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Why Do Professionals Return to School for Graduate Degrees?

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Educating Students for Professional Success

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1477.1 - 25.1477.12

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Paper Authors


Diane L. Peters P.E. LMS International

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Diane Peters received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2010. In addition to a position as a Senior Control Systems Engineer at LMS International, she conducts engineering education research on returning students with collaborators at the University of Michigan.

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Shanna R. Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Why Do Professionals Return to School for Graduate Degrees?Recently, there has been increased interest in the population of graduate students who haveworked for significant amounts of time prior to their graduate studies. These “returningstudents” have a diverse range of experiences between their undergraduate and graduate careers,, and have different reasons why their pathways lead to graduate school.To study these pathways, we interviewed ten graduate students at a major midwestern universitywho had at least five years’ gap between the completion of their undergraduate degree and thestart of their current graduate degree. The participants came from different academicdepartments and included both masters’ and doctoral students of various ages and status in theprogram. The interview covered a range of different topics, including their motivation forreturning to graduate school. Reasons why participants returned to school were grouped intothree categories:  To transition from their current career path into an academic career path,  To change the focus of their industrial career into a new specialty area,  To advance further along their current industrial career path.In this paper, we discuss these categories and the students who chose those paths. We alsoaddress the implications for graduate schools regarding the recruitment and support of returningstudents.

Peters, D. L., & Daly, S. R. (2012, June), Why Do Professionals Return to School for Graduate Degrees? Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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