Academic journal article College Student Journal

Student Awareness of Educational Requirements for Desired Careers and the Utility of a Careers in Psychology Course

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Student Awareness of Educational Requirements for Desired Careers and the Utility of a Careers in Psychology Course

Article excerpt

In the last twenty years colleges have begun to emphasize the importance of career training in undergraduate programs. The current investigation addressed three questions related to this movement. First, are college students, in general, aware of the educational requirements of their preferred career? Second, are the perceptions of psychology majors concerning professional development more or less accurate than those of nonmajors? Third, are the perceptions of students who have taken a 'careers in psychology' course more accurate than those who have not? Student ratings of the amount of education they intended to pursue were compared to the professional requirements published in the Occupational Outlook Handbook 2002-3. Results indicated that students, in general, overestimated how much education they need for their preferred career, and that psychology majors were more inaccurate than other majors. However, perceptions of students from all majors became more accurate after completion of a careers course.

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Despite nostalgic visions of college campuses as places where scholarly pursuits occur solely for the sake of learning, the economic structure of society also pressures college to be a place where career training and preparation occurs. In fact, an American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force included career planning and development as 1 of the 10 recommended learning outcomes for psychology majors (Halonen, et al., 2002). However, the recent literature suggests that undergraduates may not know as much as they should about the professional aspects of the field. Moss (2003) reported that college seniors, representing a wide variety of majors, rated their progress in terms of career knowledge as 3.65 on a 5-point scale, indicating moderate to much progress. However, Moss acknowledged that this rating left substantial room for improvement. Malin and Timmreck (1979) reported that the vast majority of students did not think that they were receiving enough career preparation. Corts, Lounsbury, Saudargas, and Tatum (2000) found that psychology majors rated their satisfaction with career instruction as 4.76 on a 7-point scale. Further, the single most common suggestion (25% of respondents) was for courses that explored psychology related careers. Zechmeister and Helkowski (2001) found that undergraduate psychology majors were not always aware of the careers available to recipients of master s degrees in psychology. Nauta (2000) reported that psychology undergraduates significantly overestimated starting salaries for graduates with bachelors, master's, and doctoral degrees.

These studies imply that academic departments, including psychology, may not adequately prepare majors in terms of career knowledge. Two potential explanations for the apparent shortcomings of career preparation efforts may be that college professors are not aware of the careers that students intend to pursue, and that some faculty and administrators make the value judgment that career preparation is not their responsibility. Related to the first explanation, Zechmeister and Helkowski (2001) pointed out that numerous sources exist concerning the careers available to individuals who hold a Ph.D. in psychology despite indicators that the master's degree is becoming the preferred degree in some areas. Perhaps psychology departments are providing career preparation information that many psychology majors do not view as germane.

Perhaps to address these shortcomings career planning courses have appeared in the psychology curricula at many universities (Brewer, 1998; Murray, 1999). These courses are designed to help college students to graduate with career knowledge that includes answers to the questions "What careers am I currently prepared for," "How much money will I make," and "How much additional training do I need for the careers I am not yet prepared for?" This knowledge would allow students to gauge their interest in a profession while also considering the potential sacrifices and rewards. …

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