Pressure About Careers


Madeline Bentzel, Lifestyle Editor

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: STEM. These four letters will follow you wherever you go in Silicon Valley. Here, we are surrounded by some of the best in technology and medicine. With big corporations such as Apple, founded in Cupertino, and eBay, founded in San Jose, we are in the middle of a mire of technology. There’s a reason it is called the Silicon Valley.

At Presentation we are greatly affected by the proximity to such companies. With parents in STEM fields, and infinite encouragement at school to enter them, students at PHS can feel pressured to choose careers in this field. 

While those who are genuinely interested in STEM are encouraged by this push, it can be especially stressful for students who would rather choose a career in the arts or humanities.

If you’re like me, then you’re no stranger to the phrases, “It’s just a hobby” or “You’ll never make any money doing that.” 

Many students are ridiculed or questioned about their future majors, colleges, careers and life plan decisions because of the push for careers in STEM. The issue of making money in a career can also be an issue, as students with majors in STEM are almost guaranteed a job that makes more money than students with majors in the arts.

Looming college deadlines can make choosing career paths incredibly difficult. Students vacillate between a career they would enjoy, one they would make money doing or that which would please their parents. 

In a survey The Voice sent out about PHS students who feel this pressure, over half of the students that responded said their parents had pushed them into a certain field or would have, had they not already been interested in STEM.

One student said, “My parents have always pushed me to go into a STEM-related field. They’re both immigrants from the Philippines and did not have the best financial situations. Going into STEM allowed them to go through higher education and find higher paying jobs in San Jose.” 

“Obviously, they then related their STEM jobs to success for themselves and their kids, so they’ve been pushing that for me and my sister throughout our lives. I used to be drawn to artistic activities and entertained them as a career, but they quickly shot that down. They’ve supported me in pursuing art (singing, theater, guitar, piano), so long as it was strictly a hobby,” the student further explained.

A sophomore explained how her parents push their children to follow STEM related careers, in spite of her desire to pursue the arts and literature. 

Both of my parents work in the STEM field (satellite engineering) as well as their parents. They have always pressured me and my siblings to follow in their footsteps. Personally, this is not what I want to do with my life. I have a more literature and arts brain opposed to my family. They make me feel that my wants are not always supported and that makes it difficult to know what I truly want to do with my life,” the sophomore said.

A junior wrote about their decision to pursue an English career and how their parents were initially opposed to such a decision. “Although my parents are now supportive of my decision to pursue an English major, I remember they were initially (extremely) concerned about the limited scope of careers that they thought would be open to me, as opposed to one I could have if I chose a STEM major.” 

“I’m currently looking into more arts-oriented colleges, but I definitely still have a lot of anxiety and moments when I wonder if I should be looking into STEM colleges instead,” the junior said.“I think that fear has more to do with the general push towards STEM here, and as much as it’s offering opportunities to STEM hopefuls I think it’s also reducing so many opportunities for students whose passions just point elsewhere.”

With all of the stress we face as students to do well in school, go to a prestigious college and procure a lucrative job, added pressure to choose certain careers over others adds more to the pile. 

Students may be dissuaded from pursuing a career in a field that they love because of the pressure to enter STEM related fields. They are encouraged to enter STEM fields because they’ll make more money, because their parents did it, or for many other reasons. 

A push for careers in STEM is incredibly important at PHS, as women have previously been discouraged from entering into math and science related jobs. 

However, a push for students to enter any career that they choose is important as well in order to make them feel encouraged about their career decisions. If we are not encouraging all students to pursue their dreams, then we are denying their voices and opinions.