A committee of experts gathered and analyzed data to explore questions about the career choices of engineering graduates and those employed as engineers with non-engineering degrees in the United States. The project addressed three objectives and related questions:
Objective 1: Examine the characteristics of those trained or working as engineers, including age, gender, educational background, and occupational sector.
1) What kinds of occupations/jobs do engineering graduates have and what competencies do they bring to the workplace and the tasks they perform?
2) How do compensation levels differ among engineering graduates working as engineers, engineering graduates working in non-STEM fields, and those without engineering degrees working as engineers?
Objective 2: Examine factors that influence the career decisions of those trained or working as engineers, including individual characteristics, motivation, self-efficacy, educational experience, economic incentives, job satisfaction, and job mobility.
1) What factors most explain engineering graduates’ choice of occupation and how do these factors and their influence change over time?
2) Are those with engineering degrees choosing willingly or being diverted unwillingly out of engineering careers?
3) Do these factors differ across groups that are underrepresented in engineering?
Objective 3: Consider the implications of current career pathways to and through engineering for: undergraduate engineering students, post-secondary engineering programs, continuing engineering education initiatives, and national interests.
1) How should information about career pathways in engineering affect the curriculum in engineering programs, engineering pedagogy, and the criteria schools use to matriculate students into these programs?
2) How should continuing and on-the-job engineering education efforts leverage this information to better align the competencies of engineers with the needs of employers?
3) How well aligned are the skills and knowledge acquired in formal engineering education with the skills and knowledge needed on the job?
4) How should the engineering enterprise increase representation of women, underrepresented minorities, and other marginalized groups?
By assessing the expectations, training, employment options, and employment choices of those trained or employed as engineers in the US, this project identifies opportunities, challenges, and potential actions for all stakeholders to strengthen the nation’s engineering workforce and the education enterprise that supports it. By critically evaluating the range of data sources relevant to engineering career pathways, the project challenges some long-held assumptions about not only what engineers do but also what education and training is needed to do engineering, leading to more productive discussions within engineering education and among engineering education leaders, policy makers, and industry about the training and employment of engineers. Over the longer term, the project will encourage potentially transformative efforts to make these pathways more viable, including changes to engineering education that provide undergraduate students with the experiences and tools they need in their careers and changes to the entire engineering education and workforce continuum that create a more inclusive environment for all engineers. This award was co-funded by the Division of Undergraduate Education in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources and by the Division of Engineering Education and Centers in the Directorate for Engineering.
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