Factors Affecting Asian American Students’ STEM Career Choice – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Factors Affecting Asian American Students’ STEM Career Choice

Frances-Denise Fajardo

Frances-Denise Fajardo

Pronouns: She/Her

Research Mentor(s): Angela Ebreo, Associate Research Scientist
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Diversity Research & Policy Program, School of Education
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 1 (10am-10:50am)
Breakout Room: Room 11
Presenter: 3

Event Link


Asian Americans are one of the smallest minority subpopulations in the United States, yet they comprise the second-highest, first being white Americans, percentage of persons employed in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) workforce (Martínez & Gayfield, 2019). Although a vast variety of articles examine the reasons why other racial/ethnic groups are underrepresented in STEM fields, fewer authors have examined the reasons why Asian Americans are overrepresented in STEM fields. In fact, studies related to career choice amongst Asian Americans are much less prevalent than studies related to career choice amongst other US subpopulations. Thus, I conducted a literature review to examine whether or not cultural factors lead Asian Americans to choose STEM careers. Using several academic databases (e.g., PsycINFO, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, and PsycArticles), articles describing studies of Asian American undergraduate and graduate student career choices were screened for relevance to the topic and examined for a focus on factors related to career choice. Across the 16 articles I reviewed, the three most common cultural factors for STEM career choice amongst Asian Americans were: perceived parental support or pressure (from the perspective of the Asian American student choosing the career), cultural views related to the perceived status of certain occupations, and level of acculturation (absorbing customs of the dominant culture but still retaining some original cultural traits). As expected, students were more likely to pursue STEM careers if they believed their parents would support them. In addition, Asian American cultures tend to place greater emphasis on outcome expectations (rewards/consequences such as financial stability) for certain careers, so students were more likely to pursue culturally valued careers (physical and biological sciences, business, engineering, etc.). Lastly, Asian Americans tend to pursue these culturally valued occupations if they adhere more to their Asian identity (lower level of acculturation). In terms of discussion, there was a scarcity of articles pertaining to cultural factors in career choice amongst Asian Americans and a lack of Asian American diversity across the studies. For instance, Chinese Americans were typically the main subgroup investigated. In addition, not much information about generational differences or students’ choice of career without limitations (parental pressure, financial, etc.) were found in the articles. Thus, my findings lead to some suggestions for future studies of a more diverse sample of Asian Americans and to examine generational differences and career choice without limitations.

Authors: Frances-Denise Fajardo
Research Method: Library/Archival/Internet Research

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