The Intersection of Vocational Interests with Employment and Course Enrolments

By Athanasou, James A. | Australian Journal of Career Development, Autumn 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Intersection of Vocational Interests with Employment and Course Enrolments


Athanasou, James A., Australian Journal of Career Development


All things being equal, it would be nice if people were able to study what they liked and work at what gives them satisfaction. This paper starts by examining the role of interests in learning and career development and then moves from this general position to examine how it is expressed in practice. The paper is based on the view that one's interests are a major factor in educational achievement. Moreover, interests continue to play a substantial role in career throughout the life span. Interests are related to work adjustment and are a key feature of job satisfaction for many individuals (Athanasou, 2007). Most people would be prepared to acknowledge that interests are important for learning and working, yet they may not have a clear understanding of the extent to which they are able to be expressed. The purpose of this paper is to examine whether vocational interests match the pattern of course enrolments or the distribution of employment in Australia.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTEREST AND ACHIEVEMENT

The links between interest and achievement have been documented in German educational research. These studies emphasised the role of interest (singular) in learning and development (Renninger, Hidi, & Krapp, 1992). They distinguished between a temporary or curiosity type of situational interest, and a deep, long-term and abiding individual interest. Individual interest was characterised by involvement, emotional attachment, knowledge and familiarity with a specific field, topic or activity. A direct example of the relationship between interest and educational achievement in Australia (Athanasou, 1994) came from a study of 1,324 technical and further education students across 66 courses in 31 technical colleges. This showed that:

* 66% of students were best at the subject that was their first preference

* 72% were best at a subject that was consistent with their vocational choice

* the preference rank for best subject was 0.84 (ranks varied from 0 to 1)

* the preference rank for the weakest subject was 0.19 (ranks varied from 0 to 1).

This study was followed up by further research (Athanasou, 1998) to determine the influence of value, ability and time spent on a subject of interest. There were certainly strong links between interest and ability, indicating that they shared some sort of common platform (see also Ackerman & Heggestad, 1997). The relationships are highlighted in the structural diagram below (Figure 1), which emphasises the strong links between interest and ability and to a lesser extent between interest and perceived value. The implication is that in talking about interests we might actually be including other aspects of behaviour such as components of ability, values or effort. To summarise these findings, one might say that by and large there is little need to motivate the person who is interested in something, because interest is related to his/her abilities and what they value (i.e. consider relevant, important) and significantly this interest is not necessarily a function of the time spent studying the subject.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

From other research we also know that interests are relevant to occupational achievement and work satisfaction. Here the relationship is more complex than in a school environment because there are many additional factors operating in a career. As the sociologist Gottfredson noted more than 25 years ago, our career choices are circumscribed and compromised (Gottfredson, 1981). Interests are often one of the factors that are first sacrificed in order to achieve one's goals. Some factors that are resistant to change, however, are gender stereotyping of available occupations and the desired prestige level available in a career choice.

Despite the fact that there are multiple influences on occupational choice other than interests, there is still sufficient evidence to state with confidence that when other factors are held constant, job satisfaction does involve a degree of matching of one's interests with the reinforcers or type of work undertaken (Holland, 1997).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Intersection of Vocational Interests with Employment and Course Enrolments
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?