Career Indecision among undergraduate students in India


Rajnish Sharma

C T College of Education, Jalandhar, Panjab

*Corresponding Author Email:



The present study aims to investigate gender differences and stream of study differences in career indecision among undergraduate students. The career decision making inventory (Singh, 1999) was administered to 1334 undergraduate students of arts, commerce and science stream. The sample was selected from degree colleges of Doaba region of Panjab (India) using multistage random sampling technique. The study shows that male and female students at undergraduate level do not exhibit any difference in career indecision. The study also finds that the level of career indecision is same in undergraduate students of arts, commerce and science stream. Implications of the study for career counseling and guidance have been discussed.


KEYWORDS: Career indecision, gender, stream of study.




Choosing a lifelong career is one of the fundamental decisions which students, especially adolescents and young adults, have to make.It is in these years that adolescents make their way into the world of work or further education, settle on their own identity and world view and start to engage actively in shaping the world around them (Kiruthika, 2015).Students are starting to shift from a life that is dependent on others to a life that needs them to release the dependency and start carrying their own responsibilities (Kalyanil, Ganapathy, Padmavathi and Susila, 2018). In the contemporary Indian scenario, it is almost impossible to enter the job market without careful planning, unlike earlier times when jobs were acquired to earn a living or taken simply by chance.


As India has made rapid technological advancements and is globalized now, Indian youth is faced with the challenge of choosing careers more wisely, particularly because decisions involve early planning for specialization and training. Career planning is the process through which individuals identify their personal skills, knowledge and abilities. There are five basic steps in the career planning process: self-assessment, investigating career opportunities, goal setting, action planning, and evaluation (Chetana and Mohapatra, 2017). Thus making a career decision is a complex task. Students always face learning problems andproblems in career management (Kalyanil, Ganapathy, Padmavathi and Susila, 2018).


Adolescence is the age when people make their decisions related to choice of high school and elective courses offered at high school. These decisions affect their vocational choices in future (Itamar and Noa, 2001). Although some of the adolescents who are required to make these early career decisions do so relatively easily, many others face difficulties before or during the actual process of decision making. Sometimes they are confused about career decision making because everybody suggests something or the other to opt for a career. Turan, Celik and Turan (2014) also found percieved Social support as a significant predictor of career exploration. Students lack the experience to make a career decision at right time. Less confidence in one's choice and fewer strivings to make a career decision were tentative predictors of sustained career decision-making difficulties among college students (Saka and Gati, 2007). The Career Decision-Making Difficulties Questionnaire (Gati, Krausz and Osipow, 1996) indicate difficulties in approaching career-related decisions along three areas, which are (a) their readiness to make decisions (e.g., self-understanding, know what steps to follow in making decision), (b) need and availability of information (e.g., do they know where to obtain information about education and careers), and (c) the consistency of information gathered or received (e.g., are there contradictions in the information obtained). Kirdok and Harman (2018) found thatIndividuals with external locus of control experienced more difficulty in the process of career decision-making due to the lack of necessary information or inconsistent information. Thus need to understand career decision making among students is imperative. The present study is an endeavor to understand career indecision experienced by undergraduate students with respect to gender and stream of study.


Review of Literature:

Since Parson's time (1909) numerous theories have evolved and have made meaningful contributions to the field of career development. This has led to the acquisition of a broad conceptual and empirical foundation of knowledge enlightening many aspects of career-related behaviour. According to Super's (1957) five stages of vocational life, the behaviour involved in career decision making is influenced by self-concept. According to Tiedeman (1963) the planning stage which includes exploration, crystallization, choice and clarification, leads to the implementation stage. Ginsberg's theory of career development states that exploration stage (17-19 years) is characterized by ambiguity and indecisiveness. Career choice is also related to self-identity and self-efficacy. Perry's (1970) study on the development of cognitive processes and Knefelkam and Slepitza's model (1978) state that students move from dualism to multiplicity where they find multiple good choices of a career which they have to evaluate to reach a decision and only a few students reach relativism and commitment stage. Social Learning Theory (1976) provides four factors which influence career decision making. These factors are demographic variables, environmental conditions, learning experiences and task approaching skills. Betz's theory (1981) involves the association of anxiety and self-efficacy with decision making. Cognitive Information Processing theory (1996) involves decision-making skills, career information, self-knowledge and cognitive skills for effective decision making. Clearly, a career is not just a job, but revolves around a process, an attitude and behavior (Ravikumar, 2017).


The career indecision construct is one of the cornerstones of career development theory. The concept of career indecision has occupied a central position in the theoretical and empirical literature on career choice and development (Slaney, 1988). Career indecision is concerned with uncertainty for a career to be selected in future (Sepich, 1987). Uncertainty up to some level is a normal trend in adolescence but it may interfere with an individual’s career decision making ability and career related plans (Chartrand and Robbins, 1997). Tokar, Withrow, Hall and Moradi (2003) define indecision as the inability not only to select a career choice but also to commit oneself to a career choice. Similarly, Greenhaus, Callanan and Kaplan (1995) define individuals as career undecideds if they have not their vocational goal. And if they have selected their career goal they experience considerable uncertainty and discomfort.


Gender study is a field of interdisciplinary study which analyzes the phenomenon of gender. Gender concerns the psychological, social and cultural differences between males and females (Agrawal, 2012). The influence of gender on career development is a significant factor. The need to investigate if career-related decisions are gender-free or influenced by gender has been advocated in the literature (Koumoundourou, Tsaousis, and Kounenou, 2011). 3. Barnes and Carter (2002), Akos, Konold and Niles (2004), Hampton (2006) and Salami (2008) find no gender differences with regards to career indecision. On the other hand, Patton and Creed (2001 and 2002) indicate that girls had higher indecision scores as measured by Career Development Inventory by Zhou and Santos (2007). Males experience fewer difficulties than females in career decision-making. Women face obstacles that both impede and add to the complexity of understanding their career development. These obstacles include environmental barriers such as discrimination and sexual harassment (Fitzgerald, Fassinger and Betz, 1995). Sharma (2014) finds significant gender difference on career decidedness dimension of career decision-making and it is favoured by girls than the boys.


Internal barriers that restrict women’s career choices include traditional feminine gender role socialization and low self-efficacy. Simply attending college is not sufficient to provide female students with the means necessary to choose, pursue, and attain occupations from the full spectrum of choices. A proportionate amount of women continue to select majors in education, health and library science, signifying the expectation of seeking employment in fields considered traditionally or stereotypically feminine (Fox, 1995). While women today have greater opportunity to prepare themselves for the world of work than women of earlier generations, the fact remains that our male-dominated society's expectations and social messages about men and women, including gender-specific roles and qualities, continue to negatively influence and impact career choice and development. Gender role socialization professionalism, a process in which a person incorporates knowledge, skills, attitude and affective behavior associated with carrying out a particular role e.g. physician, nurse, technologist, etc. might also influence an individual's career uncertainty, especially for women who intend to pursue positions in traditionally male-dominated fields (Dawson-Threat and Huba, 1996). Indian women have to change their career goals due to family compulsions and work environment (Chetana and Mohapatra, 2017). Thus it is imperative to study gender differences on the variable of career indecision. Therefore, the first hypothesis is proposed as follows:


H01: Students at undergraduate level do not exhibit significant gender difference in career indecision.


The other demographic variable which may affect career indecision is the stream of study students have chosen. However, there is inconsistency in terms of the findings related to streams of study and career indecision. Kaur (2007) and Sharma (2012) find no significant difference on the variable of career indecision among science, arts, and commerce students. On the other hand, significant differences are found among levels of career decision status based on the stream of economics and arts (Khasawneh, Khasawneh, Hailat and Jawarneh, 2007). In a study by Monteiro (2015) qualitative research shows that there are differences across gender and streams of education on their responses with respect to career decisional status. Significant stream differences are observed for science, arts and commerce stream adolescents on the variable of career decision making (Sharma, 2014). On career decidedness dimension it is favoured by science group adolescents and on career indecision dimension it is favoured by arts group adolescents. Therefore, the following hypothesis is proposed:


H02 Career indecision is not significantly different for different streams of study (science, arts and commerce).



For the present study, descriptive survey method was used to find out gender differences and stream differences on the variables of career indecision in a sample of undergraduate first-year students of arts, commerce and science stream. The study was delimited to first-year undergraduate students of government and private degree colleges of Doaba region of Panjab in India.



A sample of 1334 undergraduate students (pursuing science, arts and commerce streams) in degree colleges of Doaba region of Panjab was selected by using multistage random sampling technique. For the present study, Singh's Career Decision-Making Inventory (1999) was used to measure career indecision among undergraduate students. It consists of two subscales, Certainty Subscale and Career Indecision Subscale. The test-retest reliability coefficients for career indecision scale were found to be 0.94. In the present study Cronbach's alpha coefficient, a measure of internal consistency, for validated career indecision scale was. 648.


The data was personally collected by the researcher after taking permission for data collection from the selected colleges. Data was collected from 8 colleges from 4 districts of Doaba region of Punjab. The students were administered Career Decision Making Inventory to assess their career decidedness and career indecision. The responses were analyzed and interpreted. It was found that out of 1334 respondents 872 (65%) were decided, 210 (16%) were undecided and 252 (19%) were tentative about their career decision. To study the demographic differences data of 462 respondents (undecided, n=210 and tentative category, n=252) belonging to indecision category was selected.



A t-test was used to find the significant difference between the means of groups across gender for career indecision, to test the first hypothesis. The results of the independent samples t-tests, computed to study the impact of gender on career indecision of undergraduate students are shown in Table 1.


Table 1: Independent Samples t-Test: Differences between Genders for Career Indecision





t- value

p- value

Career Indecision









*Not Significant, at p< 0.05,


The value of mean career indecision score for the males is 29.39 and for females are 29.37. Results revealed that there was no significant difference between the mean score for male and female students for career indecision, t=.041, p<.05. Thus, the null hypothesis is supported i.e. students at undergraduate level do not exhibit significant gender difference in career indecision. The level of uncertainty in making relevant career decision did not differ in male and female undergraduate students. In cross-cultural research evidence, it was acknowledged that Barnes and Carter (2002), Akos et al. (2004), Hampton (2006) and Salami (2008) found no gender difference with regard to career indecision.



Univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to find the significant difference between the means of groups across three streams of study- arts, commerce and science for career indecision.


The results of the ANOVA for Impact of the stream of study for career indecision of undergraduate students are shown in Table 2.


Table 2: ANOVA for Impact of Stream of Study for Career Indecision

















*Not Significant at p< 0.05


The results of one-way analysis of variance, computed to study the differences in career indecision between the different streams of study, are presented vide Table 2. The mean score for students of arts stream (m=29.44) was higher than that of commerce (m=29.25) and science (m=29.31) stream. The results indicated that career indecision was not significantly different for different streams of study (F= 0.061, p=.941). Hence, null hypothesisH02 thatundergraduate students from various streams of study do not differ significantly on the variable of career indecision was accepted. Students belonging to different streams of the study experienced the same status of career uncertainty. In Indian research evidence, it is acknowledged that Kaur (2007) and Sharma (2012) found no significant difference on the variable of career indecision between science, arts and commerce students.



The study finds that the level of uncertainty in making relevant career decision does not differ in male and female undergraduate students. ANOVA revealed no significant association between career indecision of students and stream of study. Hence, the level of career indecision among undergraduate students did not vary with variation in streams. Students belonging to arts, commerce and science group exhibited the same level of career indecision.


Findings of the present study have important implications for all those who play a more prominent role in career education of adolescents i.e. parents, teachers, administrators, counselors, psychologists and researchers. The resulting data shows that students at undergraduate level don’t exhibit any difference on the basis of gender in the level of uncertainty in making relevant career decisions. Also, the level of career indecision was found to be same in undergraduate students of arts, commerce and science stream. It means the students belonging to these streams don’t know the way the subjects they are studying will help in choosing a career. They are confused in making a career choice because everyone has suggested something or the other. They are pursuing the stream of study because they didn't get admission in the stream of their choice. They are unable to correlate their interests and abilities with the career plans as they are having no experience of how to choose a career. They just rely on their family members or relatives to choose a major and career. Thus career counselors should develop various interventions so that students can implement their decision with more certainty. Career guidance program should have the element on how to develop an appreciation and positive attitude towards the career. They should provide knowledge on how to locate, evaluate and interpret information about career opportunities; develop skills in selecting exploratory, introductory and instructional programs, developing career problem solving and decision-making skills, identifying the career goal and carrying out the plan.


Extensive career exploration experiences will facilitate the students to progress through high school and move onto further education or job opportunities. Career guidance professionals should counsel the students at high school level about occupational expectations, goals, interests, strengths, decision making styles and personality traits. They should advise them for planning their study and future career plans. Hughes and Karp (2004) and Reese and Miller (2006) found that students benefit both vocationally and academically from participation in career courses with increased gains in knowledge of careers as well as their ability to make career-related decisions. Geumsook andJinhwan (2018) found significant correlation between career decision making self-efficacy and social support among undergraduates. Academic subject matter can be infused with information for career decision making.Recent government polices of National Skill Development, Startup India and Make in India etc. demands a new system of education which should be more of training rather than classroom orientation theories (Madhav, Roopa and Caleb, 2017). In order to prepare the students for their careers require the balance of technical and non-technical skills in the curriculum (Janakiraman, 2018). Hence various career development activities should be integrated across courses offered in the colleges.



1.      Agrawal, P. (2012). Gender role and its impact upon the society. Research Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 3(2), 197-200.

2.      Akos, P., Konold, T. R., and Niles, S. G. (2004). A Career readiness typology and typal membership in middle school.Career Development Quarterly, 53, 53-56.

3.      Barnes, P. E., and Carter, D. J. (2002). Assessing student career maturity: Implications for school counselors.Unpublished manuscript, University of Nebraska at Omaha.Retrieved on June 12, 2012 from

4.      Chartrand, J. M., and Robbins, S. B. (1997). Career Factors Inventory: Applications and technical guide. San Diego, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

5.      Chetana, N. andMohapatra, A. K. D. (2017). Career planning and career management as antecedents of career development: a study. Asian Journal of Management, 8(3), 614-618.

6.      Dawson-Threat, J., and Huba, M. E. (1996). Choice of major and clarity of purpose among college seniors as a function of gender, type of major, and sex-role identification. Journal of College Student Development, 37, 297-308.

7.      Fitzgerald, L. F., Fassinger, R. E., and Betz, N. E. (1995). Theoretical advances in the study of women's career development. In W.B. Walsh and S.H. Osipow (Eds.), Handbook of vocational psychology: Theory, research, and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

8.      Fox, M. F. (1995). Women and higher education: Gender differences in the status of students and scholars. In J. Freeman (Ed.), Women: A feminist perspective (pp. 220-237). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.

9.      Gati, I., Krausz, M., andOsipow, S. H. (1996).A taxonomy of difficulties in career decision making. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 43, 510-526.

10.   Geumsook, O. andJinhwan, O. (2018). The effect of perceived meaning of life and social support of nursing students on academic/career decision-making self-efficacy. Research Journal of Pharmacy and Technology, 11(1), 369-374.

11.   Greenhaus, J. H., Callanan, G. A., and Kaplan, E. (1995). The role of goal setting in career management. International Journal of Career Management, 7, 3-12.

12.   Hampton, N. Z. (2006). A psychometric evaluation of the Career Self Efficacy Scale-Short Form in Chinese school students. Journal of Career Development, 33, 2, 142-155.

13.   Hughes, K. L., and Karp, M. M. (2004). School-based career development: A synthesis of the literature. Institute of Education and the Economy. Teachers College, Columbia University.

14.   Itamar, G., andNoa, S. (2001). High school students' career-related decision-making difficulties. Journal of Counseling and Development, 79 (3), 331-340.

15.   Janakiraman, B. (2018). Transferable skills as facilitator for placement amongst b school students. Asian Journal of Management, 9(1), 162-167.

16.   Kalyanil, M.A., Ganapathy, N., Padmavathi, P. andSusila, C. (2018). Assess the level of stress among adolescent school children. Asian Journal of Nursing Education and Research, 8(3), 314-318.

17.   Kaur, S. (2007). Career decision-making of undergraduates in relation to their locus of control, self-esteem, career choice anxiety and academic achievement. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Panjab University, Chandigarh.

18.   Khasawneh, S., Khasawneh, L., Hailat, S., andJawarneh, M. (2007). University students' readiness for the national workforce: A study of vocational identity and career decision-making. Mediterranean Journal of Educational Studies, 12(1), 27-42.

19.   Kırdok, O., and Harman, E. (2018). High school students' career decision-making difficulties according to locus of control. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 6(2), 242-248.

20.   Kiruthika, T.K. (2015). Anxiety in late adolescence. International Journal of Nursing Education and Research, 3(1), 74-77.

21.   Knefelkamp, L. L., and Slepitza, R. (1978). A cognitive-development model of career development: An adaptation of the Perry scheme. In C. A. Parker (Ed.), Encouraging development in college students. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.

22.   Koumoundourou, G., Tsaousis, I., and Kounenou, K. (2011). Parental influences on Greek adolescents' career decisionmaking difficulties: The mediating role of core selfevaluations. Journal of Career Assessment, 19 (2), 165-182. doi: 10.1177/1069072710385547

23.   Madhav, A.K., Roopa M. C. and Caleb, M.F. (2017). Need for paradigm shift in education system in this globalized set up- A new perspective towards educating rural masses. Asian Journal of Management, 8(3), 800-804.

24.   Monteiro, S.E. (2015). A Qualitative Study of Career Decision Making and its Associated Difficulties in Indian Adolescents.International Journal of Innovative Research and Development, 4 (9), 286-290.

25.   Parsons, F. (1909). Choosing a vocation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

26.   Patton, W., and Creed, P. A. (2001). Developmental issues in career maturity and career decision status. The Career Development Quarterly, 49, 336-351.

27.   Patton, W., and Creed, P.A. (2002). The relationship between career maturity and work commitment in a sample of Australian high school students. Journal of Career Development, 29(2), 69-85.

28.   Perry, W. G., Jr. (1970). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years: a scheme. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.

29.   Ravikumar, T. (2017). Career commitment of women information technology professionals in Bangalore city.Asian Journal of Management, 8(1), 92-96.

30.   Reese, R. J., and Miller, C. D. (2006). Effects of a university career development course on career decision-making self efficacy. Journal of Career Assessment, 14(2), 252-266.

31.   Saka, N., andGati, I. (2007). Emotional and personality-related aspects of persistent career decision-making difficulties.Journal of Vocational Behavior, 71(3), 340-358. doi: 10.1016/j. jvb.2007.08.003

32.   Salami, S. O. (2008). Gender, identity status and career maturity of adolescents in Southwest Nigeria.Journal of Social Science, 16(1), 35-49.

33.   Sepich, R. T. (1987). A review of the correlates and measurements of career indecision. Journal of Career Development, 14, 8-23.

34.   Sharma, V. (2012). Depression among adolescents in relation to their career decision-making. International Journal of Education and Management Studies, 2 (4), 423-427

35.   Sharma, V. (2014). Role of Career Decision-Making in the Development of Academic Stress among Adolescents. International Journal for Research in Education, 3(6), 58-67.

36.   Slaney, R. B. (1988). The assessment of career decision making. In W. B. Walsh and S. H. Osipow (Eds.), Career decision making (pp. 33-76). Hillsdale, NY: Erlbaum

37.   Super, D. E. (1957). The psychology of careers. New York: Harper.

38.   Tiedeman, D. V. (1963). The construct of cognitive dissonance. In E. Lloyd-Jones and E. M. Westervelt (Eds.), Behavioral science and guidance (pp. 85-92). New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.

39.   Tokar, D. M., Withrow, J. R., Hall, R. J., andMoradi, B. (2003). Psychological separation, attachment security, vocational self-concept crystallization, and career indecision: A structural equation analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 50, 3-19.

40.   Turan, E., Celik, E., andTuran, M. E. (2014). Perceived social support as predictors of adolescents' career exploration. Australian Journal of Career Development, 23(3), 119-124.

41.   Zhou, D., and Santos, A. (2007). Career decision-making difficulties of British and Chinese international university students. British journal of Guidance and Counselling, 35, 219-235.






Received on 13.09.2018         Modified on 27.09.2018

Accepted on 10.02.2019      ©AandV Publications All right reserved

Res.  J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 2019; 10(1):68-72.

DOI: 10.5958/2321-5828.2019.00012.3