Recent engineering graduates making career choices: Family matters

Katherine E. Winters, Holly M. Matusovich, Samantha R. Brunhaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Research on early career engineers has typically examined the roles that their work or workplace culture can play in determining their career experiences and decisions. Such research does not often explore how the engineer shapes his or her own career path or how influences outside of the workplace, such as family influences, impact career choices. Yet studies with more seasoned engineers have illuminated critical roles for family in career choices, suggesting that family might also be important to early career engineers and perhaps particularly for women. Therefore, we sought to better understand the ways that family members influence recent engineering graduates’ career decision making across both sexes. Our study includes interviews and survey results for thirty participants which we also situate within a broader context of two quantitative surveys deployed to a larger sample of participants. We found that even in their mid-twenties, recent engineering graduates’ career decisions were significantly impacted by family, in the form of tensions between individual career needs and needs inherent to partnerships and child-rearing and of continued support and encouragement from other family members. We found that both men and women are impacted in both similar and different ways. Arnett’s theory of emerging adulthood serves as a framework for studying these often neglected phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-316
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Career choice
  • Early career engineers
  • Family influences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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