To effectively help students plan and implement post-secondary career options, school counselors need to understand what factors influence high school students' career choices. This paper will summarize a recent research about factors influencing high school students' career choices using SCCT and implications for school counselors will also be highlighted.
Social cognitive career theory (SCCT)
The Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994), postulated that one's background (or contextual factors) and individual characteristics would influence one's learning experiences and consequently self-efficacy. The theory emphasizes the interactive influence of contextual factors and cognitive person variables on individual career development (Lent & Brown, 2002). Career self-efficacy has been evidenced as an important factor to gender differences in career choices (Zeldin & Pajare, 2000) and minority career development (Flores & O'Briens, 2002).
Understanding career aspiration of students using SCCT
Tang, Pan and Newmeyer (2008) investigated whether SCCT was a plausible theoretical approach to understand the career aspiration of high school students and whether gender had moderating effect on SCCT model. The main results from the study supported the usefulness of SCCT in understanding the career choice behaviors. The interrelationships among learning experiences, career self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and career interests were evident in influencing career choice of high school students. The specific findings are as follows:
Implications of Findings for School Counselors
In summary, understanding the factors that influence high school students' career choices is the first step; more importantly, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive and systematic career development program that involves all the shareholders and provide meaningful learning experiences for students to understand the world of work and themselves better.
Flores, L. & O'Brien (2002). Using structural equation modeling to advance theory regarding the career orientation of Mexican adolescent women. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49, 14-27.
Lent, R W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (1994). Toward a unifying social cognitive theory of career and academic interest, choice, and performance [Monograph]. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 45, 79-122.
Lent, R. W., & Brown, S. D. (2002). Social cognitive career theory and adult career development. In S. G. Niles (3rd ed.), Adult career development: Concepts, issues and practices, (pp. 76-97). Columbus, OH: National Career Development Association.
Tang, M., Pan, W., & Newmeyer, M. (2008). An explorative study to examine career aspiration of high school students. Professional School Counseling, 11, 285-295.
Zeldin, A. L., & Pajares, F. (2000). Against the odds: Self-efficacy beliefs of women in mathematical, scientific, and technical careers. American Educational Research Journal, 37, 215-246.
Mei Tang is an Associate Professor, Coordinator of Counseling Program, University of Cincinnati, Ohio. To contact Dr. Tang: email@example.com