Yes, it is true. You can be misled by career tests and career assessments on the Internet. They can tell you that you are one thing when you are actually something else. Worse, they can match with careers, career pathways, majors and education programs that don't fit you.
For example, the test might report that your highest score is for the Artistic personality type when actually it is Enterprising -- a very different personality!
This is what happens to people taking a career test by the Department of Labor called the O*NET Interest Profiler. How do we know this? It is what their research shows.
Can you imagine how those Enterprising people feel when they take the Interest Profiler and they are told that they should consider Artistic careers? What happens if they actually follow the Profiler's direction and choose to enter an Artistic career or training program that does not fit them?
The Interest Profiler does not measure what it is supposed to measure. It is an invalid career test.
To make matters worse, the Interest Profiler has been adopted by many state and federal agencies; and, companies package it in their online career and college guidance products they sell to schools, colleges, and libraries.
The same is true for the Career Clusters Interest Survey (CCIS). For years it has been widely promoted by states and the federal government to assess students' interests and guide them in choosing one of the U.S. Department of Education's 16 Career Clusters (and Pathways) -- a program of study to pursue in high school and college.
A recent study of its validity, the first and only one done, shows that it does not measure interests in the Data/Idea area -- four of the six Holland personality types: Enterprising, Conventional, Artistic, and Investigative. (Prime & Tracey, 2010).
In other words, thousands of students (and their parents) are being told their interests are something they are not, and are directed toward programs of study and college majors that do not fit their personality.
Some recommend using "informal assessments" like the CCIS "just for exploration." This is unsound even in the middle school years -- when students' RIASEC interests are fairly stable (Tracey, Robbins & Hofsess, 2005), and they and their parents are beginning to make serious decisions about future schooling.
Unfortunately, most of the career measures on the Internet are pseudo-measures like this. They go by a variety of names, like: sorter, finder, quiz, survey, zone, path, and color. They are also a part of web-based career guidance systems sold to schools, states, and other organizations. (Disclaimer: The Career Key® licenses its career assessment.)
Valid career measures require years of scientific study. The results are reported in scientific journals and included in a professional manual for the test. This takes time and money.
You can click here to download a recent article on this issue.
What can you do?
- Check to see if there is an online professional manual, like The Career Key. That is a good sign.
- If you or your child is in a school that subscribes to an online educational or career guidance system, ask the principal or school counselor if the there are published studies in scientific journals that support the validity of the career measure it uses.
- Be wary of endorsements by professional organizations or links from their web pages. Unfortunately, they are often unreliable.
- Use a valid measure. Besides The Career Key, the following are valid measures of Holland's interests/personality types: Vocational Preference Inventory, Self-Directed Search, Strong Interest Inventory, Campbell Interest and Skills Survey, and ACT's UNIACT.
- Keep in mind that no test can tell you what to do. They can help you:
- Learn about yourself,
- Identify promising careers, training programs, or college majors and,
- Make a good decision.
- Seek the help of a professionally trained career counselor who recognizes the importance of test validity.
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