University of Twente Student Theses


The career compass : discovering diversity in STEM students' professional identity and its effects on their intended career choice

Möwes, R.A. (2016) The career compass : discovering diversity in STEM students' professional identity and its effects on their intended career choice.

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Abstract:The Dutch economy relies heavily on the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sector. Therefore, highly educated professionals in the STEM sector are important to the Dutch economy. Yet, the Netherlands, like many other countries, experience a shortage of professionals in the technical sector. While in recent years the number of graduates from STEM study programs has risen, only about half of the graduates end up working in the technical sector. One factor that has been shown to influence STEM students’ career decisions is professional identity (PI); a stable and well developed PI has been shown to keep students on their career path towards the STEM sector. Additionally, it has been shown that providing especially minorities (e.g. women) with a more diverse image of who professionals in the STEM sector are increases the chance that they enter and stay in the STEM sector. Yet, as of now, little is known about the (diversity in) content of STEM students’ PI. To date, studies that analyze STEM students’ PI are often conducted in a qualitative manner with a small number of participants. Thus large scale research with generalizable insights into the content of PI is missing. Therefore in the current research an instrument was developed to quantitatively measure STEM students’ PI. Moreover, since little is known about how differences in STEM students’ PI influence their career choice, this research analyzes the relationship between the content, and the strength of STEM students’ PI and their career choice. The research is split into two parts. In Study 1a an instrument to measure the content of STEM students’ PI was developed, called the Career Compass. For that the educational design research approach was used, with a theory driven design. The instrument was then tested on 760 Dutch STEM students in two higher education institutions. Results showed that the instrument measured the content of STEM students’ PI in a reliable manner. Additionally, with the data derived from the newly developed instrument, seven different types of STEM students (status driven, hip, geeky, uncertainty avoidant, outdoorsy, nerdy, and creative) were identified. Study 1b used the same data set as Study 1a and the seven types of STEM students identified previously. Study 1b related STEM students’ personal and educational characteristics, their PI, the strength with which they identify with their future profession and their intended career choice. Among other findings, results showed that STEM students’ PI did influence their intended career choice. Hereby, nerdy and creative STEM students were least likely to leave the technical sector and status driven and hip STEM students showed the most inclination to aim for a career in a different field. Additionally, results indicated that female STEM students intended to get a technical job, but disliked the idea of working in a technical organization. Thus the current research provided insights into who exactly these STEM students are who decide to leave the technical field after graduation.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:81 education, teaching
Programme:Educational Science and Technology MSc (60023)
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