Career Counceling Theories

The assignment is in the body but there is an attachment to look at as well to help along the process

After reading this week’s assigned material, write a 4-5 page paper reviewing at least three of the career counseling theories highlighted in Chapters 2 and 3 of the Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2012) text. Conduct further research on each of the theories you select (see the research criteria section below for clarification on appropriate resources). You will need to utilize at least five sources in addition to the course textbook. Address the following:

  • What are the key elements of each theory?
  • Are the theories universal or would they be more effective with specific populations?
  • What would you identify as the strengths and weaknesses of each?
  • Apply one of the theories to your own career development.
  • What role do you see this theory playing in assisting clients with their unique career needs?

Week 2 theories for psychology coaching


This week we consider how theory, practice, perception and reality impact career counseling. We will consider how your own personal life experiences may have directed you to make the career choices you have made for yourself. We will take a closer look at career development theories used in the field today. You will have the opportunity to assess the utility of these theories and the application of the theory. We will also be looking at assessment tools that are used in career counseling interventions.

Career development theories attempt to describe how and why people make the career decisions they make. And make no mistake there is a myriad of theories describing this process; it seems an impossible to task to think that anyone theory can feasibly cover all the possibilities after all people are unique and their life experiences and choices are unique as well. Therefore, it is essential that you learn to analyze the career development theories by assessing both the strengths and limitations of each theory in an effort to provide guidance and sound decisions with your clients.

A comprehensive system of theories has developed since Parsons introduced his trait-factor approach in the early twentieth century (Leung, 2008). Today career development theories and interventions are grounded in a strong theoretical an empirical base. The task of the proponents of career development theory and interventions is to assure that the theories that develop consider a global perspective that is relevant across cultures.  Leung suggests that although all individuals are influenced by a number of factors related to work some unique to a particular group or culture there are many factors that all individuals share in common e.g., problems with employment and unemployment and thus, it is important to consider career development theories and interventions from a global perspective.

Trait Theory

Parsons developed his theory in the early 1900s; central to Parson’s theory is that each individual has unique abilities, interests and personality characteristics and values. Parsons suggested that occupational decision making occurs when people achieve the following:

· an accurate understanding of their individual traits (aptitudes, interests, personal  interests, personal abilities)

· a knowledge of jobs and the labor market

· rational and objective judgment about the relationship between their individual traits, and the labor market (Parson’s Theory, n.d., Para 2).

Parson’s theory posits that each job has specific aspects that are necessary to perform the functions of the job and assumes that an individual’s abilities, personality characteristics, values, and abilities match particular jobs (Parsons, 1909). That is, individuals fit a job based on the match of the job requirements or specific aspects needed to perform the job and the individual’s traits. In other words, an individual’s traits and particular job requirements align to make the best fit for a person and consequently, result in an individual’s satisfaction and success with a particular job. Finally, Parsons believed that career counselors were fundamental to a person’s job search success. He suggested that the counselor and client would go through a series of seven stages:

1. Personal data: create a statement of key facts about the person, remembering to include every fact that has bearing on the vocational problem.

2. Self-analysis: a self-examination is done in private and under the instruction of the counselor. Every tendency and interest that might impact on the choice of a life work should be recorded.

3. The client’s own choice and decision: this may show itself in the first two stages. The counselor must bear in mind that the choice of vocation should be made by the client, with the counselor acting as guide.

4. Counselor’s analysis: the counselor tests the client’s decision to see if it is in line with the “main quest”.

5. Outlook on the vocational field: the counselor should be familiar with industrial knowledge such as lists and classifications of industries and vocations, in addition to locations of training and apprenticeships.

6. Induction and advice: a broad-minded attitude coupled with logical and clear reasoning are critical at this stage.

7. General helpfulness: the counselor helps the client to fit into the chosen work, and to reflect on the decision (Parson’s Theory, n.d., Para 4).

Although Parson’s theory is used today criticism relative to matching a person with a particular job suggests stability in the labor market when in fact, the labor market is anything but stable.

Developmental Theory

Super suggested the idea that people pursue career choices that support their understanding of themselves and self-concept. Super believed that an individual’s vocational development is essentially the process of developing self-concept. In other words, as an individual becomes more aware and their self-concept becomes more stable an individual’s vocational choices and behavior follow thus, people choose careers that promote their self-concept and the individual’s satisfaction and job success is related to degree to which they have been able to express their self-concept. Additionally, as these ideas change for an individual so does the individual’s interests.

Super suggests that this is a process that begins when people first start to explore careers; called crystallization and occurs between the ages of 14 to 18 years old. The specification and implementation stages occur by the time an individual is 24 years old. At this time the individual has narrowed their choices and by 35 years of age stabilization occurs where the individual refines their skills and Super considered the person at their peak. Once the person reaches their peak the focus is placed on maintaining their career, Super called this the stabilization phase and continues through the final phase, consolidation at age 55, when individuals prepare to retire.

The developmental approach to career development offers the opportunity for change and has been used extensively in the 21st century.

Holland’s Career Typology

Holland proposed his model in 1959, and his model is based on the premise that an individual’s career choice is tied to six categories of environments and personality. Holland’s emphasis was on personality types which he believed was the primary factor in an individual’s career choice (Pennsylvania DOE, 2006). Holland’s six categories include: artistic, conventional, enterprising, investigative, realistic and social.

Artistic – literary, musical, artistic activities, emotional, creative, open High traits – expressive, creative, spontaneous Low traits – orderly, efficient, conventional, social, masculine Occupations – artist, musician, poet, interior designer, writer

Conventional – rules and routines, provide order or direct structure, great self control, respect power and status, punctual, orderly High traits – stable, efficient, dependable, controlle Low traits – intellectual, adventurous, creative Occupations – bank teller, clerk typist, cashier, data entry Enterprising – verbally skilled, persuasive, direct, leader, dominant High traits – ambitious, adventurous, energetic Low traits – intellectual, creative, feminine Occupations – lawyer, business executive, politician, TV producer Investigative – thought, analytical approaches, explore, knowledge, ideas, not social High traits – scholarly, intellectual, critical Low traits – powerful, ambitious, adventurous Occupations – biologist, chemist, dentist, veterinarian, programmer

Realistic – work with hands, machines, tools, active, practical, adventurous.  High traits – practical, masculine, stable.  Low traits – sensitive, feminine, stable Occupations – construction, farming, architecture, truck driving, mail carrier

Social – train, inform, educate, help, supportive, avoid technical skills, empathy, relationships High traits – cooperative, friendly, humanistic Low traits – ambitious, creative,     strong, Occupations – social work, counseling, police officer, LPN (Pennsylvania DOE, 2006, p. 2). Holland’s theory has a number of common themes including the notion that an individual’s occupational choice is not random rather is an expression of personality; individuals of the different groups have similar personality characteristics; people from the different occupational groups respond similarly to problems; and congruence between personality and job environment are dependent on occupational achievement, stability and satisfaction (Pennsylvania DOE, 2006).

Finally, Holland suggests that People seek work environments that allow them to use their skills and abilities, take on agreeable roles and problems, and express their values and attitudes. As a result, an employee’s behavior is driven by the interaction between his personality and occupational environment” (Pennsylvania DOE, 2006, p. 2).

Social Cognitive Career Theory

In the 1990s, social cognitive career theory was developed based on the cognitive approaches that suggested people are responsible for how their lives. The focus of social cognitive career theory is on self-efficacy and the level of achievement based on outcome expectations and goals. In other words, the notion that when an individual believes a particular behavior will return a desired result the individual is more likely to engage in that particular behavior. Likewise, if the individual is confident in her ability to achieve a particular goal she is more likely to engage in actions that will lead to success in reaching that goal.

Social Learning Theory of Career Decision Making

Social learning theory of career decision making (SLTCDM) was developed into the learning theory of career counseling (LTCC)(Bimrose,2011). In fact, the updated theory incorporates a more pragmatic perspective and encompasses an explanation of the origins of career choice and what career counselors might do about career related issues. Krumboltz integrated the role of happenstance in career decision making and considered social learning theory of Bandura (Bimrose). Including instrumental learning and associative learning. Instrumental learning results from direct experiences where the individual is either reinforced or punished for a behavior; Associative Learning occurs when a previously neutral event or stimulus is associated and reinforced with an emotionally laden stimulus; and vicarious learning occurs through observation when new behaviors and skills are observed by others or through media or books. The emphasis of Krumboltz theory is based on the counselor teaching the client career decision-making alternatives and triadic reciprocal interaction i.e., learning that takes place with interactions with the environment and genetic endowment emphasizing the role of instrumental and associated learning. Reinforcement and modeling are key to the counseling process. In other words, the counselor identifies inaccurate beliefs the client may have about the decision making process and assists the client in correcting the misconceptions or errors in beliefs.

Krumboltz considered the influence of 4 categories each unique to the individual. The first category, genetic endowment and special abilities include factors such as race, gender, physical appearance and characteristics, these differ from person to person in their ability to benefit from learning experiences and are based on inherited qualities.

Environmental conditions and events considered social, cultural, political and economic factors and natural forces and resources. These can be planned or unplanned and most are often outside the control of the individual.

Learning experiences are an individual and unique history of learning experiences that lead to occupational choice. However, the client may only remember general information from these rather than the sequence or specific character of their learning experiences and include both instrumental and associative learning experiences.

Finally task approach skills include the interactions between learning experiences, genetic characteristics, and environmental influences and include: personal standards of performance, work habits and emotional responses.

Mitchell and Krumboltz and Mitchell (1996) suggest that, “the Social Learning Theory of Careers Decision Making provides a coherent explanation of a person’s career path after it happens but it does not explain what a careers counselor can do to help people shape their own paths” (p. 250). Consequently the Learning theory of careers choice and counseling (LTCC) was developed in an effort to offer a guide for practitioners to assist clients who struggle with career related concerns.

Mitchell and Krumboltz (1996) identified four issues that clients cope with when making career choices: People need to expand their capabilities and interests; People need to prepare for changing work tasks; People need to be empowered to take action and Career Practitioners need to play an extended role in this process.

Chaos and Complexity Career Theory

When considering career development counseling it is necessary to consider the process and understand the need for career development interventions that assist people in becoming self-aware. This self-awareness needs to be connected to the client’s own decision-making skills, job search skills, occupational choices etc., and at the same time assure that the client is aware of the complexity and changeability of a chaotic society.  Chaos or complexity career theory denotes the need to understand that uncertainty and flexibility are common in today’s society (Bloch, 2005; Bright & Pryor, 2005; & Pryor & Bright, 2003). In other words, the chaos perspective suggests the need to consider both the individual and environment in a complex and dynamic manner (Amundson, 2011). In fact, it is irresponsible to make the assumption that either maintains a constant state. Rather unpredictability is more common with emerging and receding patterns and thus, a framework that considers a systems approach is more useful (Amundson). Consider that systems are even more complex and chaotic today and thus, unpredicted events are more plausible in society and certainly in the lives of anyone who works (Amundson). Furthermore, Amundson suggests that when considering career decision there are two processes that need to be considered:

…there can be convergence with a focus on the identification of ‘probable outcomes’ i.e. using standardized assessment methods, using logic, weighing the evidence. On the other hand, there is emergence and the encouragement of ‘possible outcomes’ i.e. intuition, qualitative assessment methods, hope, and optimism. Improving career decision making involves flexibility and the use of two complementary processes – the convergent (the probable) and divergent (the possible) (Para 8).

In summary, the chaos theory of career development focuses on the complexity, changeability and connectedness of components of career development.  The primary factors within chaos theory include: “…reviewing and reframing client expectations; exploring and engaging career development issues; encouraging and empowering career counseling outcomes for finding and constructing a career in a chaotic world” (Pryor, 2010, Para 1). Chaos theory provides a framework that combines both practice and theory.

Theory continues to evolve and many career theories have emerged including the social cognitive theory, cognitive information processing theory, the values-based model of career choice, and the integrative life-planning (Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2013). In addition, to address the subjective nature of a client’s experience a number of “postmodern” approaches to career development interventions have been developed (Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey).

Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2013) do a good job of summing up theory in today. It is apparent that “…we are experiencing a paradigm shift from theories based in logical positivism (e.g., trait-factor) to postmodern perspectives emphasizing subjectivity, perspectivity, and counselor-client collaboration in career development interventions” (Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey 2013, p. 116). As mentioned earlier in this piece, it seems an impossible to task to think that anyone theory can feasibly cover all the possibilities, however, because there is a multitude of perspectives emerging the field benefits and becomes stronger as a result. Each theory has limitations and strengths it behooves you to consider these as we go through the course in an effort for you to make sound decisions about what will work best for you and your clients and even develop your own personal theory that suits you.


Bimrose, J. (2011). Learning theory of careers choice & counselling. Retrieved  http://www.guidance- (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. Links to an external site.

Hesketh, B., & Rounds, J. (1995). International cross-cultural approaches to career development. In W.         B. Walsh & S. H. Osipow (Eds.), Handbook of vocational psychology: Theory, research, and         practice (2nd ed., pp. 367–390). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Leung, A. S. (2008). The big five career theories. In J. A. Athanasou & R. Esbroeck. (Eds.), International         Handbook of career guidance (pp.115-132). Netherlands: Springer

Mitchell, L.K. & Krumboltz, J.D. (1996) Krumboltz’s Learning Theory of Career Choice and Counseling in         Brown, D., Brooks, L. & Associates (Eds) (3rd ed.). Career Choice and Development San         Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass Niles, S. & Harris-Bowlsbey, J. (2013). Career development interventions in the 21st Century (3rd ed.).         Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill

Parsons, F. (1909). Choosing a vocation. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin

Parson’s Theory (n.d.) Careers in New Zealand. Retrieved (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.       practitioners/career-practice/career-theory-models/parsons-theory/

Pennsylvania Department of Education (2006). Career Education & Work(CEW)Standards Toolkit.         Retrieved (Links to an external site.)

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