Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2020

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Career expectations show predictive validity for future job selection and work outcomes above traditional vocational interest inventories, yet are rarely tracked longitudinally. The current study explored characteristics of adolescents’ freely reported career expectations by examining their formation, typical trajectories of their development, individual differences in their development, and their utility as predictors of life outcomes. Though some past research has examined longitudinal trends in adolescents’ career expectations, this was the first study to assign dimensional RIASEC scores to participants’ expected occupations rather than a single categorical code. Using data from 21,444 students in the High School Longitudinal Study (HSLS 09:16; Ingels et al., 2015), the characteristics of adolescents’ career expectations for age 30 were tracked over three waves from freshman year to three years post-high school. Stability of RIASEC characteristics was moderate, indicating that the kinds of activities young people plan to do in their future careers are fairly consistent over time. These preferences also aligned to a moderate degree with the characteristics of actual choices people made, such as future jobs or majors. In addition, systematic, mean-level changes were consistent in some ways with established mean-level changes in vocational interests, but diverged from these trends in ways that indicate the realities of the work force and the compromises that individuals make when planning for future careers, regardless of their intrinsic interest in certain activities. Finally, gender and socioeconomic status were the strongest predictors of individual differences in change in expectations, indicating their predictive power for students’ career goals.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Joshua J. Jackson

Committee Members

Patrick L. Hill, Tammy English, Randy Larsen, Emily Grijalva,

Included in

Psychology Commons