Science and mathematics are not cool subjects, say students. Consequently, if these subjects are compulsory, students choose for a less strenuous stream in secondary school and are less likely to transition to university science programs. Additionally, female students are under-represented in areas such as for example mathematics, physics and astronomy. Around the world, the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are in grave trouble in secondary and tertiary institutions. But worse, STEM university graduates may not work in a subject of these expertise, leaving STEM agencies and organizations to hire from the shrinking pool.

In 1995, 14 percent of Year 12 secondary school mathematics students studied advanced mathematics, while 37 percent studied elementary mathematics, in line with the Australian Mathematical Science Institute. Fifteen years later, in 2010, 10 percent were studying advanced mathematics and 50 percent took the easier option of elementary mathematics. The Australian Mathematical Science Institute revealed that basic mathematics was growing in popularity among secondary students to the detriment of intermediate or advanced studies. It has triggered fewer universities offering higher mathematics courses, and subsequently there are reduced graduates in mathematics. There have already been reduced intakes in teacher training colleges and university teacher education departments in mathematics programs, which have resulted in lots of low-income or remote secondary schools without higher level mathematics teachers, which further triggered fewer science courses or the elimination of specific topics from courses. For a few mathematics courses, that is creating a continuous cycle of low supply, low demand, and low supply.

But is it actually a dire problem? The initial question is certainly one of supply. Are universities producing enough quality scientists, technology experts, engineers, and mathematicians? Harold Salzman of Rutgers University and his research colleague, B. Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown University in Washington D.C., revealed in a 2009 study that, unlike widespread perception, the United States continued to produce science and engineering graduates. However, fewer than half actually accepted jobs within their field of expertise. They are stepping into sales, marketing, and healthcare jobs.

The 2nd question is certainly one of demand. Can there be a continuing demand for STEM graduates? An October 2011 report from the Georgetown University's Centre on Education and the Workforce confirmed the high demand for science graduates, and that STEM graduates were paid a larger starting salary than non-science graduates. The Australian Mathematical Science Institute said the demand for doctorate graduates in mathematics and statistics will rise by 55 percent by 2020 (on 2008 levels). In the United Kingdom, the Department for Engineering and Science report, The Supply and Demand for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical Skills in the UK Economy (Research Report RR775, 2004) projected the stock of STEM graduates to go up by 62 percent from 2004 to 2014 with the highest growth in subjects allied to medicine at 113 percent, biological science at 77 percent, mathematical science at 77 percent, computing at 77 percent, engineering at 36 percent, and physical science at 32 percent.

Fields of particular growth are predicted to be agricultural science (food production, disease prevention, biodiversity, and arid-lands research), biotechnology (vaccinations and pathogen science, medicine, genetics, cell biology, pharmagenomics, embryology, bio-robotics, and anti-ageing research), energy (hydrocarbon, mining, metallurgical, and renewable energy sectors), computing (such as video gaming, IT security, robotics, nanotechnologies, and space technology), engineering (hybrid-electric automotive technologies), geology (mining and hydro-seismology), and environmental science (water, land use, marine science, meteorology, early warning systems, air pollution, and zoology).