Influences on College Major Choice

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COLLEGE MAJOR CHOICE:
A STUDY OF INFLUENCES ON CHOOSING A MAJOR

Karissa Campbell, Criselle Crisostomo, Darren Moore
Department of Sociology
UCI
Winter 2011

Abstract

This study is an analysis of what factors influence student’s college major choices. Upon following previous scholars, it was noted that gender, race and ethnicity, and one’s family socioeconomic status are all significant factors in college major choice. There are distinguished trends and discriminations of college major and career choices between females and minorities. However, these typical trends vary depending on the student’s socioeconomic status. 35 student interviews of different gender, race, and socioeconomic statuses were then conducted to test to prove previous scholars’ allegations and to conclude the importance of each factor regarding major choice.

Introduction
Students are faced with one of the biggest decisions of their lifetimes upon arriving to college. While college acts as the prepping stone into the working world, a student’s college major is the pathway towards their specific career goals and future opportunities. Typically, Biology majors want to go into the medical field; Political Science majors aspire to be lawyers, while Business and Economics majors dream of becoming successful in the corporate world. Analyzing trends in college major choice is a key factor to understanding the foundation of inequality within the workforce. The study of inequality within gender and minorities throughout various careers has been an ongoing social research topic for many scholars, however, many overlook where the cause of the problem stems- college major choice. To begin to comprehend how inequality within professional fields occurs, we should note how and why individuals pursue such careers to begin with. While the workforce continues to be categorized as a social hierarchy usually with females and minorities stratified at the lower ends, we wish to understand how and why aspiring new college graduates choose to enter certain career positions and, thus, if their decisions continue the cycle of inequality. Choosing a college major, in many ways, acts as the stepping-stone for a student to deciding their long term career fate. Such an important decision in a young adult’s life can cause much stress and anxiety. For an eighteen-year-old coming from the sheltered world of high school, making these potential life-changing decisions can be difficult. So the big question remains- how do these students chose which major they want to study and ultimately, which career they wish to pursue for the rest of their lives at such a young age?

Gender, race and ethnicity, and ones’ socioeconomic family upbringing are three important factors that children use to identify themselves. Once categorized within these three factors, society then tends to mold the people within these categories to meet certain expectations. As children grow up, depending upon their gender, socioeconomic status, and ethnic family culture, they were raised to have certain goals and aspirations in life. These goals and aspirations then transpire to their prospective occupational choices. Therefore, in this study, we wish to analyze how gender, race/ethnicity and family involvement, and socioeconomic status influence college major preferences and future career decisions. Literature Review

To address the concerns above, previous studies prove that gender, race, and socioeconomic family upbringing play important roles in a student’s career path decision. College major choice is a critical educational decision that has strong implications for future career opportunities. Earlier studies share that there are notable differences dependent upon gender, race and ethnicity in students’ initial choice of major upon entering college even after controlling SAT scores and high school rankings (Dickson 2010). This study proves that the idea of college majors and,...
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