Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Sociology (MA)

Degree Level



Sociology and Criminology


Casey T. Harris

Committee Member

Shauna Morimoto

Second Committee Member

Patricia Snell Herzog


Career pathway, higher education majors, identity exploration, identify formation process, Emerging adulthood


Emerging adulthood is a stage of life characterized by a high degree of fluctuation in identity formation and future decision-making (Arnett 2015). During this life stage, emerging adults make decisions about their future career by assessing whether they want to continue with their current career pathway or whether they intend to switch. The present study investigates this process in terms of its overall prevalence – or how often emerging adults intend to switch career trajectories – and the correlates of it. Previous studies on career switching have focused largely on educational switches. This quantitative study operationalizes career pathway by using the major occupational groupings by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and investigates the degree of career switching versus stability by assessing current majors and occupations compared to later career aspirations using data from Wave 4 of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NSYR). The results indicate that most emerging adults in the sample who are in their mid-to-late twenties intend to switch careers. However, women are less likely to switch than men, but non-Whites are more likely to switch than Whites. Those currently enrolled in school are also more likely to intend a change in their careers. Implications for research on emerging adulthood, as well as for industry and policymakers, is discussed.