ERIC Identifier: ED260370
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Johnston, Joe A. - Heppner, Mary J.
Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Adult Career Development: An Overview. Highlights: An ERIC/CAPS
A decade ago adult career development would have generated little debate or
interest. Traditional wisdom said that individuals chose careers in their late
teens and early 20s and pursued them until retirement. Career planning, if any,
occurred in high school.
Today, however, attitudes, practices, and theories are changing, and career
planning professionals are being asked to provide assistance to people of all
ages and at all stages of career development.
The need for adult career planning services is due, in large part, to
demographic factors. Life expectancy has increased from 47 years in 1900 to 74
today. The "baby boomers," born between 1946 and 1964, have flooded the labor
market. The number of people aged 65 and older also has increased by 35 percent
in the last two decades. Over 30,000 Americans are over 100; 2.2 million are
over 85 (Hodgkinson 1984).
The impact of women on educational institutions and the paid labor force has
been significant. In 1950 fewer than 5 percent of all women aged 25 and older
possessed college degrees; in 1980, 13 percent did (Spain and Nock 1984).
"Older" women (35+) outnumber older men by almost 2 to 1 in their return to
institutions of higher education, and the enrollment of both older groups has
increased to 36.8 percent in five years (Magarrell 1981). Women's pursuit of
professional degrees also has sharply increased in the last three decades; for
example, from 4 to 30 percent in the field of law (Spain and Nock 1984).
In the labor force, the number of women has increased 109 percent since 1960,
compared to 36 percent for men. By 1995, 80 percent of women aged 20-45 are
predicted to be working in the paid labor force. Women with children under age
six have increased their participation from 19 percent in 1960 to 50 percent in
1983 (Robey and Russell 1984).
TECHNOLOGICAL AND OTHER FACTORS
More job titles are available today -- 40,000 with the last census -- and
many of them did not exist when current adult workers were making initial career
decisions. The fastest percentage gains occur predominantly in the high-tech
fields: computer service technicians up 96.8 percent, computer systems analysts
up 85.3 percent, programmers up 76.9 percent, and operators up 75.8 percent
(Robey and Russell 1984).
Other factors creating the need for adult career planning services include:
legal changes, such as affirmative action and mandatory retirement laws;
psychological concerns about meaning and identity in work; and economic
circumstances requiring dual-career or dual-paycheck couples. The traditional
pattern of the bread-winning father, the homemaking mother, and two or more
school-aged children accounted for only 11 percent of families in 1980, compared
to 60 percent in 1955.
NEW SERVICE AGENCIES
As new groups are seeking career services, new agencies are emerging to
attend to unique and different concerns. Colleges and universities are expanding
career services for adults coming or returning to school, but they account for
only one-fifth (12 million) of the total number of adults being educated today.
Forty-six million adults are being educated by other agencies or by
employers. The federal government, for example, participates through the
military, equity legislation for women and minorities, programs for attracting
women into nontraditional occupations, national and state information systems,
reemployment programs, displaced homemaker centers, and college reentry
Business and industry now spend between $30 and $40 billion on the education
and training of adults. These adults are not seeking more of the same services
provided to adolescents, but services unique to their own needs. Career planning
services in the workplace, a redefinition of employee assistance programs to
include career services, assessment centers in business and even in shopping
centers, outplacement centers and the like are all logical extensions of a
changing population seeking new services.
DIAGNOSTIC AND ASSESSMENT INSTRUMENTS
At least three relatively new diagnostic instruments have been developed to
help interpret vocational status: My Vocational Situation (Holland, Daiger, and
Power 1980); The Vocational Decision Scale (Jones and Chenery 1980); and The
Career Decision Scale (Osipow, Carney, and Barak 1976). Appropriate assessments
for adults must take into account that these individuals are often years removed
from their formal schooling systems and need to incorporate work experience into
Assessing prior learning and identifying skills that can be transferred from
one job to another are examples of this appropriateness. Job-stress related
instruments, self-directed instruments (for example, Self-Directed Search, Quick
Job Hunting Map, Career Decision Making System, Micro-SKILLS) and computerized
assessments are also appropriate. However the assessment process is defined, it
is important to recognize that adults prefer maintaining control and exercising
What is new is exemplified by the computerized interventions being marketed
to adults. American College Testing introduced an adult version of DISCOVER
(1984), and Educational Testing Service modified their SIGI ("SYSTEM OF
INTERACTION..." 1984) to address adult concerns. Skill assessment, resume
writing and job interviewing, job stress exercises, people management tasks, and
general personal development ideas are some of the available software programs.
Online assessments and interactive interventions for particular skills are
commonplace and improving all the time. It will be important for counselors to
help adults sort out the most effective programs for them.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
DISCOVER FOR THE ADULT LEARNER. Iowa City, IA: American College Testing
Hodgkinson, H. FROM JOGGING TO HIKING: MIDDLE-AGED PEOPLE, JOBS, COMPANIES,
SCHOOLS, ASPIRATIONS, DEMOGRAPHICS. Speech presented at Education and Training
for Human Development Conference, Memphis, TN, June, 1984.
Holland, J., D. Daiger, and P. Power. MY VOCATIONAL SITUATION. Palo Alto, CA:
Consulting Psychological Press, 1980.
Jones, L. K., and M. F. Chenery. "Multiple Subtypes among Vocationally
Undecided College Students: A Model and Assessment Instrument." JOURNAL OF
COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY 27 (1980):469-477.
Magarrell, J. "The Enrollment Boom Among Older Americans." THE CHRONICLE OF
HIGHER EDUCATION, May 4, 1981, p. 3.
Osipow, S. H., C. G. Carney, and A. Barak. "A Scale of Educational-Vocational
Undecidedness: A Typological Approach." JOURNAL OF VOCATIONAL BEHAVIOR 9
Robey, B., and C. Russell. "A Portrait of the American Worker." AMERICAN
DEMOGRAPHICS 6 (1984):17-21.
Spain, D., and S. Nock. "Two Career Couples, a Portrait." AMERICAN
DEMOGRAPHICS 6 (1984):24-27.
SYSTEM OF INTERACTION GUIDANCE AND INFORMATION PLUS. Princeton, NJ:
Educational Testing Service, 1984.