Career Exploration Activities for STEM Students

There is no shortage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs in the world that need to be filled by passionate, qualified individuals. In a Smart Assets article, they note STEM jobs are projected to grow by 15 percent between 2021 and 2031, which will account for approximately 800,000 jobs. This rapid increase can be attributed to the changing technology landscape that is shifting the way society and the workforce function. 

As educators and parents, the goal is to prepare students for their future careers and arm them with the skills needed to succeed. One way to do this is through early STEM learning integration that focuses on real-world applications and connects lessons to STEM careers that use the learned skill. In this article, you will explore ways to introduce students to the STEM workforce and pique their interest in various areas of STEM.

The Landscape of STEM Careers

There is a lot of variety in the types of careers that fall under the larger STEM workforce category. Because of the widely applicable skills connected to STEM learning, students can go on to become anything from an engineer or doctor to an educator or accountant. Depending on their passion and where their skillset falls, students can pivot and find where they will be the happiest and most successful in their STEM careers.

Ways to Introduce STEM Careers to Students


The question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ can be daunting. This is often first posed to students during their primary education, but as students move into higher education, the question continues but becomes more serious. One hurdle students face when deciding their future careers is knowing their options. Below are ways to introduce STEM careers to students:

Interactive Career Exploration Workshops

Seeing someone successful in their career can be powerful to students who are trying to plan and navigate their future. That is why career exploration workshops are an effective way to spark student interest. Through these interactive presentations, students can meet and hear from a variety of different STEM professionals and have the opportunity to ask questions.

STEM Career Fairs and Exhibitions

Career fairs are an effective way to engage a larger group of students, extending the invitation to the whole school. Through this hands-on experience, students can meet STEM professionals from different areas, visit their booths, and interact with whatever “props” the individual brought to showcase their career path.

Job Shadowing and Internship Opportunities

At the high school and college level, job shadowing and internship opportunities are often the most impactful ways for students to gauge their interest in a career path. This hands-on experience in a real-world setting allows students to see the day-to-day work of a specific role, the problems that arise, the environment, and the coworkers they would have. 


While the stakes get higher as students get closer to joining the workforce, that does not mean there isn’t value in job shadowing at the elementary and middle school levels. Educators can set up career field trips for students to go on-site and get a tour by a STEM professional. This approach can spark student curiosity and give them a goal to reach if they continue to improve their STEM literacy skills.

Real-World Project Challenges

Connecting curricula to real-world experiences is proven to increase student engagement, comprehension, and retention. In turn, real-world projects are a great way to introduce students to potential careers. As a classroom series, teachers can choose one STEM career each week and have a corresponding project for that career. At the end of the lesson, students can talk about their experiences, and educators can talk about the various career paths that fall within the skills learned during the project. 

This approach is also great for exercising students’ soft skills, which are equally important when they are joining the workforce.

Virtual Career Exploration Tools

There are free online resources that can be used to help students navigate career options and their potential success in the space. One option is to have students take career assessments online. These are, of course, not 100 percent factual. But, they can be a tool to show students their personality traits and what roles may align well with their demeanor, thinking style, and other key factors.

Alumni Talks and Mentorship Programs

Mentorship programs, either peer or professional, can be used to give students someone they can build a relationship with and trust. This relationship-building creates an environment where students can be honest in their thoughts and feel safe asking any questions. 

At the younger grade levels, peer buddy/mentor programs can be extremely impactful. In this scenario, each student is paired with another student who is 2 to 3 grades above them. Then, on a weekly or biweekly basis, they come together to work on a hands-on STEM project where the “big buddy” helps them navigate the lesson. 

At the high school and college level, career professional mentorship is key. For example, an engineering student who is looking to specialize in chemical engineering would be paired with an engineer who is currently filling that role in the workplace. They can help the student navigate which courses to take, what jobs to apply for, and help the student prepare for upcoming interviews. Oftentimes, a strong mentor can be the difference between a student who is unsure of how to move forward and someone who is excelling in their current situation and future planning.

Exploration Through Extracurricular Clubs

Extracurricular clubs and afterschool programs are a great time to introduce students to STEM career options. Through hands-on exploration, facilitators can introduce students to various career paths. These outside-of-the-classroom learning opportunities are a great way to help students find and pursue a passion in STEM, especially because of the flexibility in lesson plans and the ability for facilitators to tweak activities based on student interests.  

Empowering Students to Explore

Exploring future careers is an exciting activity for students. During this phase of a student’s life, there will be a lot of questions, concerns, and self-discovery. As parents and educators, it is our job to assist students in this process and provide guidance throughout the process to help them end up in a career where they will be fulfilled, passionate, and successful. Through early introduction of STEM career opportunities and constant hands-on and real-world application discussions, we can give students the context they need to navigate this major life decision. 

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