Project Details


Science and engineering education and career trajectories will be examined in a mixed methods research study, using large, administrative datasets and fieldwork, in a collaboration of Rutgers University New Brunswick with the University of Michigan. This study of the critical choice points in the career trajectories of undergraduate and master's students in science and engineering will provide insight to researchers and educators about key factors that bring students into STEM pathways and some to leave STEM. Researchers will use nationally-representative survey data, longitudinal administrative data from major research universities and interviews in universities and firms to focus on the role of high impact events (e.g., research and work experiences, advising, particular courses) on career decisions as well as demand side factors that affect science and engineering career entry and persistence. Fieldwork in firms and colleges will examine how firms are structuring bioscience and engineering jobs and careers and how that affects students' career choices and initial career trajectories. An important contribution of the research, to fundamental education and career pathway knowledge, is developing and testing a comprehensive model of significant factors that affect students' choice of STEM careers. This project is supported by NSF's EHR Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field.The research design is based on triangulating across survey and administrative datasets and fieldwork to provide a full assessment of student trajectories, high-impact events with particular but not exclusive focus on the undergraduate research experience. Three major research analyses will inform STEM education and workforce investments by examining in depth: (1) key decision points and high-impact events that influence student pathways through S&E majors and careers, (2) the impact of undergraduate research employment on college completion and entry into S&E careers, and (3) how the structure of work in S&E firms influences career choices and persistence. The research builds on the normative theories in career counseling (e.g., of interest matching) and labor market studies that focus on the marginal responses to changes in wage rates and employment opportunities; this empirical analysis will advance current knowledge to comprehensively examine multiple factors and contingent decision points. By triangulating across qualitative and quantitative approaches and using detailed longitudinal data, the study will also examine differential impacts and outcomes by demographic group, major, and career field, to provide a full assessment of student trajectories and high-impact events. The longitudinal data and the fieldwork of both supply (graduates) and demand (employers) will allow modeling of the education to career trajectories and differential impacts using propensity score matching and novel instrumental variables strategies to identify causal effects in S&E education.This project is supported by NSF's EHR Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in three areas: STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation, and workforce development.
Effective start/end date5/1/164/30/21


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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