STEM career exploration opportunities for teens in and around Chicago

The question “What do you want to do when you grow up?” is always a fun one to ask little kids. It takes on a bit more significance, however, as kids get older and get closer to needing a real answer. Fortunately, some of Chicago’s world-renowned institutions offer opportunities for kids to explore a variety of STEM fields and learn first-hand what a variety of careers involve from the best in the business. 

Here are some programs that help kids explore different areas and careers while also develop skills and have fun.

Have a kid considering a career in science or technology?

Join Science Minors at Museum of Science & Industry

5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago 

Meets on Saturdays, 10 weeks per session, 9 a.m.- 12 p.m.

Ages 14-18

Free, application required

The Museum of Science and Industry teaches teens all about science in this program, and gives them a chance to teach others when they conduct experiments for guests in the museum. Teens will hone their public speaking skills and earn service hours at the same time — a win-win! MSI offers three sessions of Science Minors each year. Teens who complete the Science Minors program can go on to become Science Achievers. You can apply here.

Does your teen dream of a medical career?

Apply to Northwestern Medicine NM Discovery Program

Locations vary

Meets once a month, typically on Saturday mornings, November through July

High school students

$50 or proof of enrollment in reduced lunch program

Teens that participate in this two-year program learn about various health care careers, including anesthesiology, neurology and other specialties, as well as nursing and hospital administration. Participants get hands-on experience with projects and hear from guest speakers working in the various fields. They also get to tour different medical facilities and have fun at mixers with other teens. Central/North Chapter covers teens living in Cook, Lake, Will and McHenry counties. Those living in DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lee and Ogle are in the West Chapter. You can find information on applying here. The application deadline is September 29.

Are your children interested in architecture?

Register for Chicago Architecture Foundation Saturday Studio

224 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Saturday, Aug. 26



Ages 13-18

Teens can join architects and designers in the ArcelorMittal Design Studio at the Chicago Architecture Foundation for hands-on studio time. Activities are structured to help develop basic architecture and design skills while solving real-world challenges. Register here.

Does your child love the aquarium?

Check out Club Shedd

1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Select Saturdays for a semester

Ages 14 and older and enrolled in grades 9 through 12

$75, partial scholarships are available

Club Shedd is designed for high schoolers who already have a passion for science and the Shedd Aquarium. They channel that passion into tackling a challenge at the aquarium. The program combines their problem-solving skills and interest in innovation with the opportunity to work with professionals to develop real-world results. One group developed 3-D puzzles for the giant Pacific octopus. They designed the puzzles through sketches, made models out of clay on computer and then created the octopus enrichment tools using a 3-D printer.

Have an animal lover considering zoology?

Hold your horses (and zebras and bears), but not for too long.

Lincoln Park Zoo offers teen opportunities, but only in the summer. Information about them is available in January here, and the programs can be very popular, so mark your calendars now to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines.

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