Identification with Graduate School Socialization

In The Development of Identification with an Occupation and The Elements of Identification with An Occupation, Becker and Carper identify how graduate students (“young males” in 1956) come to be socialized into the fields of physiology, engineering, and philosophy, including the construction of their identity within that field. They demonstrate the way in which some disappointed medical students come to accommodate their likely physiological career (Development, 292), and it is amusing to identify with the sense of bravado the surveyed engineers expressed: feeling as if one is happy to, or can, work on any project as long as it’s interesting or challenging (Identification, 344), and one can move back to the more lucrative workforce at any time (Development, 293).

However, leaving graduate school is not trivial, “Movement into the academic structure through matriculation as a graduate student, sets the investment mechanism going” (Development, 296). (Though I remind myself that such an investment can be thought of as a sunk cost, and that feeling one has passed the point of no return is an irrational fallacy.) Furthermore, the authors identify the four major elements of work identification (1) occupational title, and associated ideology; (2) commitment to task; (3) commitment to particular organizations or institutional positions; and (4) significance for one’s position in the larger society. I wrestle with all of these issues: how to check my ego as a student, given I was previously a respected and productive contributor to a different discipline, am I still an engineer/geek at the core, how do I assuage the cognitive dissonance of being expected to absorb some of the (Marxist) social theory that I find so alien, and how do I navigate and relate to the various competing institutions and personalities in this new field?

Becker, Howard, James W. Carper 1956. “The Development of Identification with an Occupation.” 289-298 in American Journal of Sociology.

Becker, Howard, James W. Carper 1956. “The Elements of Identification with an Occupation.” 341-348 in American Sociological Review.

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