Attributes of success for engineering Ph.D.s: Perspectives from academia and industry

Monica Farmer Cox, Jeremi S. London, Benjamin Ahn, Jiabin Zhu, Ana T. Torres-Ayala, Shree Frazier, Osman Cekic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


An exploration of engineering doctoral education is needed for several reasons. First, the realignment of undergraduate curricula based on studies of employers' needs and expectations are common in undergraduate education (i.e., Engineer of 2020) (National Academy of Engineering, 2004). These types of studies are not usual in doctoral education but are needed for Ph.D. programs to respond to the changing environments in industry and academia. Second, it is important to differentiate the industrial and academic expectations of engineering Ph.D.s since, according to NSF (2008), 73.3% of engineering Ph.D.s obtained jobs in industry. Finally, there is little understanding about how graduate education facilitates students' acquisition of these attributes. In this study, eleven Ph.D.s were asked to describe the attributes for success as an engineering Ph.D., credentials expected for Ph.D. engineers working in academia and industry, and ways for institutions to develop these attributes among Ph.D.s. Related to attributes, the participants identified strong analytical skills, creativity, good communication skills, and multidisciplinary as valuable. The least commonly mentioned attributes were business management principles and adaptability. In comparing industry and academic expectations, leadership, teamwork, business management and communications skills were identified as important in industry. In academia, obtaining funding, teaching, and research were mentioned as most important. Finally, the participants felt as though the most important ways for institutions to help develop these attributes were to provide mentorship, facilitate research groups, and model behaviors. Future work based on these findings is also presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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