Study: Undergraduate engineering majors spend the most time studying

Study: Undergraduate engineering majors spend the most time studying

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News & Events - Engineering News

November 22, 2011

Job seekers with engineering degrees represent one of the most sought after groups of college graduates, but according to a new study the improved career prospects are well deserved.

The Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research released its National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) this month, and according to the annual survey of undergraduate study habits, engineering and physical sciences majors spend the most time hitting the books in the U.S.

The study found that the average, full-time college student spends roughly 15 hours per week studying. However, researchers cautioned that the results could initially seem misleading, as they noted there was a high standard of deviation among college undergraduates.

The researchers said U.S. college seniors who major in engineering spent the most time studying each week, logging an average of 19 hours outside of the classroom. Their peers pursuing degrees in both the social sciences and business, on the other hand, spent roughly five hours fewer per week studying, according to the survey's findings.

Moreover, researchers from the university also surveyed faculty members, asking how much time they expected their students to devote to learning outside of the classroom. According to the group's data, professors' responses largely aligned with those given by their students, though they noted there were some discrepancies.

Students majoring in the social sciences reported studying four fewer hours per week than the average of 19 hours their professors said they expected of them. Perhaps surprisingly, the survey also concluded that students who devoted at least 20 hours each week to studying were not necessarily more prepared for class than their peers.

Education experts assert the findings underscore the relative disconnect that exists between professors and their students. Still, researchers said that differences in study habits did not definitely prove some students were more diligent than others. For example, though business students studied an average of 14 hours per week, they were more likely to hold jobs during the school year.

The survey's results illustrated how professors can help students to more effectively manage their time outside of the classroom, according to Indiana University associate professor of education and NSSE director Alexander C. McCormick. The survey found that students employ a number of different study techniques. However, certain methods are more closely related to success, McCormick asserted, and professors should work with their students to hone such skills.

"Our findings suggest that college and university faculty and academic leaders need to reflect on their expectations for academic work, particularly by discipline," he said. "They can also do more to help students become effective learners by explicitly teaching study skills and strategies."

Students' time management skills could be improved, some experts said, noting that undergraduate engineering majors were more apt to attend class without having fully completed all assigned coursework even though they devoted more time to studying than their peers. Critics of such an assertion argued that engineering is more academically intensive than other majors.

The study found students' personal development benefitted from their involvement in Greek life, but researchers said its advantages were outweighed by such students' increased risk of engaging in unsafe behaviors, according to The New York Times

Indiana University researchers culled data from more than 400,000 undergraduates at roughly 700 colleges and universities in the U.S. As a result of the survey's vast sampling of students, it is viewed as a definitive assessment of U.S. undergraduate study trends, with its findings often prompting a spirited dialogue about students' work ethic.


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