June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Educational Research and Methods
There are over 100,000 engineering graduates from undergraduate programs annually within the United States. Students graduating from these programs pursue a variety of jobs, with only a subset being engineering positions. Why might an engineering student, after investing considerable resources in their engineering education, select a non-engineering job? What are the specific factors at work for engineering graduates in selecting their first professional position? This study seeks to identify recently graduated engineering students’ motivations in job applications and job selection, particularly as these motives vary by academic and demographic backgrounds.
The data for this study come from survey responses of 315 currently employed individuals who were within one year post-graduation from their undergraduate engineering program at one of 27 different institutions across the United States. A mixed methods approach was used to understand the factors influencing their career decisions based on their open- and closed- ended responses to related survey questions. First, using emergent coding, respondents’ self-reported, open-ended descriptions of their job search process that led them to accept the offer for their current employed position were categorized. Then, their open-ended responses were compared to a close-ended, ranking question of the same type, with items that were derived from a question in the National Survey of Recent College Graduates (sponsored by NSF’s Division of Science Resources Studies). Finally, respondents’ background characteristics (e.g., socioeconomic status) and undergraduate experiences (e.g., participation in an internship) were analyzed in relation to their job search and job selection processes.
Our findings reinforce that job selection is a complex process that often can be a source of anxiety and stress to students. The motivating factors for deciding which jobs to apply to, and which job to ultimately accept, vary for different students. By improving our understanding of student motivations during the job search process, employers can make adjustments to their offers in order to strengthen and diversify the engineering workforce. By knowing what motivates students, advisors can design services to support students in a successful transition from school-to-work. These findings also may be of use to students themselves, helping them see the variety of ways that engineering students pursue and consider job options.
Harris, A., & Gilmartin, S. K., & Reinders, K. L., & Sheppard, S. (2017, June), Understanding Engineering Student Motivating Factors for Job Application and Selection Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29053
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