What (2007, p.1), ‘the process of choosing a

What factors determine Career Choice?

to Behrend, Foster Thompson, Meade, Grayson and Newton (2007, p.1), ‘the process of choosing a career is complex and
dynamic’. In the coming text there will be an explanation
of the various factors that influence one’s career choice.  A factor may be something as uncontrollable
as gender, or may refer to someone’s talents. 
However, it is imperative to understand that one’s career choice is
determined by a combination of these factors, and is not predominately based on
one.  The main theorists, and their
respective theories that will be mentioned are Ginzberg, Super, Holland, Krumburltz
and Parsons.

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1951, Ginzberg and associates proposed a three stage theory describing the
process of career-choice, which are further subdivided into specific stages.

The three stages in this theory run from birth to adulthood and include the,

Fantasy stage

Tentative stage

Realistic stage

first is the Fantasy stage, and this takes place from birth till the age of 11.  This stage, as the title implies, is a
fantasy and therefore primarily consists of play in which one pretends to have
a certain occupation, this suggests certain occupational preferences. For
example, a child may be pretending to be a doctor, therefore first the child will
wear a costume relative to the occupation. 
As the child grows and approaches the end of this stage, he/she will carry
out actions that a doctor might perform. 
The Tentative stage takes place between the ages of 11 and 17, and is
split up into four subgroups (interest, capacity, values, and transition).  Interest refers to the child’s ability to base
his/her decision on personal interests. In the second sub stage, capacity, the
child becomes aware of their abilities and what kind of occupation fits
them.  Values takes place at the age of
15 and the child considers what kind of work may fulfil their needs.  Lastly, transition, the child makes
independent decisions and takes responsibility for them.  The last stage is referred to as the
‘realistic stage’, which takes place between the age of 17 and continues into
young adulthood.  This stage is split up
into exploration, crystallisation, and specification.  During the exploration phase one considers
their options and selects one, while remaining open to other
possibilities.  During the crystallization
phase, the individual becomes more committed to the occupation, and in the
final phase, specification, the individual specializes in a certain area of
that occupation.  For example, if one
were to become a doctor, this would be the point where they choose one area
over another.  After some time Ginzberg
withdrew his initial theory and went on to suggest that one’s career choice extends
over the lifetime in order to acquire job satisfaction, much like in Super’s
theory.  Ginzberg spoke about people
optimizing their career choice as opposed to compromising. 


and gender are factors that are beyond an individual’s control, yet have a
large impact on many aspects of one’s life, including career choice.  Culture refers to the environment where an
individual lives and their background. 
This influences one’s beliefs and values, and will therefore have
implications on one’s career choice.  Gender
is an issue that is related to several theories, such as social learning
theory, and multicultural career counselling. 
Males and females have different career values, however they both desire
a good personality-career fit (Behrend et al., 2007). The gender stereotypes
have decreased slightly over the past few years, but many are still quite
prominent.  For example, one would
naturally assume that a doctor is a male, while a nurse is a female.  The way in which an individual views themself
may influence the amount of power gender has over them.  To some extent our life roles are dependent
on these two factors (culture and gender). 
In Super’s Lifespan theory (1953) he mentions that each individual
occupies different roles which change during one’s life. These different roles
allow individuals to learn new skills and develop new talents.  This theory involves five main stages, and even
though each stage has its assigned ages, an individual may go through each of
these stages during a job transition. 
The first is the growth stage which takes place from birth till 14 years
of age.  It is associated with attitude
development, as well as the growth of interests, needs and an understanding of
one’s self.  The second stage occurs
between the ages of 15 and 24, and is termed the exploratory stage. It is split
up into three sub phases, which are the crystallisation, specification and
implementation phase. This is characterised by few occupational options.  During the establishment stage, one begins to
acquire work experience.  Between the
ages of 25 and 44, there are two sub stages termed stabilisation and
consolidation.  The fourth stage is the
maintenance stage which occurs during the ages of 45 and 65, and is usually
characterised by continuous effort to improve one’s working situation.  The last stage occurs from the age of 65 and
onwards, and is termed the decline stage. 
During this stage there is a decrease in work which ultimately leads to


John Holland’s Career
Typology (1959) links personality types and characteristics with their fitting
occupational fields. These personality types are grounded in the developmental
process of individuals that are a result of genes and environmental factors (PDF CITE), such as personal traits,
coping styles, differential reactions to
environmental rewards/stress and self-concept. 
Some characteristics may be brought out, or alternatively, may be
inhibited due to past experiences, in jobs or otherwise, and through modelling.  It is the interaction between one’s character
and the environment that determines their behaviour.  The types and fields have been
split up into six groups,







first is Realistic and refers to doers, such as pilots, athletes and
carpenters.  The Investigative type
refers to thinkers, such as mathematicians, computer programmers and
economists.   The Artistic type is the
third type and refers to one that creates things, like actors, singers and
photographers.  The fourth type is Social
which refers to a helping profession like nurses, teachers and child care
workers.  Enterprising refers to a job
requiring one to be persuasive and motivating such as, real estate agents,
flight attendants and managers.  The last
type is Conventional and refers to a job that requires one to be organized,
such as librarians, auditors and receptionists.   Holland’s six codes are not only useful in
choosing a career that fits one’s characteristics, but can also make one more
conscious about their learning styles. By understanding one’s own personality
type and by being aware of the specific details of their type, one can cope better
with potential occupational challenges. Individuals choose their occupation
depending on their needs and what brings about satisfaction.  Individuals typically seek out environments
that allow them to use their skills and express their beliefs and values.  One of the main criticisms of this theory is
built on gender bias.  Stereotypically,
females are believed to form part of three main fields, artistic, social and


Krumboltz developed a theory of career decision making
and development based on Bandura’s Social Learning Theory (1977).  In Krumboltz theory, which is also called the
Social Learning Theory, he stated that career decisions are the product of countless
learning experiences made possible by encounters with people, institutions, and
events in a person’s environment. Essentially stating that, people choose a
career depending on what they have learned, and that learning takes place
through observations as well as direct experiences.


proposed four main factors that influence career choice.  The first is genetic endowments and special
abilities. These are inherited qualities and may set limits on individual
career opportunities. The second is environmental conditions and events, which
are factors beyond the control of the individual.  The third is task approach skills which are a
set of skills that the individual develops, such as problem-solving skills,
self-observation, goal setting and information seeking. The last factor is
learning experiences, which can occur instrumentally, for example, being
rewarded for singing may lead to an interest in being a singer.  Having a role model or parent working in a
specific career, may have a powerful impact on the influence on the set of
careers we consider as options for ourselves. This positive modelling, reward
and reinforcement will likely lead to the development of appropriate career
planning skills and career behaviour.

This theory
addresses that if one has a positive experience, one is more likely to consider
continuing a particular task, which focuses on the areas in which one has had
proven success and achieved positive self-esteem. The consequence of this, is
that it may lead people to develop beliefs about the nature of careers and
their role in life. These could either be realistic or unrealistic, and may
influence their career choice and work related behaviour.


important point he highlights is that of self-observation generalisations where
people compare their own performance and skills with a certain standard and
draw conclusions about their worth depending on this. These conclusions are
used in forming responses for future situations.

As a
counsellor, helping individuals to understand the validity of their beliefs is
a big component of the social learning model. The counsellor can identify what
career relevant learning experiences will help them re-think their views, their
beliefs and ultimately help them choose better alternatives.  This may control their anxiety over not
achieving the goals they always wanted.


sees career development as being unique for the individual and believes that
most of the influences on career development and career choice are capable of
being altered at any point in life.


By applying
his Planned Happenstance Theory to career counselling. What this theory suggests
is that in an individual’s life, there may be unpredicted events that can
happen. Be it, social factors or environmental conditions that may have either
positive or negative consequences. What Krumboltz suggests in this theory is
for clients to respond to these conditions in a positive manner, by using five
helpful skills to deal with chance career opportunities:





risk taking


He suggests
that clients must learn to approach the future with a positive attitude, curiosity
and optimism that will produce positive results.


believed that if people actively engage in choosing their vocations rather than
allowing chance to operate in the hunt for a job, they will be more satisfied
with their careers.  His trait-factor
theory suggests that every person has a unique pattern of traits made of their
interests, values, abilities and personality characteristics. He recommended
matching individuals to occupations based on these differences, in turn
increasing the likelihood for successful job performance and satisfaction. In
summary, individuals need to have a clear and collective reasoning about the
relation among these facts mentioned.


family/person’s social and economic status plays a major role in the
individual’s career decision and planning process. Parents may also direct
their children towards a certain career path based on their own personal career
choices in order to follow career tradition in the family or to manage the
family business (Crafford et al., 2006).


factors such as peer influence has a role in career choice too, especially in
the adolescent phase when most individuals are very impressionable. This could
be either positive or negative to an individual’s career choice because of peer
pressure and getting approval of their decision. Another reason could be an
individual’s willingness to relocate and adapt to new environments, even more
so because of spouses or relatives. Therefore, if there is no emotional support
system, this will decrease their confidence and their ability to adjust to the
cross-cultural transition.



The Social
Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) was developed by Robert W. Lent, Steven D. Brown,
and Gail Hackett in 1994. SCCT is based on Albert Bandura’s general social
cognitive theory. It is aimed at explaining three interrelated aspects of
career development,


(1) how
basic academic and career interests develop

(2) how
educational and career choices are made

(3) how academic
and career success is obtained 


It is
focused on self-efficacy (observing similar others), outcome expectations (what
will happen if i do this?) and personal goals (I want to come first in class).

For example, one might feel confident in doing things which are involved with
maths or numbers, but feels much less confident in the artistic creative
department. SCCT assumes that people are likely to become interested in and
perform better in activities which they have strong efficacy beliefs, have the
necessary skills and environmental supports to pursue these activities.


the SCCT model recognises that personal attributes, external environmental
factors and overt behaviour all interact and influence one another. The authors
state that when choice is constrained by factors such as economic restraint,
family influences, discrimination and educational opportunities, it becomes
less about the individual’s personal interests (Lent & Brown, 1996).




Super believed that humans are anything but static and that personal change is
continuous. Job satisfaction increases when a person’s self-concept includes a
view of the working-self as being integrated with their other life roles.  Understanding the ages and related stages of
career development helps practitioners to identify where clients are in the
career development continuum and suggest appropriate career related goals and
activities. It also highlights the need to examine career development within
the larger context of an individual’s roles and life style and how to achieve a
life/work balance.


In making a
vocational choice, an individual is expressing his or her understanding of
self; his or her self-concept. People seek career satisfaction through work
roles in which they can express themselves and implement and develop their
self-concept. Self-knowledge is key to career choice and job satisfaction.


Greenberg & Baron (2008) suggested, careers carry significant meaning for
an individual, both financially and psychologically. It does not only determine
how much an individual may gain or benefit financially, but it also gives
individuals a sense of accomplishment, self-actualisation, pride and meaning to
their lives.  Therefore, finding the
right career path is vital to achieve a happy and fulfilled life.