Research Projects

Attributes and Influencing Interests of Students Enrolled in Collegiate Aviation Management Programs

Assigned to David Byers
Last Edited by David Byers

Research suggest that aviation management was not the original major for many students enrolled in a collegiate aviation program. What influenced their switch? The proposed research is designed to collect, organize, and assess the historical and current general demographic characteristics of students enrolled in two- and four-year collegiate aviation management programs as well those of recent graduates. Early and current aviation interests, learning styles, and other influences that led up to enrollment and matriculation in their particular program will be investigated. Key attributes will be reported. Recommendations for academic institutions and airport organizations will be offered as well as for students interested in airport management and development as a potential career path.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

What Attracts Students to Enroll in a Collegiate Aviation Management Program?

Workforce development for the operation, development, and management of the nation's airports requires a deep understanding of one critical resource - the emerging airport professional. Today's students in collegiate aviation management programs represent a majority of who will become those professionals. While significant research has been conducted by ACRP and others to respond to the need for workforce development, very little objective and contemporary data is available regarding students who may be attracted to the airport industry as a career choice. It is clear that aviation students generally do not start their academic program with a strong, focused interest in airports. There are however, many anecdotal stories about how a person entered the industry (typical example: "I started out in college as an airline pilot wannbe but the flying did not work out", etc.) but little documentation exists regarding how, when, or why the change occurred.

Data needs to be collected and evaluated to determine if there are patterns to where early career interests or even how or when did one become interested in aviation in the first place. Are there patterns that can be discerned? Can shifts be predicted? Do some people have some unidentified proclivity that attracts them to the airport industry?

Research conducted in 2003-2004 involving airport management professionals provided some limited demographic data current for items as shown in the following table. What is not available is quantifiable data on students' path through academia that brought them to the airport world.

ACRP 06-07, Enhancing Academic Programs to Prepare Future Airport Industry Professionals, is currently examining the current state of collegiate aviation programs and recommending opportunities to improve their offerings for preparing students for entry level airport industry employment. While the project's limited budget did not afford the opportunity to survey students in detail, the study does recognize that student's interested in airports will benefit from the attention placed on providing a broader exposure to the industry. However, academic programs requires that there be an adequate number of students interested in a particular topic/course in order to justify the time and expense to provide faculty and offer the course. The question then becomes – how is that interest to be developed when there is little known about the students that would benefit?

The proposed research regarding the characteristics and interests will develop the data that can be used to assist in identifying the pathways and proclivities that will lead to a much more robust environment to foster interest in airports as a viable career path for aviation management students.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The proposed research is designed to collect, organize, assess and report on historical and current demographic characteristics and other attributes of students enrolled in 40+ two- and four-year collegiate aviation programs thorough-out the US. The research will complement other ACRP efforts related to workforce development in order to gain a better understanding of the pool of candidates who have an interest in airports as a potential career path. The data will be useful to airports and airport consultancies, academic institutions, aviation organizations, and the students themselves for improving the quantity and quality of qualified, capable, and motivated emerging airport professionals.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

The proposed research will build on previous and ongoing ACRP research regarding workforce development and would be comprised of several distinct elements:

Task 1. Literature Review

Perform a comprehensive literature review to identify and summarize studies that have addressed collegiate aviation programs.

Task 2. Develop survey platform and questions

A questionnaire will be developed to collect specific demographic data points, attitudinal questions (Likert scale) and other observations. Stakeholders including airports, academic programs, aviation organizations (AAAE/UAA/ACI-NA, etc.) students and faculty will be consulted.

Data to be collected may include:

General demographics (age, gender, race, domicile, class rank, etc.)

Interest influencers (early aviation interest, family/friends, extracurricular & work experiences)

Learning Styles Inventory (LSI)

Opinions & Expectations

A pilot test will be conducted prior to the general release of the survey to ensure content validity, response consistency and reliability, and practicality.

Task 3. Deploy survey (hard copy and on-line)

The target audience is all full-time undergraduate students enrolled in a two- and four-year collegiate aviation programs including professional flight and aviation management programs. Hard copies of the final survey form will be distributed to the accessible population of students through mail and bulk delivery methods with pre-paid return mail envelopes. The on-line version of the same survey will also be made available and announcements made through various channels of communication (email, newsletters, etc.). Several efforts to promote attention to the survey will be conducted in order to maximize participation in the study.

Task 4. Compile survey data

Objective survey data will be coded for quantitative analysis. Subjective data will be categorized for qualitative analysis along common covered and included terms found in the responses.

Task 5. Analyze data

Objective data will be analyzed using a variety of statistical analysis methodologies. Subjective data will be evaluated according to identifiable domains and themes.

Task 6. Develop prototypical profile of aviation student

Common attributes, attitudes of survey respondents will be identified to formulate a prototypical aviation student. Outliers, anomalies, and other distinguishing characteristics will also be identified. Results will include the identification of key influencers affecting potential academic major choices, compromises, and potential career choices at various points in students' matriculation.

Task 7. Prepare final report and presentation

Demographic and other survey data will be reported along with analyses and discussion of the research implications. Best practices and other significant findings that may affect students' interest in the airport industry will also be discussed.

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

It is estimated that the research will require 1,200 hours (150 days) to prepare and conduct the surveys, compile and analyze the data, and report the findings. Using a composite fully-loaded labor rate of $150 per hour, labor costs are estimated to total $180,000. Costs for travel, survey distribution, and other expenses is estimated at $20,000. Total estimate cost for the proposed research is $200,000.

The proposed research is expected to be conducted over a period of approximately 18 months in order to capitalize on three full academic semesters. Allowances for project panel review of draft progress, interim, and final reports are included in this timeframe.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

The proposed research builds on and extends the research from the following ACRP Projects.

ACRP Synthesis 18: Aviation Workforce Development Practices

ACRP 06-04 Phase I - Identifying and Evaluating Airport Workforce Requirements (including the results published in Web-Only Document 28), Phase II - Guidebook on Building Airport Workforce Capacity (published as ACRP Report 186).

ACRP 06-06 – Cultivating Talent in the Airport Environment (in progress)

ACRP 06-07 – Enhancing Academic Programs to Prepare Future Airport Industry Professionals (in progress)

ACRP Synthesis 103 - Promoting Aviation Career Education in High Schools and Community Colleges

ACRP Project 01-34 - Developing Innovative Strategies for Aviation Education and Participation (published as ACRP Report 202)

Other research resources include:

The making of the modern airport executive: Causal connections among key attributes in career development, compromise, and satisfaction in airport management (Byers – 2004)

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Idea No. 514