The Effect of a Career Development Course on the Dysfunctional Career Thoughts of Racially and Ethnically Diverse College Freshmen

By Osborn, Debra S.; Howard, Drema K. et al. | Career Development Quarterly, June 2007 | Go to article overview

The Effect of a Career Development Course on the Dysfunctional Career Thoughts of Racially and Ethnically Diverse College Freshmen


Osborn, Debra S., Howard, Drema K., Leierer, Stephen J., Career Development Quarterly


Pre- and posttests revealed that the dysfunctional career thoughts of 158 racially and ethnically diverse college freshmen were significantly reduced following a 6-week, 1-credit-hour career development course. Freshmen with the highest level of dysfunctional career thinking indicated the most dramatic decrease. These reductions in dysfunctional career thinking occurred irrespective of students' gender or race/ethnicity.

Committing to a career choice is one of the main psychosocial tasks that college students face. Undergraduate career courses have been shown to have a positive effect on students in general (Folsom & Reardon, 2000; Oliver & Spokane, 1988; Whiston, Sexton, & Lasoff, 1998). Career courses have also resulted in reduction of negative traits, including career indecision (D. C. Johnson & Smouse, 1993; P. Johnson, Nichols, Buboltz, & Riedesel, 2002; Peng, 2001; Quinn & Lewis, 1989) and dysfunctional career thoughts (Reed, Reardon, Lenz, & Leierer, 2001), as well as increases in positive traits, such as career decidedness (Hardesty, 1991; P. Johnson et al., 2002) and vocational identity (Remer, O'Neill, & Gohs, 1984). Other positive effects of career courses have included gains in self-concept (Carver & Smart, 1985) and self-esteem (Wachs, 1986). In addition, Folsom, Peterson, Reardon, and Mann (2002) found that students who completed an undergraduate career planning course had higher graduation rates as compared with the general student population (81% compared with 69%) and graduated with fewer credit hours on average than the general population (110 compared with 132), thus saving the student time and money because they enter the workforce earlier.

Although the positive effect of undergraduate career courses has been consistently demonstrated, the majority of the studies exploring this area used 3-credit-hour classes and included students of all levels (i.e., freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors) as the focus. Four-year colleges and universities often offer a career planning course, and community colleges have also traditionally provided many career-related courses for freshmen. From a programming perspective, knowing whether or not a 1-credit-hour course can achieve positive career development effects is important, regardless of the type of school offering such courses.

We used the research design similar to the one used by Reed et al. (2001) as a model for this current study. Reed et al. examined the impact of a 3-credit-hour undergraduate career course on dysfunctional career thinking, as measured by the Career Thoughts Inventory (CTI; Sampson, Peterson, Lenz, Reardon, & Saunders, 1996a). Dysfunctional career thinking has been defined as a perceptual way of viewing oneself in a manner that "inhibits career problem solving and decision making" (Sampson, Peterson, Lenz, Reardon, & Saunders, 1996b, p. 2). Dysfunctional career thoughts are similar to Ellis's concept of irrational beliefs in that they often are absolute statements that include words like should, must, or ought and take the form of overarching generalizations with words such as always and never. Examples of dysfunctional career thoughts are "I get so overwhelmed with making a career decision that I just can't get started" and "I'm never good at making decisions." Recent studies have found dysfunctional career thoughts to be a strong indicator of career indecision (Osborn, 1998; Saunders, Peterson, Reardon, & Sampson, 2000), accounting for 61% of the variance in career indecision (Saunders et al., 2000), as measured by the Career Decision Scale (Osipow, Carney, Winer, Yanico, & Koschier, 1976). Sampson et al. (1996b) suggested that cognitive restructuring may be one intervention counselors can use to help clients combat dysfunctional career thoughts.

For their study on dysfunctional career thinking, Reed et al.'s (2001) sample comprised 181 undergraduates (126 women, 55 men), with an ethnic distribution as follows: American Indian (1%), African American (13%), Hispanic American (4%), Caucasian (75%), other (3%), and not classified (3%). …

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