More Info: Research Base


A research discussion on the use of assessment in career planning and development is complicated by two issues: (1) there is a lack of comparative and predictive research on the subject, and (2) assessments are the very instruments used to measure outcomes and effects in many research methodologies. Nonetheless, the literature shows that assessments are widely used in career planning and development for youth with and without disabilities.

In 2001, Dykeman, Herr, Ingram, Pehrsson, Wood, and Charles conducted a review of the literature and identified 44 interventions commonly used in career development. The interventions included four types of assessments (career aptitude, career maturity, career interests, and college admissions testing) and three activities that were directly related to assessment (career passports and skill certificates, portfolio and individual career plans, and referral to external counseling and assessment). In 2003, this taxonomy was used in a pilot study to determine the relationship between the 44 interventions and academic motivation and self-efficacy. The research study looked at a national sample of 293 high school seniors. Although the results of the pilot were inconclusive, an unexpected finding was that the average quantity of interventions experienced by the students was so low that it was possible that “they simply are not getting enough of the intervention to discern positive effects” (Dykeman, Wood, Ingram, Gitelman, Mandsager, Chen, & Herr, 2003, p. 30).

Eisenman (2001) examined research relating to career-oriented schooling and self-determination for general education students. The results found that program components such as (1) profiling students interests and skills and (2) curricula matching students needs and interests led to increased motivation and persistence in school as well as higher levels of identify formation. These factors ultimately result in better student outcomes.

Additionally, several researchers (Clark, 1999; Clark & Patton, 1997; National Council on Disabilities, 2000; Schelly, Kothe, & Sample, 1995) identified assessment as an integral component of a successful post-secondary transition program for students with disabilities. Izzo and Lamb (2002) linked career exploration activities, including career assessments, to improved self-determination and career development skills leading to higher rates of high school graduation, postsecondary enrollment, employment, and higher wages.

Seven Major Uses of Career Assessment

Neubert (1985) and Leconte (1986) identified the following seven major uses of career assessments in career preparation and exploration.

  1. Determining where the student is in the career development process
  2. Measuring abilities, interests, capabilities, strengths, needs, potentials, and behaviors
  3. Matching interests and abilities with appropriate training or employment
  4. Recommending adaptive techniques and/or remedial strategies
  5. Exploring work-related tasks or activities and determining how interests match abilities
  6. Implementing techniques or strategies that will help a student explore career or work options
  7. Developing a career profile that identifies concrete ways to assist students in achieving their goals

Federal legislation including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STWOA) also identified career assessment as integral to helping youth make informed choices and to setting realistic goals for successfully transitioning into adulthood (Leconte & Neubert, 1997).

The National Council on Disability found that “the lack of empirical evidence on accommodations and assessments for students with disabilities is discouraging” (NCD, 2004, p. 23). The research that the Council was able to find indicated that “teachers were not accurate in their assignment of accommodations” and that “the efficacy of assignment could be increased if teachers had prior accommodation and testing information” (NCD, 2004, p. 23). The Council recommended that the U.S. Department of Education “support research and development efforts to create a new generation of assessments that:

  1. are appropriate for the largest number of diverse students;
  2. measure more than academic skills;
  3. can be used more effectively as an instructional management tool; and
  4. result in a reduction in the number of students who take alternative assessments” (NCD, 2004, p. 27).

Since assessment instruments are commonly used in research for collecting data and assessing progress and results, research may also be conducted on the assessments themselves to determine reliability and validity. Test publishers and developers often conduct the reliability and validity research. Independent evaluations of assessment instruments may be beneficial if conducted by entities such as the Buros Institute of Mental Measurements or other researchers. Buros publishes The Mental Measurements Yearbook and Tests in Print and provides an online ordering service for test reviews (see Resource section below).

Note: This research synthesis is ongoing and will be appended as additional research is identified.

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Kapes, J.R., & Whitfield, E.A. (Eds.). (2002). A counselor’s guide to career assessment instruments (4 th 4th ed.). Tulsa, OK: National Career Development Association.
Reviews 56 career assessment instruments in detail and describes 270 more. Also contains information on trends and issues in career assessment, selecting and using instruments, and computer-assisted career assessment, and as well as a checklist of assessment and counseling competencies and responsibilities for counselors. Can be ordered from the National Career Development Association online at

Test Reviews on OnLline
Contains free information on 4,000 commercially available tests, over 2,000 of which have been critically evaluated by the Buros Institute of Mental Measurement. Test reviews can be purchased online for $15.00 each.

Searchable database of 20,000 test instruments maintained by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) contains basic test and publisher information, but no reliability and validity data.

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Clark, G. M. (1999). Making the delivery of transition services collaborative: An epilogue. In S. H. DeFur & J. R. Patton (Eds.), Transition and school-based services (pp. 443-453). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Clark, G. M., & Patton, J. R. (1997). Transition planning inventory. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Dykeman, C., Herr, E.L., Ingram, M., Pehrsson, D., Wood, C., & Charles, S. (2001). A taxonomy of career development interventions that occur in U.S. secondary schools. Minneapolis, MN: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota. Available at

Dykeman, D., Wood, C., Ingram, M., Gitelman, A., Mandsager, N., Chen, M., & Herr, E.L. (2003). Career development interventions and academic self-efficacy and motivation: A pilot study. Minneapolis, MN: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota. Available at

Eisenman, L.T. (2001, Spring). Conceptualizing the contributions of career-oriented schooling to self-determination. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals , 24(1), 3-17.

Izzo, M.V., & Lamb, P. (2002). White paper: Self-determination and career development: Skills for successful transitions to postsecondary education and employment. Retrieved April 15, 2004, from PDF icon.

Leconte, P. (1986). Vocational assessment of special needs learners: A vocational education perspective. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Vocational Association in Atlanta, GA.

 Leconte, P. J., & Neubert, D. A. (September, 1997). Vocational assessment: The kick-off point for successful transitions. National Transition Alliance for Youth with Disabilities, ALLIANCE Newsletter , 2(2), 1, 3-4, 8.

National Council on Disability. (2004, May 17). Improving educational outcomes for students with disabilities. Washington, DC: Author. Available online at at:

Neubert, D. (1985). Use of vocational evaluation recommendations in selected public school settings. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals , 9, 98-105.

Schelly, C., Kothe, J. & Sample, P. (1995). Vocational support strategies for students with emotional disorders. (ERIC Digest No. ED 383 152). Reston, VA: Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. Available online at

Zymunt, L., Larson, M., & Tilson, G. (1994). Disability awareness training and social networking. In M.S. Moon (Ed.), Making school and community recreation fun for everyone (pp. 209-226). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

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