A quantitative analysis of factors affecting undergraduate business students’ choice of major: Testing a proposed model of academic major choice identity development
Deciding which major to pursue is one of the most important decisions a student makes in his or her academic career. For those who consider majoring in business, high employment rates and the hopes of lucrative salaries attract many students to the major. However, the expectations and values students have toward their business major may not align with the reality of the coursework, leading students to change majors or leave the institution altogether. The purpose of this study was to propose and test a model of major choice identity development in undergraduate business students. As students begin to establish their identities in college both as individuals and as members of social groups, they make decisions about the kinds of tasks in which they will engage, and they are influenced by both personal characteristics and external socializers. This study sought to examine these influences and to develop an understanding of college major choice among undergraduate business students that incorporates need for cognition, parental support for autonomy, and expectations and values related to academic major. The quantitative study utilized a web-based survey that included both previously tested and researcher-developed scales. Participants in the study were students enrolled in the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University during the fall 2012 semester. Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used to address the three research questions. While academic major choice in general has been studied in-depth, most studies have focused only on demographic characteristics or have addressed the concept of academic major choice more broadly. This study addressed the process of academic major choice among business students and how psychosocial variables affect their choice of major. The results of this study were that need for cognition and parental autonomy support affect commitment to major among business students, but their effect is mediated through values related to academic major. Students who have high need for cognition and have parents who support their autonomous decision-making are more likely to choose a major that aligns well with their personal goals and values and are thus more likely to be committed to that major. The results of this study will add to the existing literature related to academic major choice and contribute to the understanding of identity development among college students.