Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Marcia Harrigan


Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing minority groups in the United States. One of the stereotypes associated with Asians is that they are more likely to choose careers in science, medicine, and engineering rather than social science, inclusive of social work, mass communication, or humanities (Leong & Serafica, 1995; Tang et al., 1999). This occupational stereotyping of Asians is not just a myth in that descriptive studies have shown that only a few Asians choose social work as a career (Lennon, 2005; NASW, 2006). Few studies exist on Asian Americans who do not choose Asian stereotypical career choices, such as social work. Acknowledging this lack of research, the present study was developed to explore the relationships between factors that may influence Asian Americans who choose social work as their career. Based on social cognitive career theory (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994), it was hypothesized that acculturation and family immigration status influenced parental involvement, perceived career barriers, and career outcome expectations of Asian American social workers. A cross-sectional survey design utilizing mixed methods was used in this study. The sample was derived from the members’ database of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Among 1,802 of Asian American social workers in the NASW database, those aged 65 or older were excluded and 900 Asian social workers were randomly chosen for this study. A total of 370 Asian American social workers participated in this study with 41 percent of a return rate. Quantitative data were collected through standardized measurements: the Social Work Career Influence Questionnaire (Biggerstaff, 2000); Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation Scale (Suinn, Rickard-Figueroa, Lew, & Vigil, 1987); Career Barriers Inventory Revised (Swanson, et al., 1996); and eight items from Tang et al.’s (1999) Asian American Career Development Questionnaire. Also, qualitative data were obtained through two open-ended short questions. The data were collected through a combined method of an online survey with option of a paper mail-return questionnaire. Results of the study found significant group differences among family immigration status groups on perceived likelihood and perceived hindrance of career barriers. The 1st generation group perceived the greatest career barriers and the 3rd or higher generation group perceived the least career barriers among the family immigration status groups. However, there was no significant multivariate effect of acculturation on perceived likelihood and hindrance of career barriers, parental involvement, desire to be a therapist, prestige of the profession, and social change mission of the profession. Qualitative data included participants’ diverse perspectives on what factors influenced Asian Americans’ selecting or not selecting social work as a career. Implications and limitations of this study, as well as suggestions for future research, are discussed.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2008

Included in

Social Work Commons