as well be learned through mentoring and/experience, and it certainly shouldn’t take two years). But the thing is for every useful course that exists, one is constrained to take a slew of garbage courses about so-and-so’s theory of learning, multiple intelligences, and other drivel. Sorry, but one doesn’t need to worship at the altar of John Dewey or William Kilpatrick to be an effective teacher. Ed school should prepare students for teaching by giving them decent tools, not by indoctrinating them with the latest claptrap.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the powers that be constantly wring their hands over the dearth of competent math and/or science teachers. News flash – the people they should be looking for are not going to be enticed to enter the teaching profession if they have to put up with 2+ years of ed school baloney – and even if they did manage to get through the twaddle, all the administrative nonsense would be enough to chase them out the door. Given the current sad state of affairs, is it any wonder STEM-capable students are staying away in crowds?

    • Crimson Wife says:

      Up through jr. high, my career ambition was to be a science teacher. Then I realized that while I liked the idea of the teaching part, I didn’t have the patience to put up with all the micromanagment from administrators, bureaucrats, etc. So I switched my career goal to becoming a pediatrician.

      I briefly looked into what it would take for me to get a state teaching credential for high school science a few years ago. There were 12 required courses, but only 3 of them were student teaching or subject-specific methods. The remaining 9 courses were politically correct edu-babble like “The Multicultural Foundations of a Diverse Classroom”. The public schools in my state do have a diverse population, but that could be addressed by incorporating multicultural units into subject-specific methods classes.

      • It’s gone far beyond micromanagement these days – it’s full on tyranny. Only someone who is suicidal – at least career wise and financially, and perhaps even literally these days (as teaching K-12 destroys your health) – would even consider K-12 or even community college teaching these days.

        Why would anyone with STEM talents want to get anywhere near such a horrible situation? They can do much better, and live a much better life, without even trying!

        And 95% of what they teach in Ed Schools – as well as 97% of its most famous benefactors, from Dewey to Gardner and everyone in between – are all frauds.