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Title: To Be, or Not to Be, a Professor: Views of Engineering Postdoctoral Scholars
Through an embedded, multiple-case study design, this interpretivist research paper explores the ways in which 22 engineering postdoctoral scholars describe the appeal of pursuing a career in the professoriate. Interviews, grounded by social cognitive career theory (SCCT) (Lent et al., 1994), offered an in-depth understanding of the nature, meaning, and ways in which their postdoctoral scholars’ learning experiences influence their view of the professoriate and, consequently, their career decision-making process. Data analysis strategies established by Silverman (1993) and Stake (1995) were utilized to examine the interview data, employing both inductive and deductive analysis techniques. Four themes emerged: (1) the professoriate appears daunting due to the competitive nature of the job market and the academic environment, (2) the work demands of the professoriate are contrary to the work-life balance sought, (3) possessing research autonomy in the professoriate is highly attractive, and (4) the professoriate is perceived as a calling for those who desire to teach and mentor the upcoming generation of engineers. A more nuanced understanding of the appeal of the professoriate and the career decision-making process of postdoctoral scholars may be an avenue to aid in diversifying the engineering professoriate. The preferred presentation method is a traditional lecture.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1821008
NSF-PAR ID:
10218247
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
American Society for Engineering Education
Page Range / eLocation ID:
29698
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  5. Abstract Background

    The number of engineering PhDs pursuing postdoctoral research scholar (postdoc) positions has steadily increased in the last 30 years. Postdoc positions are commonly thought of as a step toward academic careers. However, engineering PhDs are more likely to work in industry, which leaves open the question of the role of postdocs in the career trajectories of engineering PhDs.

    Purpose/hypothesis

    This study examines the factors associated with attainment of postdocs. It also identifies the influence of postdocs on attainment of tenure‐track faculty positions and early career salaries.

    Design/method

    Super's “life span, life space” theory informs the analytical approach. Descriptive and regression analyses, and propensity score matching, are conducted using a nationally representative sample of engineering PhDs from the 1993–2013 National Science Foundation Survey of Doctorate Recipients data set merged with the 1985–2013 Survey of Earned Doctorates.

    Results

    Engineering PhDs primarily funded by research assistantships and who graduated from a doctoral program with higher‐ranked research activities and greater proportions of previous cohorts pursuing postdocs are more likely to attain postdoc positions. Among engineering PhDs, postdoctoral scholars are more likely than PhDs in nonacademic positions to attain tenure‐track faculty positions. Early career average salaries are relatively similar between postdoctoral scholars and PhDs without postdoc experiences working in the academic sector.

    Conclusions

    Postdoctoral research positions can provide a viable pathway toward careers in the academic sector. Engineering doctoral programs can potentially apply research findings toward student career development and preparation, and engineering students and PhDs can leverage the career outlook information for decision‐making and career preparation.

     
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