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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