A more diverse health science-related workforce including more underrepresented race/ethnic minorities, especially from low socioeconomic backgrounds, is needed to address health disparities in the USA. To increase such diversity, programs must facilitate youth interest in pursuing a health science-related career (HSRC). Minority youth from low socioeconomic families may focus on the secondary gains of careers, such as high income and status, given their low socioeconomic backgrounds. On the other hand, self-determination theory suggests that it is the intrinsic characteristics of careers which are most likely to sustain pursuit of an HSRC and lead to job satisfaction. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for pursuing an HSRC (defined in this study as health professional, health scientist, and medical doctor) was examined in a cohort of youth from the 10th to 12th grade from 2011 to 2013. The sample was from low-income area high schools, had a B- or above grade point average at baseline, and was predominantly: African American (65.7 %) or Hispanic (22.9 %), female (70.1 %), and children of foreign-born parents (64.7 %). In longitudinal general estimating equations, intrinsic motivation (but not extrinsic motivation) consistently predicted intention to pursue an HSRC. This finding provides guidance as to which youth and which qualities of HSRCs might deserve particular attention in efforts to increase diversity in the health science-related workforce.
Keywords: Achieving diversity in the health science workforce; African American and Hispanic youth career decision-making; Biomedical and health science career choice; Motivation for health science among youth; Workforce to address health disparities.