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Board # 86 : Social Cognitive Career Factors and Students' Interest in Electronics and Engineering (Fundamental)

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-college Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Emily Cayton North Carolina State University

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Emily Cayton is a graduate research assistant working with PowerAmerica and pursuing a Ph.D. in Science Education at North Carolina State University. Emily has taught middle and high school science for 8 years in North Carolina Public Schools.

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M. Gail Jones North Carolina State University

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M. Gail Jones is Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor of STEM Education at NC State University where she conducts research on teaching and learning in STEM. Jones is also the coordinator of NanoDays and is a teacher educator working to prepare the next generation of teachers for middle and high schools.

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There is a growing need in the United States to promote careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and to cultivate lifelong STEM learning. For engineering specifically, research suggests that interest begins as early as elementary school, yet there is little known about how different factors contribute to interests in specific areas of engineering. Using a social cognitive career theory (SCCT) framework, we examined students’ interests and career goals with a specific interest in careers related to energy and electronics. According to SCCT, there are three primary mechanisms that drive career decisions: self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and goals. Self-efficacy refers a belief in one’s ability to succeed in situations or the ability to accomplish a specific task. Outcome expectations refer to personal beliefs about the likelihood of a specific outcome. Goals refer to future outcomes that are envisioned such as obtaining employment or finding a career. Using these constructs, we asked students about their interest, outcome expectancy, self-efficacy, and goals related to future careers related to electronics and engineering and used this information to determine the extent of the relationship between these factors. In this study, we investigated the degree to which interests in engineering lead to career aspirations in engineering and specifically, careers related to energy and electricity. Students (n = 2950) from grades 3-6 completed a survey of interests and career goals. Means and standard deviations were obtained and correlations between social cognitive career factors and career interests were calculated. Findings indicated students were more broadly interested in engineering careers than specific careers in energy and electronics. One interpretation of the differences in interests is that students may not understand career opportunities in specific engineering areas but have more generalized interests. Another interpretation is that the areas of electronics and energy elicit negative images that are less attractive as careers than a more generalized view of engineering. However, the results showed that there were significant positive correlations between the socio cognitive career factors (outcome expectancy, self-efficacy, and goals) and students’ interest in electricity and engineering careers. The challenges of developing a future workforce in electronics fields will be discussed.

Cayton, E., & Jones, M. G. (2017, June), Board # 86 : Social Cognitive Career Factors and Students' Interest in Electronics and Engineering (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27943

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