Today’s Tweens Want Jobs in STEM and Healthcare

nicole diary

My youthful career dreams.

What did you want to be when you were 12 years old? I wanted to be a writer and/or a musical theater actor (no surprises there).

As I’ve written before, I was good at math but never considered a STEM career; first because my high school didn’t actually teach calculus (we had a class called “Calculus,” but we spent most class sessions listening to the radio and playing cards), and second because I grew up in a small town where STEM careers weren’t really visible (I knew a lot of teachers and retail workers, but no bioengineers).

I also probably never considered a STEM career because I really wanted to be a writer and/or musical theater actor, so let’s all be glad that worked out.

The Atlantic has a new video segment where they ask tweens at Washington, DC’s Alice Deal Middle School what they want to be when they grow up, and the answers are very different from what I expected. These students dream of STEM careers, and none of them even hint at wanting to be actors, musicians, or professional football players—the careers of choice when my classmates and I were tweens.

If you’d rather skip the video, here are the careers these tweens want to pursue, subdivided by gender:



—Engineer for NASA or hacker



—Used to want to be a policewoman, now might want to be a veterinarian


—Don’t know

—Gymnast or architect

—Martial artist or bioengineer

I love how the two boys who want to pursue careers in sports already know that they’re supposed to also supply a fallback plan. The young girl who admits she used to want to be a policewoman because she wanted to help people is also fascinating; I wonder what these DC tweens are seeing on the news or on their social media streams right now. Baltimore is not that far away, after all.

But in this small sample size, every single student wants to pursue a STEM career (yes, architecture is classified as a STEM career) or a STEM-adjacent career in healthcare/veterinary care. Nobody wants to be a lawyer, nobody is interested in entrepreneurship, and none of them want to be musical theater stars.

I hope that there won’t be news stories like “becoming a bioengineer is now harder than getting a lead role on Broadway” in their future.



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