What drives Chinese college students' career interests? The impact of gender, major and job characteristics

Yingying Yang, Weijia Li, Joan M. Barth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The global workforce faces a common problem: women are underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines. Based on goal congruity theory, the present study examined Chinese college students' career interests. In Study 1, a total of 413 Science/Engineering and Medicine/Business majors chose between two jobs: one was masculine, and one was feminine; one afforded a life goal, and the other did not. The life goals were agentic (high salary), or communal (time to spend with family, helping others, and social connection). Results showed that men and Science/Engineering majors preferred masculine jobs more than feminine ones, whereas women and Medicine/Business majors preferred feminine jobs more than masculine ones. Among the four life goals, family-friendly jobs were valued the highest for Science/Engineering men. However, high-salary jobs were valued as high as family-friendly jobs for Science/Engineering women. Medicine/Business majors did not differentiate among the four life goals. To replicate the results regarding life goals, 84 Science/Engineering and Medicine/Business majors participated in Study 2, where they ranked four jobs that afforded a different goal. High-salary and family-friendly jobs were rated higher than the other two types of jobs for Science/Engineering and Medicine/Business majors. Our study showed the impact of different life goals on career preference. Theoretical and practical implications of the results were also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16363-16376
Number of pages14
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 2024


  • Career interest
  • Chinese
  • Communal goals
  • Goal congruity
  • Social connection
  • STEM


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