Engineering Majors Survey

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EMS Team.jpg
Over the past three years, the Designing Education Lab has been conducting a national longitudinal study of how engineers make the transition from undergraduate to workplace environments, navigate the early career job market, and experience their first professional positions. At the heart of this study is the Engineering Majors Survey (EMS), a survey designed to explore engineering students’ engineering, innovation, and entrepreneurial interests and experiences over time.

Members of the EMS team include: (from left) Helen Chen, Shannon Gilmartin, George Toye, Sheri Sheppard, Emily Cao, Angela Harris, Emanuel Costache, and Laurie Moore. Others who are currently involved in EMS design and analysis include Tua Bjorklund, Carolin Dungs, Mathias Klenk, Amber Levine, Sophia Pink, Gunther Rameseder, Katherine Reinders, Maximillian Reithmann, Eric Reynolds, Beth Rieken, Bernhard Schadl, and Mark Schar. Our team has included several other analysts over the past few years who have been critical to the project development: Bethany Chaffin, Michelle Grau, Qu Jin, Daniel Weiss, Chloe Wiggins, our Epicenter partners at Stanford University, VentureWell, and SageFox, our advisors Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Samantha Brunhaver, Nathalie Duval-Couetil, and Sarah Zappe, and many others (see our Technical Report, link below).

The Engineering Majors Survey was initially conducted with support from the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), a center funded by the National Science Foundation (grant number DUE-1125457). Currently, the third wave of the survey is being planned for Summer 2017 with support from the National Science Foundation (grant number 1636442).This most recent grant is titled Pathways from school to work (PATHS): A longitudinal study of undergraduate engineering students from college into the workforce. 


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. EMS was designed to examine the following questions:

  • 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?

The many topics that EMS analysts are currently studying include:

  • Learning experiences in college that are associated with students' innovation, entrepreneurship, and engineering interests, goals, and outcomes
  • The role of self-efficacy in engineering students' academic and professional pathways - specifically, their innovation self-efficacy and their engineering task self-efficacy
  • The role of mindfulness in engineering students' innovation self-efficacy and innovation goals
  • Engineering students' entrepreneurship-related career goals, and their degree of certainty in career pathways as they move into the workforce
  • The characteristics of engineering students' job search processes and outcomes as they transition from school to work
  • The characteristics of engineering students' first work experiences after graduation, with particular focus on the associations between gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic background, position/organizational role, firm type and location, "challenging assignments" at work, the types of innovation and engineering work that they are doing on a day-to-day basis, and job satisfaction
  • Engineering students' interests in pursuing work that has social entrepreneurship and/or commercial profitability elements
  • Survey methodologies themselves, e.g., surveys as "interventions" for action and surveys as reflection opportunities for students

This work collectively involves longitudinal survey data, open-ended responses provided on the EMS surveys, and complementary one-on-one, in-depth interviews conducted with a subset of survey respondents.


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. Over 7,000 students responded, of whom approximately 6,100 self-identified as juniors or seniors. The survey drew 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 was designed to measure a comprehensive range of undergraduate learning experiences that may influence students' beliefs about their ability to innovate, and included measures of students' entrepreneurial activities, past, present, and future.

The follow-up to EMS 1.0, or EMS 2.0, was conducted in April 2016 and designed to “post-test” the core innovation constructs of EMS 1.0, resulting in approximately 1,400 valid responses. EMS 2.0 also included several questions about employment status and choices given that some fraction of EMS 1.0 respondents had 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 the link at the bottom of this page. Plans are currently underway for the launch of EMS 3.0 in Summer 2017. 

News and Updates

February 2017:

  • EMS analysts have submitted a wide range of papers to the annual meeting of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE), to be held in June 2017. Please check back for citations as conference proceedings are finalized!

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”).


  • EMS 1.0 Survey Design Package - see here
  • EMS 2.0 Survey (exported from Qualtrics) - see here
  • EMS 1.0 and 2.0 Technical Report - see here
  • EMS 1.0 Research Information Sheet - see here
  • EMS 2.0 Research Information Sheet - see here
  • Sample School Report from EMS 1.0  - see here

For questions about the EMS project, please email Dr. Shannon Gilmartin at or Professor Sheri Sheppard (P.I.) at

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