Understanding Roles of Masters Education in Entry Into, and Upskilling and Reskilling for, the STEM Workforce
Effective Years: 2021-2024
The Council of Graduate Schools examines the role of master’s education in STEM education workforce development. The project will contribute to the development of a data infrastructure for future research on master’s education while providing more nuanced insights into labor market outcomes of master’s degrees in STEM by various fields of study, gender, race/ethnicity, and career stages. Investigators will investigate the upskilling/reskilling pathways into master’s education and how different motivations and other factors may explain student choices. The project also will shed light on how master’s education may facilitate transitions to STEM careers for non-STEM undergraduate majors. In addition to providing an evidence base for investments in STEM technical training, the project will contribute to developing a more comprehensive approach to improving STEM master’s education.
The research design is guided by the traditional human capital investment perspective where individuals pursue master’s education to gain skills, knowledge, and expertise to increase their career effectiveness and success. Investigators hypothesize that (1) individuals are motivated by their desires to upskill or reskill, thus making themselves more marketable in the labor market; (2) individuals’ intentions to upskill or reskill and decisions to pursue particular master’s degrees will translate into their subsequent job placements and career trajectories. An exit survey of master’s degree recipients from ten U.S. colleges and universities will be used to answer three research questions: (1) What factors are associated with STEM and non-STEM students’ pursuit of master’s degrees in STEM and non-STEM fields? (2) How does attainment of a master’s degree explain persistence or job changes within the STEM workforce. (3) How does the upskilling and reskilling pathways through master’s education differ by subfields and socioeconomic attributes of master’s degree recipients? The survey will include questions from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Survey of Earned Doctorates, Council of Graduate Schools Professional Science Master’s Initiative exit survey, and alumni and student surveys from the NSF Understanding PhD Career Pathways in STEM project. Investigators will perform logistic regression models to analyze the data. The research results will illuminate the role of master’s education in developing a diverse STEM workforce.
This project is supported by the EHR Core Research program that funds fundamental research focused on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM professional workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.