Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

John W. Lounsbury

Committee Members

Eric Sundstrom, Richard A. Saudargas, Jacob J. Levy, John M. Peters


The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between personality traits and academic major change in two samples of college undergraduates. Utilizing a field study design, a total number of 859 undergraduates completed an online inventory that included the “Big Five” and other -related, narrow personality traits, as well as academic major change and various demographic variables. A number of expected and unexpected findings emerged. As hypothesized, the traits of Sense of Identity and Extraversion were significantly and negatively related to decisions to change major, but only for certain grade levels. Contrary to expectations, Career Decidedness and Optimism were significantly and positively related to academic major change across groups, regardless of class ranking. When parsing the data by college year, additional and significant relationships appeared. Extraversion and Sense of Identity were positively related to academic major change among freshmen, sophomores and seniors, which was a significant and unexpected finding. Conscientiousness, and Emotional Stability were unrelated to academic major change overall, but were significantly and positively related to students changing major at least one time. Among non-directional hypotheses, Work Drive was negatively associated with academic major change across all groups, as well as among juniors and sophomores. Openness was both positively (sophomores) and negatively (juniors) related to major change. A final analysis that looked at students who changed majors two or more times, both Self-directed Learning and Work Drive significantly and positively correlated with the dependent variable. Both Career Decidedness and Optimism increased the odds of being a major changer in a logistic regression analysis of a residence hall sample. Implications for career planning and advising are discussed, along with future research recommendations.

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