Career Plans of Undergraduate Engineering Students: Characteristics and Contexts
This chapter examines undergraduate engineering students’ career plans, and the environments and experiences that influence their intentions to enter the engineering profession. We augment survey data collected from over 2,000 engineering students with data from three national sources. Our results indicate, first, that a substantial majority of engineering students are not committed to an exclusively engineering career. Second, students with engineering focused plans have distinctive profiles compared with their peers; namely, they are more likely to major in civil/environmental engineering, report higher intrinsic motivation to study engineering, have higher levels of involvement in their coursework, and have lower levels of professional/interpersonal confidence. Third, one’s expected engineering salary modestly differentiates engineering focused students from non-engineering focused ones. Finally, institutional characteristics are associated with students’ engineering career plans, and socioeconomic background may influence plans through the types of institutions at which higher and lower SES students differentially enroll. Implications for educational research and practice are discussed.
This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (Grant Nos. ESI 0227558 and ESI 1022644) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, as well as a Stanford Graduate Fellowship. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NSF, Sloan, Stanford, or NBER. The authors wish to thank the editors for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this chapter.