Date of Graduation
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Wood Science and Technology
Federal natural resource agencies are facing a human resource crisis. Many natural resource professionals are reaching retirement and attracting young adults to fill vacancies may prove difficult. Although currently on the rise from a recent fall, enrollment in natural resource degree programs has not increased overall in the past three decades, which has resulted in a small and possibly shrinking pool of applicants for natural resource positions. In addition, increasingly young adults in the recruitment pool depart from the traditional background of current natural resource professionals (rural-raised, fisheries/wildlife/biology-educated, angler/hunter, white male) and agency workplace culture has not changed to match this new recruitment pool.;To recruit and retain more young adults and underrepresented groups in the natural resource field, more knowledge must be gained about the specific variables that influence the choice of natural resource majors and careers. Therefore, this study aims to examine the supports and barriers that influence the pursuit of a natural resource degree and career through the lens of the Social Cognitive Career Theory.;Specifically, this study seeks to answer three main research questions (1) What supports and barriers influence natural resource major choice?, (2) What supports and barriers influence natural resource career choice?, and (3) How do perceived supports and barriers regarding choice of the natural resource field differ between natural resource majors and recent hires?;The findings of the research are presented in the form of three articles for peer-reviewed journals. The first article is based on twenty-two interviews with recent hires with the Fish and Wildlife Service. The second is based on twenty-two interviews with undergraduate natural resource majors at West Virginia University and Alabama A&M; University. The final article compares the data from interviews with both recent hires and undergraduates.;By applying the Social Cognitive Career Theory, the first article highlights the supports and barriers that influence the natural resource career path of culturally diverse recent hires. Data revealed that young adults from underrepresented groups perceived unique and more numerous barriers and supports than white males. The second article emphasizes the supports and barriers that influence the choice of and persistence in a natural resource major. Interviews demonstrated that undergraduates from non-traditional backgrounds experienced increased barriers when compared to rural-raised, hunters/anglers in the major. The third article comparing the barriers faced by recent hires and undergraduates emphasizes the similarities between the two groups. The most notable difference between the two groups was that undergraduates experienced increased barriers because of non-traditional backgrounds, whereas recent hires experienced increased barriers because of ethnicity/race.;Based on results from each article, suggestions are made to improve recruitment and retention of young adults and underrepresented groups in the natural resource field. Furthermore, the successful application of the Social Cognitive Career Theory suggests its potential for improving future research on natural resource career choice.
Balcarczyk, Kelly, "Supports of and Barriers to Pursuing a Natural Resource Degree and Career: Perspectives of Culturally Diverse Young Adults" (2014). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 459.