San Antonio, Texas
June 10, 2012
June 10, 2012
June 13, 2012
25.860.1 - 25.860.23
Investigation of the Work Environment of Engineering Ph.D.s in the United StatesThe traditional expectations of engineering Ph.D. students are that they will become scholar-teachers at a research university or researchers in an academic or a national lab, performing basicresearch [1, 2, 3]. In recent decades, there has been a shift in employment options forengineering Ph.D.s from academic to non-academic positions. Currently, the majority ofengineering Ph.D.s in the United States work in for-profit organizations, ranging from largecorporations to small businesses . The goal of this study is to investigate both the researchenvironment and the skills needed by engineering Ph.D.s who work in such organizations.This research was conducted using grounded theory approach to guide the development andanalysis of semi-structured phone surveys with six Ph.D. engineers working in large corporationsand six Ph.D. engineers working in small businesses. The results were then analyzed bysummarizing the surveys and using a constant comparative method in order to allow a theory toemerge in a systematically through explicit coding and analytic procedures.In general, the participants in this study felt well prepared for careers in industry. However,results of this study suggest that working in interdisciplinary teams and developing anunderstanding of the economics and goals of an industrial work environment are areas that couldbe better addressed by engineering Ph.D. degree programs. Participants from both largecorporations and small businesses frequently use teams to accomplish the company’s goals,where each team member must possess a unique technical skill set and excellent communicationskills. Results suggest the economics and goals of industry are different from the economics andgoals of academia. The study also suggests that engineering Ph.D.s in industry need to possesscritical and analytical thinking skills. This paper presents the summaries of case studies,discusses common themes, and suggests implications for engineering doctoral degree programs.References J. Metcalfe, "The Changing Nature of Doctoral Programmes," in The Formative Years of Scholars, Proceedings for the Symposium held at the Haga Forum, Stockholm, 2005. Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientist and Engineers. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1995. J. Bieber and L. Worley, "Conceptualizing the Academic Life: Graduate Students' Perspectives," The Journal of Higher Eduation, vol. 77, pp. 1009-1035, 2006. National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics. 2009. Characteristics of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers in the United States: 2006. Detailed Statistical Tables NSF 09-317. Arlington, VA. Available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf09317/. Accessed 24 January 2011.
Watson, J., & Lyons, J. S. (2012, June), Investigation of the Work Environment of Engineering Ph.D.s in the United States Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21617
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