Career & Academic Assessments
Career and academic assessments identify strengths from a variety of perspectives to find careers that are the best-fit.
What do you need to know?
Career and academic assessments help students to consider aptitudes, achievement and verify career interests, career skills or work values. It is one way to increase self-awareness at different times in the career development process. Results of assessments provide a set of information to consider while exploring careers, making career decisions and creating a Personal Learning Plan (PLP).
The career development process involves continuous evaluation of academic and career maturity while focusing on strengths and a growth mindset. Academic achievement testing is already built into the education system. Academic test results are a factor in career decision-making. All Nebraska 11th graders take the ACT which also serves as a postsecondary entrance requirement for many college options. Career assessments are sometimes over-looked, but are most helpful to reveling student interests, strengths and preferences. The goal is to find themes or similar patterns of results in a collection of career assessments over time. Consistent results over time are strong indicators of a good fit for career and college selections.
There are two main groups of career assessments:
Just as high quality academic assessments are supported by research, the same high quality is important for formal career assessments. Formal standardized career assessments have technical manuals of identified norm groups, participant numbers, rating levels of validity and reliability data. Most career assessments are created to support and verify a certain career development theory. Some popular assessments affirm a career theory by aligning relationships between occupations and personality types, aptitudes, personal strengths, interests, skills and/or work values. Typically, formal career assessments are designed for students beginning in the middle school years and throughout adulthood.
Formal assessments can be an added expense to the school budget and to individual students of low-income families. To help with costs, Nebraska Career Connections (NCC), is available at no additional cost to schools and individual users statewide in Nebraska. NCC includes formal research based assessments to help identify interests, skills and work values. This online career planning system is valuable as it improves equity and access to all people in NE to get essential, quality resources for a career development program including assessments.
Another valid, reliable, formal career assessment available free to everyone is ASVAB: Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Test materials, administration and results interpretation is provided as a free service from the U.S. military.
Informal assessments may include thought provoking questions, discussions, visuals, checklists, sets of characteristics or groupings of skills or work concepts students will consider. When presented with informal assessments, students typically identify characteristics they like or dislike or find exemplars they identify with or reject as not being like themselves. Informal assessments help career self-awareness and exploration. Informal assessments do not meet reliability and validity requirements like formal assessments. However, effective self-reflection can offer a valuable approach to discover preferences, identifying priorities and add clarity to goals. Informal career assessments are used throughout PreK-12 and exclusively in the elementary grades.
Now, another part of the story...
While there is no doubt career assessments are an important feature of quality career development programs, they are only one category of career information for making decisions. It is true, formal and informal assessments help students to verify self-awareness characteristics and focus career exploration. However, we offer a word of caution about a career assessment mentality boiled down to, “test them and tell them.” Never jump to the conclusion that one assessment will tell a student exactly what to do. The best practice, just like academics tests, is multiple measures over time.
All assessment results require interpretation. It is essential the assessment taker understands what the results do and do not indicate. There must be an intentional plan for effective interpretation of results of each assessment for each student. Without results interpretation from a knowledgeable career counseling/educator professional, incorrect conclusions may be made, which can be harmful to the student.
A variety of career assessments are available for a fee.
A resource which includes details on a variety of assessments is a current edition of: ‘A Counselors’ Guide to Career assessment Instruments’, Wood, C. & Hays, D.G. (2013).