Vocational interests reflect the degree to which individuals prefer certain career choices or activities/behaviors which may be common for various positions.
There is a wide variety of careers people can pursue. Assessing interests can range from the macro approach of providing job titles and asking people the degree to which they might be interested in that position, such as Holland’s Vocational Preference Inventory (VPI; Holland 1985), to a more micro approach of assessing the degree to which individuals prefer engaging in certain activities/behaviors which may be characteristic of certain jobs, such as the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory (SCII; Campbell 2002), the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey (JVIS; Jackson 2000), and the Jackson Career Explorer (JCE; Schermer 2012). Vocational interest measures can be utilized in a wide variety of settings and with diverse populations, ranging from adolescent students thinking of possible career paths to older adults contemplating a change in occupation.
Vocational interests have been found to be stable over adulthood (Su et al. 2009). With respect to sex differences, men typically score higher on interest scales assessing areas such as mathematics, engineering, adventure, skilled trades, dominant leadership, finance, law, and independence. Women typically score higher on scales assessing creative arts, personal service, family activity, job security, accountability, teaching, social service, elementary education, office work, academic achievement, planfulness, and interpersonal confidence (Carless 1999; Costa et al. 1984; Low et al. 2005; Rottinghaus et al. 2003; Schermer 2012; Su et al. 2009). Vocational interests have also been found to have a heritable component, with genetic factors accounting for approximately 50 % of the variance (Arvey and Bouchard 1994; Harris et al. 2006; Lykken et al. 1993), a value which is similar to that found with personality characteristics.
Vocational interests have been found to be correlated with personality traits in meaningful ways. For example, based on meta-analytic results, Barrick et al. (2003) and Larson et al. (2002) reported that people who choose enterprising careers tend to be extraverted and stable (low neuroticism), openness to experience is related to investigative interests, agreeable people like jobs dealing with others, and conscientious people tend to be conventional. By understanding an individual’s vocational interests and their personality profile, a more valid assessment may be made about possible jobs that the person may find fulfilling.
Vocational interests represent meaningful individual differences which reflect preferences for certain work-related behaviors and environments. By having an understanding of an individual’s interest, counselors are able to provide greater assistance to people seeking career guidance.
- Arvey, R. D., & Bouchard, T. J., Jr. (1994). Genetics, twins, and organizational behavior. Research in Organizational Behavior, 16, 47–82.Google Scholar
- Holland, J. L. (1985). Vocational preference inventory (VPI). Lutz: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
- Jackson, D. N. (2000). Jackson vocational interest survey manual (2nd ed.). Port Huron: Research Psychologists Press.Google Scholar