Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

A Doctoral Degree? Perceived Employment Opportunity Constraints for College Students

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

A Doctoral Degree? Perceived Employment Opportunity Constraints for College Students

Article excerpt


To keep the United States competitive the Commission on the Future of Graduate Education in the United States (2010) and the Commission on Pathways through Graduate School and into Careers (2012) has identified the increasing need for people who have completed graduate degrees, including doctoral degrees for a variety of expanding jobs. In fact, "2008 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most doctoral degree holders work in occupations in service industries--generally in professional, scientific, and technical services or in government." These commissions have documented an alarming trend that too few students in the U.S. are pursuing graduate degrees particularly doctoral degrees.

Studies show many students do not seem to be as inspired or driven to attend graduate school to pursue their PhD as some believe that having a doctorate degree would hold them back from corporate success. Somehow they believe that academia is the primary career that a doctoral holder can have and/or enjoy. Certainly, by earning a PhD, academia becomes a viable option but it is not limited to academia and actually according the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) a PhD opens up wide variety of other opportunities which are projected to grow over the next ten years (2010).

We believe that students' perceptions of the professoriate and the PhD are woefully lacking due to a significant information gap as well as encouragement to pursue it as a viable option (Beale & Brown, 2010). We believe that if students were well informed about the multiple opportunities that their perception of the PhD degree would be significantly more positive.


While the widening of the professor-pipeline is a wonderful benefit for future students, "All students can benefit from being a part of a diverse student population in undergraduate and graduate school as interaction with diverse populations assists in developing professional skills. In addition, it is important for continued research in the area of minority recruitment and retention in graduate programs" (Shears, Lewis & Furman, 2004). "The projected shortage of science and engineering professionals and faculty in higher education within the next 10 years, coupled with a shift in the racial composition of the population will create important challenges in higher education and the labor market" (Thomas, 1992). Trends indicate that meeting the United States' human resource needs in the future will require a greater production of individuals with advanced higher education credentials (that is, degrees beyond the baccalaureate level). This is especially true for major U.S. minorities, who remain underrepresented throughout the higher educational pipeline, particularly at the graduate level.

Students' thoughts and beliefs are central to the doctoral pursuit. We believe that academic advisors could foster this interest by informing students of various careers that include but goes beyond academic opportunities.


We hypothesized the following:

H1 Advisor satisfaction will be influenced by a). Academic Support, b). Self Efficacy and c). Self Esteem.

H2 Perceptions of Employment Opportunity Constraints will be influenced by

a). Academic Social Support, b). Self Efficacy and c). Self Esteem. H3 Advisor Satisfaction will be influenced by Perceptions of Employment Opportunity Constraints.


Participants and Procedures

The survey packet was administered during class times to various students across the campus of two comprehensive universities located in the northeastern and southeastern parts of the United States. It contained 52 items and took approximately 10 minutes to complete. All research participants were volunteers. Of the 400 questionnaires distributed, 362 responded and were useable for a response rate of 90.5 percent. …

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