Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

An Empirical Examination of the Composition of Vocational Interest in Business Colleges: MIS vs. Other Majors

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

An Empirical Examination of the Composition of Vocational Interest in Business Colleges: MIS vs. Other Majors

Article excerpt


Numerous studies have examined why students choose a particular major in college. This has critical significance not only for students, but for college departments as well. Students wish to pursue a major and subsequent career that matches with their talents and interests. One of the critical findings in most of these studies is that interest in a major and in the matching subsequent career significantly influences their choice of major (Mauldin, Crain, & Mounce, 2000; Moorman & Johnson, 2003). In fact, in many studies of business majors, interest has been found to be the most important influence in choice of major (Kim, Markham, & Cangelosi, 2002; Malgwi, Howe & Burnaby, 2005; Strasser, Ozgur & Schroeder, 2002; Zhang, 2007). Interest has been found to be significant (as well as most important) in many studies that concentrated on specific majors within the business college, including economics (the most important factor, Worthington & Higgs, 2004), management information systems (MIS) (the most important factor for both MIS majors and computer science majors, Downey, McGaughey, & Roach, 2009), marketing (Pappu, 2004), and accounting (Mauldin et al., 2000). There is not a known study that included interest in a major as one of the variables influencing choice of major in which interest was not significant.

Based on the importance of interest in choosing one's major, the question that must be asked is what constitutes interest in a major? Although most (if not all) studies treat interest as one-dimensional, and one of many variables that influence choice of major, it seems intuitive that interest is a multi-dimensional construct, that there are various influences which promote an individual's interest in a particular career or major, and indeed research indicates this is the case (Izard, 1991; Silvia, 2006). But what in particular enhances interest in a particular major, and does this vary by major? This study examines the influences on interest in MIS (or the IT field) as a major and career. It examines 35 individual items that are theorized to promote interest in the MIS major. Further, it does the same empirical analysis for a group that includes business majors that are not MIS, in order to compare and contrast the items that significantly enhance interest in a business major.

The choice of college major is an important choice for students as well as for colleges and their departments. This is especially true currently in MIS Departments, which have seen a decrease in enrollment in the last five years, as well as entire departments being closed (Aken & Michalisin, 2007; Downey et al., 2009; Pratt, Hauser, & Ross, 2010; Vegso, 2005). One obvious way to increase enrollment in MIS is to expand interest in IT, and to do this requires an understanding of the forces or influences which enhance one's interest in a major. This study examines these influences.


2.1 Interest

Interest in and of itself has a long history, dating at least as far back as Aristotle in the 4th century BC, who described it as voluntary choice involving rational principle and cognitive thought (Aristotle, trans. 1947). The American pragmatist philosopher John Dewey listed three characteristics of interest, stating it is dynamic (interest is an active activity), objective (it is focused on something, that is, it is "embodied in an object of regard"), and personal to the individual involved (Dewey, 1913, p. 16). Interest (or being interested) is cognitive in nature, that is, it involves mental processing and is the interaction between an engaged person and the external world (Armstrong, Day, McVay & Rounds, 2008; Hidi, 1990). It is not a biological orientation reflex (infant at nipple) and though it involves attention, it is clearly more than that (Izard, 1991). A person can be attentive to a math problem, but have little interest in math. …

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