Holland's Theory of Career Choice and You

Enjoy greater success with a career or major that fits your personality

Choosing a college major, training program, or a career that fits your Holland personality is a vital step toward success—good grades, graduating on time, and job satisfaction.

The Holland theory is the best known and most widely researched theory on this topic. It is widely used by professionals.

Understanding the theory and using a valid measure of Holland’s personality types, like the Career Key test, will help you choose the careers or majors that best fit your personality. (Watch our videos)

Holland's theory can be summarized in six statements:

  1. In our culture, most people are one of six personality types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Some refer to these as Holland Codes or RIASEC.
  2. People of the same personality type working together in a job create a work environment that fits their type. For example, when Artistic persons are together on a job, they create a work environment that rewards creative thinking and behavior -- an Artistic environment.
  3. There are six basic types of work environments: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional.
  4. People search for environments where they can use their skills and abilities and express their values and attitudes. For example, Investigative types search for Investigative environments; Artistic types look for Artistic environments, and so forth.
  5. People who choose to work in an environment similar to their personality type are more likely to be successful and satisfied. For example, Artistic persons are more likely to be successful and satisfied if they choose a job that has an Artistic environment, like choosing to be a dance teacher in a dancing school -- an environment "dominated" by Artistic type people where creative abilities and expression are highly valued.
  6. Graphic of personality types matched to careers

  7. How you act and feel at work depends to a large extent on your workplace (or school) environment. If you are working with people who have a personality type like yours, you will be able to do many of the things they can do, and you will feel most comfortable with them. How is this related to the scores you receive on the Career Key?

How is this related to the scores you receive on the Career Key test? Choosing a career, college major, or training program that matches, or is similar to, you personality is most likely to lead to your career satisfaction and success. (Learn how this also applies to career clusters, fields, and pathways).

A good match-up is called "Congruent" (meaning "compatible, in agreement or harmony"). For example, imagine that your highest score on the Career Key is for the Realistic type. Looking at the table below, you can see that the most compatible job environment is Realistic. It is a congruent match. This suggests that you choose a job in the Realistic group. Or, you might choose from the jobs that fall in the Investigative or Conventional category.

Compatible Work Environments

  • Your Personality Type
  • Realistic
  • Investigative
  • Artistic
  • Social
  • Enterprising
  • Conventional

Most people, in reality, are a combination of types -- like Realistic-Investigative, or Artistic-Social.  Therefore, you will probably want to consider occupations in more than one category.

In summary, you are most likely to choose a satisfying job if you choose one that fits your personality type.

If your two strongest personality types are "inconsistent"-Realistic and Social, Investigative and Enterprising, or Artistic and Conventional-be sure to read the next section, below, and this article.

Holland's Hexagon

John Holland created a hexagonal model that shows the relationship between the personality types and environments.

CK chart

Notice that the personality types closest to each other are more alike than those farther away. You can see this most clearly when you compare the personalities opposite each other, on the hexagon. For example, read the description of the types for Realistic and Social. You will see that they are virtually the opposite of each other. On the other hand, Social and Artistic are not that far apart.

The same holds true for the work environments. Read their descriptions and you will see.

See how the hexagon reflects introversion and extroversion; personality-environment match applies to those dimensions also.

Inconsistent Personality Patterns

If your two strongest personality types are Realistic and Social, Investigative and Enterprising, or Artistic and Conventional, read about inconsistent personality patterns and how they can work to your advantage.

Two Essentials

To use Holland's theory, it is vital that you use a,

  1. Valid (true) measure of Holland's personality types, one that is supported by studies published in scientific journals, and
  2. List of occupations or majors scientifically classified.

Otherwise you are likely to be misled.

The Career Key test, is one of the few that meets these two standards.

Take the Career Key Test   »