Asee peer logo

Assessing Doctoral Students’ Employability Skills

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Professional Development and Advising for Graduate Students

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.201.1 - 24.201.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Farshid Marbouti Purdue University, West Lafayette

visit author page

Farshid Marbouti is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Engineering Education at Purdue University. He is teaching assistant of preparing future professionals and preparing future faculty courses. He completed his M.A. in the Educational Technology and Learning Design at Simon Fraser University in Canada, and his B.S. and M.S. in computer engineering in Iran.

visit author page


Cyndi D. Lynch Purdue University, West Lafayette

visit author page

Cyndi Lynch is the Director of Fellowships and Graduate Student Professional Development for the Purdue Graduate School. Ms. Lynch is a registered veterinary technician, focusing on animal behavior. Her research focuses on doctoral student engagement and assessment of doctoral student learning outcomes in identified best practices, including mentoring, developing effective writing strategies, recruitment, retention, and transition courses, and doctoral student professional development. Ms. Lynch instructs Purdue’s Preparing Future Faculty course and the Preparing Future Professionals course.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Developing a Self-Assessment Tool to Assess Doctoral Students’ Employability Skills for IndustryWith the increase of doctoral graduates at universities, a majority of graduates areemployed by industry. However, graduate education fails to prepare students for careersoutside of academia and graduate students are criticized for their lack of professionalskills, such as teamwork, managerial, and leadership skills (Nerad, 2004). In other words,although the majority of doctoral graduates are employed by industry, they are notprepared for professional workplace outside of academia. One solution that has beenproposed by some researchers, educators, and industry administrators is offeringsystematic training and professional development to graduate students in order to preparethem for career options outside of academia (Nyquist, 2002).Preparing Future Professionals (PFP) is a two-credit hour course (blind), which utilizes aPass/No Pass grading system. The goal of this course is to prepare graduate students forjobs outside of academia. In the PFP course, students engage in weekly two-hourmentoring sessions with industry professionals and recruiters, university alumni, facultyand staff to discuss diverse professional environments including the skills, roles, andresponsibilities required in the professional work place. Topics covered include:leadership and management, financial education, project management, intrapersonaleffectiveness, communication skills, career development, and career-life balance.To assess students’ readiness in each of the described categories, we developed a self-assessment tool to evaluate students’ competency level at the beginning and end of thesemester. Surprisingly, most of the publications on necessary or employability skills foruniversity graduates focus only on the undergraduate level (e.g., NACE, 2011; Cleary,Flynn, Thomasson, Alexander, & McDonald, 2007). The few reports on doctoralgraduates, only mention broad description of desired abilities without being specific (e.g.Sugars & Pearce, 2010). Development of a self-assessment tool to measure specificemployability skills for industry can help educators and graduate students to assess theseskills and improve them.In this paper, after describing the process of development of a self-assessment tool fordoctoral graduates to assess their employability skills in industry, we report students’competency level at the end of the semester. This helps to understand the competencylevel of doctoral students and whether or not offering professional development forgraduate students is effective. In addition, we can find areas for improvement in thedesign of the PFP course to enhance students’ skills for industry.ReferencesCleary, M., Flynn, R., Thomasson, S., Alexander, R., & McDonald, B. (2007). Precision Consultancy, Graduate employability skills. Retrieved from (July 2013): EPORT1.pdfAuthor et al. (2011)National Association of Colleges and Employers (2011). Job Outlook: The Candidate Skills/Qualities Employers Want. Retrieved from (July 2013):, M. (2004). The Ph.D. in the U.S.: Criticisms, facts, and remedies. Higher Education Policy, 17, 2, 183-199.Nyquist, J.D. (2002). A tapestry of change for the 21st century, Change 34(6): 12-21.Sugars J. & Pearce, E. (2010). DOCNET: Doctors in Enterprise, Transferable skills and employability for doctoral graduates: survey of the current landscape (Final report). Retrieved from (July 2013):

Marbouti, F., & Lynch, C. D. (2014, June), Assessing Doctoral Students’ Employability Skills Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20092

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015