The Career Goals and Pathways of Full-Time Non-Tenure-Track Engineering Faculty
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This study explores the beliefs and experiences of full-time non-tenure-track faculty members who teach in the engineering programs of public four-year research universities in the United States. Thirteen full-time non-tenure-track engineering faculty were interviewed resulting in sixteen hours of interview data. Data collected via semi-structured interviews reveal each participant’s pathway into engineering, their career goals, career advancement opportunities available to them, and factors that motivated them to pursue a career as a full-time non-tenure-track engineering faculty member. The interview data are coded and analyzed using qualitative analysis software (NVivo) and a constant comparative coding method. Themes emerge from the data which address the research questions along with themes that were not expected. The results of this study show that non-tenure-track faculty have a remarkable variation in both academic experience and professional experience. They are motivated to pursue non-tenure-track positions by a desire to interact with students and to teach in a classroom environment. Non-tenure-track faculty do not desire tenure-track positions although they do desire aspects of tenure, specifically meaningful career advancement, higher salaries, increased career stability, and the respect of their peers. Full-time non-tenure-track engineering faculty are satisfied with their careers although a lack of respect from their tenure-track colleagues and administration, exclusion from participation in departmental governance, and a culture that diminishes the value of their work as teachers cause significant dissatisfaction. Understanding the experiences of non-tenure-track faculty can help programs improve the satisfaction and performance of their non-tenure-track faculty members by implementing policies that value the prior career experience of non-tenure-track faculty, provide a career path that is aligned with their goals, and signal to the non-tenure-track faculty member that they and their contributions are valued by the department and institution.
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