Date of Award

Fall 11-23-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Eunyoung Kim, Ph.D

Committee Member

Rong Chen, Ph.D

Committee Member

Joseph Stetar, Ph.D


STEM, Degree-Job Match, Career outcomes, Career Choice, College Major Choice


The current third-generation globalization caused structural, organizational and functional changes in the STEM workforce along with changes in human capital flow. The new globalization shift produced new world order causing the STEM workforce to adopt new frameworks, new skills, and new policy approaches to maintain economic strength and achieve growth and prosperity. Available data indicate that the U.S. secondary and postsecondary education system prepares and produce more than an adequate number of STEM graduates. The perceived crisis in the number of U.S. STEM graduates was not confirmed by any data or policy report. Thus, attention should not be caught simply by the quantity of graduates, but rather on the quality and level of competitiveness. The federal government, along with private organizations, allocates substantial fiscal aid and resources to the STEM education system. However, concerns over the quality and competence of STEM graduates, and the U.S. position in the global market continue to grow as STEM graduates increasingly work in non-STEM occupations (degree-job mismatch).

Degree-job match in this study refers to the match between degree field, or degree knowledge and skills, to the job. The impact of mismatching degree, or degree knowledge and skills, to jobs, is substantial resulting in lower wages, low job satisfaction and productivity, loss of unused skills, higher turnover, feelings of loss in educational return on investments, loss of return on human capital investment, and an inadequate labor force for workforce' expansion and growth. The current research in the area focused substantially on the consequences of the mismatch with little to no attention to the causes of the mismatch. Using a sample of 1864 participants taken from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS: 2002), this study looked at predictors to degree-job match among recent bachelor degree STEM graduates. The study used the Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) as a foundation for its Degree-Job Match Model. Results show that cognitive abilities and career-related experiences during college are by far the most influential predictors of the match between degree and job. The adequacy of the degree-job match was found as well to be influenced by discriminatory factors; race and socioeconomic status. This study also documented that mismatched workers suffer from nearly 33% wage penalty as compared to their adequately matched peers. This study contributes substantially to the existing line of literature concerned about career choice and college major choice.