An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of Career Choice in Science: Evidence from Malaysian Undergraduates


Career choice is an important aspect of one’s educational and professional pursuits as it determines the course of study to undertake and employment outcomes. While existing models of decision-making on career choice has focused on the rational thinking processes, ambiguity arises as many graduates find themselves opting for alternative career paths. This paper seeks to understand the underlying factors and processes involved in an individual’s career consideration via a phenomenological study. A purposive sample of 24 science undergraduates from universities in Malaysia were interviewed for the study. From the preliminary data analysis, four major themes were identified: ‘Science as fantasy and discovery’, ‘Science as a default choice’, ‘Science as a reality or illusion’, and ‘Science as a transit, crossroad or destination’. These themes express how science is experienced as an interesting field of study during the participants’ childhood and early education. The option for science stream in the high school becomes a ‘default choice’, as a response to personal aspirations and socio-cultural influences which regard science as a superior option that fits only for “good” students. However, many participants later expressed skepticism in a science career due to reality testing from their internship engagement. The combination of these experiences lead to considerations of a more appealing non-science career, a point of uncertainty in their next step, or a clear pursuit of a science career. Insights into how socio-cultural factors and education impress upon the career choices of science undergraduates would be discussed with implications for Malaysian and Asian countries.

Author Information
Yit Sean Chong, Monash University, Malaysia
Pervaiz K Ahmed, Monash University, Malaysia
Ai Hwa Quek, HELP University, Malaysia
Yee Quan Tham, Monash University, Malaysia

Paper Information
Conference: ACP2015
Stream: Psychology and Education

This paper is part of the ACP2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon