Date of Award



© 2019 Elizabeth J. Kranz

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Yvette Ghormley

Second Advisor

Bryan Corbin

Third Advisor

Jeremi Bauer


The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study was to explore the implementation of soft skills that are critical to the success, as defined by promotability and long-term career trajectory, of STEM professionals from the perspective of STEM professionals and those with whom they work closely. Participants for the study represented two professional categories, (a) late-career STEM professionals and (b) human resources professionals with experience in succession planning for STEM professionals. These two groups of participants were selected for their experience with the soft skills and capabilities necessary for STEM professional career progression.

The primary research question was: What components and activities of identified soft skills are most relevant to the professional STEM setting? The secondary research question was: What soft skills, based on value and applicability, are critical to advancing the success, as defined by promotability and long-term career trajectory, of a STEM professional? Tertiary investigation explored current soft skills development strategies in STEM professionals. The objective was to understand the implementation of soft skills that play a critical role in the promotability of STEM professionals and long-term STEM career trajectories based on the interpretation of the participants’ experiences.

The results of the study emanated from two data collection procedures. First, a survey was administered to human resources professionals with succession planning experience for STEM professionals. The survey asked human resources professionals to rank STEM professionals’ implementation of 23 soft skills based on three categories: level of expertise, frequency of use, and career criticality. The survey portion of this study narrowed the vast list of soft skills to eight critical skills: communication/presentation/writing, ethics/inspiring moral trust, flexibility/resilience/adaptability, interpersonal skills, leadership/managing/coaching/mentoring, strategic thinking/problem solving, teamwork, and willingness to learn and accept responsibility for decisions. The survey results provided the focus for the second data collection process: interviews with late-career STEM professionals. The late-career STEM professionals were asked to share their experiences with the implementation of the eight critical soft skills and the role they played in their career success. A crosswalk matrix of the survey and interview results provides a visual representation of the qualitative data collected.


Ed.D. Dissertation