Which Employees Are More Likely to Change Careers?

Topic(s): personality
Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior 
Article: A longitudinal study of the determinants and outcomes of career change.
Authors: S.A. Carless, J.L. Arnup
Reviewed by: Charleen Maher

In the current economy, many employees are seeking additional education or training in an effort to prepare for career changes. A career change is defined as moving to a different occupation or profession, and often requires costly additional training and results in lost time and income. So what leads an individual down the path of a new career and what happens after a career change has occurred?


Using data that was collected over the long-term, the current study explored several predictors and outcomes of career change.  In terms of personality, individuals high in openness to experience and extraversion were more likely to change careers. In addition, younger individuals and males were more likely to change careers than older individuals or females. When it comes to human capital, individuals with more education, less occupational tenure, and a lack of job security were also more likely to change careers. Not surprisingly, thoughts about quitting and job search behavior were solid predictors of career change.

The current study also found that although not a significant predictor of career change, job satisfaction does improve after an individual changes careers; perceptions of job security also improved in the new career. Finally, higher salary expectations were not related to career change and, on average, salary increases were not found among individuals who changed careers.


These findings paint a picture of an employee who is more likely to change careers. Interestingly, salary does not drive career decisions, suggesting that today’s employees are concerned with other aspects of a job, such as job security. These findings also suggest that employees might seek a variety of experiences or a job that provides a better “fit” with their personality, especially early on in careers. Understanding these predictors is important for organizational leaders, especially when facing downsizing or restructuring.


Carless, S. A. & Arnup, J. L. (2011). A longitudinal study of the determinants and outcomes of career change. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 78 (1), 80-91.