The pathways taken by early career professionals and the factors that contribute to pathway choices

Cheryl A. Carrico, Katherine E. Winters, Samantha Brunhaver, Holly M. Matusovich

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

13 Scopus citations


Understanding undergraduates' preparation for their future careers remains a research focus in engineering education. To advance the growing body of literature, we take the perspective of early career professionals (ECPs) and examine their career path decisions after obtaining a bachelor's degree in engineering. We use Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) to guide our research because this framework provides broad categories of factors that create an appropriate backdrop for understanding how career choices happen. Because we were interested in acquiring a deep and contextually rich understanding of the ECPs' perspective, we took a qualitative research approach using semi-structured interviews as our primary data source. Our sample includes 36 participants who graduated three to five years ago with engineering degrees from one of three schools. Interviews allowed us to capture the career choices ECPs are making immediately after graduation and then throughout the first years of their careers. Interviews were conducted by phone, audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and then coded. Through our analysis, we identified the initial paths chosen by ECPs simply as 1) entering the workforce or 2) continuing in education. We then examined the robustness of initial choices by determining if participants stayed in their initial work/school pathway and if, at the time of the interviews, they are doing what they thought they would be doing prior to graduating. Offering insight into the initial career decision process of ECPs allows academia and industry a better opportunity to prepare undergraduate students for the decision process of graduate school versus entering the workforce directly from undergraduate studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
ISBN (Print)9780878232413
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - San Antonio, TX, United States
Duration: Jun 10 2012Jun 13 2012


Other119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Antonio, TX

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The pathways taken by early career professionals and the factors that contribute to pathway choices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this