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Survey Analysis of Engineering Graduate Students' Perceptions of the Skills Necessary for Career Success in Industry and Academia

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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

Future Career and Professional Success for Graduate Students

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1146.1 - 24.1146.14



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Paper Authors


Catherine G.P. Berdanier Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Catherine G.P. Berdanier is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She earned her B.S. in chemistry from the University of South Dakota and her M.S. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue University. Her current research interests include graduate-level engineering education, including inter- and multidisciplinary graduate education, innovative and novel graduate education experiences, global learning, and preparation of graduate students for future careers.

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Sara E. Branch Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Sara E. Branch is a graduate student in the department of psychological sciences. She studies motivation in the context of academic and career choices.

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Jeremi S. London Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Benjamin Ahn Purdue University, West Lafayette


Monica Farmer Cox Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Monica F. Cox, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the School of Engineering Education and is the inaugural director of the College of Engineering’s leadership minor at Purdue University. She also serves as the executive director of the International Institute for Engineering Education Assessment (i2e2a). She obtained a B.S. in mathematics from Spelman College, a M.S. in industrial engineering from the University of Alabama, and a Ph.D. in leadership and policy studies from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Her teaching interests relate to the professional development of graduate engineering students and to leadership, policy, and change in STEM education. Primary research projects explore the preparation of graduate students for diverse careers and the development of reliable and valid engineering education assessment tools. She is a NSF Faculty Early Career (CAREER) and Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) recipient.

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Survey Analysis of Engineering Graduate Students' Perspectives on the Skills Necessary for Career Success in Industry and AcademiaThe current research explores doctoral students’ perspectives on the skills that are essential tocareer success as an engineering PhD. Past research has explored essential skills for engineeringPhD holders primarily using reports and ratings from those who have earned a PhD inengineering and are currently working in industry (Watson & Lyons, 2011) or academia(Authors, 2011). This body of work has been influential in determining what faculty membersbelieve are the skills that graduate students should develop during their educational training.However, graduate students' willingness to participate in opportunities to develop those skills islikely to depend on what skills they perceive as essential to their career success and important forthem to develop during graduate studies. Research in the past ten years has been successful inindentifying the skills that engineering professionals deem to be important, but it is equallyimportant to know the degree to which graduate students themselves share these perspectives.The current study builds on prior work (Authors, 2011). Using coded interview responses from40 engineering PhD professionals working in either industry or academia, the researchersdesigned a survey to explore what skills graduate engineering students believe are necessary forcareer success and to what degree they believe those skills should be developed during theirgraduate training. The skills that were selected for inclusion in the survey represent those thatwere most frequently indentified by the engineering professionals during one-on-one interviews.Because professionals from industry were underrepresented among the interview participants,additional skills and attributes relevant to engineering careers in industry were included based onwork by Watson & Lyons (2011).The initial survey included 91 items. For each item, participants indicated 1) the degree to whichthey believed the listed skill was important to their future successful job performance and 2) howwell their Ph.D. program had prepared them in that area. This paper describes the statisticaltrends that resulted from analyzing participants’ responses to the survey items and identifies theskills that graduate students perceive as most important to their future career success. Thefindings of this study will be used assess agreement between graduate students and engineeringprofessionals regarding what skills are necessary. This research has practical implications forcurricular improvements in doctoral engineering education. It can be used to modify courses andmethods of instruction to help students recognize and build the skills essential for career success. ReferencesWatson, J., & Lyons, J. (2011). Aligning academic preparation of engineering Ph.D. programs with the needs of industry. International Journal of Engineering Education, 27, 1394- 1411.Authors (2011). Removed for blind review.

Berdanier, C. G., & Branch, S. E., & London, J. S., & Ahn, B., & Cox, M. F. (2014, June), Survey Analysis of Engineering Graduate Students' Perceptions of the Skills Necessary for Career Success in Industry and Academia Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23079

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