Research Papers

Document Type

Conference Paper


In the context of global shortages of engineering professionals, research into factors that impact on training and retention of qualified engineers is important – this includes first-generation engineering students, a largely under-researched group of students. Research has shown that an elaborated, well-developed engineering identity is important for the retention of both engineering students at university, and for engineers in practice. Professional identities are fluid, emerging and develop over the lifetime of the professional. However, we still know little about the nature of a professional engineering identity, and how it develops.

Drawing on insights from the philosophy of science, I make an argument for a heuristic that allows for the analysis of data on engineering identity: professional identity is marked by epistemic fluency, a process of ontological becoming and axiological capacity. The paper reports on a set of interviews of new engineering professionals as they transition into their first few months in practice. The work is part a longitudinal study of first-generation engineers.

The study shows that the workplace environment expands the emerging identities the new engineers bring into their first jobs. The analytical framework allows the researcher to tease out aspects of the developing professional identity.

The study not only adds to conversations about the development of engineering identity in the transition into the workplace using the proposed analytical concepts, but also has implications for curriculum.


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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.