Original Research

Exploring factors that influence students’ career decision making at a South African University

Maria R. Fernandes, Kamilla V. Rawatlal
African Journal of Career Development | Vol 6, No 1 | a99 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajcd.v6i1.99 | © 2024 Maria R. Fernandes, Kamilla V. Rawatlal | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 July 2023 | Published: 29 February 2024

About the author(s)

Maria R. Fernandes, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria,Pretoria, South Africa
Kamilla V. Rawatlal, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Student career decision-making has attracted research attention in the last two decades especially when it comes to choosing tertiary education. Exploring current experiences that influence undergraduate students in career decision making is seen as critical to informing career counselling practice and/or intervention. Such initiatives are seen to benefit academic institutions and academic advisors.

Objectives: This study explored both individual and systemic influences through gauging the experiences of a sample of undergraduate students.

Method: Utilising a qualitative design and a hermeneutic phenomenological approach, the research aimed to contribute to explore trends influencing career decision making of students in higher education, through semi-structured interviews and thematically analysing interview transcripts. The interview questions were explored in relation to the ecological systems framework.

Results: The study identified both internal and external factors (themes) influencing the decision-making process of students in higher education. The application of an ecological systems approach was found to be best aligned to understanding this phenomenon in practice.

Conclusion: Making a career decision can be a challenging task and individuals often face many difficulties prior to or during this process. Factors identified were located at both the individual level and systemic level of influences and highlighted the significance of ecological models to design intervention.

Contribution: The role of different factors that influence young people’s career decision making in developing contexts such as South Africa, contributed to knowledge on informed approaches in career decision making to support career counsellors and academics in designing appropriate career counselling intervention to address contemporary realities.


ecological systems theory; career decision making; young adults; South African context; third year psychology students.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth


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