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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 18, 2024
  2. Purpose The underrepresentation of women in engineering has important consequences for meeting the need for a larger, talented scientific and technological labor force. Increasing the proportion of women faculty in engineering will help increase the persistence probabilities of women undergraduate and graduate students in engineering, as well as contribute to the range and diversity of ideas toward innovations and solutions to the greatest engineering challenges. This study aims to examine the association among gender, family formation and post-PhD employment patterns of a cohort of engineering doctorates. Design/methodology/approach Using the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Doctorate Recipients data, 2001–2010, descriptive and multinomial logit regression analyses are conducted to illustrate the career trajectories of engineering PhDs over a ten-year period. Findings The career trajectories of engineering PhDs are nonlinear, and transitions between employment sectors commonly occur over the ten-year time period studied. Although women engineering PhDs with young dependents are less likely to be employed initially after PhD completion, they tend to enter the workforce in the academic sector as time progresses. Early post-PhD employment as a postdoctoral researcher or in the academic sector contributes to the pursuit of the professoriate downstream. Originality/value While previous studies tend to focus on the early career outcomes of science and engineering students, this study contributes to the literature by focusing on the long-term career outcomes of engineering doctorates. Research findings provide engineering PhD students and PhDs with more information regarding potential post-PhD career trajectories, highlighting the multitude of career options and transitions that occur over time. Research findings also provide higher education administrators and doctoral program stakeholders with foundational information toward designing and revitalizing professional development programs to help PhD students prepare for the workforce. The findings have the potential to be applied toward helping increase diversity by shaping policies and programs to encourage multiple alternative career pathways to the professoriate. 
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  3. Purpose While postdoctoral research (postdoc) training is a common step toward academic careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, the role of postdoc training in social sciences is less clear. An increasing number of social science PhDs are pursuing postdocs. This paper aims to identify factors associated with participation in postdoc training and examines the relationship between postdoc training and subsequent career outcomes, including attainment of tenure-track faculty positions and early career salaries. Design/methodology/approach Using data from the National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates and Survey of Doctorate Recipients, this study applies propensity score matching, regression and decomposition analyses to identify the role of postdoc training on the employment outcomes of PhDs in the social science and STEM fields. Findings Results from the regression analyses indicate that participation in postdoc training is associated with greater PhD research experience, higher departmental research ranking and departmental job placement norms. When the postdocs and non-postdocs groups are balanced on observable characteristics, postdoc training is associated with a higher likelihood of attaining tenure-track faculty positions 7 to 9 years after PhD completion. The salaries of social science tenure-track faculty with postdoc experience eventually surpass the salaries of non-postdoc PhDs, primarily via placement at institutions that offer relatively higher salaries. This pattern, however, does not apply to STEM PhDs. Originality/value This study leverages comprehensive, nationally representative data to investigate the role of postdoc training in the career outcomes of social sciences PhDs, in comparison to STEM PhDs. Research findings suggest that for social sciences PhDs interested in academic careers, postdoc training can contribute to the attainment of tenure-track faculty positions and toward earning relatively higher salaries over time. Research findings provide prospective and current PhDs with information helpful in career planning and decision-making. Academic institutions, administrators, faculty and stakeholders can apply these research findings toward developing programs and interventions to provide doctoral students with career guidance and greater career transparency. 
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  4. 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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  5. Abstract Background

    Given the importance of engineers to a nation's economy and potential innovation, it is imperative to encourage more students to consider engineering as a college major. Previous studies have identified a broad range of high school experiences and demographic factors associated with engineering major choice; however, these factors have rarely been ranked or ordered by relative importance.

    Purpose/Hypothesis

    This study leveraged comprehensive, longitudinal data to identify which high school‐level factors, including high school characteristics and student high school experiences as well as student demographic characteristics and background, rank as most important in terms of predictive power of engineering major choice.

    Design/Method

    Using data from a nationally representative survey, the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, and the random forest method, a genre of machine learning, the most important high school‐level factors in terms of predictive power of engineering major choice were ranked.

    Results

    Random forest results indicate that student gender is the most important variable predicting engineering major choice, followed by high school math achievement and student beliefs and interests in math and science during high school.

    Conclusions

    Gender differences in engineering major choice suggest wider ranging cultural phenomena that need further investigation and systemic interventions. Research findings also highlight two other areas for potential interventions to promote engineering major choice: high school math achievement and beliefs and interests in math and science. Focusing interventions in these areas may lead to an increase in the number of students pursuing engineering.

     
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  6. Abstract Background

    Increasing interest and participation in engineering is vital if the United States is to create the larger technological and scientific labor force it needs to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Students' pathways into the different engineering majors provide important information for this effort.

    Purpose

    This study addresses which factors across life stages (pre‐high school, high school, and early college) are associated with engineering major choice. The quantitative analysis identifies which demographic characteristics and academic achievement variables are correlated with engineering major choice, whereas the qualitative analysis examines when and why students choose a specific engineering major.

    Methods

    Informed by the life course perspective, this convergent mixed methods research study applies Logit regression and thematic analysis. Data sets include more than 20,000 observations of student‐level academic records (2001–2015) as well as interviews conducted with 20 students at a large, research‐intensive university in the Midwest.

    Results

    Quantitative results indicate that student demographic factors and measures of academic achievement—including passing scores on advanced placement tests, scholastic aptitude test scores, and high school and college first‐year grade point averages—are associated with engineering major choice. Qualitative findings show that across the life stages, the source of social influence in engineering major choice varies; while family and teachers play larger roles before and during high school, peers and university personnel play larger roles in early college.

    Conclusion

    The conceptual model comprehensively synthesizes the key factors associated with engineering major choice, highlighting the importance of demographic factors, academic achievement, social networks, and access to role models from pre‐high school, high school, and early college.

     
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  7. Abstract Background

    Despite the critical role of faculty diversity in the persistence and academic experiences of undergraduate students as well as in the development of engineering innovations, women of color (WoC) faculty are still underrepresented in engineering programs across the United States.

    Purpose/Hypothesis

    This study identifies whether the demographic composition of undergraduate engineering students is correlated with the representation of WoC faculty. It also highlights the institutional‐ and departmental‐level factors that contribute to the race–gender diversification of the engineering professoriate.

    Design/Method

    Informed by organizational demography as the theoretical framework, the methods include linear and logit regression analyses. Data come from the American Society for Engineering Education, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, and the American Community Survey, and include engineering departmental‐level observations across 345 institutions over 12 years.

    Results

    Engineering departments that award more bachelor's degrees to women African American/Black undergraduate students are more likely to employ relatively more African American/Black women faculty. This positive relationship is also found among Asian Americans and Hispanics/Latinas.

    Conclusions

    Research findings demonstrate the relationship between engineering undergraduate composition, as well as other departmental‐ and institutional‐level factors, and the prevalence of WoC faculty. The findings highlight important areas for stakeholders and academic administrators to consider when developing strategies and programs to diversify the composition of engineering faculty.

     
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