Horta, H. (2018). PhD students’ self-perception of skills and career plans while in doctoral programs: are they associated? Asia Pacific Education Review, 19(2): 211-228.
This study explores the association between PhD students’ self-perception of skills and their career plans, which are analytically transformed into three non-academic sectors in relation to the academic sector (which serves as the baseline). Drawing on a representative sample of PhD students at a globally oriented research university in Asia (the University of Hong Kong), and using factor analysis, cluster analysis, and regressions, the study finds that self-perception of skills and career plans of PhD students are associated. These findings show that students with a strong perception of managerial skills are more inclined to consider career paths outside academia upon graduation. The study also finds that student perceptions of having strong managerial skills are more conducive for considering a career outside academia than having a strong aggregate self-perception in a broad set of skills. Further differences in the association between self-perception of skills and career plans are found for STEM and non-STEM PhD students. The initial motivation to earn a PhD remains strong throughout doctoral study programs and strongly predicts goal-associated career choices upon graduation. Finally, this study discusses the implications of these findings and makes policy recommendations.