Google Trends Has Good News about STEM

August 10, 2017

If people's Google search habits are any measure, STEM education and jobs have caught the public's attention. That's good news for STEM advocates, even if the road to universal STEM literacy remains steep and rocky.

Google Trends is a nifty, if imperfect, tool for measuring people's interest in a topic by estimating how often they search for it online. We used it to gauge public interest in STEM and uncovered some interesting patterns.

A scant ten years ago, people were much more likely to be Googling "stem cells" than the kind of STEM we advocate for--science, technology, engineering, and math.That changed around 2011, and STEM has been surging ahead ever since.

Over the same period, interest in computer science bachelor's degrees narrowly eclipsed interest in the once-dominant English degree:

Below the bachelor's level, some STEM fields STEM raced ahead of non-STEM fields. In 2004, for example, interest in "HVAC technician" ($46,000 per year; 14 percent growth from 2014-2024) started behind "beautician" ($24,000 per year; 9-13 percent growth), but it soon left "beautician" in the dust:

A comparison of "computer science" and "cosmetology" (both as "fields of study"), reveals an interesting, if somewhat different, pattern:

Computer science tumbled from its lofty perch in 2004, as the dot-com bust took hold, and it barely kept pace with cosmetology for five years before surpassing it again.

These trends are encouraging, but past isn't necessarily prologue. STEM advocates should take heart, but we can't rest easy until this attention translates into lasting improvement.

Tags: STEM