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Career Certainty: Differences Between Career Certain and Uncertain Engineering Students

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Life After Graduation

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

21

DOI

10.18260/1-2--28012

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28012

Download Count

504

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Paper Authors

biography

Bernhard Schadl Stanford University

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Bernhard Schadl is a visiting student researcher at the Designing Education Lab of Dr. Sheri Sheppard. Bernhard completed a MSc. in Management and Technology from the Technical University of Munich.

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biography

Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

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Sheri D. Sheppard, Ph.D., P.E., is professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Besides teaching both undergraduate and graduate design and education related classes at Stanford University, she conducts research on engineering education and work-practices, and applied finite element analysis. From 1999-2008 she served as a Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, leading the Foundation’s engineering study (as reported in Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field). In addition, in 2011 Dr. Sheppard was named as co-PI of a national NSF innovation center (Epicenter), and leads an NSF program at Stanford on summer research experiences for high school teachers. Her industry experiences includes engineering positions at Detroit's "Big Three:" Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and Chrysler Corporation.

At Stanford she has served a chair of the faculty senate, and recently served as Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

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Helen L. Chen Stanford University

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Helen L. Chen is a research scientist in the Designing Education Lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Director of ePortfolio Initiatives in the Office of the Registrar at Stanford University. Chen earned her undergraduate degree from UCLA and her Ph.D. in Communication with a minor in Psychology from Stanford University. Her current research interests include: 1) engineering and entrepreneurship education; 2) the pedagogy of ePortfolios and reflective practice in higher education; and 3) redesigning the traditional academic transcript.

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Abstract

To gain a deeper understanding of the career decisions of undergraduate engineering students, this research paper explores the differences between students who show a high degree of career certainty and those who are rather uncertain about what their professional future should look like. These analyses were based on a dataset from a nationwide survey of engineering undergraduates (n=5,819) from 27 institutions in the United States. The survey was designed with an interest in understanding engineering students’ career pathways. For the purpose of this study, students were designated as either “career uncertain” or “career certain” according to their survey answers. Those two groups were then compared against a variety of background characteristics, past experiences and personality variables. The results suggest that career uncertain and career certain students do not differ on background variables such as gender, age or family income. However, when it comes to students’ past experiences, the percentage of students who had already gained internship experiences during their time in college was significantly higher among career certain students as compared to career uncertain students. As expected, seniors were more certain about their professional future than juniors. Similarly, a higher percentage of career certain students reported talking about their professional future with other students or faculty members more frequently. Furthermore, career certain students were significantly more likely to show a higher level of innovation self-efficacy and engineering task self-efficacy. In addition, career certain students were more likely to have career goals that involved innovation and they also considered several job characteristics as more important than did uncertain students. On average, career certain engineering students were also more certain about staying in engineering one, five and ten years after graduation. Overall, the results of this research suggest that more hands-on experiences and fostering stronger beliefs in their engineering skills can contribute to undergraduates becoming more certain about their future professional careers.

Schadl, B., & Sheppard, S., & Chen, H. L. (2017, June), Career Certainty: Differences Between Career Certain and Uncertain Engineering Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28012

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