The unflattering notion “nerd” is often associated with the engineering profession. In this paper engineering descriptions made by future engineers are examined and a far more nuanced and positive understanding of the role of the engineer in a complex, future-oriented society is uncovered. Engineers have been a minor focus of profession studies. Their profession faces a variety of challenges and technical boundary changes. These tendencies and the responses to them may have resulted in difficulties defining common characteristics of engineers. Engineering education theorists suggest that the professional engineering identity is disappearing or defragmenting. This paper investigates engineering identity as future engineers describe it. In a nation-wide, webbased survey to a year group of engineering students at the end of their first year the students were asked to describe an engineer with their own words. This led to an empirical base of responses from 1036 engineering students in Denmark formulated as keywords. By means of quantitative and qualitative textual analysis it is investigated how these engineering students conceive of an engineer and if they share common conceptions of the engineering identity. The results indicate that five general perspectives on the engineering identity coexist among the students. Though variations in emphases are found between students from different educational environments, all perspectives are recognised at all institutions, and they all seem to relate to the concept of problem solving which stands as a central theme in the professional engineering identity.
Main Research Area:
Professioner - Gamle autoriteter og ny legitimitet, 2012