Date of Award

Spring 4-25-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Rong Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Kelchen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Margaret Brady-Amoon, Ph.D.


job satisfaction, college experience, career development, college or university students, college graduates, labor market outcomes


Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), a nationally representative and longitudinal survey, this dissertation investigated the impact of the college experience on the post-graduation outcome of job satisfaction as graduates enter the workforce. Through the lens of the Social Cognitive Model of Career Self-Management and Utility Theory, this study identified demographic, college, and workplace factors that relate to job satisfaction. The synthesis of these factors was the basis for a comprehensive model of job satisfaction for college graduates. Controlling for the background and workplace environment of graduates, the proposed model with academic, experiential, and financial factors related to the college experience, was tested in a hierarchical multiple regression.

Results of this quantitative analysis suggest that increased satisfaction is associated with certain high-impact activities, such as research with faculty outside of course or program requirements. An increased frequency of participation in extracurricular or intramural activities also promoted satisfaction. Differences by institutional selectivity, college academic achievement, major, and job–major match are also discussed. These findings lend support to theory suggesting that the college experience matters to the career outcomes of graduates. Implications for policy, practice, and research are discussed in hopes of drawing attention for the need for postsecondary institutions to increase their emphasis on college student career development as a measure of institutional effectiveness and student success.