The topic of the research is the future career employment prospect from university student’s perspective. University students in general have one main concern that they will consider during their university study, that is, their future career dilemma. “What career should I choose? Is this the correct degree for me? What should I do after graduation? What do my parents want me to do after graduation?” are some common questions that appeared in student’s mind during their university life. Many of them feel anxious and even frightened of thinking how their life would be totally different in just three or four years later.
I.2. The Research Problem
As if to complicate the matter, the world-wide globalisation trend adds more dilemmas to student’s career prospect. The job market is filled with surplus of university graduates where university students are having a hard time to find the job that suits them. In addition, many firms add more requirements in job vacancies. For example, firms only accept candidates with at least several years of job experience. Such requirement is hard for fresh graduates to fulfil as most of them don’t have any job experience (Densley, 2010). The university that students enrolled in act as a guide to shed some light for students on this problem. In this case, the university role is to provide the knowledge, skills and the workforce reality for students. However, many individuals questions the extend of university program in shaping student’s future career. They believe that there are various other factors that shape student’s future career which makes the university influences become pale in comparison. Nevertheless, university program hold a large role in shaping student’s future career.
I.3. Purpose of the Research
The purpose of the research is to see how far the university programs (degree offered, career fair, career opportunities, etc) help to shape student’s future career. In other words, whether university students can relate the degree they are taking and their future career prospects. The two main variable used here are university student degree program (variable x) and university student career prospect (variable y). In addition, the research also intended to find out other factors that influence university student career prospect.
I.4. Research Question
In doing this research, the researchers seek to answer specific questions to narrow down the research topic. These questions include, but not limited to:
“How do students view their degree in regards to their future career?”
“What are other factors that affect student’s future career prospect?”
“What is the university role in student’s future career decision?”
These questions will be answered in the data analysis section of the research.
I.5. Importance of the Problem
The problem addressed in this research is very important for university students as many fresh graduates nowadays are having career dilemma. Many of them are unable to find a job due to various factors generated from globalisation. In fact, 78% of small to medium firms offer less job vacancies in 2010 to mitigate the effect of recession (Rogers, 2010). Through the research, students will be able to identify various factors that may affect their future career prospect. Thus, the research would certainly help student’s future career planning, and help the university in its role as education facilitator – shaping student’s future employment.
I.6. Scope of Research
The scope of the research is on Linton University students, the Malaysia branch for University of East London. Among various degree courses offered, the research shall focus on Software Engineering Degree students.
II. Literature Review
Many studies have been conducted to analyse various factors that may affect university student’s career decision. A study by Fouard & Byars-Winston (2005) argued that student’s career aspiration doesn’t have significant relationship with the student’s specific race or ethnic. However, student’s respective cultures have significant impact on their perception of career barriers and opportunities. Thus, even though a student may have the competencies to be successful in the desired future career, the social-political aspects from the student’s origin may cloud their judgement in which he/she becomes uncertain to pursue the desired career. It is the role of career councillors to remedy these negative perceptions and student’s career indecisiveness by providing students with encouragements and workforce realities in detail.
Regarding university student’s career indecisiveness, Ester (2007), proposed the term “Identity Fusion” – an individual inability to adequately link their personal characteristics and their career characteristics. The term represents university student career indecisiveness where they feel uncertain on their career path and unable to choose a career among many available choices. The research indicated a moderate level of career indecision among university students, which raise the importance of career development guidance in all courses offered in university. The university can do this through career counselling, career seminar or even offering a specific course that focus on student career development. During the course, student will learn more about themselves, the workforce-reality and have clearer career direction through the ability to make career-related decisions. Thus, student would be able to reduce their career indecisiveness which has strong-negative-impact on career development.
A study by Tansley (2007) put emphasize on the importance of persuasive verbal messages which can affect college student ‘career-decision-making’-phase and their behaviour. The message affects college student’s view on what the future holds for them and how to tackle possible problems in deciding their future-career. In this case, career fair and career counselling services often become the media to deliver the persuasive-verbal-message. The success of such services depends on both the service provider and the students themselves.
Willcoxson & Wynder (2010) stated that university student retention is related to their choice of major which also influences career-direction. It means that students involved in a career-specific major, such as accounting and IT, would have clearer reasons for attending university due to clear career path and goals. In other words, students whose major is not career-specific, such as business management, tend to have vague career direction. On the other hand, students who took career-specific majors, but still doesn’t have clear career direction would be at greater risk of attrition, compared to business students who lack clear career-goals. Therefore, university must provide career guidance even for career-specific majors that have clear career path. The career guidance would provide students who have career-specific major with deeper understanding on available career options and clearer career direction.
Overall, the literature has emphasized on the importance of career-counselling for student’s career-development. The research in this report also emphasize on the importance for university to provide career counselling, however, the discussion shall focus on various factors that affect student’s career direction, particularly student’s chosen degree.
III. Hypothesis Formulation
The research suggests 3 Null Hypothesis:
“H0 – There is positive relationship between Linton Software Engineering student’s degree and student’s future career choice (Accept).”
“H1 – There is negative relationship between Linton Software Engineering student’s degree and student’s future career choice (Reject).”
“H0 – There is significant relationship between Linton Software Engineering student’s knowledge of their degree and their future career choice (Accept).”
“H1 – There is no significant relationship between Linton Software Engineering student’s knowledge of their degree and their future career choice (Reject).”
“H0 – There is significant relationship between Linton Software Engineering student participation in group activities and student’s future career prospect (Accept).”
“H1 – There is no significant relationship between Linton Software Engineering student participation in group activities and student’s future career prospect (Reject).”
IV. Research Methodology
IV.1. Research Method
In regard to the topic and questions in this research, quantitative method is preferred than qualitative method because it provides a more detail and precise data to answer the research questions. Thus, the data analysis in this research is based on quantitative research method which acts as primary data while the secondary data received through qualitative method act as supportive material for research findings.
IV.2. Sampling Method
The population in the research is Linton University students in Software Engineering degree. The total number of students in this degree is less than 200. From this, a sample of 50 students is sufficient where they act as representative of the whole Software Engineering students. The sample consists of year-1 to year-3 students and does not focus on a specific academic year. The sample was chosen randomly where researchers visited the Software Engineering school area and asked random students there to answer the questions.
IV.3. Data Collection Method
The method of data collection is through questionnaires which consist of 24 questions and through direct-interview to each sample approximately 15 minutes. Through questionnaire, researchers received various responses on each question while the direct-interview allows researchers to receive clear and detail answers while directly observe the interviewee. One problem encountered during data collection was that some students who answered the questionnaire were unwilling to be interviewed. Thus, some interview answers and questionnaire answers do not necessarily came from the same Software Engineering student.
IV.4. Statistical Techniques Used
Statistical techniques such as T-Test, Correlation and Chi-Square were used to calculate the relationship between the variables in the research hypothesis. T-test is the test to see whether hypothesis should be accepted or rejected while Chi-Square measures the relationship between two variables in the hypothesis. In addition, frequency data of each question were also done in order to conduct more in-depth data analysis.
IV.5. Research Limitations
One limitation of the research is the questions it has on both questionnaire and interview. Some questions in the questionnaire are not accurate where the information received from that question is not relevant to the research. For the interview, some interviewees complained about the difficulty of the question in which they are having trouble answering clearly. In addition, some of them are also unwilling to participate too long in the interview, which limits the interviewer ability to receive clear answers. As the result, more than half of the sample only gave simple answers on the interview. In addition, some questions in the questionnaire have little relevance and even no relevance at-all to the hypothesis. This would limit the accuracy of statistical analysis to some extent. Another limitation is that the majority of the respondents are 2nd year Software Engineering students (70%) with little participation from 3rd year students (20%) who often have clearer career planning compared to 2nd year students. Thus, the research analysis might be less accurate where it reflects more on the view of 2nd year students.
V. Data Analysis and Interpretation
V.1. Interpretation Based on Statistical Techniques
The data gathered has able to shed some light on the matter presented in the research. The values used in this data analysis were calculated using statistical techniques which can be seen in appendix.
“H0 – There is positive relationship between Linton Software Engineering student’s degree and student’s future career choice”
The T-test shows the value t = 3.436 with df = 49. The rule is that hypothesis should be accepted when P < 0.05. According to t-significance/probability table, with df = 49, t must be at least 2.011 to reach P larger than 0.05. Since the t-test for this hypothesis is 3.436, therefore, the hypothesis is not rejected.
The correlation test for this hypothesis shows the value 0.621. To interpret this value, the table of Correlation Test Value by Gilford (1965) is used.
Thus, based on the table above, even though hypothesis 1 is accepted, the two variables in hypothesis 1 have moderate relationship. In other words, there is positive relationship between student’s degree and their future career choice.
“HO – There is significant relationship between Linton Software Engineering student’s knowledge of their degree and their future career choice”
Applying the same rule from the previous hypothesis, with value of t = 2.365 and df = 49, this second hypothesis is also not rejected. For the correlation test, the value is 0.314, much lower than the previous hypothesis. Applying Gilford table to the value, even though positive relationship between the two variables in hypothesis 2 exists, the significance is low. Thus, student’s knowledge on their degree has little relevance to their future career choice.
“HO – There is significant relationship between Linton Software Engineering student participation in group activities and student’s future career prospect”
The Chi-Square test rule of acceptance is quite similar to the T-test. H0 is accepted if degree of significant is larger than 0.05. The value of degree significant in hypothesis 3 is 0.02, thus, hypothesis 3 is rejected. However, based on the correlation test, the value is 0.331 where small relationship exists between the two variables in hypothesis 3. The finding on correlation contradicts the Chi-square test. In other words, there is statistical error in hypothesis 3. This may due to researcher’s negligence in making the questionnaire where only few questions related to hypothesis 3 or due to calculation error.
V.2. Analysis Based on Frequency Data and Interview
Regarding importance of degree, the data showed that Linton University Software Engineering students agree to some extent. This is reflected in question 12 in the questionnaire where 32% respondent agreed on the importance of degree. However, the data also shows that additional skills are more important than degree chosen (34%). In other words, the respondents believe that the additional skills they have (computer, communication, multi-language, leadership skills, etc) are equally important in order to secure a job in the future. This is reflected in interview question 1, 2 and 3 where the response between degree-as-the-main-factor-of career-direction and degree-as-‘extra-knowledge’ is divided almost equally. This means that degree is not the only requirements to be able to score the desired career in the future. There are other requirements, which many of them are included in additional skills explained in this research. Linking this statement with the responses received in interview question 5, the reason behind that many requirements is because the changing values in society. Society has become more sophisticated which affect the society perception on education level. Just having ‘a-bachelor-degree’ is considered insufficient where job seekers need additional skills and even higher qualifications. As the result, the job market and workforce are full of uncertainties. This situation has made many fresh graduates to pursue further study (either a specific course or master degree) after finishing their bachelor degree. This situation is reflected in questionnaire question 13 where 58% of the respondents are planning to get higher qualification after getting their bachelor degree. In addition, question 14 in questionnaire also reflects that many students don’t have clear plan for employment after finishing their current degree (72%). This might be due to the uncertainties in today’s workforce where students have perceptions that by having more qualifications and skills, their chance to land on their desired career will be higher.
In addition to changing society values as external factor that indirectly affect student’s career direction, there are also other external factors that directly affect student’s career direction; parents, friends and the university that student enrolled-in. Based on the data from question 9, parents and friends are a strong indicator of student’s career choice (36% for parents and 18% for friends). In-choosing career-path, students would do what-their-parents-recommend-them to-do and might-follow-friend’s-career-path or follow friend’s-suggestions. In other words, the students still don’t have clear career planning for their future.
It is the role of university to guide student in deciding their career path. However, based on question 5 and 6 data in the questionnaire, 56% of software engineering students believe that Linton University does not provide enough career guidance (career-seminar and career-counselling) for them where only some schools that receive lots of career guidance. As the result, software engineering student’s satisfaction toward Linton University is low where 48% feels that the university fail to meet their expectation. The lack for career guidance for software engineering students might be due to the nature of software-engineering-degree that is career-specific. Linton University management might believe that more career guidance should be on courses that is not career specific such as Business Studies. Such assumption is inaccurate because a career-specific course does not mean that the students have clear career direction (Willcoxson & Wynder, 2010). In fact, the data gathered in this research suggest the opposite – majority of software-engineering students still don’t have clear career direction. Thus, it is suggested for Linton University should treat all courses fairly by having sufficient career guidance for all courses, not just on courses that is not career specific. In addition, student’s participation is compulsory for the effectiveness of these career guidance programs. The career guidance program will provide all students with better understanding on their career options and relate it to the current situation in the workforce and society. However, the intention of career guidance program won’t be achieved if the content itself is boring and irrelevant. According to student’s testimony, many of career fair conducted by Linton University were quite boring. This makes the students become reluctant to attend future career program. Thus, the university must be careful in selecting the spokesperson in career fair as it has significant impact on the success of career fair itself.
The research concludes that student’s degree is related to their future career prospect in a way that it becomes the guideline for students to choose the career that suits them. Taking the example in this research, having software engineering degree doesn’t mean that the student must become a software engineer. Students can choose the career they wish to do even though it’s not that related to the chosen career. This is reflected in one of the findings in this research; small relationship between software engineering student’s degree knowledge and their future career prospect. It means that student’s knowledge of their degree is not exclusive to the related career, but also can be use in other career that might not seem related to the knowledge learned from degree. This situation reflects the statement where knowledge learned from degree can be considered ‘an extra knowledge’ instead of the main requirement’. It is also important to note other factors that will affect student’s career choice, mainly the high uncertainty in today’s job market which makes it necessary to have other knowledge and skills besides the one learned from degree. University also has a role of providing students with the necessary information regarding career prospects because university is a ‘gateway’ to the next step of student’s life. Thus, it is a-must for students to make use of all available information and knowledge that will give them clearer prospect on future career path.
VII. Personal Development Plan
Many years ago, my long term aspiration was to become a writer since I love writing stories. However, that aspiration has long gone because ‘reality’ has struck me down. Pursuing such aspiration requires a talent as a writer, which I don’t have. Globalisation in today’s society has created a trend where people are starting their own business rather than seeking employment from others due to lower job security in today’s job market (Bhaduri, 2008). This situation has influenced my long term career aspiration; to become a successful businessman. To achieve this, I need to fulfil both medium and short term aspiration first. For short term aspiration, I plan to continue studying in UK for Master degree after finishing the bachelor degree. This is where the knowledge I receive from the bachelor degree will be useful in helping me to complete master degree. In a way, the business studies knowledge I receive in bachelor degree is transferable to the marketing field for master degree. Thus, what I will learn during master degree is the continuation of what I’m currently studying now. After getting master degree, only then I can start to work on the medium term aspiration; get a good job in international firm. In this phase, I seek job experiences, build network and seek the necessary skills and knowledge for a business man. It is also in this phase where I can practice and apply what I have learnt in university years. At the same time, I will also start building my own small-business which act as a base of what I want to become for the long term career aspiration. Thus, all the knowledge and skills that I currently have and will have from university degree are useful because it is transferable on the things I plan to do. In fact, I’m currently doing a small-scale business with some friends. This is the reason why studying for business degree is beneficial for me where I try to apply knowledge I have learned during the course of the degree in real-life business. It’s like a trial-and-error process where not all the stuff I applied is working. One thing I learned is that doing everything based on theories is wrong. Sometimes, people have to act based on their own instinct and self-judgement after carefully analysing the situation at hand. This is also one important skill for a businessman. In conclusion, university degree will help me to have a better mindset for my future career. It also acts as the base knowledge for the chosen career. In addition, through trial and error process of applying the knowledge, I learn even more knowledge and skills that are crucial for my future career.