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We’re often asked about the Kuder Career Planning System® (KCPS) and what makes it so unique. So we enlisted Dr. JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey to shed light on the mechanisms behind the KCPS, including the assessments at its core, and how they serve as a springboard for reliable occupation exploration.


The first step in education and career planning should be to learn about yourself.

Career development and choice theories consistently inform us that the first step in education and career planning should be to learn about yourself – specifically about interests, skills, and work values.

Research indicates that school retention, stability of choice of college major, and job satisfaction are significantly enhanced when individuals are able to align their interests, skills, and/or values with occupations, programs of study, and jobs.


Reliable career assessments support self-understanding as well as education and career choices.

The KCPS offers three valid and reliable career assessments that students and adults can take to learn more about themselves and to make valid linkages between that self-information and education and career choices.

These assessments adhere to the latest (2014) technical standards for reliability, validity, and fairness issued by the Joint Committee on Test Standards and the International Test Commission guidelines.


Aligning interests and skills with occupations and programs of study.

It is important to align the rubric for self-understanding (of interests and skills) with the rubric for organizing occupations and programs of study (majors) so that students and adults can easily bridge that gap.

In general, secondary schools in the United States use an organizational system for occupations and programs of study called the National Career Clusters® Framework. Many U.S. colleges and universities, however, make use of the Holland classification system, developed and researched by the eminent career choice theorist, Dr. John Holland. The KCPS uses both methods to:

  • Provide a succinct picture of the users' interests and skills, derived from the Kuder Career Interests Assessment® (KCIA) and the Kuder Skills Confidence Assessment® (KSCA), respectively.
  • Present a list of occupations that users should explore in greater depth after having taken these assessments.

The linkage between these two systems is both easy and valid because the O*NET occupational database provided by the U.S. Department of Labor records a “Holland code” for each of its nearly 1,000 occupations.


Measuring the interests and skills of individuals using the Holland method.

The theory and classification system proposed by Holland is based on decades of research in a variety of cultures. There are four basic tenets to this theory, as follows:

  1. Occupations, work environments, courses and majors, even leisure activities, can be described as a combination of six types: Realistic (R), Investigative (I), Artistic (A), Social (S), Enterprising (E), and Conventional (C).
  1. Similarly, the personality traits and interests of individuals can be described by a profile of the same six types.
  1. Individuals of a given type are attracted to occupations, environments, and course work of the same or similar type. For that reason, an individual's Holland code is used to identify occupations and programs of study for in-depth exploration.
  1. To the extent that individuals of a given type engage in an occupation, environment, or area of study of the same or similar type, they will find satisfaction and are more likely to remain stable in their choices. Kuder researchers and others have verified this claim.

Converting interests and skills into a list of suggested occupations using The National Career Clusters Framework.

Now let's look at the method of organizing occupations and programs of study developed by Advance CTE. In this approach, the universe of occupations is divided into 16 clusters that represent different industries and occupational groups.

Each cluster is broken down into subdivisions, called career pathways, each of which represents a specialty within the cluster and whose occupations have similar knowledge and skills requirements. There is a total of 79 career pathways, two to seven of which are subcategories of each of the 16 clusters.

Based on the premise that career guidance systems should assist individuals to relate self-information to occupations and educational options, the logic in Kuder systems follows this sequence:

  • Find the user's Holland profile and subtype derived from how a user answers the items on the assessments.
  • Because a Holland profile has been assigned to each of the O*NET career pathways based on the profiles of the occupations contained in each, identify and display in rank order the titles of the five career pathways with  most similar to that of the user.
  • Allow users to look at the descriptions of these five pathways and of the occupations and programs of study contained in them that can be entered at the educational level(s) selected by the user.
  • Allow users to save selected pathways, occupations, and programs of study to their Favorites list.

Measuring Work-Related Values: Super's Work Values Inventory-revised (SWVI-r)

The most widely acclaimed career development theorist, often called the “father of career development,” is Dr. Donald E. Super. Among his many accomplishments, he developed the Work Values Inventory. The current revised version of this inventory is the third of the assessments administered in the Kuder systemThis assessment measures the level of importance, ranging from “not important at all” to “crucial” of each of 12 work-related values. The results are then displayed in rank order.

Based on the user's rating of these values, the occupational database is scanned to present the 50 best-matching occupations for further exploration and consideration. Data to support the linkage of values and occupations is derived primarily from the U.S. Department of Labor O*NET database.


Putting it all together.

One of the most important displays in the KCPS is the one in which all occupations that have been identified by the results of the interest assessment (KCIA), the skills confidence assessment (KSCA), and the work values inventory (SWVI-r) are merged into one list.

The assessment(s) that suggested a specific occupation title are check-marked. Occupations suggested by all three assessments are listed first, then those suggested by two of the three assessments, and finally those suggested only by one assessment.

Users should begin their detailed exploration by learning as much as possible about those that are identified by two or three of the assessments.

  1. career assessments

About The Author

Dr. JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey

Since joining Kuder in 2005, Dr. JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey, Executive Director of Product Development, has worked extensively with state departments of education and labor in the conceptualization and implementation of education and career planning websites that serve as a virtual center for stu ... read more