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Issues Effecting Doctoral Students Returning To Engineering Education Following Extensive Industrial Experience

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Methods & Techniques in Graduate Education

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.816.1 - 13.816.9



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Paper Authors


Walter Schilling

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Walter Schilling is an assistant professor in the Software Engineering program at the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee, WI. He received his BSEE from Ohio Northern University in 1997 and his MSES and PhD. from the University of Toledo in 1998 and 2007 respectively. He worked in the automotive industry as an embedded software engineer for several years prior to returning for doctoral work. He has spent time at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH. In addition to one US Patent, Schilling has numerous publications in refereed international conferences and other journals. Schilling is the recipient of the Ohio Space Grant Consortium Doctoral Fellowship, and is a member of IEEE, IEEE Computer Society, IEEE Reliability Society, ACM, and ASEE.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Issues Affecting Doctoral Students Returning to Engineering Education Following Extensive Industrial Experience


It can be said that the best time for an engineer who desires to enter academia to earn their Doctoral Degree is after a four to five year period working in industry. During this time period, a practicing engineering can be extensively exposed to the practical aspect of the engineering discipline. This exposure can aid to a more effective mentorship with students, better professional relationships with other practicing engineers, and a better understanding of the real problems faced by engineers solving real world problems.

However, a practicing engineer who wishes to return for doctoral studies faces numerous hurdles not necessarily encountered by a traditional student. This article puts forth some of the challenges facing a practicing engineer who attempts to return to graduate school for Doctoral Study. Areas to be addressed include difficulties obtaining graduate admission, the lack of fellowships and grants for returning professionals, other financial aspects of graduate studies impacting practicing professionals, project management issues, and job search issues.

1. Introduction

It can be said that, from many aspects, the best time for an engineering student to obtain their Ph.D. is after a period of working in industry. By the time one completes five to seven years of higher education, students can be “burned out” and otherwise not ready for the rigor of a Doctoral Degree. By breaking at this point and working in industry for a few years, students can obtain a better understanding of the practice of engineering than can be obtained from the classroom and co-operative (co-op) or internship experience. Furthermore, they can better understand exactly what area of engineering they wish to pursue in their studies.

While this approach is very logical, few students actually take this path. Rather, the majority of Doctoral Degrees granted are given to students who have not broken their academic studies nor worked significantly in an industrial setting. Many factors contribute to this, both intuitive and non-intuitive. This article attempts to address the issues facing a non-traditional doctoral student with significant work experience as have been observed from personal experience. Many of these issues are faced by traditional graduate students, but the issues are made more difficult by the age factor for non- traditional graduate students.

Schilling, W. (2008, June), Issues Effecting Doctoral Students Returning To Engineering Education Following Extensive Industrial Experience Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3847

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