Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

James Grimm, Raytha Yokley, Edward Bohlander

Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


In the past, sociological literature has focused on the effects of professional socialization and its influence in the development of work orientations and its conduciveness to homogeneity within a profession. The "process model" served as the conceptual framework for this thesis which proposes that professions are segmented. The present author considered the social work profession as being segmented and was concerned with possible factors which contributed to such segmentation.

The focus of this thesis is to explore the influence of various sociodemographic variables such as age, sex, social class, marital status and parenthood, in addition to work and educational experiences upon the work orientations of social work recruits entering graduate school. The diversity of social workers' backgrounds were expected to be one explanation of the segmentation within the social work profession, which has its roots in the diverse perspectives recruits bring to this field.

The sample consisted of all 118 first year students entering schools of social work in Tennessee. Pretested questionnaires were administered during the first week of school.

The thesis employed seven predictor variables and the dependent variable, work orientation, had three components: characteristics important in a job, attitudes toward clients and professional identification. These three dependent variables were divided into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Individuals with work orientations defined as intrinsic would be characterized as those who expressed an interest in their clients' opinions of their work and desired freedom from supervision in a job, as opposed to those individuals with an extrinsic work orientation who were more concerned with monetary rewards and recognition from their colleagues. The independent and dependent variables were cross tabulated and output in the form of percentage tables was analyzed. In addition, the Multiclassification Analysis Program was utilized in order to gain an understanding of the relationships between each predictor variable and each component of the dependent variable.

The findings concerning characteristics important in a job, the first component of the dependent variable, indicated that social class was the most powerful explanatory variable followed by work experience and parenthood. It appears that a composite of social background and life experience variables best explain this aspect of work orientation. Work experience in a Department of Public Welfare was the most important predictor of students' attitudes toward clients while parenthood and age ranked second and third. The last component of work orientations to be examined was professional identification and the findings revealed that marital status and sex proved to be the most powerful predictor variables followed by social class.

In summary, work orientations is multidimensional and the types of predictors influential in the development of one particular aspect or component of work orientations are diverse. Concerning the dependent variable characteristics believed important in a job, early influences in life, or social origins, in conjunction with later life experiences, such as work and marriage, proved to be the major determinants. However, later life variables, work experience and parenthood, were the dominant forces in determining attitudes toward clients while a composite of both social origins and life-experience variables, sex and marriage, influenced the social work recruits' reference group. Age was not found to be a strong determinant upon any dimension of work orientation but may have reflected the influence of other Later life variables.. Undergraduate major was the least influential of all the predictor variables examined suggesting that educational experiences do not abrogate the effects of early socialization or later life-experience factors.

The Jesuits of this exploratory study of work orientations suggests that other variables besides educational background are important in the development of work orientation and indicate that there is need for additional research concentrating upon the effects of pre-professional socialization.


Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology

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