Career theory and models

There are numerous career theories and models, and no single one is sufficient to describe the broad field of career development. In this section you will find introductions to some of these core theories, and their key ideas.

Career theories typically fall into one of three categories which, while not mutually exclusive, can be a useful form of classification:

Theory of process

Theories of process relate to interaction and change over time. This can be characterised by theories in which there are a series of stages through which people pass.

Theory of content

Theories of content relate to the characteristics of the individual and the context they live in. The influences on career development are thought to be either intrinsic to the individual or originate from the context in which the individual lives.

Theory of content and process

Theories of content and process have been formed in response to a need for theory to take into account both of these key areas. These theories encompass both the characteristics of individuals and their context, and the development and interaction between them.

In this section

Timeline of career theories and models

This timeline shows how career theories have evolved over time.

Holland’s theory

Careers are determined by an interaction between our personality and the environment in John Holland's Theory of Career Choice. We want jobs with people like us.

Bandura’s theory

Watching what others do and the human thought process influences the careers we choose in Albert Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory.

Parsons' theory

Frank Parsons developed the idea of matching careers to talents, skills and personality.

Krumboltz's theory

John Krumboltz's planned happenstance theory makes it OK to not always plan, because unplanned events could lead to good careers.

Super's theory

Donald Super influenced the idea that developing a sense of self and realise that you change over time is important when planning your career.

Te Whare Tapa Whā

The Māori philosophy toward health is based on a holistic health and wellness model called Te Whare Tapa Whā. Developed by Dr Mason Durie in 1982, it can be applied to any health issue, whether it involves physical or psychological well-being.

Updated 3 May 2016