If individuals can
knowledge can be
used to choose
What is a career?
A career is an individual's journey through learning,
work and other aspects of life
Career is defined as a person's "course or progress through life
(or a distinct portion of life)". In this definition career is
understood to relate to a range of aspects of an individual's life,
learning and work. Career is also frequently understood to relate
to the working aspects of an individuals life e.g. as in career
woman. A third way in which the term career is used to describe
an occupation or a profession that usually involves special
training or formal education, and is considered to be a person’s
lifework. In this case "a career" is seen as a sequence of related
jobs usually pursued within a single industry or sector e.g. "a
career in law" or "a career in the building trade".
The etymology of the term comes from the French word carriere (16 c.) ("road,
racecourse") which, in turn, comes from the Latin word "(via) cararia" (track for
wheeled vehicles) which originated from the Latin word carrus" which means
The modern concept of career is the product of the industrial age. During
the industrial age, most individuals were employed by large organizations
whose primary purpose was producing a tangible product.
These organizations provided much of the structure for people’s lives.
The vertically integrated hierarchical organizations provided the
opportunity for advancement through promotion up the ‘corporate ladder.
During the industrial age, work was concentrated
in employment, learning was concentrated in
education, and education preceded employment.
The role of career counseling was to facilitate the passage from one
system (education) to the next (employment). This is why most career
counseling takes place in educational institutions.
Although the origins
of career thought
could be traced to the
fifteenth century, and
had no clear
Some of the conditions from which career counseling evolved were
Economic (industrialism and growing division of labour)
Social (urbanization, child labour, and immigration)
Scientific (the emergence of the social sciences and the advent of
These conditions are critical to understanding the historical development
of career counseling.
Career counseling and career development theory was the product
of a particular social and economic environment and was
developed in the context of that environment.
The beginning of the
formulation of career
development theories arrived
with Frank Parsons in the early
twentieth century. Frank
Parsons began his work at the
Vocational Bureau in Boston in
1908. He is credited with first
using the term ‘vocational
guidance’ to describe the
methods that he used with
young people. Parson urged
that vocational guidance become
a part of the public school
program with experts to
conduct it. Although Parsons
never developed a formal theory
of career development, most
career theories credit his work as
being the framework upon which
career theory has developed.
The long-range impact and importance of Parsons’ work was not
understood until many years later when it was recognized in the Minnesota
Employment Stabilization Institute during the 1930s when E.G. Williamson
at the University of Minnesota developed the first career counseling theory
Trait Factor theory , a modification and operationalizing of Parsons’ work.
This became known as the Minnesota Model.
The Minnesota Vocational Test for Clerical Workers has been used extensively
at the University of Minnesota Employment Stabilization Research Institute in the
study and guidance of workers and in the differentiation of groups of employed
and unemployed workers in various occupations. It has been demonstrated that
the clerical test differentiates clerical workers from workers in the general
population better than an academic ability test, and that it discriminates
somewhat less successfully various classes of clerical workers, such as
stenographers, from general clerical workers. Another investigator also has
reported significant differences in clerical test scores between men office clerks
and garage mechanics, and between women office clerks and retail saleswomen.
Other findings have shown the Minnesota Clerical Test to be not only a reliable
and valid measuring instrument but one which seems to measure an aptitude
relatively independent of clerical training and experience . To show, however,
that a given aptitude test measures clerical
There were others who were influential in the beginning of what became
known as guidance counseling. Such as Jesse Davis, who, in 1898, was
initiating guidance activities in high school in Detroit.
Jesse Buttrick Davis (1871-1955): Pioneer of Vocational Guidance in the Schools
Jesse Buttrick Davis is considered to be the 1st school counselor in the United
States because he was the 1st to implement a systematic guidance program in the
schools. Through his work in the Michigan public schools, he became an important
leader in the development of vocational guidance in the late 1800s and early
1900s. His pioneering work in the Detroit and Grand Rapids public schools laid the
foundation for the counseling specialties of career counseling and school
counseling. He was also 1 of the founders of the National Vocational Guidance
Association (now National Career Development Association) and National
Association of Secondary School Principals.
Eli Weaver was conducting vocational placement services at a boy’s
high school in Brooklyn
The first American
journal developed to
was published in 1911
and was the
predecessor to the
Magazine, and when
the Personnel and
was established in
1951, to Occupations
and later to Personal
and Guidance Journal.
Although there were others who were beginning to work on the idea of
career development , Frank Parsons is usually referred to as the ‘father
of vocational guidance’ because the roots of career development theory
did not emerge until Parsons developed a schema for successful career
decisions making in 1909. Parsons proposed three broad factors in career
having a specific knowledge of the world of work, and
Understanding the relationship between the two
Parsons believed that a person should actively choose his or her career
or vocation rather than allowing chance alone to operate in the career
decision process. By doing this, Parsons believed that personal job
satisfaction would be enhanced, employers’ cost would decrease, and
employees’ efficiency would increase. Whatever approach to career
counseling is taken, one must deal with Parsons’ central components when
choosing a vocation.
For much of the twentieth century, career counselors focused on the
second of Parsons’ triad, increasing people understanding of the world of
work. This began to change when the stock market crash of 1929 was
followed by drastic deterioration of every aspect of the economy. Large-
scale unemployment led the United States Employment Service to provide
testing, counseling, and placement services to workers. The World Wars
and the Depression increased the need to classify people in a meaningful
way and fit them into jobs that they could perform satisfactorily.
The role of tests increased significantly during this time. The Army
General Aptitude Test Battery were developed to enhance the selection
and placement concerns that arose at the beginning of the Second World
War when manpower problems became acute. It was during this period,
marked by the World Wars and The Great Depression that the role of
career counselors expanded tremendously. It was also during this time that
Parsons’ theory was given a new name; “trait and factor” theory.
This theory dominated the 1920s and 1930s. Carl Rogers challenged this
perspective in his books on client-centered counseling, which questioned
the directive approach that trait and factor theorists used.
This trait-factor approach was also challenged by theorists such as
Ginsberg. Career development began to be seen as a lifelong
developmental process that is filled with compromise.
Super further expanded upon
these ideas with his
developmental theories of
Other such as Roe focused on psychological theories of personality, giving
attention to the early childhood experiences that predisposed individuals to
enter certain occupations.
Holland developed a more
theory of career development and
choice. This approach has been
the most researched and the most
influential approach to career
choice theory and has perhaps
provided the most pragmatic
application for the career
These ever-newer theoretical approaches
have included different aspects of the
developmental processes and added
psychological and sociological understanding
to the career choices that individuals make.
Many of the differing theoretical approaches
are in fact, looking at differing aspects of
the complex process of career choice,
adjustment ,and development.
Several major trends have culminated in the different approaches to career
choice and adjustment. The primary theme in the history of career
counseling has been the Personal focus on the individual, the occupation,
and the relationship between the two.
This model is the cornerstone of the trait and factor approach to career
counseling with its emphasis on tests and occupational information.
Combined with this is the view that career counseling has been the
recognition that the choice of a career is a life long developmental
There has also been a shift toward examining cognitive variable and
processes in studying career choice and adjustment. This has influenced
not only the modification of existing career development theories, but has
been the impetus for emerging theories.
These trends have produced different schemas for classifying differing
theories. Any attempt to classify models of behavior runs the risk of
oversimplification and models can be classified in different ways. Yet some
attempt at classification can be useful in understanding the history and
the state of career development theory.
The oldest theoretical approach
to career counseling has its
antecedents in the theories of
individual differences in behavior
and the identification of these
differences through tests and
measurements. The term trait and
factor refer principally to abilities,
interests, and personality
characteristics. This system
assumes that the matching of
individual’s abilities and interest
with the available career
opportunities can be accomplished,
and once accomplished, solves the
problems of career choice for that
The roots of this approach go back to parsons and are based on the
pragmatic consideration of assisting individuals in choosing the best career
based on their abilities, interest, and personality characteristics. This
system has been the foundation for the vocational testing movement,
producing interest inventories and aptitude test.
Philosophically, this approach focuses on the uniqueness of the individual
and differential psychology.
Largely, trait-factor systems are
a theoretical. The primary
proponent of this approach is John
Holland. He put forth a model with
the following assumptions:
In our culture, most people can
be categorized as one of six types;
Realistic, Investigative, Artistic,
Social, Enterprising, or
Six model environments
correspond to the six personality
People search for environments that will allow them to exercise their
skills and abilities, express their attitudes and values, and take on
agreeable problems and roles.
Behavior is determined by interaction between personality and
Holland furthered his theoretical concepts
with the development of the hexagon as a
heuristic for understanding the nature of
interest. This development led to the
exploration of other important concepts
in Holland’s developing theory. Four
diagnostic/theoretical indicators are
used as interpretative constructs.
1. Congruence, which is the degree of fit
between an individual’s personality and the
type of work environment the person is
currently in or anticipates entering.
2. Consistency, which is the measure of internal coherence of an
individual’s type score.
3.Differntiation, which is the measure of crystallization of interests and
provides information about the relative definition of types in an individual’s
4. Identity, which is the measure of the degree of clarity of the picture of
one’s goals, interests, and talents.
Sociological Models of Career Development
Often referred to as “accidental theories” or situational theories of career
development, sociological theories have as their central tanant the idea
that circumstances beyond the control of the individual play a pivotal role
in career decisions. These circumstances include the economic and social
development of the society in which career decisions are made as well as
the individual’s social status and experiences. This approach to career
development emphasizes the need for the individual to develop the skills
and coping mechanisms to deal effectively with environment.
Most of the emphasis of the sociological approach is based on the recognition that
career choices reflect a compromise between and individual’s inclinations and those
possibilities that the culture opens to the individual. Career counseling approaches
differ from sociological approaches in important ways. Most of the differences are
found in the fact that counseling theories gives at least moderate weigh to the
individual’s choice-making process in spite of the external obstacles and conditions
while sociological theories assign much more weight to the institutional and
impersonal market forces and significantly limit individual decision making
and career aspirations.
According to Hotchkiss and Borrow, the most prominent sociological theories Status
Attainment Theory that postulates that the social status of ones parents effect the
level of schooling achieved, which in turn affects the occupational level that one
attains. This basic model is expanded upon by what is known as the
“Wisconsin model”, which adds an intervening variable of ability to the relationship
between parental social status and level of schooling.
Human Capital theories states that the individual invests in activities such
education, health care, and migration with an expectation of return. These
theories predict that any form of discrimination in the job market will
disappear over time as a result of competitive pressure.
Sociology of Labour Markets theory states that the Social Attainment
Model is incomplete because it does not account for how social structures
such as rules of access to jobs, salary schedules, job security, and
performance standards interact with individual characteristics to influence
the outcome of career attainment. This theory also argues against the
microeconomic theories that focus on “human capital”. Sociology of Labour
Markets theorists, or structuralist, believes that institutionalized
inequalities are pervasive persistent. This theoretical approach dominates
most of the sociological research about determinates of occupational status.
A third approach to career
development is the self-concept
approach that weaves two
models into one. This system
combines the development and
the self-concept models. The
basic tenants of this approach
hold that ;
1. individuals form more clearly
defined self-concepts as they
2. people develop images of the
world of work that they compare
to their self-image; and
3. the adequacy of career
decisions are based on the
similarity between an
individual’s self-concept and
This approach has expanded with the life-span, life-space approach of
Super, which addresses life span and social-role psychology. The
graphical presentation of this theoretical approach is captured in the
Life-Career Rainbow, which has two dimension depicts the social setting
in which the roles take place. This approach attempts to portray the
multiple-role careers and their determinants and interactions.
The time dimension adds a developmental approach that focuses on how people
change and make transitions. Super’s developmental theory has attempted to
provide a comprehensive framework for understanding the complexities of career
behavior. It has evolved over time and has been influenced by constructivistic
thought and by the cognitive processing theories