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MAJOR CHANGE

Nearly half of all college students are now considering careers in health or science

A person wearing white latex gloves holds a syringe against a yellow wall.
Reuters/Karoly Arvai
Healthcare is becoming an increasingly popular career choice.
  • Michelle Cheng
By Michelle Cheng

Reporter

Published

Big events can impact what students choose to do with their lives. After 9/11, universities saw increased interest in the study of the Middle East, Arabic, and homeland security.

The Covid-19 crisis had put the spotlight on medicine. Now, 56% of college students are reconsidering their career path as a result of the pandemic, with 45% considering a career in healthcare or science, according to a new global survey from Pearson, a UK-based education publishing company.

The survey, conducted between April 28 to May 12, 2021, sampled 4,000 parents with children between the ages of 11 and 17, and 2,000 college students in Brazil, China, the UK, and the US.

Meanwhile, applications to medical school are at an all-time high. In the past two decades, the average yearly increase for total applications to medical school was 2.5% but in 2021 applications surged 18%, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Last October, in a different survey, Pearson found 24% of teens say they are “now considering a career in healthcare” as a result of Covid-19, while 32% are reconsidering careers overall.

The financial appeal of healthcare professions

Students pursuing jobs in healthcare may not just be inspired by how science is playing out in the world today, but also for economic reasons. The pandemic may have accelerated the trend.

Research shows that during times of high unemployment, people turn to majors that lead to better job prospects and higher wages. Among US entry-level, college-educated workers, students who majored in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) earn about $43,000 annually while health majors earn $41,000, according to numbers from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Meanwhile, those majoring in the arts, humanities, and liberal arts earn about $29,000 annually. Studying the latter fields pay off in the long run, but many students, particularly, low-income students, are wary of going into something with more uncertainty, while incurring significant student debt to do so.

Since 2008, the fastest-growing majors in the US were health sciences and related programs, jumping from 7% of all US majors in 2008 to 12% in 2018. Meanwhile, computer science jumped from 8% to 11%.

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