Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Ramona Lewis

Third Advisor

Dr. Fernando Andrade


student affairs, attrition, job satisfaction, occupational commitment, burnout


Alumni who graduated within the previous five years from student affairs master’s degree programs across the nation were surveyed to examine issues related to attrition. In total, 697 alumni responded, of which 588 (84.36%) were still in the field of student affairs and 109 (15.64%) had departed. Participants were surveyed regarding their levels of occupational commitment to student affairs and their satisfaction and burnout in their first postgraduate professional role in order to understand how these factors influenced their retention in the profession. These measures were assessed for all alumni as well as for both comparison groups and a logistic regression model was created to predict the odds of one staying or leaving student affairs within the first five years.

Overall, recent alumni reported being satisfied with their first postgraduate professional roles. However, a closer look at the data revealed varied levels of satisfaction regarding multifarious elements of their experiences as new professionals. As a group, respondents were most satisfied with the nature of their work, the benefits they received, and their coworkers; they were most dissatisfied with their pay and promotion opportunities in those roles.

When comparing those who had left the field and those retained, there were significant differences (p

Starting salary was the only factor studied that did not show a significant difference between those retained in and withdrawn from the field, even though the groups’ satisfaction with their pay was found to be markedly different.

The best-fit logistic regression model using these factors to determine the odds of remaining in the field had a Nagelkerke R2 value of 0.216. Significant predictors included overall satisfaction (a summation of a respondent’s satisfaction with the nature of their work, their benefits, their coworkers, the supervision they received, the operating procedures in their workplace, the contingent rewards available in their role, the communication in their workplace, their pay, and their opportunity for promotion) as well as occupational commitment to student affairs. Further, communication satisfaction was significant in the model as its own factor in addition to its use in the overall satisfaction construct.

This research found lower attrition rates than had been reported in the past, though this could be at least partially attributed to the possibility of response bias. It additionally revealed new differences between those who were still in the field and those who have departed within their first five years. It also provided new insight into the most and least satisfying elements of entry level roles for new student affairs professionals.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access