There are numerous career theories and models, and no single one is sufficient to describe the broad field of career development.
Career theories typically fall into one of three categories which, while not mutually exclusive, can be a useful form of classification:
Theory of process
Theory of content
Theories of content relate to the characteristics of the individual and the context they live in. The influences on career development are thought to be either intrinsic to the individual or originate from the context in which the individual lives.
Theory of content and process
Theories of content and process have been formed in response to a need for theory to take into account both of these key areas. These theories encompass both the characteristics of individuals and their
This timeline shows how career theories have evolved over time.
Theory: Person-environment fit, trait factor
Names: Parsons, Williamson, Holland
Vocational guidance is accomplished first by studying the individual, then by surveying occupations, and finally by matching the individual with the occupation.
Names: Ginzberg & Associates, Tiedman, Super, Gottfredson, Roe
Career development is a process that takes place over the life span. Career development activities should be designed to meet the needs of individuals at all stages of life.
Career development is focused on the nature of the relationship between the helper and
Theory: Social learning
The individual’s unique learning experiences over their lifespan develop primary influences that lead to career choice.
Name: Kelly, Cochran, Jepsen
Truth is discovered subjectively through dialogue rather than through objective testing. This approach emphasises the individual’s experience and decision making through exploring personal constructs and the client’s narrative about their life.
Theory: Neuro-linguistic programming
Names: Richard Bandler, John Grinder
A way of coding thinking, language and behaviour based on the principle that changing the way one thinks can change behaviour.
Name: John Krumboltz
Chance events play a role in every career. The goal for clients is to generate beneficial chance events and have the ability to take advantage of them.
Theory: Narrative therapy
Names: Michael White and David Epston, Gregory Bateson
Clients are encouraged to separate themselves from their problems (ie, the problem becomes external). The client makes sense of their experiences by using stories.
A model of practice. All parts of the client’s life are taken into account through regular sessions.