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Do Engineers Beget Engineers? Exploring Connections Between the Engineering-related Career Choices of Students and Their Families

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Choice and Persistence in Engineering Education and Careers

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.441.1 - 24.441.16



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Paper Authors

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Allison Godwin Clemson University Orcid 16x16

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Geoff Potvin Florida International University

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Zahra Hazari Florida International University

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Do Engineers Beget Engineers? Exploring Connections Between the Engineering-related Career Choices of Students and their FamiliesThere is relatively little empirical research on how a student's choice of engineering is affected byhaving an engineer as a family member, yet there are persistent hypotheses with regards to thesetypes of familial influences. Some prior work on family support has appeared in the SocialCognitive Career Theory, but it does not directly address the influence of a family member andfocuses on engineering persistence rather than engineering choice. Engineering major choice isan important step in the engineering pipeline since paths into engineering are relatively closedafter the freshman year.This research paper explores the influence of familial engineers on students' choice ofengineering through mixed-methods research. The quantitative portion of this study comes fromthe nationally representative Sustainability and Gender in Engineering (SaGE) survey that wascompleted by 6,772 college students enrolled in first-year English courses during Fall 2011,which included both students who were committed to an engineering career and those who werenot. Topics in this survey include students' experiences in high school science, beliefs aboutengineering , demographics, and academic performance. The qualitative data comes fromseventeen interviews of high school students conducted during week long observations at twopublic U.S. high schools in 2013.On the SaGE survey, students were asked about the professions and influences of their mother,father, siblings, and “other relatives”. A linear regression predicting the likelihood of a studentchoosing an engineering career, was constructed with family members' professions and careerinfluence on the student as predictors, along with controls for students' academic performance,their family's general support for math and science, and their socioeconomic status. Studentsnarratives from interviews about “who has influenced your career choice” were coded totriangulate the quantitative data and provide some explanatory power.The results show that students' siblings or other relatives being an engineer has a strongerpositive influence on students' engineering choice than their parents. In fact, having a father whois an engineer is a negative predictor of engineering choice, although the interaction betweenstudents' indicating that their father influenced their career and that their father was anengineering was a strong positive predictor of engineering choice. That is, students who have anengineer as a father are not more likely to choose engineering, but having an engineering fatherwho is also reported to influence the student's career choice does positively affect engineeringchoice. These results are supported by students' narratives about their “other” family influencesbeing a stronger influence than parental influences except for students who reported a strong,positive relationship with their engineering fathers. Notably, no gender differences were found inthis work – these results are consistent for both male and female engineering students.

Godwin, A., & Potvin, G., & Hazari, Z. (2014, June), Do Engineers Beget Engineers? Exploring Connections Between the Engineering-related Career Choices of Students and Their Families Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20332

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