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 (EMS 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.

News and Updates

May 2016:

Come see us at ASEE in June 2016! The below papers draw from EMS 1.0 data will be presented on the following days and times:

Cao, E., Gilmartin, S., Jin, Q., Dungs, C., & Sheppard, S. Business program participation and engineering innovation: An exploration of engineering students' minors, certificates, and concentrations. Mon. June 27 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM New Orleans Convention Center, 277 Grau, M., Gilmartin, S., Rieken, B., & Sheppard, S. What do you want to do with your life? Insights into how engineering students think about their future career plans. Wed. June 29, 2016 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM New Orleans Convention Center, 277 Peterfreund, A., Costache, E., Chen, H., Gilmartin, S., & Sheppard, S. Infusing Innovation and Entrepreneurship into Engineering Education: Looking for change as seen by ASEE members, 2012 to 2015. Mon. June 27 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM New Orleans Convention Center, 263

April 2016:

The Engineering Majors Survey “2.0” was launched in early April. This follow-up survey was emailed to over 3,500 engineering students and recent graduates who had agreed to receive an invitation from us on EMS “1.0” in 2015. The survey will be open throughout April. EMS 2.0 includes many of the same items that were asked on EMS 1.0, in order to learn about students’ change in engineering and innovation interests over time.

September 2015:

We administered the Engineering Majors Survey to upwards of 30,000 engineering undergraduates across 27 U.S. institutions between February-May 2015. A total of 7,197 students responded to the survey; of these, 6,187 are self-reported “juniors” and “seniors”. Approximately 30 percent of all respondents are women. About 95 percent of respondents are full-time students; and one-quarter are transfer students. Consistent with national data on degree attainment by field, Mechanical Engineering majors compose the largest group of respondents by major; just under 10 percent of respondents report having a second major, half of which are in engineering fields. We are preparing for our follow-up survey in Winter/Spring 2016. We are preparing two articles on the “baseline” 2015 data (“EMS 1.0”) that will give an overview of students’ career interests and plans surrounding innovative work, as well as predictors of these plans (e.g., “innovation self-efficacy”, innovation-related learning experiences, and “innovation outcome expectations”).


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