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The Incredible Shrinking Job Description: Trends And Consequences Of An Increasingly Technical Engineering Profession

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Conference

2007 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Redefining the Boundaries of Engineering and Liberal Education: Contributions to the Year of Dialogue

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count

11

Page Numbers

12.1436.1 - 12.1436.11

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/2518

Download Count

30

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Paper Authors

biography

Erin Cech University of California-San Diego

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Erin A. Cech received bachelors degrees in Electrical Engineering and Sociology from Montana State University and is currently working towards her doctorate in Sociology at UC San Diego. She is engaged in research on gender and cultural issues in engineering, social stratification, and the intersection of technological and societal ethics.

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biography

Kara Boettcher Montana State University

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Kara M. Boettcher is a 2002 Chemical Engineering graduate of Montana State University. She spent three years working as a process engineer for Chevron Corp in Richmond, California and Salt Lake City, Utah. Currently Kara is taking post-baccalaureate classes at MSU to prepare for graduate school.

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Heidi Sherick Montana State University

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Heidi M. Sherick, M.Ed., is Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Diversity in the College of Engineering at Montana State University. She is in charge of efforts to increase diversity in the College of Engineering by recruiting, advising and supporting minorities. She is the Director of EMPower and the Project Director of the DOC program. She has over 5 years of experience in teaching middle school science.

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

The Incredible Shrinking Job Description: Trends and Consequences of an Increasingly Technical Engineering Profession

Abstract: ASEE promotes the importance of graduating engineers who possess a host of non- technical skills to complement their technical competencies. As this year of dialog draws to a close, the authors are interested in the extent to which such well-roundedness is reflected in the actual work that engages engineering graduates. Using quantitative data from the 1993, 1997 and 2003 National Survey of College Graduates, this paper analyses the changes in work characteristics of jobs that employ graduates of U.S. engineering programs. Contrary to expectations, the authors find that engineering work has become more narrowly technical over the last decade. While some may celebrate this trend as evidence of an increased “purity” in engineering work, the authors argue that if this trend continues, serious negative consequences could ensue for engineering education, industry, and the social conception of engineering.

Introduction

The American Society for Engineering Education is committed to reforming engineering education to give students the skills necessary to excel in an increasingly complex occupational world. It promotes the importance of graduating well-rounded engineers who, in addition to their technical competence, have refined communication skills, political savvy, and deep-seated commitments to ethical practice. The visibility and positive reception of the National Academy of Engineering’s The Engineer of 2020: Visions of a New Century1 attests to the increasing importance of this commitment. The purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which such well-roundedness is reflected in the actual work that engages graduates of U.S. engineering programs.

In undertaking this study, the authors expected to find evidence of graduates applying their problem-solving skills to non-technical arenas such as policy work, public service, or legislation. This hypothesis was introduced by The Engineer of 2020, and serves as an axiom within the ASEE community. The authors ventured beyond The Engineer of 2020’s “suite of recommendations” to conduct a more quantitatively rigorous analysis of engineering work over the last decade. Contrary to expectations, the work that engages engineering graduates does not reflect this well-roundedness and is instead becoming more narrowly technical. While staunch traditionalists may celebrate such a narrowing trend as evidence of an increased “purity” in engineering work, the authors argue that serious negative consequences could arise if this trend continues.

This paper will describe the narrowing trend in engineering through a quantitative analysis of a decade of national survey data, and critique the trend from the vantage points of education, industry, and society. Analysis of the causes of this trend is beyond the scope of this paper. As a result of this study, the authors provide provocative insights into current engineering trends in the hope that it will fuel reform in engineering education.

Cech, E., & Boettcher, K., & Sherick, H. (2007, June), The Incredible Shrinking Job Description: Trends And Consequences Of An Increasingly Technical Engineering Profession Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2518

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015