Career Maturity and College Persistence: A Longitudinal Study of First-Year Students

Open Access
Allen, Dara Ware
Graduate Program:
Workforce Education and Development
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
December 04, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Kenneth Carter Gray, Committee Chair
  • Judith Ann Kolb, Committee Member
  • Cynthia Pellock, Committee Member
  • James B Stewart, Committee Member
  • retention
  • college persistence
  • career maturity
Abstract While more of America’s students are continuing to gain access to postsecondary education and in some instances beginning a path to higher education and robust careers that eluded many of their parents, a great number of these students are not completing the degrees they begin. An extensive body of research exists and continues to mount, geared at uncovering the answer or set of answers that would help solve this dilemma. This research study explored the role of career maturity in the persistence process with the premise that higher levels of career maturity contribute to students’ ability to persist through postsecondary education. This premise formed the basis for the research questions: 1) Is career maturity related to the college grade point average (GPA) of first-year students? 2) Is career maturity related to college persistence of first-year students? 225 first-year students at a branch campus of the Pennsylvania State University were targeted, of which 169 or 75% voluntarily participated. The Career Maturity Inventory (CMI), comprised of two-25 point sections (attitude and competence), was used as the assessment tool for measuring career maturity. Students were given the CMI three times during the year: the end of their first semester (fall 2004) and spring semester (spring 2005), as well as the beginning of their following year (fall 2005). At each checkpoint, students’ enrollment status and GPA were closely monitored. Both multiple and logistic regression data analysis methods were used to draw conclusions regarding the relationship between career maturity and GPA as well as career maturity and persistence. The study findings revealed a positive, significant relationship between career maturity and first-year persistence. Additionally, competence, an aspect of career maturity, was related to students’ GPA at the end of their first semester (fall 2004) while the overall iv career maturity score was related to students’ GPA at the end of their second semester (spring 2005). This suggests that competence or specific knowledge is a more important factor in students’ performance the first semester than in the second semester. Whereas, a more general sense or internalization of career maturity grows increasingly more important as students progress throughout their first year. As limited studies exist regarding the role of career maturity in the college persistence process, the findings are particularly promising. They provide the opportunity for further research and exploration of an overlooked but important intervening variable within the persistence debate that has received little attention in the past. Additionally, a focus on career maturity provides insight and depth of knowledge regarding potential solutions that can help address the persistence problem. Unlike a number of other factors linked with persistence such as socio-economic status (SES) and parental educational level, career maturity can be affected. This finding provides hope that appropriate career development interventions, which foster career maturity, ultimately increase the likelihood that students are better equipped to finish the degrees they begin.