Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Factors Influencing the Career Choices of African American Collegians: Implications for Minority Teacher Recruitment

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Factors Influencing the Career Choices of African American Collegians: Implications for Minority Teacher Recruitment

Article excerpt

This article describes a study conducted to gain insight into the factors that are most important to African American college students in deciding on a career course and the attractiveness of teaching as a career choice. The primary focus of the study was a comparison of education and non-education majors. Survey responses from 263 students were gathered. Findings indicated that non-education majors placed significantly more importance on salary, job security, and advancement in their career choices than did education majors. Regarding a career in teaching, both groups perceive salary and prestige as the least attractive aspects.

The number of students enrolling in schools, colleges, and departments of education (SCDEs) has been increasing since the late 1980s, but whether or not their numbers will be sufficient to meet the predicted needs is debatable. Current projections suggest that by the year 2006, 2 million elementary and 1.4 million secondary teachers will be needed to meet the growing enrollments of public schools across the nation (National Teacher Policy Institute [NTPI], 1997). The overwhelming majority of students entering SCDEs today continues to be White women (Fuller, 1994; Meek, 1998).

There may be debate regarding the accuracy of projected numbers of teachers needed, but the increasing scarcity of minority teachers is widely recognized as a serious problem with far-reaching consequences (Cochran-Smith, 1995; King, 1993). The number of African American teachers has been on the decline since the late 1970s, and this trend shows little sign of reversal (Page & Page, 1991). African Americans represented 12% of the nation's teaching force in 1978 and only 9% in 1993 (Meek, 1998). Conversely, there has been a rapid increase in the number of minority students, especially African Americans and Hispanics (U.S. Department of Education, 1994).

Extensive speculation has been offered regarding the reasons for the decline in the numbers of African Americans entering the teaching profession. Many contend that this decline is linked to the expanded career opportunities now available in other areas considered more lucrative and prestigious than teaching. Banks (1988) translated the decline in numbers of African American teachers into an increase in the number of African American lawyers, engineers, scientists, and so forth. Furthermore, to many of today's African American college students, a career in teaching is perceived as a career of a bygone era that reflected a lack of options (Perkins, 1989). A different perspective is presented by researchers who contend that the decline is due to more stringent testing and admission standards in schools of education and more demanding certification and licensing measures. Harley-Adams (1988) noted that no fewer than 46 states require some form of paper-and-pencil competency testing of teachers. In each of those states, African Americans had average scores lower than those of Whites. Harley-Adams, as well as Hackley (1985), contended that this specter served as a disincentive for African Americans considering a teaching career. Page and Page (1991) found that African American educators frequently cited such testing requirements as a deterrent in teacher retention. This explanation implies restricted accessibility rather than undesirability of a career in teaching.

Still another explanation is the overall decline in the number of African Americans attending college. Between 1976 and 1989, the higher education participation rate for African American women dipped by 7.5%, and the participation rate for African American men plunged by 17% during the same period (Boatwright, Ching, & Parr, 1992). Although African American women achieved gains in enrollment in the 1990s, enrollment of African American men continued to slump (American Council on Education [ACE], 1996).

It is not readily apparent which theory is the primary explanation for the decline in the number of African American education majors. …

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