Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Lesley Strawderman

Committee Member

Reuben F. Burch

Committee Member

Jennifer Easley

Committee Member

Mahnas J. Mohammadi-Aragh

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Industrial and Systems Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering


Retention of engineering students to graduation and career is important business for both United States (U.S.) industries and engineering education institutions alike. Industries need competent engineers dedicated to working in the field of engineering beyond graduation in order to achieve business success and national economic growth, while engineering education institutions need retention to graduation to achieve their own business goals. This dissertation took a three-pronged approach to identifying relationships between depth and specificity of engineering and response factors related to graduation and career retention of engineers. Occupational alignment, graduate school decisions, and engineering identity were evaluated for relationships with specificity or depth of discipline within engineering degrees to evaluate if increasing the depth or specificity increased the response factors. Using historical data analysis, occupational alignment and graduate school decisions were both found to be influenced by specificity of discipline. Traditional engineering disciplines were found to report the most occupational alignment after graduation, while specific engineering disciplines were more likely to attend graduate school after graduation. Additionally, for all students reporting graduate school attendance, all specificities were most likely to align their graduate degree discipline to their undergraduate degree discipline. A national survey of undergraduate engineering students revealed that engineering identity is related to depth of discipline. Students enrolled in more specific engineering curriculum, in the form of a discipline-specific major with a concentration, reported higher engineering identity. However, the discipline-specific depth of discipline followed closely behind, indicating the impact of depth of discipline is small. The largest difference in scores between the two depths of discipline was found in students' reports of a construct termed "interest". Ultimately, this dissertation found statistically significant relationships between depth and specificity of discipline and occupational alignment, graduate school decisions, and engineering identity. Though these findings are statistically significant, they were incremental, meaning depth and specificity of discipline should not be considered the main factor of influence.