The image shows a word cloud in the shape of a lightbulb with words such as "careers," "idea," and "future." The text states "Exploring STEM Careers."

4 Ideas for Exploring STEM Careers in Middle School

As Marian Wright Edelman states in Miss Representation, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Introducing students to new career paths and professions is arguably one of the most important parts of STEM class. When you dedicate time to exploring STEM careers and showing students how STEM connects to their own interests and passions, you are opening doors and creating opportunities that your students may otherwise never discover.

When I reflect on my own journey in STEM, I often consider how my own career path may have turned out differently if I had been exposed to more STEM professions while I was growing up. As an adult, I have discovered I LOVE coding! I think that if someone had exposed me to the world of computer science at a younger age, I may have become a programmer rather than a teacher. 

4 Ideas for Exploring STEM Careers

In my own STEM classes, I give opportunities to students to explore STEM careers both casually and formally throughout the semester. 

This image shows STEM group roles based on real-world STEM careers, including Systems Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, and Computer Engineer. The text reads "STEM Group Roles."

1. STEM Careers as Group Roles

I use real-world careers as group roles to help manage group work during STEM challenges. At the beginning of each new STEM class, I introduce the group roles: Mechanical Engineer, Computer Engineer, and Systems Engineer. My students research these careers and job responsibilities. We discuss how they connect to their own group role responsibilities in STEM class, and my students identify which group role/STEM career is one they feel confident in and which may be a challenge. This helps students identify how the skills we are developing in our STEM class connect to the real-world. Get your own FREE copy of the group role posters here.

This image shows STEM Challenges for middle school on a wooden table background. The text reads "middle school STEM challenge bundle."

2. STEM Challenges and Career Connections

I also intentionally mention STEM professions that connect to the projects and topics we are studying. For example, when we build space needle towers, we talk about civil engineering. When we design prosthetic devices for animals, we discuss biomedical engineering. This helps students see that STEM challenges aren’t just for fun. They also transfer to real-world STEM professions.

The image shows 2 worksheets titled "Help Wanted: Engineering Career Research Project" on a wooden desk. The title reads "STEM Careers Project."

3. STEM Career Project

Finally, I assign a STEM career project that involves students researching a STEM career of their choice and presenting it to the class. My students almost always learn about careers that they didn’t know existed… Footwear design engineers, roboticists, landscape architects… They quickly discover that STEM careers are everywhere! 

4. Participate in National STEM Celebrations

Every year, I go through my planner and mark off national STEM celebrations, including Computer Science Education Week in December, National Engineers Week in February, and RoboWeek in April so I can be sure to plan a special STEM career activity for my students. Guest speakers, field trips, special lessons and projects are all great options to help your students learn about STEM careers during these STEM weeks designated for attention and celebration.

How do you go about exploring STEM careers?

As STEM teachers, we are in a unique position to open our students’ eyes to the endless opportunities available for those who pursue STEM careers. How have you introduced your students to STEM careers? Let me know in the comments below!

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