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The Role of Education, Occupational Match on Job Satisfaction in the Behavioral and Social Science Workforce

Journal Title Human Resource Development Quarterly
Published Date March 04, 2019
Research Type


While many studies that have been conducted in recent years examining the education and workforce outcomes of STEM graduates, few have focused on the behavioral and social sciences (BSS). Federal agencies, such as National Institutes of Health (NIH), are implementing policies to foster multidisciplinary research in an effort to find more effective solutions to complex problems. As a result, there is growing interest in the career pathways of BSS scientists. This study seeks to increase our understanding of how BSS graduates, particularly women and underrepresented minorities, transition to employment within their respective fields. The focus of this research is the impact of horizontal mismatch, defined as the misalignment between a worker's degree and occupational fields, on job satisfaction and wage outcomes. This analysis of returns to education when mismatch occurs, including a comparison among majors and various demographic groups, provides insights into the labor market experiences of these scientists. Mismatched graduates were found to be much more vulnerable, earning less, and having lower job satisfaction, than their counterparts employed in jobs that aligned with their field of study. Additional job-related training was found to have a positive influence on these outcomes. Also of interest in this study were variations in wage penalties and job satisfaction between groups having different gender and race diversity characteristics. These findings are useful to human resource development (HRD) professionals, governmental policymakers, and other stakeholders seeking strategies to improve the workforce outcomes of BSS scientists.