Exiting the Ivory Tower Before and After Graduation: Attrition and Pursuit of Non-Faculty Career Goals Among Diverse Students.

by L. E. Hunter

Institution: University of Michigan
Department: Psychology and Women's Studies
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: non-academic career goals; higher education; diversity; alt-ac; Education; Psychology; Women's and Gender Studies; Social Sciences
Record ID: 2062142
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/111605


This study examined the role of gender, underrepresented racial-ethnic minority (URM) status, advisor support, field of study, and perceptions of department climate in relation to department rates of attrition and doctoral students??? post-graduate career goals. Two datasets were used: one composed of individual-level student measures (gender, URM status, career goals, perceptions of advisor support for career goals, and perceptions of climate; N=1177 doctoral students), and another composed of department-level measures (attrition, field of study; N=25 departments). Departmental attrition was only found to relate to one variable: (low) advisor support for research careers in non-profit or government settings. In contrast, career goals were related to gender, underrepresented racial-ethnic minority status, advisor support for specific careers, field of study, and climate. Overall, students expressed more interest in tenure-track than non-tenure-track careers, perceived more support from their advisors for tenure-track than non-tenure track careers, more support for career goals at research universities than at 4-year colleges, and more support for non-tenure-track career goals in private research than in non-profit or government work. Advisor support for particular careers was associated with students??? goals for those careers. Students in science-related fields were less likely to report desire for tenure-track careers. Climate was positively related to students??? goals to pursue tenure track careers in research universities. Female and URM students differed from their more privileged counterparts in three ways: compared to male and racial-ethnic majority students, both women and URM students were more likely to report desire to pursue careers in non-profit or government settings, lower perceptions of instrumental support from their advisors, and more negative perceptions of department climate. (In contrast to expectations, female students actually perceived more advisor support than men for tenure-track career goals at 4-year colleges, but not research universities.) Cumulatively, these results point to a number of continuing inequities in graduate education that face women and URM students, and to the importance of increased attention not only to their experience in general, but to the available support for students with interest in careers outside of the academy, as well as within it.