Theses and Dissertations


Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Knizley, Alta A.

Committee Member

Franz, Dana P.

Committee Member

Smith, J. Aaron

Committee Member

Strawderman, Lesley J.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Engineering Education

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


Upon graduation from an undergraduate institution, engineering graduates are expected to have a baselevel skill in technical skills related to their discipline. Teaching technical skills comes naturally to engineering programs as the conceptual understanding of the material form the foundation of engineering ability. However, engineering graduates also are expected to have a baselevel of professional skills, which are more subjective in nature and do not have a standardized approach for teaching or assessing them at the undergraduate level. An investigation into current perceptions of professional skills by relevant parties is an initial step in providing more structure to professional skills education in engineering departments and courses.

This dissertation explored the perceptions of engineering students, engineering faculty, and practicing engineers when it comes to professional skills. Eight professional skills were investigated: collaboration, communication, ethical considerations, inclusivity, leadership, professional judgment, task management, and teamwork. Surveys were administered and interviews were conducted with students. Statistical analysis on survey data indicated that how students rate their peers’ abilities aligns with the perceptions that practicing engineers have of student abilities with both groups’ means for each skill be lower than how the students rated their own ability to a significant level (p < 0.001 for six of eight skills).

Student interviews yielded potential operational definitions for professional skills, which can be validated in future work. Interviews also gave insight into how various student experiences aid in professional skills development. Recommendations for methods to improve professional skills education in engineering curricula were provided for each professional skill.