Long-Term Career Attainments of Deaf and Hard of Hearing College Graduates: Results from a 15-Year Follow-Up Survey

By Schroedel, John G.; Geyer, Paul D. | American Annals of the Deaf, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Long-Term Career Attainments of Deaf and Hard of Hearing College Graduates: Results from a 15-Year Follow-Up Survey


Schroedel, John G., Geyer, Paul D., American Annals of the Deaf


This article reports on the results of a national longitudinal survey of 240 college graduates with hearing loss. Results confirm that economic benefits resulted from these alumni's postsecondary training. Most respondents were relatively successfully employed and satisfied with life. Over time, increasing numbers had completed higher degrees and secured white-collar positions. Between 1988 and 1998, men in the study sample made more consistent earnings gains than their female counterparts. Larger proportions of deaf alumni had earned advanced degrees and secured white-collar jobs than hard of hearing alumni. Deaf alumni also earned more. Results also showed that recipients of associate's degrees earned more than recipients of bachelor's degrees. Implications of the findings for secondary educators, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and postsecondary service providers are discussed. Recommendations are made on how to improve career decision making by deaf and hard of hearing adolescents, enrich the career potential of deaf and hard of hearing women, and increase the productivity of workers with hearing loss.

What are the midcareer accomplishments of deaf and hard of hearing workers with postsecondary training? Although government and private donors have invested substantial funds in the higher education of students with hearing loss, little is known about the long-term benefits of this funding. Our search of the literature on career accomplishments yielded 20 studies focused on the socioeconomic attainments of college alumni who were deaf or hard of hearing. Missing from these studies is a longitudinal survey of one group of these alumni over time to produce knowledge on their career achievements. By a career we mean work in a series of related jobs over time that yields increased potential for accumulated socioeconomic success.

Most alumni surveys gather information at one point in time from respondents. Thus, time confounds comparisons among the results of surveys done at different times with different participants. Longitudinal surveys overcome many of the limitations of one-point studies. By repeated contact with one group over time, such surveys can assess progress in the careers of alumni.

The purpose of the present article is to present the findings and implications of a longitudinal survey of the midcareer attainments of a sample of college-trained workers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Longitudinal surveys are needed to address the basic issue of whether there have been sustained gains in the careers of deaf and hard of hearing college-educated individuals and to identify explicit factors contributing to these gains.

Review of the Literature

Our review of the research literature on college graduates who are deaf or hard of hearing centers on key themes found in these studies. The purposes of this review are to identify central issues that merit further research and to specify important variables related to these issues that helped set the boundaries for the present study.

Types of Training

Most surveys of deaf alumni have been conducted by specific colleges. Several observations can be made about these studies. First, among deaf alumni, level of acquired degree and type of occupation depend in part on the type of college an individual attended. For instance, Rawlings, King, Skilton, and Rose (1993) ascertained that almost half of Gallaudet University alumni with undergraduate degrees had gone on to earn an advanced degree. They also found that 79% of alumni with undergraduate degrees worked in professional jobs, compared to 91% of those with master's or doctoral degrees. In contrast, about 50% of deaf alumni from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology (NTID at RIT) obtained associate's degrees, 38% bachelor's degrees, and 11% higher degrees. Thirty-six percent of these graduates worked in professional occupations, whereas 40% were employed in technical, sales, and clerical jobs (MacLeod-Gallinger, 1998). …

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