Original Research

The role of internal and external factors on management students’ subject choices

David AL Coldwell, Chris W Callaghan
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 16, No 3 | a325 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v16i3.325 | © 2013 David AL Coldwell, Chris W Callaghan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 October 2011 | Published: 02 September 2013

About the author(s)

David AL Coldwell, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Chris W Callaghan, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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The aim of the study is to investigate undergraduates’ perceptions of the comparative worth/utility of studying Business Science disciplines at a prominent South African University in terms of: (i) internal factors comprising aptitudes, values and interests; and (ii) external factors comprising job attractiveness (job prospects, earning potential, non-salary benefits and work-life balance), and (iii) university and discipline academic reputations. The study utilises a specifically designed instrument to measure internal and external factors impinging on career choice. A purposive non-random sample, consisting of 130 second and third year students in Human Resource Management (HRM) and Management, is used. Findings suggest that, while perceptions of aspects of careers, such as job and career prospects generally dominate the choice of major subjects, students studying HRM majors hold community orientated values that distinguish them from their peers. Many students are found to make choices primarily on the basis of their perceptions of ‘external factors’, rather than their interests. The findings are discussed in terms of extant theory and potential practical outcomes.


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