Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Post-Baccalaureate Perceptions of Psychology Alumni

Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Post-Baccalaureate Perceptions of Psychology Alumni

Article excerpt

Faculty members from 7 Departments of Psychology distributed a link to an online survey to their psychology alumni in order to ascertain alumni opinions about college courses, impact of student clubs, value of the undergraduate degree, beliefs about the department, and measures of global satisfaction. These variables were examined in conjunction with the demographic characteristics of the respondents. Alumni who continued their education beyond a bachelor's degree in psychology responded differently at times as compared to baccalaureates. These results are discussed in the context of how departments can learn from alumni to improve services to current students.

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At the undergraduate level, majoring in psychology continues to be a popular choice. For exam, in the last 14 years, over 1 million undergraduate students received their bachelor's degrees in psychology (Snyder, Dillow, & Hoffman, 2007). Furthermore, data available from the National Center for Education Statistics (Snyder, et al., 2007) reveal that in 2004-2005 there were 85,614 bachelor's degrees awarded in psychology. Alumni can be a valuable source of information, ranging from providing feedback about departmental quality to career preparation and satisfaction to answering the question 'would you major in psychology again?" The goal of our study is, from a multi-institution perspective, to begin to address how specific undergraduate experiences in and out of the classroom as well as demographic variables impact career satisfaction.

Alumni ratings can be useful for answering a variety of questions. For example, Wise, Hengstler, and Braskamp (1981) used alumni ratings across many departments as an indicator of departmental quality. Ogletree (1998) reported the use of psychology alumni-specific surveys to assess alumni satisfaction with the undergraduate education received. Ogletree (1998) generated department-specific recommendations based on the outcomes, such as identifying strengths (e.g., faculty accessibility) and weaknesses (e.g., lack of career advising). Lunneborg and Wilson (1985) asked this key question: Would you major in psychology again? They asked additional questions in areas, with substantial overlap with the present study, such as (a) preparation for graduate study, (b) career preparation and overall satisfaction, (c) importance of college experiences, (d) usefulness of courses to current job, and (e) satisfaction with the major to current work. For instance, Lunneborg and Wilson (1985) found alumni reported that satisfaction with career preparation was most strongly related to the acquisition of research skills, information-gathering skills, and critical thinking. In a broader study of social sciences alumni, Kressel (1990) found five variables that influenced satisfaction with the undergraduate degree: job relatedness to major, undergraduate course difficulty, highest degree earned, undergraduate course enjoyment, and income satisfaction. There is some evidence that a global measure of job satisfaction may be as useful as multiple measures of the components of satisfaction (Scarpello & Campbell, 1983).

Although the statistics relating to numbers of alumni are national in scope, the bulk of the work in this area tends to be limited to one department due in part to the lack of a mechanism to collect data on a national basis in an efficient fashion. To counter that, colleagues from seven institutions collaborated to contact psychology alumni and encouraged them to complete an online survey about perceptions of the undergraduate experiences and how these experiences relate to career satisfaction. The goal was to examine the how specific course experiences, student club involvement, psychology department functions, the undergraduate degree, and global measures of career satisfaction vary with respect to age, gender, undergraduate GPA, salary, years since graduation, graduate school attendance and highest degree earned. …

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