Predicting career sector intent and the theory of planned behaviour: Survey findings from Australian veterinary science students

A. M. Feakes, E. J. Palmer, K. R. Petrovski, D. A. Thomsen, J. H. Hyams, M. A. Cake, B. Webster, S. R. Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Producing graduates for a breadth of sectors is a priority for veterinary science programs. Undergraduate career intentions represent de-facto 'outcome' measures of admissions policy and curricula design, as intentions are strong predictors of eventual behaviour. Informed by Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behaviour, this study aimed to identify if contextually relevant attitudes and self-ratings affect student intentions for veterinary career sectors. Results: Survey responses from 844 students enrolled in five Australian veterinary programs in 2014 were analysed. Intention was measured for biomedical research/academia, industry, laboratory animal medicine, public health/government/diagnostic laboratory services, mixed practice, intensive animal production, companion animal practice, not work in the veterinary profession, and business/entrepreneurship. Hierarchical multiple linear regression analysis enabled comparison of explanation of variance in intent by demographics, animal handling experience, species preference, and attitudes to aspects of veterinary work. Career sector intentions were highest for mixed or companion animal clinical practice, then business/entrepreneurship, then non-clinical sectors. Overall, intent was explained to a greater extent by species preferences than by animal experience, attitudes to aspects of veterinary work and demographics (with the exception of mixed practice intent) with gender having no significant effect. Several variables exerted negative effects on career intent for less popular career sectors. Conclusion: Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) provides a framework to increase understanding of and predict career sector intentions. Incorporation of attitude and self-efficacy measures in our study revealed preference for species types contributes greatly to career sector intentions for veterinary students, particularly for the more popular practice based sectors. Importantly, specific species preferences and other attitudes can have a negative effect on intent for non-aligned veterinary sectors. Further research is required to identify additional attitudes and/or beliefs to better explain variance in intent for less popular career sectors. Veterinary admissions processes may benefit from utilising the TPB framework. Identified effects revealed by this study may stimulate innovation in marketing, recruitment, admissions and curricular design, such as timing and role modelling, to utilise positive effects and mitigate against negative effects identified for sectors requiring greater representation of career intent in the student body.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Veterinary Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2019


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