Lifelong Learning Is Necessary for Career Success, According to Survey
by Vern Johnson
In April 2003, IEEE-USA carried an online survey on continuing engineering education. Ninety engineers responded. While their feedback does not represent all engineers, it does speak for a group who are concerned enough about career-long learning to express their opinions voluntarily, making their responses significant. Both engineers and continuing education providers can learn from what they had to say.
Who They Are
The majority of respondents were 26 – 45 years old, and 86 percent were male. Two-thirds had graduate degrees. Their engineering experience ranged from zero to 44 years.
Almost every respondent had been with his or her present employer for five years or less, with half being at their current workplace for no more than two years. Their job titles ranged from president to junior associate engineer. Further, 55 percent were technical engineers and 20 percent were technical managers; while research, consulting, executive and student engineers comprised the remaining group.
What They Said
For these respondents, continuing education is definitely important to engineering careers; more than 93 percent rated it as very important. As for what influenced their decisions to enroll in education or training, they indicated that they want to:
On the other hand, while half of the respondents had taken at least one course that carried no credit toward a degree or certificate during the past two years, almost half had taken courses for degree credit, and one quarter had taken courses for certificate credit.
According to the group, employers do not typically promise salary or career advancement to those who complete continuing education activities, nor do they offer continuing education courses on site. Employers do, however, offer moderate reimbursement and release time support. When considering support for educational programs, respondents noted that their employers focus on:
What They Took and How
In priority order, respondents prefer these course topics:
They prefer self-paced courses but noted that for classroom-based courses, they prefer intensive two- or three-day workshops or evening courses, and would rather attend weekend courses. As for course balance, they prefer a mix of theory and application or straight application, as opposed to pure theory.
Respondents also provided insight about how they like to participate in courses. They prefer courses to be offered:
Respondents found the top two options to be far more suitable to their needs than the last grouping. In addition, for online courses, respondents were equally divided on whether they used or would use computers at home or at work, and they indicated little concern about having a web connection while they were on travel.
The group also provided input on how they like to receive information about course offerings. They prefer:
In addition, 86 percent of respondents prefer applying and registering for courses online.
Vern R. Johnson is associate dean of Engineering at the University of Arizona in Tucson and IEEE-USA's Career Activities editor.