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Gallup And Amazon Future Engineer Study Reveals Students With Computer Science Role Models Are Over 10x More Likely To Pursue Computer Science Careers Than Those Without

New study of U.S. students’ access to and interest in computer science finds that connecting with role models and peers in the field helps increase students’ desire to learn about and pursue careers in computer science
While the majority of U.S. students are interested in learning about computer science, less than half of all students surveyed have taken a class on the subject

Students across the U.S. are showing a significant interest in computer science courses, but many say they have never taken a class on the subject or don’t have access to them. This gap could present a major problem for the nation’s economy as U.S. employers increasingly seek job candidates with skills or a background in computer science. Today, a new Gallup report—Developing Careers of the Future: A Study of Student Access to, and Interest in, Computer Science—reveals that students who confirm they have computer science role models are over 10x more likely to say they will pursue a computer science career than students without. The study finds that by increasing both access to computer science and social connections among students, we can positively impact outcomes for the leaders of tomorrow.

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The recent Gallup study of U.S. students in 5th through 12th grade uncovers critical access issues to technical courses, with interest in computer science far outpacing participation, especially among underserved populations. A majority of students (62%) say they would like to learn about computer science, but just 49% have taken a class on the subject. The gaps between interest and participation are far larger for students in low-income households (59% vs. 37%), as well as for Black students (60% vs. 42%) and Hispanic students (61% vs 44%).

Amazon Future Engineer, Amazon’s global philanthropic computer science education program, commissioned the study to help understand student interest and engagement. In addition to finding gaps, the study highlights the importance of social networks—such as peers and role models—in fueling interest in a computer science career. The findings offer new insights to educators and employers seeking to help equip students from all backgrounds with the tools they will need to succeed in higher education and to obtain jobs of the future.

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“This research underscores the importance of role models in inspiring and sustaining students’ interest in computer science careers, and the unfortunate inequities we see in access to role models nationally,” said Stephanie Marken, executive director of education research at Gallup. “Role models help students understand the many career pathways available to them. Computer science programs, like Amazon Future Engineer, which provide access to computer science education and mentorship for students who might not otherwise have it, could play a role in helping students take a first step toward a job in computer science.”

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The study found that overall, 70% of students say computer science classes are available at their school. However, this figure is significantly lower among underserved groups, particularly rural students in low-income households (46%). Students with access to school-based computer science classes are more than twice as likely as those without access to say they plan to study the topic in college (42% vs. 18%, respectively) and that they aspire to have a job in the field (43% vs. 15%).

Over half of the study’s students (53%) agree that they have a role model in computer science. This figure is somewhat lower among girls (49%) and Black students (46%), but the gap is largest between students in large cities (73%) and those in rural areas (36%). Overall, 35% of students plan to someday have a job in a computer science-related field; however, this figure is more than ten times as high (73%) among students who strongly agree that they have a role model in computer science, than among those who strongly disagree that they have a role model (7%). This ratio holds among students across demographic groups—including girls, Black and Hispanic students, and low-income students.

Currently, boys are generally much more interested in learning about computer science (72%) than girls (53%). Additionally, girls are significantly less likely than boys to say they plan to study computer science in college (27% vs. 46%) or want to have a job in the field (26% vs. 43%). However, among Black students, girls are about as likely as boys to say they are interested in learning about computer science (61% vs. 59%). While Black boys are less likely than White or Hispanic boys to be interested in the topic (59% vs. 71% and 72%, respectively), Black girls are more likely than White or Hispanic girls to be interested (61% vs. 51% and 52%).

“Amazon Future Engineer aims to bridge the divide between interested students and computer science courses and opportunities. Through our research partnership with Gallup, we can assess the state of computer science education and discover the most effective ways to continue to inspire students, support teachers, and further build out our program,” said Victor Reinoso, Global Director of Amazon Future Engineer. “Meet an Amazonian, our latest initiative, underscores that commitment by reaching students with career talks, called Class Chats, and computer science-themed Fulfillment Center Tours. Both connect students with a diverse group of role models to help bring the tech industry to life so they can conceptualize their path forward.”

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