Lost in transition? Background factors to study field and STEM career interests of general upper secondary students

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa L2

Topic of the dissertation

Lost in transition? Background factors to study field and STEM career interests of general upper secondary students

Doctoral candidate

Master of Education Satu Kaleva

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Education and Psychology, Learning and learning processes research unit

Subject of study

Education psychology


Associate professor Niels Bonderup Dohn, Aarhus University


Professor Hanni Muukkonen, University of Oulu

Visit thesis event

Add event to calendar

Gender strongly shapes upper secondary students' field of study and career interests; more work life information and diverse gender role models are needed

Gender remains the most significant factor guiding a high school student's choice of field. According to a doctoral dissertation under review at the University of Oulu, to enable young individuals to make more informed choices based on their personal strengths, there is a need for more multi-channel information on different fields and evolving professions.

Educational and career choices have far-reaching effects on a young person's life, the surrounding society, and the workforce. The dissertation examined the background factors of general upper secondary school students' educational and career interests and the relationship between self-efficacy, subject preferences, subject choices and gender with regards to their further study field interest.

In addition, the students’ interest in natural science, mathematics and technology, i.e. so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects was investigated. These subjects have traditionally been more popular among boys than girls.

Results showed that subject preferences and mathematical and verbal self-efficacy beliefs were related to educational field interest, but the student's gender appeared to be the most directive factor guiding their educational and career interests.

The results also indicated that if students receive multi-channel workplace information during secondary education, it can have a positive impact on their interest in fields or careers that require an emphasis on STEM disciplines, such as technical areas.

The dissertation is founded on three sub-studies that employed extensive register dataset datasets: specifically, national register data of students admitted to Finnish universities from 2013 to 2015, encompassing 46 281 individuals, and the outcomes of national matriculation essays, with a sample size of 93 955. Additionally, cohort data was gathered via surveys conducted in Oulu upper secondary schools during 2017-2018, involving 802 and 601 participants.

The research highlights the need to raise awareness of the guiding influence of gender in education and study guidance. It's also essential to provide young individuals with more current information about the evolving job market opportunities and the skill requirements in various fields at different stages of their educational journey. While cooperation with work life is already integrated into the curriculum of Finnish upper secondary schools, there's a need for more structured and focused practices to enable young people to make increasingly informed decisions based on their personal strengths.
Last updated: 23.1.2024