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The history of interest inventories and career assessments in career counseling.

Interest inventories and career assessments continue to be used to support practitioners as they work to uncover client interests, abilities, skills, motivations, values, and other personal factors that help individuals self-define and construct their career. The skilled use of career inventories and assessments remains a minimum competency of career service providers' ability to successfully partner with their clients. A history of the evolution of assessment from 1914 through 1974 and considerations for the future of assessment are highlighted to provide historical perspective to inform practitioners as they serve the diverse needs of complex client populations.

Keywords: interest inventories, career assessment, career counseling, vocational goal

Although interest inventories have been a dominant career practitioner methodology for service delivery to clients, few have studied or recognized the changes that have occurred within these instruments over the years. As a significant component in the field of career counseling, career assessment can be seen as a "bridge from career development theory to practice, a method of operationalizing theoretical constructs by incorporating them into career interventions and, in particular, into tests and other measurements" (Whitfield, Feller, & Wood, 2009, p. 14). A history of the development of assessments, tools, and interventions allows us to understand motivations, trends, and environmental/social/ political factors that have affected how we historically and currently serve clients. Practitioner knowledge of the evolution of assessment in the field of career counseling is critical to inform how career counselors move forward to ensure that clients remain the top priority as career counselors continue to innovate and develop career services.

With an ever-changing U.S. workplace and economic environment, clients face a future where 63% of all jobs will require a postsecondary education, more than one third of all job openings will not require a college degree, one third of the jobs will require 1 month or less of on-the-job experience to fully qualify, and only 76% of public high school students will earn a diploma within 4 years of entering the ninth grade (otherwise stated, 1 million students will fail to earn a high school diploma each year; Rumberger, 2011). In reaction to these factors, career counselors may search for additional applications of inventories to cope with and support their clients, which increasingly include returning veterans, laid-off workers, and students leaving school with skills deficits and heavy debt.

To serve the complex needs of diverse client populations, career practitioners will benefit from a history of the evolution of assessment from 1914 through 1974, past uses of available resources, and key takeaways that inform the future of assessment on a global level. The majority of inventories in this history are out of print. Inventories that continue to be in use or were developed in the second half of the history (beyond 1974) are referenced for the reader to obtain more information in the National Career Development Association's (NCDA) A Counselor's Guide to Career Assessment Instruments (hereinafter referred to as A Counselor's Guide; Whitfield et al., 2009).

Early Pioneers of Interest Inventories

This history begins with Jesse Davis (1914) publishing the Student Vocational Self Analysis for all public school 10th graders. Davis systemized an analysis of self-awareness to occupations process. Although Davis was an educator, a principal in the Detroit and Grand Rapids public schools, the majority of the authors to follow were psychologists serving primarily adult and college student clients. In 1917, the first of these psychologists, James Miner, studied whether students' preferences were their own or due to teachers' influence and he then went on to develop interest questions with weighted scores. Brewer's (1942) History of Vocational Guidance described Miner's work extensively and cited his questionnaire on interests as "the forerunner of Strong's later researches" (p. 203).

The Carnegie Institute of Technology Era

The Carnegie Interest Inventory (1920) was the first standardized interest inventory published by the Carnegie Institute of Technology's Bureau of Personnel Research in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It had no authors and used the same directions, questions, and interpretations for all forms of the inventory. Prior to this (a logical sequence to Miner's work), in 1919, Clarence Yoakum ran a seminar on how to measure interests where students developed 1,000 survey questions, many of which can be found throughout today's inventories. In 1921, Bruce Moore expanded interest inventories even further by using the Carnegie Interest Inventory to differentiate such interests/occupations as sales engineers from design engineers. Max Freyd quickly followed, in 1923, by recognizing gender differences and developing separate instruments for men, with 80 occupations listed, and women, with 67 occupations listed. Then, in 1924, Karl Crowdery became the first to separate occupational groups by their interests with the use of different question formats and seven classifications of items: 84 occupational titles, 25 school subjects, 34 hobbies and amusements, 23 miscellaneous activities, 78 types of people, six kinds of pets, and 13 kinds of reading. In fact, Crowdery developed 182 items (questions) and their formats, which were used in Strong's 1927 inventory. During this intensified developmental period, E. K. Strong worked at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, and, in 1923, he was recruited to Stanford University. Two resources that further explore the Carnegie era are Fryer's (1931) The Measurement of Interests and Fryer and Henry's (1950) Handbook of Applied Psychology. Across the decades to come, the publication and utilization of Strong's work accelerated and became a dominant influence within the field.

An Early Stabilization Period and the Influence of the Strong Interest Inventory

E. K. Strong developed The Strong Vocational Interest Blank (SVIB), which was published in 1927 by Stanford University Press, in Stanford, California, and The Vocational Interest Blank for Women in 1933. Strong used the same eight types of items for both genders: occupational titles, school subjects, hobbies and amusements, occupational activities, kinds of people, forced choice of preferences and activities, and self-identification with various personal characteristics. The first page of the SVIB asserts that "it is possible with a fair degree of accuracy to determine by this test whether one would like certain occupations or not" (Strong, 1927, p. 1).

Strong's adherence to empirical methodology for occupational scale development primarily sets it apart from most other interest inventories, "though the techniques have varied slightly in the various forms, the method remains essentially the same" (Strong & Campbell, 1966, p. 26). Each occupational scale has been developed by contrasting the SVIB responses of men for a specified occupation (the criterion sample) with a group of men in general, representing a sample of men from many diverse occupations. Each scale contains items that discriminate between interests of these two groups; thus, a person's score provides an index of similarity between his interests and the characteristic interests of men in the designated occupation. The women's occupational scales were developed the same way.

Key differences in editions have been the number of occupational similarity/dissimilarity indices reported; for example, in 1938, 34 were reported, in 1945, 49 were reported, and in 1966, 54 were reported. In 1974, the Strong--Campbell Interest Inventory (SCII) moved away from separate gender-specific booklets as a means of eliminating sex bias and promoting more equal gender treatment. The items for the SVIB--SCII were, with nvo exceptions, taken from the earlier Strong booklets, either from the men's form, published in 1966, or the women's form, published in 1968 (Campbell, 1974, p. 5). At this time, John Holland's theory was integrated within the instrument's framework. A complete overview of this instrument can be found in NCDA's A Counselor's Guide (Whitfield et al., 2009, p. 309).

Expansionary Exploration Period

Simultaneously, through Strong's influence in the previously outlined period, the foundation of career assessment continued to expand through the development and utilization of various tools to support occupational guidance and career counseling. In 1931, the University of Michigan School of Business Administration at Ann Arbor published Grace Manson's Occupational Interests and Personality Requirements of Woman in Business. This instrument was a revision of the Carnegie Interest Inventory, consisting of two parts: 160 occupational titles commonly open to women and 30 personality traits of items from job analysis and job requirements of specific occupations. Interpretation of this instrument shows the extent that a person's scores are above or below an average score for 10 occupational groups: private secretary, office manager, bookkeeper, stenographer, office clerk, high school teacher, grade school teacher, nurse, sales proprietor, and retail sales women. Manson's contribution highlighted the role of personality in career counseling, extensive research on the development of scoring keys, and validation work.

Later, in 1937, Bruce Le Suer developed the Occupations Interest Blank, which was published by The Psychological Corporation in New York, New York. The instrument was developed for high school boys and included 100 occupations printed on one page on which a student checked if he liked, had no decided feelings, or disliked the job. The assessment took 10 minutes to score, and interpretation was a comparison to a specific job or to the highest total score on 10 areas: professional, technical, clerical, sales, artistic/creative, skilled trades, semiskilled work, adventuresome work, personal service, and agricultural occupations.

In 1947, the University of Chicago's Psychometric Laboratory published L. L. Thurstone's An Interest Schedule. This was the first time an assessment was theory based, and statistical factors played a dominant role in test development. Thurstone combined Eduard Spranger's six types of men theory (Spranger, 1928) with the results of his factor-analytic research showing that physical and biological sciences were distinct. The instrument generated 10 career fields: physical science, biological sciences, computation, business, executive, persuasive, linguistic, humanitarian, artistic, and manual. The instrument was self-scoring, used raw scores, de-emphasized norms, and introduced an ipsative scoring methodology.

In contrast to Thurstone's ipsative method, Bertram Forer (1948) developed the Diagnostic Interest Blank based on a projective methodology with 80 incomplete sentences scored on the following: reactions to authorities, coworkers, criticism, challenge, taking orders, responsibility, causes of aggression, anxiety, failure, job turnover, and vocational goals. Introduction of this information was certainly additive, leading to more holistic and more personal interpretations. As career assessments and inventories continued to develop within graduate school programs and their use with younger people was encouraged, the field shifted to emphasize a commercially focused approach to the publication of these resources.

Beginning_of the Commercial Publication Period

Science Research Associates, a subsidiary of IBM in Chicago, Illinois published Frederic Kuder's Kudcr Preference Record in 1940 and The Kuder Occupational Survey, Form DD in 1956. There were several forms of the Preference Record. They included seven scales to which mechanical and clerical occupations were later added. In 1948, the Kuder Preference Record, Vocational, Form C, proved to have the greatest use. It had 10 scales: Science, Computational, Art, Music, Literary, Social, Persuasive, Clerical, Mechanical, and Outdoors. Research-based interest inventories could be faked, so a verification scale was included in the instrument to identify people who were intentionally trying to make a good impression and manipulate results. The item format of a triad with three choices, where the respondent selected the most liked option and the least liked option, was a unique contribution. A separate interpretive booklet displayed a listing of appropriate related occupations for each of the two highest interest scales.

Form DD incorporated a new approach that produced a machine-scored report and the publisher claimed that "it can now be said with considerable confidence that a person's pattern of interest is, for example, more like that typical of chemists than of pediatricians, or more like that of electricians" (Kuder & Diamond, 1966, p. 1). The report also showed the degree of relationship between interest patterns with college majors, with different profiles being used for men and women. A predictive research study over a 12- to 19-year interval found that slightly more than 50% of 882 participants were in occupations that would have been suggested by their Form DD report results (Kuder & Diamond, 1966). In addition, a complete overview of this instrument can be found in NCDA's A Counselor's Guide (Whitfield et al., 2009, p. 163).

In 1943, McKnight and McKnight published Glenn Cleeton's The Cleeton Vocational Interest Inventory in Bloomington, Indiana, which included separate forms for men and women. The inventory introduced several noteworthy features, including a 700-item inventory that represented a good collection of items used in inventories at this time period, expressed stated choice of job types, and interviewed people for their preferences toward people and things. Interpretation suggested advice or recommendations in four areas that included vocational, educational, health, and personal adjustment. Interpretive material displayed clear connections between jobs, school subjects, and personal characteristics to provide a more holistic interpretation.

A Prolific Period: Nine New Instruments From 19S6 to 1974

The context that surrounds the advent of nine new instruments in this prolific period was the following: professionals and the public recognized the need for and accepted interest inventories, universities invested in students to construct instruments and encouraged their students to use them, and companies accepted interest inventories as products worthy for investment.

Lee and Thorpe developed The Occupational Interest Inventory published by the California Test Bureau in Los Angeles, California, in 1956. An Intermediate and an Advanced Form were available, and each instrument had 120 descriptions of work and 30 activities in a triadic format. Its uniqueness was the introduction of the level of interest and groups of occupations that were differentiated by the amount of proficiency required in verbal, mechanical manipulation, and computation. Job level was based on degrees of responsibility, capacity, and skill needed, and scores were reported in gender-based percentiles.

The U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, DC, published its Interest Checklist in 1957 and revised it in 1967 and 1979 when the U.S. Department of Labor structures for delivering occupational information changed. Thus, when the third edition of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT; U.S. Department of Labor, 1965) was published, this necessitated the need for the 1967 revision of the Interest Checklist. The Interest Checklist is self-administered with no scales and takes approximately 20 minutes to complete, with the options of selecting like, don't like, or not certain for each item. In 1961, Leonard Gordon designed the Gordon Occupational Checklist (published by Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., in New York, New York) to assess those who were not college bound. Based on Anne Roe's (1956) Two-Way Classification of Occupations, the Gordon Occupational Checklist used five groups: business, outdoors, arts, technology, and science, and the levels of degree of autonomy and the level of skill and training required by an occupation. The assessment was easy to use: Individuals simply underlined the activity that they wanted to perform in a job, and each of the 240 activities was then related to a specific job.

The Educational Test Service in Princeton, New Jersey, published the Interest Index in 1961; it was unique because it was an interest measure integrated within an aptitude test for students entering 2-year community colleges, with items focused on academic-related activities. The 1971 edition included 176 items and 11 scales: Health, Business, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Engineering Technology, Biology, Home Economics, Secretarial, Social Sciences, The Arts, and Music. Scores for this index were reported as raw scores.

The Guilford--Zimmerman Interest Inventory was developed by Wayne Zimmerman and Joan Guilford, published by Sheridan Supply Company in Beverly Hills, California, in 1963 to identify areas that bring the most satisfaction. Avocational and personal satisfaction areas are measured through items with high reading levels and are reported on 10 scales: Mechanical, Natural, Aesthetic, Services, Clerical, Mercantile, Leadership, Literary, Scientific, and Creative. Items are rated on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from definitely dislike to definitely like.

The Minnesota Vocational Interest Inventory, by Kenneth Clark, was published in 1965 by The Psychological Corporation of New York, New York, for vocational students, noncollege attendees, apprenticeship candidates, and students who drop out. It included 158 items for individuals to select the most and least liked activities in triadic form. The inventory was scored like the Strong Interest Inventory, with specific occupations that empirically differentiated a group from a Tradesman-in-General group. Illustrative scales are Baker, Printer, Carpenter, Plumber, Machinist, and Electrician.

Additionally, in 1965, Consulting Psychologists Press in Palo Alto, California, published John L. Holland's Vocational Preference Inventory (VPI). Although the instrument's primary purpose was to assess personality, it has also been used as an interest inventory. The VPI is composed entirely of occupational titles. This is significant because of its long history in career guidance and its being a part of the Self-Directed Search. A similar version of the VPI was copyrighted in 1961 in the National Merit Student Survey, and, in 1968, Holland incorporated it in the ACT Guidance Profile. Holland (1965) highlighted that "selected VPI scales are predictive of academic and extracurricular achievements for one- to three-year intervals. Generally, these predictions are inefficient although they are statistically significant" (p. 13). For more information, a complete overview of this instrument can be found in NCDA's A Counselor's Guide (Whitfield et al., 2009, p. 296).

The Ohio Vocational Interest Survey, created by D'Costa, Winefordner, Odgers, and Koons, was published by The Psychological Corporation located in New York, New York, in 1968. These authors plotted the Data-People-Things values of jobs in the U.S. Department of Labor DOT and categorized them into homogenous clusters. From these clusters, they developed 24 scales: Manual Work; Machine Work; Personal Work; Caring for People or Animals; Clerical Work; Inspecting and Testing; Crafts and Precise Operations; Customer Services; Nursing and Related Technical Services; Skilled Personal Services; Training; Literary; Numerical; Appraisal; Agriculture; Applied Technology; Promotion and Communication; Management and Supervision; Artistic; Sales Representative; Music; Entertainment and Performing Arts; Teaching, Counseling, and Social Work; and Medical. The second edition, in 1980, updated the occupational information components based on changes in the U.S. Department of Labor's 1977 DOT and the 1979 Guide for Occupational Exploration.

Robert Knapp and Lila Knapp's California Occupational Preference System (COPS) was published by Educational and Industrial Testing Service in San Diego, California, in 1974, and was originally published as an interest inventory along with Career Briefs, which were integrated into the COPS interpretation. The COPS continues to be developed, with later editions published up to 2004. The NCDA most recently listed the system as COP System Career Guidance Program in A Counselor's Guide (Whitfield et al., 2009). The COPS's three instruments are designed to provide individuals with coordinated measures of interests, abilities, and work values within eight major career clusters. COPS has 168 activity items and takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Scores are reported in percentiles compared with norms for 14 career clusters (scale names): Science Professional, Science Skilled, Technology Professional, Technology Skilled, Consumer Economics, Outdoor, Business Professional, Business Skilled, Clerical, Communication, Arts Professional, Arts Skilled, Service Professional, and Service Skilled. The 14 clusters resulted from factor analysis. Different forms are available for college students and adults, those with a fourth-grade reading level and special education populations, as well as middle school students and above. A complete overview of this instrument can be found in NCDA's A Counselor's Guide (Whitfield et al., 2009, p. 119).

Reflection on Historical Takeaways That Inform the Future of Career Assessment

In the first author's experience, the most effective components of career/employment counseling are the people who provide it. Positive orientation, flexibility, competence, good mental health, and competency to work creatively with customers/clients are not only helpful, but critical assets for all practitioners within the field. The basis of this belief is the overwhelming ratio of those in need of services in comparison to the number of service providers available. The first author reflected on the use of interest inventories to deliver minimum competencies in order to effectively provide career services to all contractual clients so as to allow for time to serve those in greater need. Competent career counseling is challenging and complex, with additional factors presenting themselves as part of the counseling service desired. Changing and diversified client needs may be moving practices away from where some practitioners feel most comfortable, such as primarily providing information, and are challenging professionals to expand their competencies and tackle new developmental issues. With an ever-changing and challenging marketplace, counselors are not just working with a person who is unemployed but are also forced to attend to the anger the person projects and his or her feelings about concerns such as insufficient fluids to support a desired living or lifestyle. Although counselors are accustomed to working with those with inadequate skills for employment and poorly defined goals, evidence now indicates that a client's significant difficulty maintaining relationships will negatively affect a counselor's effectiveness in job placement if this issue is not addressed.

Integration of abilities along with the use of interests will increase more so in the future. Behaviorally, what a person can do well translates to skills that one possesses and will be important to communicate to others. Abilities are also critical components of self-concepts.

This more holistic perspective fits with a more comprehensive/multidimensional portrayal that computers and technology can deliver. Current instruments that highlight the importance of abilities are the Harrington--O'Shea Career Decision-Making System--Revised by O'Shea and Feller; the COPSystem Career Guidance Program developed by Knapp, Knapp, and Knapp-Lee; the 0 * NET (Occupational Information Network) Ability Profiler created by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration; and the Ability Explorer by Harrington, Harrington, and Wall (Whitfield et al., 2009).

The third edition of the Ability Explorer--developed by Harrington, Harrington, and Wall in 2012 with JIST Publishing, Inc., in Indianapolis, Indiana--assesses individuals' 16 career-related abilities. The underlying theory asserts that people can improve their abilities somewhat through additional activities/experiences, both inside and outside of school. Interpretive materials display the two or three empirically determined abilities needed for performance of a specific occupation. Users observe the match between their current ability levels and the skills identified as needing improvement for a desired occupation. This approach is described for those practitioners who do not want the computer to do all of the client's work in clarifying self-concepts and uncovering any lack of information needed to identify occupations, serving as an alternative for teaching people how to manage their career development.


Twenty inventories were presented with many different forms tailored for specific audiences, with the intent to show the creative thinking of past practitioners that may relate to the diverse populations that career counselors are now being asked to serve. Enlightened career practitioners and inventory administrators are critical for effective service delivery to provide staff with copies of and training in alternative instruments, because the one-size-only approach does not fit all.

The following highlights an important challenge of interest-focused inventories and assessments in career development:
  Similarly, although a man's performance on the job
  depends on his abilities and motivation, whether or
  not he stays on the job will largely reflect whether
  he likes or dislikes it. For this reason, interest
  ratings are better indices of job persistence than
  of job success. In most selection techniques, too
  much attention is given to efficiency and too little
  to satisfaction and enjoyment--what does it avail
  us if our trainee becomes an immediate success but
  then leaves the job? (Campbell, 1969, p. 1)

The second half of this history is found in NCDA's A Counselor's Guide, the most recent being the fifth edition (Whitfield et al., 2009). This book is a living up-to-date reference, including updates and advances to current additions, as well as validation information, which serves as the most critical information needed to assess an instrument. The combination of insights into the first half of the history within this article and the extensive summary of reviews of assessment in A Counselor's Guide fill a regrettable gap of testing and career assessment textbooks, which provide coverage of only several interest inventories and neglect the expansive richness of this major service delivery tool within the field (Whitfield et al., 2009).

A significant foundation of career assessment exists to inform practitioners by providing additional insights, information, and resources to support client growth and awareness. As the profession moves forward faced with an increasingly global world and evolving workplace,
  the question relative to career assessment is: do
  our current instruments measure personal flexibility,
  commitment to continuous learning, comfort with cultural
  diversity, ability to work in tearns willingness to
  engage in multitasking, selfinitiative, the ability
  to be creative, and the motivation to be responsible
  for one's own career development? (Whitfield et al.,
  2009, p. 17)

Received 07/31/12

Revised 08/26/12

Accepted 08/26/12

DOI: 10.1002/j.2161-0045.2013.00039.x

[C] 2013 kw the National Career Development Association. All rights reserved.


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Thomas Harrington, Department of Counseling and Applied Psychology, Northeastern University; Jennifer Long, Career Management Center at the College of Business, Colorado State University. Correspondence concerning this article should he addressed to Thomas Harrington, 16 White Pine Road, Needham, MA 02492 (e-mail:
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Author:Harrington, Thomas; Long, Jennifer
Publication:Career Development Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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