ERIC Identifier: ED391107
Publication Date: 1995-01-30
Author: Hartung, Paul J.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Assessing Career Certainty and Choice Status. ERIC Digest.
Career certainty refers to the degree to which individuals feel confident, or
decided, about their occupational plans. The construct proves elusive to explain
clearly unless considered in terms of the larger domain of career decision
making and, specifically, career indecision. Research has yielded a variety of
instruments useful for assessing career indecision. These instruments typically
include a measure of career certainty by using one or two items that in part
comprise a larger inventory that surveys career choice status. These measures
give counselors important practical tools for appraising clients' career choice
status as a step in assisting clients to alleviate their career indecision.
Measures of career certainty and indecision also provide researchers with a
means of determining the efficacy of career counseling interventions.
Parsons (1909) pioneered the study and assessment of career certainty and
career indecision. In his work, he classified people into career-decided (i.e.,
certain) and career-undecided (i.e., uncertain) groups. Some years later,
Williamson (1937) discounted empirically the then widely-held belief that
certainty of vocational choice predicts scholastic achievement. As part of his
research, Williamson asked students reporting definite vocational choices to
rate themselves as very certain, certain, or uncertain about their choices.
Research such as Williamson's that used Parsons' dichotomous model to study
career-decided and career-undecided groups produced mixed and inconsistent
results. Some studies found that decided and undecided people showed significant
personality or performance differences, whereas other studies found no
differences between these two groups (see Slaney, 1988a for a review). As one
way of resolving these inconsistent findings, researchers reconceptualized
undecided people as comprising different sub-types and turned to developing
psychometric instruments that would assess degree of and reasons for career
uncertainty. Work by Savickas (1992) suggests that these measures now constitute
two generations of instrument development.
First-generation measures of
career choice status yield total indecision scores. Such instruments, although
not multidimensional by design, have generated considerable research on
identifying multiple subtypes of undecided people and developing differential
interventions for each type.
Initially called the Types Questionnaire, the "Career Decision Scale" (CDS;
Osipow, Carney, Winer, Yanico, & Koschier, 1976) ranks as the prototypical
first-generation measure. The original title of the CDS reflected the purpose of
the instrument to scale various decisional problem types and to measure
antecedents of career indecision. Although predated by other measures, such as
the "Vocational Decision Making Difficulty" scale (VDMD; Holland, Gottfredson,
& Nafziger, 1973), the CDS represents the earliest published attempt to
assess level of and reasons for career indecision.
The CDS emerged from work beginning in a graduate seminar and evolved from an
initial 14 items to its current 19-item format. Items one and two comprise the
Certainty Scale and assess respondents' decidedness about, respectively, their
career and academic major choices. Respondents rate themselves on these two
items according to their levels of certainty and perceived comfort with and
ability to implement their choices. Items 3-18 make up the Indecision Scale
which assesses reasons for career indecision and correlates negatively with the
Certainty Scale. Item 19 offers an open-ended response opportunity to clarify or
elaborate on responses to the 18 preceding items. Osipow et al. (1976) designed
the CDS primarily for high school and college students although, as Slaney
(1988a) notes, it has been adapted successfully for use with graduate students,
medical students, and non-traditional female college students. Extensive
evidence exists for the reliability as well as the construct and concurrent
validity of the measure (Slaney, 1988b). Counselors use the CDS to efficiently
gauge clients' levels of decidedness, reasons for indecision, and to plan
specific interventions based on item responses.
Many researchers have conducted factor-analytic studies of the CDS to
determine whether its items scale different dimensions of indecision. If the CDS
proved to measure different dimensions of indecision then counselors could use
it to identify not only general indecision levels but also specific barriers to
making career decisions. These factor analytic studies have fueled much debate
about the utility of the CDS for this purpose. The dispute over the validity of
the CDS as a multidimensional measure has produced a second generation of career
certainty and career indecision measures.
Recent years have witnessed the
emergence of a new age of career choice status measures. These measures differ
significantly from earlier instruments in that researchers developed these later
measures explicitly to assess multiple dimensions of career indecision. In so
doing, these measures expanded Parsons' original model by operationally defining
indecision as a multidimensional construct.
A revision of the "Vocational Decision Scale, the Career Decision Profile"
(CDP; Jones, 1989) typifies measures designed specifically to scale different
dimensions of career indecision and career choice status. Jones (1989) based the
CDP on his and a colleague's earlier vocational decision status model. He showed
in his initial validity study of the CDP that the vocational decision status
model, consisting of three dimensions, "provides a clearer picture of career
indecision than current unitary approaches" (p. 477). The CDP assesses
respondents along the dimensions of (a) decidedness, or degree of certainty
about choice, (b) comfort, or degree of contentment with decisional status, and
(c) reasons, or basis for being decided or undecided.
The CDP Decidedness Scale contains two items on which respondents rate
themselves using an 8-point scale. The first item contains content about having
an occupational field in mind. The second item concerns having decided on an
occupation to enter. Two additional items comprise the CDP Comfort Scale and
contain content related to feeling at ease with or worried about career choice.
Counselors can pair a client's scores on the scales of Decidedness and Comfort
to profile a client' s choice status as decided/comfortable,
decided/uncomfortable, undecided/comfortable, undecided/uncomfortable. Four
additional scales, each containing three items, assess respondents' reasons for
their career uncertainty. These scales include (a) Self-Clarity, which concerns
having knowledge about one's own interests, abilities, and so on, (b) Knowledge
About Occupations and Training, which taps world-of-work knowledge, (c)
Decisiveness, which measures ability to decide independently and resolutely, and
(d) Career Choice Importance, which gauges feelings about the significance of
work and making a career choice. Counselors can use these scales to identify
specific barriers that prevent a client from reaching a career-decided state.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Since Parsons (1909) first
classified people into career-decided and career-undecided groups, counseling
researchers and practitioners have worked to formally assess career choice
status. These efforts have yielded two generations of instruments useful for
gauging clients' levels of and reasons for indecision as well as degrees of
certainty about their career choices. Surveying clients in terms of their choice
status continues to help researchers understand the complexity of career
indecision and choice status. It also aids practitioners in planning appropriate
career counseling interventions.
Holland, J. L., Gottfredson, G. D., & Nafziger, D. H. (1973). A diagnostic scheme for specifying vocational assistance
(Rep. No. 164). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University, Center for Social
Organization of Schools.
Jones, L. K. (1989). Measuring a three-dimensional construct of career
indecision among college students: A revision of the Vocational Decision
Scale--The Career Decision Profile. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 36,
Osipow, S. H., Carney, C. G., Winer, J., Yanico, B., & Koschier, M.
(1976). The Career Decision Scale (3rd Revision). Columbus, OH: Marathon
Consulting and Press.
Parsons, F. (1909). Choosing a vocation. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.
Savickas, M. L. (1992). "New directions in career assessment" in D. H.
Montross & C. J. Shinkman (Eds.), Career development: Theory and practice
(pp. 336-355). Springfield, IL: C. C. Thomas.
Slaney, R. B. (1988a). The assessment of career decision making. In W. B.
Walsh, & S. H. Osipow (Eds.), Career decision making (33-76). Hillsdale, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Slaney, R. B. (1988b). Review of the Career Decision Scale in J. T. Kapes and
M. M. Mastie (eds.) A counselor's guide to career assessment instruments (2nd
Edition) pp. 171-174. Alexandria, VA: National Career Development Association.
Williamson, E. G. (1937). Scholastic motivation and the choice of a vocation.
School and Society, 46, 353-357.