FORMALIZING THE VOCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY MAJORS THROUGH INNOVATIVE COURSEWORK
Few disciplines match psychology’s variability in terms of career paths. This variability of the field poses a particular challenge for the undergraduate psychology student who is called upon to make important vocational decisions about his/her future. Few empirical studies have explored the vocational choices of psychology majors and almost no such studies have been conducted within the European educational system. This study assesses the effectiveness of a formalized undergraduate coursework titled “Applications of Psychology” in assisting undergraduates along their vocational development. It also explores trends in career plans and factors that contribute to psychology majors’ vocational decision making. Ninety-one undergraduate students majoring in psychology at the University of Cyprus volunteered to participate in the study. The intervention group (N=35) consisted of psychology majors who completed the course “Applications of Psychology.” The control group (N=56) consisted of psychology majors who did not take the particular course. Participants completed a self-administered questionnaire assessing six domains of vocational development. Results indicated that students showed a significant preference for pursuing graduate training in the applied/professional specialties of psychology as compared to the non-applied specialties, χ2 (DF) (2)=61.04, p<.01. In terms of graduate school plans, clinical psychology (28.4%) and educational/school psychology (28.4%) were the participants’ top choices. The intervention had a significant main effect on the choice of specialty for graduate school, χ2 (11, 9)=154, p<.01. Results indicated that participants had knowledge of significantly more specialties of psychology after the intervention, F(1, 88)=26.137, p=.01. In post-intervention measures, participants had significantly more knowledge in all content areas about career paths in psychology, Λ (11,78)=.26, p<.01. Participants perceived the applied specialties of psychology differently than the academic ones (Λ (1, 72)=0.379, p<.01). Post-hoc comparisons showed that participants rated the applied specialties of psychology as significantly more useful to society and more person-centered than the academic ones. There was also a marginally significant tendency for the participants to perceive the applied specialties as more interesting. On the other hand, participants rated the academic specialties as significantly more research oriented, statistically oriented, and academically challenging than the applied ones. Participants perceived certain barriers as significantly bigger obstacles than others in the attainment of their career goals, F (8,81)=.16, p=.00,. The top three perceived barriers were the limited admissions to graduate psychology programs, financial limitations, and low GPA. The intervention had a significant impact on the participants’ perception of barriers, Λ (8,81)=.817, p=.01. Results suggest that the formalized coursework in Vocational/Professional Issues had a significant impact on psychology majorsґ knowledge, perceptions, and choices about career plans. Departments of psychology may want to consider ways beyond traditional academic advising to guide undergraduate students in their vocational development. One such effective way to assist psychology majors along their professional development is through undergraduate curriculum innovation in the form of a formal course in Vocational/Professional issues.
© 2008 Victor Karandashev