Free choice science learning and STEM career choice

M. Gail Jones, Gina Childers, Elysa Corin, Katherine Chesnutt, Thomas Andre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This study investigated the relationship between engaging in free choice STEM activities (hobbies) and career selection with the goal of understanding the factors that influence the development of science interests and science identity for those who chose a STEM career and those that did not. The 2864 participants in the study were adult hobbyists that included birders, astronomers, gardeners, model builders, insect collectors, rock/fossil collectors, home brewers, beekeepers, inventors, and environmental monitors. Participants completed a survey about their educational background, levels of hobby participation, motivation to participate in the hobby, perceived benefits of participating in the hobby, influences to continue to continue to engage in the hobby, reported influences on career choice influences, and perceived science identity. Results showed hobbyists with STEM careers were significantly more likely than those without STEM careers to rate elementary, middle, and high school experiences as well as college, museums and science centers, and clubs as influential on the development of the hobby. Those hobbyists with STEM careers were significantly more likely than those without a STEM career to report more ability in science, mathematics, and technology and to report that their choice of a career was influenced by factors such as enjoyment, encouragement from family, and hobby involvement. Conclusions suggest that engagement in a science hobby can provide support for youth to continue on to a STEM career as an adult.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-39
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019


  • Informal education
  • STEM career
  • leisure
  • life long learning


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