Shellhouse, J. A., Spratley, S. L., & Suarez, C. E. (2020). Influencing Factors on the Pursuit of Graduate Degrees in Agricultural Social Sciences. Journal of Agricultural Education, 61(1), 74-91. doi: 10.5032/jae.2020.01074

This study examined the motivating factors that influenced prospective graduate students’ choice in pursuing an advanced degree and choosing an institution at which to study. This article articulates the qualitative piece of a larger study which sought to understand these reasons and why they were important. Interviews from 15 current graduate students at two land-grant universities were coded and thematically analyzed according to phenomenological reduction procedures. Results of the study indicate that prospective graduate students highly weigh (1) funding opportunities, (2) external factors such as career advancement or higher pay, (3) personal growth and learning opportunities, and (4) perceived flexibility within their program when applying for graduate programs in areas of agricultural education, agricultural communication, extension education or agricultural leadership development. Finally, doctoral students felt the opportunity to conduct research was also an important factor, although most master’s degree students disagreed. Future recommendations for research included identifying differences in motivations for students of different demographics and more deeply exploring students’ understanding of possible funding opportunities and processes.

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