Career Outcomes of STEM and Non-STEM College Graduates: Persistence in Majored-Field and Influential Factors in Career Choices

Abstract

Using data from a nationally representative, longitudinal survey of college graduates, this study examines student transition from college to their chosen career paths and identifies factors influencing college graduates’ choosing an occupation related to ones’ undergraduate major. Within the context of expanded econometric framework a wide range of variables are considered, including monetary and nonmonetary costs and benefits as well as cultural and social capital measures. Using multinomial logit regression analyses, the results suggest positive career outcomes associated with individuals who have an occupation closely related to their college major, such as a better income profile and greater job satisfaction. Major-based differences are also examined between STEM and non-STEM graduates, and patterns of changes are documented for 10 years after graduation. An important perspective offered by this study is to consider career outcome as an extended definition of institutional effectiveness and student success. Based on the empirical findings, policy implications are discussed with the hope of bringing attention and improvement to the relationship between the higher educational system and the labor market.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In order to generate the major/job congruency measure for 2003, a 3-step approach was taken: (1) student’s response was copied from 1997 to 2003 if the individual answered “no” to the question on the 2003 survey whether s/he had “more than one career in the last 10 years;” (2) Similarly, student’s response was copied from 1997 to 2003 if an individual’s answer was greater than “5” to the question on the 2003 survey how many “years pursuing career in the industry.” At this point, an unweighted sample size of 5995 out of 8969 (weighted percentage was approximately 67.5 %) had a valid value for the major/job congruency. (3) In the last step, a Bayesian network (BN) was constructed to model the relationship between major/job congruence and a list of related measures (e.g., gender, cumulative GPA in undergraduate major, STEM versus non-STEM undergraduate major, undergraduate major in 12 categories, and occupation in 2003) for the 5995 individuals, and the final BN model had a prediction accuracy of 80 %. The BN model was then applied to the remaining 2974 individuals to predict their major/job congruency.

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Acknowledgments

This material is based upon work supported by the Association for Institutional Research, the National Center for Education Statistics, the National Science Foundation, and the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative under Association for Institutional Research Grant Number RG11-12.

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Correspondence to Yonghong Jade Xu.

Appendix

Appendix

Exploratory factor analysis of the fourteen items on career aspiration

  Initial extraction Factor loading
CHOICE01 Job choice depends on previous work experience 0.428 0.654
CHOICE02 Job choice depends on good starting income Excluded  
CHOICE03 Job choice depends on good income potential 0.240 0.490
CHOICE04 Job choice depends on job security 0.367 0.606
CHOICE05 Job choice depends on prestige and status 0.324 0.569
CHOICE06 Job choice depends on interesting work 0.378 0.614
CHOICE07 Job choice depends on intellectual work 0.313 0.560
CHOICE08 Job choice depends on freedom at work 0.661 0.813
CHOICE09 Job choice depends on interaction with people 0.429 0.655
CHOICE10 Job choice depends on working independently 0.587 0.766
CHOICE11 Job choice depends on travel Excluded  
CHOICE12 Job choice depends on ability to be established 0.448 0.670
CHOICE13 Job choice depends on time for other activities 0.575 0.758
CHOICE14 Job choice depends on other considerations Excluded  
  1. The extraction method used is principal component analysis

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Xu, Y.J. Career Outcomes of STEM and Non-STEM College Graduates: Persistence in Majored-Field and Influential Factors in Career Choices. Res High Educ 54, 349–382 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-012-9275-2

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Keywords

  • Career outcome
  • College graduates
  • Differences in STEM and non-STEM disciplines