Approved by the Committee on Education on April 27, 2021
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on May 4, 2021
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 16, 2021
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports programs that foster an appreciation for, and education in and pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM. It is essential to:
- Provide all students, regardless of background or career intentions, with basic STEM literacy.
- Provide equitable access to STEM education for all student populations, particularly those populations that have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.
- Encourage students to pursue careers in engineering – and especially in civil engineering.
- Establish and maintain rigorous K-12 STEM education standards that are validated by the relevant professional communities.
- Introduce K-12 students to civil engineering through counseling, instruction, and engineering experiences, and in class practice to stimulate interest.
- Prepare K-12 students to study engineering at the college level through rigorous coursework in mathematics and the sciences.
- Support the development and implementation of Career and Technical Education in the STEM disciplines for students who are not college bound.
"The Nation's Report Card" administered by the U.S. Department of Education, provides ongoing assessment of K-12 student performance. The most recent data (2020) indicates that, nationally, 41% of 4th grade students are proficient in mathematics and 38% are proficient in science, and that by 12th grade, only 24% are proficient in mathematics and 22% are proficient in science. These are far-and-away the largest decreases in proficiencies among the seven content areas assessed at grades 4 and 12, meaning K-12 student proficiency in math and science reduces significantly as students advance from primary to secondary education. This limits the opportunity for many students, particularly those from underserved schools, to pursue careers in STEM, including civil engineering.
The National Center for Education Statistics, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, provides the most popular majors in colleges. Of the two million bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2017-18, more than 30% were concentrated in the first two fields of study: business (19%) and health professional and related programs (12%), while engineering majors, including civil engineering are less than 10% in total. These data reflect that engineering is not among the top selected majors.
The National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics issues the biennial report, “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering”, which provides statistical information about the education and employment of these groups within STEM. The data presented in the most recent report (2019) reflect the impact of the aforementioned K-12 students’ lack of proficiency in math and science. While women have received parity with men with respect to the overall combined number of baccalaureate degrees earned in science and engineering, less than a quarter of baccalaureate degrees in engineering are earned by women. Furthermore, women still are unacceptably underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce. Minority populations continue to be significantly underrepresented within science and engineering; that is, their representation in science and engineering education and employment is significantly lower than in the U.S. population.
“Engineering & Engineering Technology by the Numbers” is published annually by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). In the most recent report (2021), 23.5% of the baccalaureate degrees in engineering were awarded to women, 4.4% to Black or African American students, 12.1% to Hispanic or Latino students, 14.7% to Asian American students, and 1.7% identifying with other races or ethnicities. Considering engineering technology, 13.6% of the baccalaureate degrees awarded were earned by women, 7.5% by Black or African American students, 11.6% by Hispanic or Latino students, 5.4% to Asian American students, and 1.6% identifying with other races or ethnicities. With 50.8% of the US population being female, 13.4% Black or African American, 18.5% Hispanic or Latino, 5.9% Asian American, and 4.3% other races or ethnicities, the low representation of women and minority populations in engineering and engineering technology may endanger the long-term ability of the profession to properly and fully serve society.
The work of civil engineers in designing, building, and operating infrastructure and environmental protection systems is needed in every community to support economies and improve our quality of life. A diverse, motivated civil engineering workforce is needed for this important work. Civil engineering is a compelling and rewarding career path, providing direct opportunities to serve people and communities. More K-12 students need to be provided an educational foundation in STEM and, through advising and counseling, be exposed to engineering in general, and civil engineering, to prepare them for pursuing a career in engineering.
STEM education is closely linked with our nation’s economic prosperity, social well-being, and environmental sustainability. STEM education is also critical to the health of the civil engineering profession, both for those who practice as civil engineers and those who civil engineers serve. There is a need to foster support and provide STEM education at all levels of our education system, to promote the pursuit of STEM careers, and to guide qualified students toward careers in civil engineering.
ASCE Policy Statement 377
First Approved in 1991