The percentage of African-Americans earning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees has fallen during the last decade, and colleges and experts say the door is wide open for Black students to take advantage of the opportunities that lie within the field.
The number of STEM degrees received by Blacks in all levels of higher education dropped from 8.1 percent in 2001 to just 7.5 percent in 2009.
To break down that statistic: Although Black people make up 12 percent of the population and 11 percent of students in higher education, in 2009, Blacks received just 7 percent of all STEM bachelor's degrees, 4 percent of master's degrees, and 2 percent of Ph.Ds, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
With America struggling to keep pace with the technological advancements of the rest of the world, experts say that more Black involvement in STEM careers will help advance both the country and the community.
"White men make up less than 50 percent of the U.S. population. We're drawing (future scientists) from less than 50 percent of the talent we have available," said Mae Jemison, the first Black woman astronaut, who has a medical degree and a bachelor's in chemical engineering, according to the Associated Press.
"The more people you have in STEM, the more innovations you'll get,” she said.
Scientists, educators and students cited misconceptions about STEM careers, lack of role models and mentors and the pressure to earn money quickly among reasons for the disparity.
(Photo: Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)