Professional identity development and career choices in engineering education: the added value of life history research

N. van Hattum-Janssen, M.D. Endedijk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

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In the Netherlands, there has been a shortage of qualified technical workforce for many years. This is not only due to the number of students entering engineering degree programmes, but also due to the number of graduates that leave engineering right after their graduation. Around 42% of the engineering graduates does not start working in an engineering job after graduating. Professional identity is a key concept in understanding the study and career choices that students and alumni make.

The project Bridge the Gap is aimed at understanding how professional identity (PI) of engineering students develops over time during and after their studies. Part of this project is a study on PI development from an early age on. In order to understand what experiences in life have shaped their study and career choices, life history interviews were carried out with both alumni that stayed as well as alumni that left engineering after their graduation, 13 in total.

Life history research is a form of narrative research that is about comprehending the complexities in decision making in the daily life of an individual in order to get insight in a collective experience of a group. The nature of the collected data enables us to have a critical look at assumptions about study and career choices of engineering student and alumni, rather than allowing for generalizable conclusions. This paper describes the value of LHR for understanding professional identity development and career choices in engineering education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEngaging, Engineering, Education
Subtitle of host publicationBook of Abstracts, SEFI 48th Annual Conference University of Twente (online), 20-24 September, 2020
EditorsJan van der Veen, Natascha van Hattum-Janssen, Hannu-Matti Järvinen, Tinne de Laet, Ineke ten Dam
Place of PublicationEnschede
PublisherUniversity of Twente
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)978-2-87352-020-5
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event48th SEFI Annual Conference on Engineering Education, SEFI 2020 - Online, Enschede, Netherlands
Duration: 20 Sep 202024 Sep 2020
Conference number: 48


Conference48th SEFI Annual Conference on Engineering Education, SEFI 2020
Abbreviated titleSEFI 2020
Internet address


  • Professional identity
  • Alumni
  • Life history research
  • Narrative research


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