Engineering Majors Survey

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EMS Team.jpg
Over the past three years, the Designing Education Lab has been conducting a set of large, multi-method, national studies of entrepreneurship in engineering collectively known as the Engineering Majors Study (EMS), an exploration of how engineering students’ innovation and entrepreneurial interests evolve over time and are influenced by educational and workplace experiences.

The EMS team: (from left) Helen Chen, Shannon Gilmartin, George Toye, Sheri Sheppard, Emily Cao, Angela Harris, Emanuel Costache, Laurie Moore. Not pictured: Anna Breed, Carolyn Estrada, Michelle Grau, Qu Jin, Calvin Ling, Beth Rieken, Mark Schar, and Autumn Turpin; VentureWell collaborators Angela Shartrand and Ari Turrentine; and Senior Research Advisors Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Samantha Brunhaver, and Nathalie Duval-Couetil.


EMS Research Questions

As more students than ever are pursuing and earning an engineering bachelor’s degree in the U.S., questions about their post-graduation pathways are increasing.

  • Which skills have they developed? How are they applying these skills?
  • What are their interests, passions, and goals?
  • How do these interests, abilities, and achievements change over time?
  • Are they designing—and leading—technological and social innovations?
  • Which educational and workplace environments/experiences influence the development of their innovation and entrepreneurial interests, abilities, and achievements?
  • Which college experiences are associated with their confidence to innovate, their technical accomplishments, their creative breakthroughs?


For the initial study (EMS 1.0), a 35-question survey was administered to over 30,000 engineering juniors and seniors across a nationally representative sample of 27 U.S. engineering schools in February-March 2015, resulting in 6,187 valid responses. This survey draws upon psychological theories of career choice to ask students about their "innovation self-efficacy", their expectations for the outcomes of innovative behaviors, their innovation interests, and their goals around doing innovative work in their early careers. This survey also is designed to measure a comprehensive range of undergraduate learning experiences that may influence students' beliefs about their ability to innovate, and includes measures of students' entrepreneurial activities, past, present, and future.

The follow-up to EMS 1.0, or EMS 2.0, was conducted in March-May 2016 and designed to “post-test” the core innovation constructs of EMS 1.0, resulting in 1,410 valid responses. EMS 2.0 also included several questions about employment status and choices given that some fraction of EMS 1.0 respondents would have graduated and entered the workforce. As with 1.0, the 2.0 instrument was piloted in multiple phases, with engineering students at two different colleges/universities, alumni of an undergraduate engineering program at another university, and early career engineering professionals at a firm in San Francisco, CA.

The Technical Report outlining the design and implementation of EMS 1.0 and 2.0 can be found at this link.

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