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What Keeps Employees from Pursuing Postgraduate Education?


Education is a key that unlocks many doors. It has been well established that individuals who have higher levels of education earn more income over their lifetimes than those with less education. College education and postgraduate pursuits are important indicators of future achievements. In fact, it is estimated that people who hold master’s degrees earn nearly $20,000 more per year than their bachelor’s-level peers. For employees, the decision whether to take on the added challenge of postgraduate education is a significant one. First, they must consider how their additional responsibilities will affect their current job position and ability to advance. Second, they must account for the costs associated with continuing education. Even though the long-term benefits may far outweigh short-term obstacles, many individuals choose not to advance their higher education. To find out why, Scott E. Seibert of the Department of Management and Organizations at the University of Iowa examined the factors that influenced postgraduate pursuits in a sample of 337 alumni from two separate colleges.

Seibert looked at how intrinsic career plans and extrinsic career factors affected the educational decision. He also took into consideration factors such as job satisfaction and positive (getting a raise or promotion) or negative (losing a mentor) career shock. In sum, Seibert discovered that the participants with high levels of career planning and intrinsic educational and career goals were more likely to apply for postgraduate education than those with extrinsic goals and little career planning. This effect was magnified when job satisfaction was low in intrinsic individuals. Additionally, those with extrinsic career aspirations were more likely to be content with their educational achievements when they received positive career shocks early in their work experiences. “The career shocks’ direct relationship to applications to graduate school, regardless of one’s intentions, suggests that ‘the best laid plans’ can sometimes be altered by unplanned events,” Seibert said. Overall, these findings demonstrate that career self-management, extrinsic or intrinsic goal motivation, and past and present employment experiences work together to create a unique perception of education value for each individual employee.

Seibert, S. E., Kraimer, M. L., Holtom, B. C., Pierotti, A. J. (2012). Even the best-laid plans sometimes go askew: Career self-management processes, career shocks, and the decision to pursue graduate education. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030882

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  • W Gilbert December 15th, 2012 at 11:38 AM #1

    While a lot of different things can play a part in determining whether one continues to a post graduate program,I think the most common factor that comes in our way is money.Not everybody thinks of it as an investment and even for those who do, it may not be feasible.

    I graduated four years ago and wanted to go in for a post graduate course right away.But my financial condition did not allow me to.Combine that with the down-in-the-dumps job market and I was lucky to even find one to help me through.I have been saving ever since and definitely plan on realizing my dream soon.

  • Abbie December 15th, 2012 at 3:07 PM #2

    I see on-the-job post graduate studies or even those programmes that are supported by the employer as a great alternative to the traditional route.It not only benefits the employee but also helps the organization retain talent and grow with old employees moving up the ladder.That is always a great thing to have from an organization’s point of view.

  • Harvey December 16th, 2012 at 8:26 AM #3

    Reasons could be many but one important factor in times of high unemployment are fewer jobs for post graduates.There will always be more jobs available for bachelors than masters and this may be something that plays on the minds of those contemplating a post graduate degree.They wouldn’t want to spend money, study a few extra years and then be looking for a job without much success!

  • Juanita y December 16th, 2012 at 9:59 AM #4

    How about lack of time and money and an abundance of guilt?

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