Research in Higher Education

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 365–394 | Cite as

Choice of Academic Major at a Public Research University: The Role of Gender and Self-Efficacy

  • Iryna Y. JohnsonEmail author
  • William B. Muse


Females are underrepresented in certain disciplines, which translates into their having less promising career outlooks and lower earnings. This study examines the effects of socio-economic status, academic performance, high school curriculum and involvement in extra-curricular activities, as well as self-efficacy for academic achievement on choices of academic disciplines by males and females. Disciplines are classified based on Holland’s theory of personality-based career development. Different models for categorical outcome variables are compared including: multinomial logit, nested logit, and mixed logit. Based on the findings presented here, first generation status leads to a greater likelihood of choosing engineering careers for males but not for females. Financial difficulties have a greater effect on selecting scientific fields than engineering fields by females. The opposite is true for males. Passing grades in calculus, quantitative test scores, and years of mathematics in high school as well as self-ratings of abilities to analyze quantitative problems and to use computing are positively associated with choice of engineering fields.


Holland’s theory of vocational choices Social cognitive theory Multinomial logit Nested logit Mixed logit Gender 



The authors are grateful to Drew Clark, Kyrylo Kobzyev, Robert Toutkoushian, and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions. All errors remain our own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of Institutional ResearchAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsColumbus State UniversityColumbusUSA

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