Date of Award

Spring 2023

Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Jennifer E. Thropp

First Committee Member

Kadie Mullins

Second Committee Member

Jing Yu Pan

Third Committee Member

Michael E. Wiggins

Fourth Committee Member

Jake Heibel

College Dean

Alan J. Stolzer


Increased demand for aviation has created a skill and workforce gap. An understanding of how to increase this potential workforce is vital to ensure the ongoing success and sustainability of the commercial aviation industry. This research explores science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs as a potential avenue for increasing the available aviation workforce. Specifically, it explores how STEM programs and their associated learning experiences influence career entry.

Utilizing a mixed methodology approach, this research retrospectively explored the self-reported effect of out-of-school time (OST) and in-school time (IST) STEM experiences on aviation career development. Through interviews, a survey instrument was developed and validated that allowed for an assessment of the impact of STEM experiences on career interest. Through data analysis, specific major factors were extracted. The results were analyzed and assessed in the context of the existing aviation and career development literature.

Data analysis revealed that STEM participation type impacted both the professional interaction and career knowledge constructs. Those participants who were involved in both an OST and IST STEM program had higher mean professional v interaction and career knowledge scores compared to those individuals that only participated in an IST STEM program. Individually examining each variable revealed key findings related to mentor interaction, career focus, and career confidence. The results are discussed in the context of the existing literature and social cognitive career theory (SCCT). In particular, the career focus and career confidence findings, related to the SCCT concept of self-efficacy, suggests that OST STEM education is more impactful upon aviation career self-efficacy than IST STEM education. Recommendations are made for future aviation and non-aviation STEM programs.