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  1. 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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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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  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. Studies have shown that mentorship is critical to the career and professional development of workers, including postsecondary faculty. Evidence from the literature on faculty-to faculty mentorship have generally focused on the medical field or on the higher education institution where the study was conducted. This study extends the literature by examining data from faculty across multiple institutions and across fields using the Early Career Doctorates Survey (ECDS). Guided by a theoretical framework adapted from Higgins and Kram (2001), multiple linear regression models are applied to investigate which factors are associated with mentorship attainment, and how mentorship of faculty is associated with faculty productivity and job satisfaction. In contrast to previous literature, results indicate that women and racially minoritized faculty have similar likelihood of reporting having a formal/informal mentor compared to men and White colleagues, respectively. Furthermore, receiving mentorship does not appear to be associated with increased productivity or job satisfaction, but is associated with a 10% higher salary for faculty who reported having a mentor. These results, however, are limited to observable outcomes, and the benefits to mentoring may extend beyond that to include well-being, sense of belonging, and other variables not measured in the dataset. Overall, research findings contribute to existing efforts and ongoing conversations on faculty mentorship by offering additional evidence from a nationally representative sample, providing a benchmark for individual institutions to evaluate their professional development programs for faculty. 
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  5. The number of engineering PhDs obtaining postdoctoral research scholar employment has increased over the last 20 years. This study examines the factors associated with obtaining postdoc positions, and the early career outcomes associated with postdoc training. 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 matched with the 1985-2013 Survey of Earned Doctorates. Findings show that engineering PhDs with greater research experience, research ability, or who graduated from doctoral programs with more prevalent postdoc employment among previous PhD cohorts, tend to be more likely to obtain postdoc positions. Compared to PhDs who obtain non-academic positions, postdoc training is associated with greater likelihood of attaining tenure track faculty positions and remaining in academia 7-9 years after PhD graduation. In terms of early career salary, postdoc training may delay salary growth among engineering PhDs who are eventually employed in the private sector, but not among those who are eventually employed in the academic sector. Research findings provide critical information regarding the outlook for postdoctoral employment and its role in the long-term career paths of engineering PhDs. 
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  6. Examining the career paths of engineering PhDs in the United States has important implications for strengthening the engineering workforce. This study models the early career outcomes of engineering doctorates by sex, race/ethnicity, citizenship, and other observable characteristics, as well as identifies factors that influence these pathways using regression analyses on nationally representative data from the National Science Foundation Survey of Doctorate Recipients. Research findings show that early employment outcomes vary by PhD demographic factors, including sex and race/ethnicity. The logistic regression results show that primary source of funding, such as fellowships/grants and research assistantships, are associated with employment in tenure track faculty positions. Additionally, the employment outcomes of previous PhD cohorts from the same program and the relative ranking of the engineering program also contribute to early career outcomes. 
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