Research on the Decision-Making Mechanism of Human Capital Investment in the Behavior of “Returning to School for a Master Degree”—An Interview Analysis Based on Grounded Theory

Fang Huang, Jian Wu


Currently, it has become increasingly common for individuals engaged in social work to pursue a Master’s degree as part of their professional development. Following the qualitative research approach of grounded theory, this study conducted in-depth interviews with six graduate students majoring in education from local universities and performed a three-level coding analysis on the collected data. The motivations behind social candidates’ pursuit of a Master’s degree are primarily driven by material needs, spiritual aspirations, and other factors. Drawing upon the human capital theory, this study examines the investment decision-making behavior of this particular cohort. The decision mechanism underlying this behavior is as follows: the anticipated income level associated with a master’s degree surpasses the current income level; the expected return on investment outweighs the investment cost; while human capital investment in graduate school entails minimal risk, its return rate exceeds that of other investments; substantial hidden benefits are derived from investing in human capital. The research findings can serve as a valuable reference for the reform and adjustment of graduate enrollment and training in higher education institutions.

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