Faculty Career Change In Higher Education: Personal And Environmental Factors In The Decision To Leave Academia

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education


Purpose. The purpose of this study was to determine if faculty members who change careers and leave the employ of higher education institutions differ significantly from those who do not change careers, in their individual burnout level, psychological openness and perception of the institutional climate. Information on the career change process of former faculty was also collected.Design. Theories of adult development and the influence of environmental perceptions formed the conceptual framework for this study.Career changers in independent colleges and universities were identified. Non-career changers were matched to the changers on the basis of institution, academic field, rank and sex. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), Flexibility Scale (Fx) of the California Psychological Inventory (CPI) and six scales of the Institutional Climate Inventory (ICI) were mailed to all subjects. The t-test for independent groups was used to analyze the data.Telephone interviews were conducted with career changers and focused on personal, familial, economic and institutional factors. Interview data were presented in narrative form.Findings. Thirty-two career changers and 26 non-career changers constituted the sample, reflecting a 76% response rate. Interviews were conducted with 24 career changers.There were no significant differences at the .05 level in the scores on the Maslach Burnout Inventory, Flexibility Scale and the Administrative Morale, Collegial Morale, Institutional Morale, Alienation from Standards and the Attitude Toward Faculty Development Subscales of the Institutional Climate Inventory. There was a significant difference in the Job Satisfaction Subscale of the ICI.Career changes were described as involving difficulty, loneliness and great rewards. Sources of support, transferrable skills, current employment, and future career plans were identified.Conclusions and Recommendations. (1) Theories of adult development coupled with environmental perceptions are a questionable basis for examining career change. (2) Former faculty and current faculty do not differ significantly in personal factors and environmental perceptions.Recommendations were presented for faculty, higher education institutions and future researchers.


Education, Higher

Link to Full Text


Link to Full Text