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Basic Confidence predictors of career decision-making self-efficacy.

 The extent to which Basic Confidence Scales predicted career
 decision-making self-efficacy was studied in a sample of 627
 undergraduate students. Six confidence variables accounted for 49% of
 the variance in career decision-making self-efficacy. Leadership
 confidence was the most important, but confidence in science,
 mathematics, writing, using technology, and cultural sensitivity all
 contributed significant incremental variance. There were some
 differences as a function of race and gender, but leadership
 confidence was the most significant predictor in all sub-groups.
 Implications for educational and career counseling are discussed.

One of the most visible areas of research in career development and counseling today is applications of Bandura's (1977) self-efficacy theory to the understanding and treatment of problems in both personal/social and career development. In particular, there have now been hundreds of studies investigating the importance of self-efficacy (often referred to as confidence) to educational and career development with respect to career-related behaviors. Such behaviors have included mathematics self-efficacy (Lopez, Lent, Brown, & Gore, 1997), self-efficacy for occupational tasks taken from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (Rooney & Osipow, 1992), career decision-making self-efficacy (Luzzo, 1993; Taylor & Popma, 1990), and career search efficacy (Solberg, Good, Fischer, Brown, & Nord, 1995).

Because of its importance to career decision making and career interventions, career decision-making self-efficacy has received probably the most research attention relative to other domains of career behavior. Career decision-making self-efficacy was originally defined by Taylor and Betz (1983) as the individual's belief that he or she can successfully complete tasks necessary to making career decisions. Career decision-making self-efficacy has been measured using the task domains of accurate self-appraisal, gathering occupational information, goal selection, planning, and problem solving. Probably because of its centrality to successful educational and career outcomes, factors related to career decision-making self-efficacy and the design and evaluation of interventions have received extensive attention from researchers (Betz & Luzzo, 1996).

Research indicates that career decision-making self-efficacy is related to other indices of adaptive career decision making. For example, there is ample evidence that career decision-making self-efficacy is inversely related to career indecision (e.g., Bergeron & Romano, 1994; Betz, Klein, & Taylor, 1996; Taylor & Popma, 1990). Career decision-making self-efficacy has also been shown to be related to high versus low vocational identity (Robbins, 1985), more adaptive career beliefs (Luzzo & Day, 1999), fear of career commitment (Betz & Serling, 1993), and career exploratory behavior (Blustein, 1989). Peterson (1993a, 1993b) found that career decision-making self-efficacy was related to academic persistence versus dropout in underprepared college students and that it surpassed all other variables as a predictor of academic and social integration of college students. Other studies have suggested that career decision-making self-efficacy can be increased through verbal persuasion, one of Bandura's postulated four sources of efficacy information (Luzzo & Taylor, 1994), through attributional retraining (Luzzo, Funk, & Strang, 1996) and through a videotaped intervention designed to increase women's perceived career options (Foss & Slaney, 1986).

Bandura's (1977) formulations of self-efficacy theory include the postulate that increases in self-efficacy expectations relative to one domain should generalize, to some degree, to other domains. On the basis of this general statement, it would be possible to postulate statistically significant relationships among domain-specific measures of self-efficacy. Not surprisingly, then, scores on the Career Decision Self-Efficacy Scale (CDMSE; Betz, Klein, & Taylor, 1996) have been found to be moderately related to other measures of self-efficacy. For example, Betz and Serling (1993) found statistically significant correlations of .53, .21, and .29 with the Verbal, Quantitative, and Aesthetic subscales of Osipow and Rooney's (Osipow, Temple, & Rooney, 1993; Rooney & Osipow, 1992) Task-Specific Occupational Self-Efficacy Scale (TSOSS) in a sample of 90 students. Betz and Klein (1996) reported correlations of .38, .37, and .26 between CDMSE scores and mathematics self-efficacy.

Given preliminary findings such as these, we postulated that career decision-making self-efficacy in college students may well be related to self-efficacy as it relates to the basic competencies required of the typical liberal arts education. Although we are not postulating causality, we suggest that there may be reciprocal influence of self-perceived academic competencies and career decision-making self-efficacy. Understanding the extent to which various educational competencies may be related to career decision-making self-efficacy could provide additional ideas for increasing career decision-making self-efficacy in college students through efforts to develop these educational competencies as well as directly targeted career self-efficacy interventions.

There are, for example, several academic areas considered essential for a general liberal arts education. The basic elements of the assessment of student achievement in general education include English, Mathematics, Science, and Social Science (Banta, 1992). Descriptions of a liberal arts education include the following components: "to use their own language effectively" and "to participate in advancing social consciousness" (cf. Pfnister, 1992, p. 1146). Other definitions of a liberal education include the concept of preparing the young person for the role of citizen and "free man" (Pfnister, 1992, p. 1147) or have emphasized the importance of leadership activities (Cress, Astin, Zimmerman-Oster, & Burkhardt, 2001; Sedlacek & Brooks, 1976). Comfort with using a computer has also been linked to positive outcomes in college students (Kuh & Hu, 2001; Lewis, Coursol, & Khan, 2001).

The present study was designed to evaluate the relationship of self-efficacy, or confidence, with respect to several domains considered essential to the goals of a general or liberal arts education to career decision-making self-efficacy. On the basis of previous research and scholarship, we selected for examination six domains representative of broad educational goals or emphases of a college education. These six basic confidence dimensions were Mathematics, Science, Using Technology, Writing, Leadership, and Cultural Sensitivity, the last of which was designed to reflect Pfnister's (1992) goal "to participate in advancing social consciousness" (p. 1146). We conducted regression analyses of the predictive efficacy of these competencies relative to career decision-making self-efficacy.


Participants and Procedure

Participants were 627 undergraduates enrolled in introductory psychology courses at a large, midwestern university. Students received course credit for their participation. All experiments were posted on the psychology department's Research Experience Program Web site, allowing students to select from a variety of experiments.

All but 4 participants indicated their gender, and the resulting break-down was 346 (55.5%) women and 277 (44.5%) men. In racial/ethnic composition, 80% of respondents indicated they were Caucasian, 9% African American, 6% Asian American/Pacific Islander, 2% Latino(a)/Hispanic, 1% multiracial, and 1% Native American. Only the African American subgroup was deemed large enough (n = 54) to analyze separately. Eighty percent of participants indicated they were freshmen, 13% sophomores, 5% juniors, and 1.4% seniors.

Participants were tested in groups of 25 to 60 in classrooms on the campus. They were given both oral and written instructions for completing the measures. After completing the measures, students were given a handout describing the purpose of the study and providing a list of counseling referrals should their participation cause them any kind of distress.


Expanded Skills Confidence Inventory (ESCI). The ESCI (Betz et al., 2003) measures self-efficacy, or confidence, with respect to 17 basic dimensions of vocational activity that are parallel to the Basic Interest Scales of the Strong Interest Inventory (SII; Harmon, Hansen, Borgen, & Hammer, 1994). Although the current (1994) version of the SII contains 25 Basic Interest Scales, economy of use and interpretation, as well as substantive import, led to the decision to develop confidence scales for many, but not all, of the 1994 Basic Interest Scales. Decisions regarding which Basic Confidence Scales to develop were based on the degree to which a Basic Interest (confidence) dimension is basic and important to many, rather than to only a few, occupational groups (e.g., Public Speaking, Writing, Leadership). Other scales were developed to reflect current trends in the labor market. Thus, the scales Using Technology, Creative Production, Cultural Sensitivity, Project Management, and Teamwork represent either emphases of the increasingly high-tech labor market or emphases within organizations that reflect the trend toward greater focus on interpersonal cooperation and diversity. The focus of the present study was on six of the Basic Confidence Scales: Mathematics, Science, Writing, Using Technology, Leadership, and Cultural Sensitivity.

These scales also represent five of the six Holland (1997) themes, Investigative (Science and Mathematics), Artistic (Writing), Social (Cultural Sensitivity), Enterprising (Leadership), and Conventional (Using Technology). Realistic was not represented, but of all the Holland themes, it tends to be associated most closely with occupations that do not require a college degree.

As with the Skills Confidence Inventory (Betz, Harmon, & Borgen, 1996), which was the prototype for the new inventory (i.e., ESCI), items for the Basic Confidence Scales were either activities (e.g., "Ride a horse") or school subjects (e.g., "Calculus"). Responses rated items using a 5-point scale ranging from no confidence at all (1) to complete confidence (5). For school subject items, respondents were asked to indicate their degree of confidence in completing the course successfully. Responses rated items using the same 5-point confidence continuum used with the Activities items. The inventory was developed with samples of 972 employed adults and 934 college students. Values of coefficient alpha for the final 10-item scales ranged from .80 to .94 (adults) and .84 to .94 (college students).

Career decision-making self-efficacy. The short form of the Career Decision Self-Efficacy Scale (CDMSE-SF; Betz, Klein, et al., 1996) was used as a measure of self-efficacy expectations for successfully completing tasks requisite to making good career decisions. The CDMSE-SF contains five subscales comprising 25 items measuring the five career choice competencies of Crites's (1978) model of career maturity: Self-Appraisal, Gathering Occupational Information, Goal Selection, Planning, and Problem-Solving. Responses rate items on a 5-point scale ranging from no confidence at all (1) to complete confidence (5). A total score is computed by summing scores for the 25 items; higher scores indicate greater levels of career decision-making self-efficacy. The CDMSE-SF has been shown to be psychometrically sound, with internal consistency reliabilities ranging from .73 (Self-Appraisal) to .83 (Goal Selection) for the 5-item subscales and .94 for the 25-item total score (Betz, Klein, et al., 1996).


Table 1 shows the correlations among the variables studied herein. As shown in the table, relationships varied in size from .14 (between Mathematics and Writing confidence) and .63 (Leadership and Cultural Sensitivity). Correlations of Basic Confidence Scales with career decision-making self-efficacy ranged from .35 (with Using Technology) to .59 (with Leadership).

Table 2 shows the results of multiple regression analyses predicting career decision-making self-efficacy using the six Basic Confidence Scales judged especially salient to the aims of a general, liberal arts-oriented college education. As shown, the six predictors all contributed significantly to the overall regression analysis, which accounted for 49% of the variance in career decision-making self-efficacy. The most important predictor was Leadership, although Cultural Sensitivity, Mathematics, Science, Using Technology, and Writing all contributed some independent variance. Overall, this first set of analyses indicated that the Basic Confidence Scales were important predictors of career decision-making self-efficacy.

Analyses within gender and race indicated significant differences in variance accounted for and in the important predictors within group. First, a statistically larger proportion of variance, 79% was accounted for in the sample of African Americans, versus the 44%, 46%, and 56% accounted for in women, European Americans, and men, respectively.

As with the total group regression analysis, leadership confidence was the most important predictor of career decision-making self-efficacy within all subgroups, but after leadership the important predictors differed by group. Confidence in cultural sensitivity was a significant predictor of career decision-making self-efficacy in women and European Americans but not in men or African Americans. For men, science confidence was next in importance after leadership, and for African Americans, using technology, mathematics, and science confidence (negatively) were next in importance. The negative beta weight for science suggests that it is acting as a suppressor variable (pulling out the variance associated with some other variable; Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994) because the bivariate correlation between science confidence and career decision-making self-efficacy in African Americans is positive (r = .40). Given the high correlation between math and science confidence in African Americans (.68), this might help to explain the suppressor effect. Thus, confidence in leadership and cultural sensitivity seem most important in women's and European Americans' career decision-making self-efficacy, whereas confidence in leadership and math/science/technology related variables seem most important for men and African Americans.


Although there were some ethnic and gender differences in which Basic Confidence Scales best predicted career decision-making self-efficacy, the overall percentages of variance accounted for were impressive. In the total group, six basic confidence predictors accounted for 49% of the variance in career decision-making self-efficacy, and within subgroups the percentages of variance accounted for ranged from 44% (women) to 79% (African Americans). Leadership confidence was the largest predictor for all groups. Confidence in cultural sensitivity was second in importance for women, and it was also important, along with confidence in science, for European Americans. Mathematics, science, and using technology were statistically significant predictors in all groups, but they were especially important for African Americans.

The importance of leadership confidence, especially to African Americans, is consistent with the model and research of Sedlacek and Brooks (1976; see also Sedlacek, 1999; Tracey & Sedlacek, 1984, 1985) showing that leadership experience is one of eight noncognitive variables critical to the academic success and persistence of African American students. More generally, the possible importance of self-efficacy expectations in the educational and career development of ethnic minority students is receiving increasing attention in the literature. Academic self-efficacy has been demonstrated to be related to persistence in college in studies by Gloria (1993) and Gloria, Robinson Kurpius, Hamilton, and Willson (1999). Whether or not the present findings concerning career decision-making self-efficacy may also be related to persistence may be an avenue for further research, given that African Americans' persistence in college continues to lag behind that of their White and Asian American counterparts (e.g., Gloria et al., 1999).

Clearly these data must be interpreted cautiously because this study did not use a causal design. Also, there may well be a general factor accounting for the moderate to strong correlations of all the Basic Confidence Scales with career decision-making self-efficacy. However, the fact that the Basic Confidence Scales themselves were not highly correlated (e.g., Writing and Using Technology correlated .19, and Writing and Mathematics .14) suggests that any general factor present does not encompass a range of basic activity areas.

Because these findings are not based on causal data, it cannot be said that programs that increase a student's confidence in the basic educational skills will increase career decision-making self-efficacy, or the reverse, but it may be hypothesized that students expressing concern with career indecision or lack of confidence in their career decision-making skills may also lack confidence in these basic academic skill areas. Because academic confidence has also been shown to be related to persistence in college, a focus on strengthening students' efficacy beliefs using efficacy interventions may prove doubly useful. Efficacy-based interventions are developed using the sources of efficacy information from Bandura's (1977) theory: performance accomplishments, vicarious learning, anxiety management, and social encouragement. Although there are other methods of attempting to increase career decision-making self-efficacy (see Betz & Luzzo, 1996), being aware of the possibility that in some cases it is related to low confidence in academic skills may prove useful for counselors and educators in collegiate settings or in high school settings, where the building blocks of both educational and career decisional confidence are established.

Correlations Between the Basic Confidence Scales and Career
Decision-Making Self-Efficacy

Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

1.Mathematics (a) -

2.Science (a) .54 -

3.Using .41 .43 -
 Technology (a)

4.Writing (a) .14 .33 .24 -

5.Leadership (a) .21 .34 .25 .62 -

6.Cultural .19 .35 .19 .55 .63 -
 Sensitivity (a)

7.Career .36 .44 .35 .49 .59 .52 -
 Self-Efficacy (b)

Note. For a sample of 627 college undergraduates, r values of .09, .12,
and .15 are significant at .05, .01, and .001, but for reasons of
practical significance, values below .20 should not be interpreted.

(a) Basic Confidence Scale. (b) Measured by the Career Decision
Self-Efficacy Scale-Short Form.


Regression Analyses Predicting Career Decision-Making Self-Efficacy
Using the Six Basic Confidence Scales


Predictor B t R [R.sup.2] F (6, 549)

 .70 .49 86.65 ***
Mathematics .14 3.7 ***
Science .13 3.2 ***
Using Technology .11 3.1 ***
Writing .11 2.8 ***
Leadership .32 7.2 ***
Cultural Sensitivity .18 4.3 ***


 Men Women
 (n = 232) (n = 323)

Predictor [R.sup.2] B [R.sup.2] B

 .56 *** .44 ***
Mathematics .11 * .15 **
Science .19 ** .11 *
Using Technology .12 * .12 *
Writing .13 * .09
Leadership .41 *** .25 ***
Cultural Sensitivity .06 .23 ***


 European American African American
 (n = 449) (n = 54)

Predictor [R.sup.2] B [R.sup.2] B

 .46 *** .79 ***
Mathematics .13 ** .23 *
Science .17 *** -.39 ***
Using Technology .10 * .31 **
Writing .11 * .19
Leadership .30 *** .43 **
Cultural Sensitivity .16 *** .19

* p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001.


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Alisa M. Paulsen and Nancy E. Betz, Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nancy E. Betz, Department of Psychology, 137 Townshend Hall, 1885 Neil Avenue, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210 (e-mail:
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Title Annotation:career counseling
Author:Betz, Nancy E.
Publication:Career Development Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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Next Article:The relationship of attachment variables to career decision-making self-efficacy and fear of commitment.

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