American College Students' Career Readiness and the Impact on Their Labor Market Outcomes
This study aims to advance understanding of the impact of higher education on students' career development in today's more diverse student body, and to revisit the career development model to meet the evolution of the labor market. A latent structure incorporating three indicators is developed to measure college-prepared career readiness, i.e. generic competencies, subject-specific skills, and degree completion status. Using a national dataset of the 2004/09 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS: 04/09), this dissertation examines college students' career readiness and the impact on their labor market outcomes in terms of job status and income six years after entering college. The central research questions are: 1) what is the status of students' career readiness acquired through higher education, and what are the individual and institutional factors that affect college-prepared career readiness; 2) what are the relationships between college-prepared career readiness and labor market outcomes, and what are the student-level and institution-level variables associated with students' labor market outcomes. A series of two-level hierarchical linear regression models are developed to address the research questions. Results suggest that American students' college-prepared career readiness is associated with multiple individual factors, including gender, ethnicity and immigrant status, academic integration, majoring STEM fields, high school GPA and college entrance exam scores. At the institution-level, selectivity and school control are related to college-prepared career readiness. With respect to labor market outcomes, college-prepared career readiness plays the most important role among all variables involved in predicting students' job status and job income, at both student- and institution-level. In addition, socio-economic status, college major, duration of employment, academic integration and college entrance exam scores are variables affecting job status at the student-level. For job income, gaps favoring male and students majoring STEM fields are found at the student-level. Mean SES and research emphasis are associated with job income at the institution-level. The findings provide evidence for university-wide programs designed to boost students' academic integration, and partnerships between STEM departments and predominantly minority or high-need school districts. Particularly, there is a need for special career services that assist females in STEM fields access to equal opportunities.