Internal and external factors shape college students' career aspirations. Previous research explains that family and peer networks can affect students' goals and academic experiences. Additionally, plans for having a family and making an income shape women's and men’s aspirations differently. This study was conducted at a smaller liberal arts college in the northeast. Fifteen seniors were interviewed and asked about their career aspirations and the different factors that influenced their decisions. Findings point to a prevalence of gender socialization in the form of plans to balance a family and career. Women acknowledge this shift in their life and how it might change their work schedule, while men do not indicate that it will change their careers. Additionally, the way the students speak about making money is different, revealing men's societal pressure to provide for their families. Studies find that men are not exposed to options other than having a career the way women are allowed to consider being a stay-at-home mother. This explains why men do not consider working part-time. Women deal with more feelings of inadequacy while struggling in courses, while men do not report experiences like this. Another key finding is the discrepancies in academic experiences dealing with sexism. The findings of this study do not all align with previous research on the climate of STEM classes for women. However, feelings of inadequacy are common for women in previously male-dominated spaces. These findings challenge previous research on female and male career aspirations. Lastly, this research could help universities work to diminish societal family norms and improve the female academic experience.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Matthew Grace

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.