Career Plans of Undergraduate Engineering Students: Characteristics and Contexts

Shannon K. Gilmartin, anthony lising antonio, Samantha R. Brunhaver, Helen L. Chen, Sheri D. Sheppard

Chapter in NBER book U.S. Engineering in a Global Economy (2018), Richard B. Freeman and Hal Salzman, editors (p. 49 - 85)
Conference held September 26-27, 2011
Published in April 2018 by University of Chicago Press
© 2018 by the National Bureau of Economic Research

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.

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