Career Test & Career Assessment Information
Learning about yourself and finding work you love to do
Finding the right career is hard work. That makes it important to know you’re focused on the right kind of jobs – jobs that match your expectations and your talents and skills.
There is a wide variety of tools available to those who want a more objective sense of their abilities and aptitudes, interests and personality, and what these mean for their choice of careers.
Modern career tests and assessments are products of decades of empirical analysis and improvement, and when they’re taken and interpreted under the guidance of an experienced career advisor, they can prove highly effective for anyone seeking greater clarity about their choice of jobs and occupations.
A career test can help you come to a clearer sense of what it is you want from a job and a career, and help you determine what career paths this suggests.
Understanding your own strengths and ambitions, is an essential first step to a rewarding career – and self knowledge has benefits that go beyond work to enrich every aspect of your life.
Now more than ever, it could be argued that the only constant you can rely on throughout your career is you, so taking some time to understand yourself is an excellent investment in your own future. The world of work is changing at a rapid pace. While you’ll most likely change over time as well, a career path built on a foundation of self-knowledge and consistent self-reflection will help you flex, grow and adapt as the world around you changes.
In order to understand yourself--what you like, what your skills and abilities are, where your values lie—consider assessments and inventories which can help define those ideas. Career assessments can be a valuable tool in building knowledge around who you are, what you’re good at, what you like to do and the intersection among those pieces.
So what are the benefits of career tests?
The more you understand yourself and how your strengths, skills, values and talents play out in the career world, the more educated, and most likely positive, decisions you can make. Ultimately, this can save time and money—by picking the right level and mode of education, focusing on coursework and training which fits you and what you’d ultimately like to do, and reducing the amount of change or wasted time spent on indecision. Career assessments are great tools for starting to build that framework of understanding.
- For a middle or high school student, assessments can give you a better idea of what the options are to explore and how to find a college that will give you the best experience for you and the program you’re seeking.
- For students in college, they can identify possible majors, narrow down what types of occupations exist which use those skills and help you figure out how your skills, values and wants combine to find the best work environment for you.
- For anyone out of school, whether recently or after a period of time in a career, assessments can help fine tune our understanding of skills and abilities, refocus those skills on a new path, and help people understand how their ways of working and viewing the world interact with others to be most productive on a team or in a specific environment.
The insight that an assessment offers can be broken down into four basic categories – your personality, your work related values, your interests, and your skills and aptitudes.
- Your personality is who you are psychologically – your traits, motivations, responses, emotional makeup. This tends to be stable from adulthood.
- Your work values are the specific criteria that shape your attitude towards work. What kind of work or organizational culture fits you best? Is your sense of self tied to money, status or power? Do you value autonomy, the opportunity for impact, varied work responsibilities, security? This can change over a lifetime.
- Your interests are the things that you enjoy – physical activity, deep discussions, nature, participating in events as a spectator. This is different from aptitude – many people are good at things they don’t really like doing, or doing for long periods of time.
- Your aptitudes are the capacities, learned or innate, developed or, as yet undeveloped, and perhaps even unknown, that you can bring to your working life.
How to Select the Best Career Test for You
Some assessments are more scientifically based than others, and some are more widely used than others. There are many different tests available, from free career tests (some of which tend to actually require payment if you want complete results or interpretation) to expensive.
You’ll probably want to stick with the most well-known, which often come with a fee, but they tend to be more scientifically based, and be more accurate as a result. They sometimes require some form of interpretation with a trained facilitator, which can help you make sense of the results you get, reflect on the information and how it fits with your self-perceptions, and gain the biggest benefit from taking these assessments.
A mix of free and paid, to get a range of perspectives, might also be a good option, but recognize that you might get varied, and potentially conflicting, feedback.
Important to keep in mind, here’s what career assessments and inventories CAN’T do:
- Tell you what job you should have
Even those like the Strong Interest Inventory®, which give you a listing of job titles, are really more about the environment, skills and values which are associated with that specific job. For instance, if your report lists “Bartender”, you probably want to work in a helping profession, with high interpersonal contact, with an unstructured, social environment that is often different day by day.
- Define you into a box or “personality type” permanently
People are often hesitant to take personality tests such as the MBTI® Because they don’t want to be pigeon-holed as a specific type of into a particular role. These assessments are simply ways to examine your personal traits and how they relate to work and interaction with others. They help you better understand the work roles and environments which you might be best suited for and how to work with strengths and weaknesses of other people for the most optimal productivity.
- Determine whether or not you can do a job
Cognitive reasoning tests especially are often used by companies to determine a good “fit” with potential employees. While these can be indicators of success, they do not determine that people can NOT also be successful in that job despite the test result. Inventories and assessments should be used as guidance, not law, especially as many of them can have biases on race, gender, culture, language, and other factors.
Again, career assessments are tools, not authorities. As you review your results:
- Think more deeply than the job title--what do these recommendations have in common for skills, values, and environments?
- Remember that this is a starting point for your own reflections about what you want out of a career, out of life, and about which vocations and what training are most likely to get you there.
- Question the answers. The act of arguing with the results tests offer can be a path to greater insight about yourself, and can validate your existing thoughts about strengths and possibilities.
Self-assessment through focused reflection:
Reflection is bound to play a part in any life-defining decision, so look past answers that have been “provided” for you and reflect deeply on your personal interpretations. Answers are great; they have a place. But it would be hard to overestimate the value of self-reflection, and it would be hard to reflect too much concerning decisions as important as choosing a career and the means of getting there.
If the results of the assessments aren’t consistent, or produce results that you feel aren’t right for you, then “Why is that?” would be a good reflection question. If you feel that the results of the algorithm-based assessments are consistently off, either in the judgments they offer about you or the career directions they suggest, look for commonalities in interests, values or tasks associated with each result.
- The Amherst College Self-assessment for Career Planning website leads you through a series of questions to think about, and answer for yourself. Then it invites you to consider broader questions, such as “Did you notice any themes or threads that connected your various interests?”. It covers interests, skills, values, family and cultural influences, and personality.
- Another “roadmap” exercise for career clarity comes from Katharine Brooks and Grace Foy of Vanderbilt University, and offers a “Picture Your Career” workbook (licensed) for self-reflection and career exploration. This workbook walks you through exercises to identify skills, develop goals, explore careers and more. It’s especially suited for college students, but also useful for high schoolers looking to get to now themselves.
Many other colleges and universities offer similar resources – designed to make you wrestle with the questions that assessment tools offer to solve for you. Though they’re offered by colleges and universities, they can be very useful even if you aren’t considering post-secondary education – or if you’re well into your working life, thinking of changing careers and want some direction in your search for the right choice, with or without further education.
Even if you’re satisfied with the results of the assessment tools discussed on this site, and feel like you connect with the career options they’ve led you to, this sort of reflective process is well worth the effort.
To be clear - Reflection is not indecision. In fact, indecision is one of the roadblocks that self-reflection can help you get around. Why would you hesitate? Is it because you just don’t find any career suggestions that appeal to you, in the results that the battery of assessments have produced? Or is it because they don’t seem to describe a person you recognize? Is it because they seem to point in a career direction at odds with your self-image or expectations, or the expectations of your family? Do the stakes seem too high, given the cost of education and the uncertain future of the field you’re drawn to? Is it because you’ve taken the results of the assessments as something more than helpful suggestions and pointers – a starting point? That’s all they are; the final decisions will always be yours.
Don’t take the results of the assessments as anything more than helpful suggestions and pointers. They’re a starting point; the final decisions will always be yours. There is a best answer for you out there (or multiple). And in this case “out there” really means inside yourself. The real question you have to deal with is what’s best for you; and you have to know yourself well enough to be able to answer that question effectively.
Career Tests, Assessments, Quizzes
In addition to self-reflection, career assessments can help you gather a variety of information about yourself and start to connect the common threads. The different types of career inventories and assessments can be broken down into categories -
- Personality Assessments
- Career Interest Inventories
- Career Values Identification
- Career Aptitude Tests
An overview of popular career tests and assessments -
Our personality is who we are psychologically, undeniably and inescapably. It certainly can’t be changed or chosen off the rack to suit a job. So it’s a very good idea to choose your career path in the light of a clear understanding of the type of person you are, and the traits that most thoroughly and deeply define you. Here are some of the best-regarded personality assessment tests. Their value lies not just in the answers they give you, but in the opportunity to think of your qualities and the world of work in the same terms.
Big Five (Five-Factor) Personality Model
The Big Five personality model, sometimes known as the five-factor personality model, characterizes individuals according to five basic personality traits - our degree of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, measured as relative qualities that can include their opposites.
Big Five tests have many questions and are often administered online. While not specifically geared towards career development, tests based on the Big Five are accepted by the psychological community for measuring personality most accurately. Therefore, the Big Five personality assessment is less applicable to figuring out a specific career field, and more towards whether or not you’re a good fit for a specific role.
The HPI is a personality index based on the Big Five model, measuring personality traits when people are at their best. It measures tendencies regarding how people get along with and get ahead of others.
The Jungian Personality Type Model
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator MBTI®
The Myers-Briggs assessment is based on Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. It defines 16 personality types based on people’s self-identification according to four simple dichotomies. They are Introversion or Extraversion, Sensing or Intuition, Thinking or Feeling, Judging or Perceiving. There are 16 possible combinations of the four pairs, and these are the Myers-Briggs types. For a sample report of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator MBTI® Career Report, click here. For more detailed information about the MBTI®, click here.
Career Interest Assessments
Where personality tests offer you descriptions, in terms of “traits” or “types”, of who you are, interest assessments point you towards the range of vocations that might best appeal to you, as suggested by your answers to assessment questions.
Some of these assessments are short and simple, while others are longer and more involved. Some are free and some are quite expensive. Paying for an assessment package doesn’t guarantee a more accurate result, but it can get you a more detailed exploration of the links between the characteristics they have identified in you and the fields of employment they suggest.
In the 1950’s, a researcher named John Holland came up with a Theory of Career Choice which stated that people are most happy doing jobs with people similar to them, which utilize their skills and abilities, and which fit their values. Do what you are good at, with people you like, who share the same values and goals as you, and you will be more satisfied professionally and be less susceptible to career burn out. As obvious an observation as this may seem, it has been the main basis for career development theory for decades.
Tests based on the Holland model use the Theory of Career Choice types (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Entrepreneurial and Creative, or “RIASEC”) to point people towards jobs for which they’re suited. Holland takes into account the fact that no one is simply a type – we all have combinations of first, second and third order preferences, so often RIASEC based tests will give you a 2-3 type code.
Many tests, including the Strong Interest Inventory®, integrate this model, as does the Interest Profiler on the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s career information site, O*Net. O*Net can be a useful tool in career exploration and planning. Organized by Holland code (RIASEC), jobs are categorized by type, and similar types are linked together to help people see how certain occupations are similar, even when in different industries. Each occupation lists statistics and information about topics of interest - education required, what kind of technology is used, future forecast, salary range, etc.
Holland’s Self-Directed Search is a widely used career assessment based upon the RIASEC model.
Career Assessments that combine the best of many methods
The Strong Interest Inventory® has a century-long history, beginning with the work of E. K. Strong Jr. in the years after the First World War. The test is extensive, with over 270 questions that integrate a RIASEC interests model with other indicators, and that point those taking it towards fields of interest and “personal style preferences”. Your responses are compared with a test group of people who actually work in a given career field and analyzed according to whether they liked and disliked the same things you did.
The Strong Interest Inventory® examines general themes of interest within occupations, but also your preferences for work environment, risk and learning, all as indicated by comparing you to people similar to you. One of the most frequently updated assessments available, it is relevant and current.
Because the model is proprietary, and the extensive development costs of the test, there is a fee for the assessment. For a sample report of the Strong + College Report (useful in selecting a major) + Interpretive Report, and further examples of what the results give you, click here.
Aptitude is an innate or natural ability to do something—things that we do that come naturally to us. A skill is something that we spend time learning and practicing to do well. Aptitude tests can help to identify our natural talents to steer us towards areas where we might excel intuitively.
These are a ubiquitous feature of the modern working world. The SAT® (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is a form of aptitude test, and many employers have prospective employees complete various aptitude tests to determine competency and potential. They’re a mandatory part of enlistment in the armed forces, in the form of the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). Some short selected aptitude tests, provided by the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, can be found here, on Oprah’s website. O*Net also offers a free pen and ink version of an aptitude test.
Taking inventory of your aptitudes is even more worthwhile if your career path includes extensive education or training; as these represent a serious investment of time and money. Online tests can’t tell you whether you have the coordination to be a surgeon or a high steel worker, or whether you’re strong enough to be a fire fighter, but they can help you explore such things as your organizational and leadership strengths, your capacity for autonomous work and for working with others.
A career choice that’s at odds with your values can lead to a rocky career path and a chronic lack of work-satisfaction. This is true whether the issues concern intrinsic values – honesty, autonomy or security, a desire to be of service, the need for intellectual fulfillment – or extrinsic values such as the desire for a high income or recognition and respect from others.
No algorithms here. Values assessments let you choose the values most important to you, from (alphabetically) Advancement and Autonomy to Variety and Visual Results, then invite you to consider how you came to choose these values, and how your planned career path matches with these values. Many other post-secondary institutions offer similar tools. You can find this one here.
Values Assessments offers useful analysis of your choice among a host of values, from accountability and achievement to well-being and wisdom. They help you identify your core values (making a difference, self-esteem, etc.) and invite you to both reflect on the results and to discuss them with your partner, family and friends.
Many sites offer tools that help you assess and prioritize your values. Some involve results gleaned from your answers to questions, and others involve reflection and self-assessment. It’s best to try both sorts.
Examples of these assessments are the Philadelphia University Work Values Inventory, Barrett Values Centre Personal Values Assessment and O*Net Online Work Values Tool. You can also do values sort exercises (easily found on the web) to do more of a self-reflective, non-algorithm-based assessment.
Other Tests and Assessments used in Career Search
Birkman International Inc. offers a range of tests, some self-interpreted and others that involve detailed engagement with Birkman Certified Consultants (in person or by phone). The theoretical model is similar to that of the other tests listed above, but the opportunity for one-on-one consultation sets this option apart.
This is another very well known test. Unlike tests that measures people relatively in terms of different traits, the test defines people according to one of four personality types. People are grouped by the test accordingly, and then in terms of the ways that this dominant trait interacts with their secondary traits.
Keirsey Temperament Sorter
Like the MBTI® , the Keirsey Temperament Sorter divides people into types. For Dr. David Keirsey, these defining types are guardian, idealist, rational, and artisan, defined as “temperaments”, “a configuration of observable personality traits, such as habits of communication, patterns of action, and sets of characteristic attitudes, values, and talents ...” And like Jungian and Big Five models, the Keirsey model is oriented towards employment and organizational situations in general, the discussions you can find online about all of them and their results can be a source of useful insight as well.
This assessment identifies your basic personality type, based on a system of 9 different types. The authors of this test believe we are all born with a dominant personality type (although we can show pieces of all types), and each type has unique positives and negatives. The belief is that you know your type, you can strive to maximize your best assets and manage the liabilities.
CliftonStrengths (formerly Strengthfinder)
This is a tool designed to help people discover and develop their natural talents—based upon developing your strengths rather than improving on your weaknesses. It’s clearly designed for the world of work – with packages offered for organizations and teams as well as individuals. There’s a package specifically designed to help students choose a career based on an inventory of their strengths, but the entire program is proprietary.
The Motivational Appraisal Personal Potential (MAPP) is used in many countries. The MAPP assessment involves ranking sets of activities, such as: “Be a member of a social planning commission / Be an auctioneer at estate sales / Be a movie or television actor...”. The results from these rankings point to your vocational interests.
The Personal Strengths Inventory
This assessment tool “measures your personal strengths across 24 key areas, as outlined by psychologist Martin Seligman”. Its 240 questions lead to an assessment of your personal strength in 24 categories within four broad categories: Strengths of Intellect (Curiosity, Judgment, Love of Learning...) Strengths of Self-Management (Self-control, Prudence, Courage), Social Strengths and Strengths of Joy. Your assessment includes the advice that you reflect on the results – reflect on whether you make use of these strengths, whether your job does, whether you might have uncovered strengths you were unaware of. It’s good advice.
Skills can be learned or they can be ‘natural’ talents. They can be ‘hard’ – computer skills, mechanical know-how, languages – or ‘soft’ – interpersonal skills, leadership or self-discipline. Taking thorough stock of your capacities, learned or innate, is a valuable step to take when considering a career path. Some skills and talents are naturally suited to particular career paths, and some career paths absolutely require better-than-average capacities in particular areas.
There are also resources that will match your skills, both abstract (“leadership”) and practical (“mathematical”), to jobs that make use of them.
Once you have a sense, from these assessments, of the skills you possess (or if you have a good sense already) you can visit the O*NET site and plug those skills into its vocation information resources. It will suggest how closely your skills match particular employment fields, and then offer you the same insight into the jobs themselves as described in the O*NET Interest Profiler entry above.
This site connects your self-assessed practical skills (mathematical, mechanical, administrative, musical…) to appropriate career field, suggests the degree to which your skills align with their requirements, and offers a general of the pay and prospects in each(“Bright”, “Average”, Below Average”).
Whatever your circumstances – there is a career test option for you
Modern career tests are products of decades of empirical analysis and improvement, and when they’re taken and interpreted under the guidance of an experienced career advisor, they can prove highly effective for anyone seeking greater clarity about their choice of jobs and occupations.
- Career Test for Adults (mid-career, career change, etc.) – Identify career interest areas, transferable skills, job search strategies.
This group can benefit in many ways from career assessments—people who have been in the working world tend to have better context for how to apply what they learn about themselves and their skills. It can also identify areas of growth or potential opportunities to pivot in their career path. Additionally, knowing traits and types can help someone work better with others who might identify differently than them in this aspect, which can lead to higher productivity and job satisfaction.
- Career Test for College Graduates – Find an awesome job by identifying career fields that relate to academic studies and major, and facilitate transition from college to career because of awareness of specific fields of work and their related job opportunities.
Certainly, the college grad, or senior approaching graduation, is one of the biggest consumers of these assessments. Exploring how their coursework can be applied across industries, identifying areas of interest and job titles for application purposes, and understanding what work culture or environment might best suit their type/traits are just a few ways in which this information can be applied.
- Career Test for College Students – Career tests help you select a major or minor, and increase awareness of career options within a field, even potentially allowing for added courses that will provide more skills or employability.
One of the biggest benefits in career assessments at this stage, besides steering students toward a major or industry, is discovering how to best work with and understand people prior to entering the workforce.
- Career Test for High School Students – Career tests for high school students help them refine likes and dislikes, which gives them a better idea of what field of study they possibly want to pursue.
This group can benefit most by exploring careers to help them make a good decision on which school to choose—the quality and rigor of programs in different fields can differ greatly from one university to the next. Aptitude tests can help high school students understand their skills and where they can be used—which can be helpful in determining if college is the best next step, or if vocational training, apprenticeship or on the job learning would be best.
- Career Test for Kids – Provides awareness of the range of career choices and options at an introductory level. Kids can begin to develop a curiosity about what adults do for work.
Remember to keep an open mind, let kids explore and try not to pigeon-hole them. This is a time for exploration and discovery, and can be exciting for young children to discover different options. Identifying abilities and likes can also lead to opportunities for camps, classes or other ways to explore these areas and gain skills.
What is the Best Career Test?
There are hundreds of career tests and assessments available, the good news is that among them, there a a few that are used extensively, and are deemed to be quite accurate.
The problem with determining the best (most accurate and therefore useful) career, personality, or other psychometric (measuring the mind) tests is that often there is limited information about how the results are calculated by the assessment tool.
Two things are important then to know about the accuracy of a test you are considering taking - validity and reliability. These terms refer to statistical measurements that test designers and researchers use to determine confidence in results. Validity refers to the test actually measuring what is claims to measure. Reliability refers to the accuracy of that measurement, particularly if a person takes the same test at different times, will they get the same results.
There are lots of tests/assessments out there - how do you choose?
- Free (academic/government) Useful, sometimes limited information.
- Sort of free (commercial) A short sample report, then there is a fee for the full report.
- Fee based tests/assessments from recognized publishers. These offer the highest confidence in the results. Developing well designed career tests and assessment costs a lot of money. Many of these are worth it and offer proprietary data that comes from comparing you and your responses to their large databases of research (for example, using your responses to identify careers that people similar to you are highly satisfied with). And because the reports are well laid out and provide a lot of actionable information.
References for Information Regarding Assessments
Buros Center for Testing at University of Nebraska – The Buros Center for Testing operates as an independent, non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the science and practice of testing and assessment.
Journal of Career Assessment – Journal of Career Assessment (JCA) provides methodologically sound, empirically based studies focusing on assessment, career development, and vocational psychology. Regarding assessment, the journal covers the various techniques, tests, inventories, rating scales, interview schedules, surveys, and direct observational methods used in scientifically based practice and research to provide an improved understanding of career decision-making. Regarding career development and vocational psychology, the journal covers all topics falling under each of these areas, especially those from a psychological perspective that have career counseling implications.
Journal of Career Development – Journal of Career Development provides the professional, the public, and policymakers with the latest in career development theory, research and practice, focusing on the impact that theory and research have on practice. Among the topics covered are career education, adult career development, career development of special needs populations, career development and the family, and career and leisure.
Journal of Vocational Behavior – The Journal of Vocational Behavior publishes original empirical and theoretical articles that contribute novel insights to the fields of career choice, career development, and work adjustment across the lifespan and which are also valuable for applications in counseling and career development programs in colleges and universities, business and industry, government, and the military.
Career Development Quarterly – The Career Development Quarterly (CDQ) is the official journal of the National Career Development Association (NCDA). The purpose of CDQ is to foster career development through the design and use of career interventions and publish articles on career counseling, individual and organizational career development, work and leisure, career education, career coaching, and career management.