Factors Salient to Career Decision Making of University Student Veterans
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Background: For many college students, identifying a path toward a career is an important step in their lives. For student veterans, the process of choosing a career after military service may be complicated by a myriad of contextual and environmental factors, including disability. Objective: Three research questions guided this study: 1) What factors related to military service do student veterans perceive as being associated with their career decision-making self-efficacy; 2) What resources are student veterans using to support their educational and career development; and 3) For those student veterans who identify as having a service-connected disability, what impact do they perceive their experience of disability has, if any, on their self-efficacy with respect to career decision-making? Methods: This study was conducted in two phases. Phase I involved 13 individual interviews of student veterans to elicit the experiences of service members enrolled in college most salient to addressing the research questions. Interviewees in Phase I were asked specifically about the ways in which their experiences related to the academic and career decisions they made upon separating from military service as well as the types of questions needed the better understand the career development processes of a larger sample of student veterans. Data obtained in Phase I helped inform development of a survey used in Phase II of this inquiry. In Phase II, 127 veterans from six different universities completed the online survey. Respondents in Phase II were also asked to complete the Career Decision Self-Efficacy – Short Form (CDSE). Results: Interviewees identified a range of experiences, resources, and variables as being important in their academic and career decision-making. A total of 20 questions were derived from the interviews and subsequent analysis. Survey respondents in Phase II reported high levels of confidence in preforming tasks necessary in making educational and career decisions. No significant differences were found with respect to disability status, combat exposure, or military rank. Participants in both Phases reported relying on family and friends and utilizing their own abilities to independently research academic and career interests using the internet. For participants with disabilities, although efficacious in their career decision-making, identified feeling their career decisions were constrained or influenced by their disability experience. Limitations: The CDSE variables explored are only a few of the variety of factors which could have been studied. Additionally, the sample size was limited. Conclusions: The student veterans in this study, in general, felt confident in and motivated by their ability to engage in behaviors necessary to make career decisions after military service and have the skills and initiative to identify other professional career-related resources, including college faculty, when needed. Exposure to combat, disability, or military rank do not appear to significantly affect CDSE scores. Qualitatively, these variables contribute to career decisions. Future studies would benefit from using enhanced recruitment strategies to increase sample size.