Evidence-Based Practice in Career and Workforce Development Interventions

Authored by: Susan C. Whiston , Jérôme Rossier , Paola M. Hernandez Barón

The Handbook of Career and Workforce Development

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138886568
eBook ISBN: 9781315714769
Adobe ISBN:




This chapter summarizes the scientific foundation for career and workforce development interventions with the intent of providing insight into what constitutes evidence-based career interventions. Spokane and Oliver (1983) defined “vocational interventions” as any treatment or effort intended to enhance an individual’s career development or to enable the person to make better career-related decisions. We have a similar definition of career and workforce development interventions, which is any treatment or effort intended to enhance an individual’s career, occupational, or work-related development, or to enable the person to make better work-related decisions and help the individual to manage work transitions. This is a broad definition that encompasses a wide array of interventions, such as individual counseling, group activities, career classes, computer information systems, and self-help interventions.

 Add to shortlist  Cite

Evidence-Based Practice in Career and Workforce Development Interventions

This chapter summarizes the scientific foundation for career and workforce development interventions with the intent of providing insight into what constitutes evidence-based career interventions. Spokane and Oliver (1983) defined “vocational interventions” as any treatment or effort intended to enhance an individual’s career development or to enable the person to make better career-related decisions. We have a similar definition of career and workforce development interventions, which is any treatment or effort intended to enhance an individual’s career, occupational, or work-related development, or to enable the person to make better work-related decisions and help the individual to manage work transitions. This is a broad definition that encompasses a wide array of interventions, such as individual counseling, group activities, career classes, computer information systems, and self-help interventions.

Evidence for Career Interventions

In order to address whether career interventions are effective, it is necessary to first explore the long history of meta-analyses on career interventions. These meta-analyses provide important information about the overall effectiveness of career and workforce development interventions. Meta-analytic studies combine the results of studies to produce average effect sizes. In the career area, all of the meta-analyses have collated the findings from treatment versus control comparisons. In these meta-analyses, the mean of the control group is subtracted from the mean of the experimental group, which is divided by the pooled standard deviation of the two groups, which produces an effect size. The effect sizes are typically weighted by sample size and the inverse variance, and combined to produce an average effect size. The first meta-analysis conducted was by Spokane and Oliver (1983) and was later incorporated into a more comprehensive analysis by Oliver and Spokane (1988). Oliver and Spokane (1988) analyzed 58 studies, involving 7,311 participants, which produced an unweighted effect size of .82. Using a more sophisticated weighting system and more recent research, Whiston, Sexton, and Lasoff (1998) found an average effect size of .30. This effect size was based on 47 studies involving 4,660 participants. Using a similar weighting strategy to Whiston et al., Brown and Ryan Krane (2000) found an average effect size of .34, based on 62 studies and 7,725 participants.

As reflected above, the average effect sizes for career interventions ranged from .30 to .82. The effect size of .82 found by Oliver and Spokane is somewhat of an outlier because it is not weighted; however, they found an effect size of .48 when they simply weighted the effect size by sample size. Hence, the effect sizes tend to fall more in the .30 to .48 range. To provide some context, this means that those receiving the career intervention tended to score about a third or more of a standard deviation above those who did not receive the intervention. This difference is statistically significant and is considered by Cohen (1988) to be a small to moderate effect size. Given the number of meta-analyses conducted on career interventions and the number of studies involved, in general, career interventions merit a label of promising practice. These effect sizes, however, were not homogeneous, which indicates whether the variability among the effect sizes was greater than expected because of sampling error. Since the variability was not due to sampling error, moderator analyses should be conducted to explain the effect size variability. This was not unexpected, as the studies varied in terms of who received the interventions and the types of services provided to these participants. It is through these moderator analyses and other research that we find which interventions may merit a label of evidence informed and evidence-based practices.

Evidence Regarding with Whom

Although we argue that, in general, career interventions tend to produce positive results, it is important to determine which interventions are most effective with which individuals. In terms of which individuals should receive career interventions, there is evidence that career interventions can be helpful across the lifespan. Oliver and Spokane (1988) and Whiston et al. (1998) found significant effect sizes for children through adults, with the only exception to this being with elementary children, where there have been very few studies. Although much of the research has been conducted with college students (Whiston, 2002), there is compelling evidence that career interventions should start with younger students.

Whiston et al. (1998) found that the largest effect size (d = .79) was with middle school students. More recent research also supports that intervening in middle school lays the foundation for later career decisions. For example, Turner and Conkel (2010) found that an intervention based on Lapan’s (2004) Integrative Contextual model produced a number of positive outcomes as compared to a control group with inner-city middle school students. Turner and Lapan (2005) found that an intervention designed to increase middle school students’ interest in nontraditional careers and career self-efficacy resulted in the treatment group showing a significant increase in both career planning and exploration, whereas the control group did not experience these gains. Also, Hirschi and Läge (2008) found that those who attended a two-day career workshop for middle school students, as compared to a control group, had higher scores in vocational identity and career exploration.

Research shows not only that middle school students benefit from career interventions but also that this age is a crucial time for such interventions. Akos, Konold, and Niles (2004) found that middle school students are particularly in need of self-knowledge. Therefore, there is substantial evidence that career development interventions should begin at least by the middle school level, if not before. Furthermore, career interventions should also be initiated at or before middle school because eighth grade is often a critical time in terms of curriculum decisions, which impact courses that can be taken in high school. For example, in many states, algebra must be taken in eighth grade in order to take the higher-level mathematics courses during high school that are necessary for pursuing many occupations related to math and science. Thus, these curriculum decisions force students to make career decisions in middle school that effect their later career development and career options. In this context, we argue that career and workforce development interventions should be a part of all students’ curriculum in order for them to make appropriate educational and career decisions.

There is also evidence that career interventions are effective with high school and college students (Whiston et al., 1998) and that students want and need these services. In fact with Italian students, Di Fabio and Bernaud (2008) found that high school students showed greater intentions to seek career counseling than college students. Lapan, Aoyagi, and Kayson (2007) found that enhanced career development in high school was significantly connected to more successful career transitions and to greater satisfaction with life three years after high school graduation. McWhirter, Crothers, and Rasheed (2000) found that a nine-week class for high school sophomores resulted in increased career decision-making self-efficacy, vocational skills self-efficacy, and outcome expectation. Folsom and Reardon (2003) traced the empirical evidence from the 1920s through current practices regarding the effectiveness of career classes for college students. They found that students tended to be quite satisfied with these courses and that the courses tended to improve college retention. Readers interested in evidence-informed practices related to college career courses are directed to Folsom and Reardon, as they also discuss effective design of these career courses.

Whiston et al. (1998) also found a significant effect size for career interventions with adults. Heppner, Multon, Gysbers, Ellis, and Zook (1998) found that adult clients who experienced at least three sessions of individual career counseling experienced positive results on a number of career-related measures. Also, there is evidence that clients’ levels of psychological distress decrease as a result of participating in individual career counseling (Multon, Heppner, Gysbers, Zook, & Ellis-Kalton, 2001). Interestingly, Heppner et al. (2004) found that adults who participated in career counseling had significant changes in their problem solving abilities and their scores were comparable to those who participated in problem-solving training workshops.

Therefore, there is promising evidence that career interventions are effective across the lifespan. This effectiveness, however, may depend on the services provided. As reflected above, more is known about interventions with adolescents and college students, particularly as it relates to career choice counseling and interventions.

Evidenced-Based Practice Related to Career Choice

“Career interventions” is a broad term that includes various types of interventions, such as helping an elementary student with career exploration, assisting people with work/life balance, or assisting a senior with retirement issues. Although there are many types of career intervention, one prominent type is helping people make career choices. Frequently career practitioners are helping people make career choices, and there are evidence-based practices regarding how to assist people with these career choices. We use the term “evidence-based practices” here to signify that the preponderance of evidence supports the use of five critical ingredients in career choice counseling. “Career choice counseling” is defined broadly here and includes assisting people in the development of decisions, intentions, plans, or aspirations regarding work and/or careers.

Brown and Ryan Krane (2000) conducted a series of meta-analyses that not only looked at the overall effectiveness of career-choice interventions but also examined what specific factors contributed to larger effect size. Their meta-analyses identified five broad types of activities, which are commonly referred to as the “critical ingredients” of career choice counseling. They found that counseling that included none of the critical ingredients resulted in an effect size of only .22, whereas, adding one, two, or three of the critical ingredients resulted in effect sizes of .45, .61, or .99, respectively. Brown et al. (2003) explored whether other combinations of treatment ingredients might produce these large effect sizes. To test this hypothesis, they examined randomly generated combinations of “noncritical” ingredients and tested whether more of anything was better. Interestingly, no patterns emerged when noncritical ingredients were selected, and there were no dramatic rises in effect sizes when noncritical ingredients were combined, as there were with the critical ingredients. Therefore, there is compelling evidence that these critical ingredients do significantly and consistently influence outcome. We assert that the findings from these extensive meta-analyses merit the label of “evidence-based practice” when career practitioners are helping people with career choices. We will now describe these five critical ingredients.

Written Exercises

One important ingredient to career interventions is writing exercises using tools like journals, diaries, and workbooks. Through written exercises, clients can track their thoughts, feelings, and reflections related to their career development. Counselors should have clients write down the information gathered about career choices and compare and analyze their occupational options. It is helpful for clients to focus on the future by making goals and generating ideas for plan implementation. Typically when clients write down their responses, as opposed to simply stating them verbally, people give more structured responses and think more carefully about the implications. Therefore, through written exercises, counselors can facilitate their clients’ commitment to their career objectives and courses of action.

Individual Interpretations and Feedback

It is helpful for clients to work individually with a counselor to discuss goals, plans, and vocational issues. By providing individualized interpretations and feedback to clients, counselors facilitate the effectiveness of writing down goals and plans. Individualized interpretation is particularly important when providing feedback from standardized assessments. When using group interventions, counselors are urged to ensure they incorporate offering direct attention; for example, by giving individualized feedback on assessment results and decision-making strategies. While thinking about and writing down goals and plans may be helpful for clients, it is fortified by the counselor involvement. Counselors are encouraged to offer input regarding clients’ goals and plans because it may help clients relate more directly and intimately to their career development.

World of Work Information

Career exploration, as well as understanding the workforce, what it means to work, and the various aspects related to working, is beneficial for clients. Counselors should offer opportunities during sessions for clients to gather information on the world of work and explore specific career choices. Opportunities counselors could offer include computerized career information systems, visits to career libraries, guest speakers or panels, and communication with fellow group members. Counselors should be sure that clients receive accurate and current information about the workforce, skills, expectations, requirements, training opportunities, and possible outcomes related to specific careers. Additionally, it is important that counselors encourage clients to gather information between sessions, which may increase their self-directedness. More generally, adherence to collecting information is linked to writing and intentionally completing goals and plans.

Modeling Opportunities

An effective career intervention incorporates modeling. Counselors should offer opportunities where clients can hear about the successful experiences of others, including past participants and guest speakers. Additionally, counselors are encouraged to self-disclose about their own experiences. Through these modeling opportunities, clients should hear information about career exploration, the decision-making process, coping with work issues, implementation of objectives, and the individual’s successes. It is beneficial for a client to understand how similar she/he is to the person(s) sharing their experiences. The more a client can relate to the model on relevant attributes and the model can demonstrate her/his success, the greater the possibility that the client will increase his/her self-efficacy beliefs. Therefore, the counselor can play an important role in offering clients these frames of reference via personal stories or through the stories of others.

Attention to Building Support for Choices within One’s Social Network

Rather than focusing exclusively on overcoming barriers, counselors are encouraged to emphasize that clients build support for their career goals and plans. While it is important to recognize that barriers exist, it is more effective for counselors to help clients focus on the positive, recognize their social network, and determine people in that network who will support their career objectives. For example, counselors could work to include significant others in the career intervention process. Counselors should help clients determine those who will aid in the client’s successful implementation of plans, improving the effectiveness of a career intervention.

Evidence-Based Practices Regarding Job Search

There is also substantial research supporting a program called JOBS that was developed by the Michigan Prevention Research Center that helps unemployed individuals find work. The research, however, that substantiates the use of the JOBS program is not from meta-analyses but from randomized clinical trial research. Randomized clinical trial research is often considered the gold standard in intervention research (Whiston, 2013), and it involves randomly assigning participants to the experimental and control groups and assessing the participants both at pretest and posttest.

The JOBS program is a five-session intervention, which is facilitated by two practitioners who need to receive training on implementing the program. Treatment integrity is also ensured by the creation of a program manual, JOBS: A Manual for Teaching People Successful Job Search Strategies (Curran, Wishart, & Gingrich, 1999). Group exercises were developed to create an active learning environment. The two most critical active ingredients are job search self-efficacy and inoculation against the setbacks that are endemic to unemployment and gaining employment. The goal of increasing job search self-efficacy and inoculation against setbacks is particularly relevant to those who have been unemployed for a long period of time (Vuori & Price, 2013).

In a randomized clinical trial, Caplan, Vinokur, Price, and van Ry (1989) found that the experimental group had higher earnings and job satisfaction than the control group. JOBS is designed to promote mental health and job search strategies, and Vinokur, Price, and Schul (1995) found it to be particularly effective in decreasing depression for those at-risk for developing significant depression. In a two-year follow up study, Vinokur, Schul, Vuori, and Price (2000) found the experimental group, as opposed to the control group, had significantly higher levels of re-employment and income, fewer depressive symptoms, and better emotional functioning. Furthermore, in a cost-benefit analysis, Vinokur, van Ryn, Gramlich, and Price (1991) found that increased tax revenues from program participants obtaining higher paying jobs could offset the costs of the JOBS program.

The JOBS program has also been implemented in Europe and has been extensively studied in Finland. At the six-month follow-up in Finland, the Työhön Job Search Program was found to have an impact on stable reemployment and on psychological distress (Vuori, Silvonen, Vinokur, & Price, 2002). At the two-year follow-up, participants, when compared to the control group, were more likely to be re-employed or in vocational training (Vuori & Silvonen, 2005). Vuori and Silvonen also found the experimental group had fewer depressive symptoms and higher self-esteem.

It should also be noted that the JOBS program is one of the recognized programs in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) approved by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Each intervention in the registry has met NREPP’s minimum requirements for review and has been independently assessed and rated for quality of research and readiness for dissemination.


Although Brown and Ryan Krane’s (2000) and Brown et al.’s (2003) meta-analyses found that the critical ingredients were necessary for career choice counseling no matter the modality, there is other research that shows modality (i.e., individual counseling, group counseling, workshop, etc.) makes a difference. For example, Whiston et al. (1998) found that individual career counseling was the most effective, whereas Oliver and Spokane (1988) found that individual career counseling and career classes were the most effective modalities. Probably the most significant study in this area is a meta-analysis conducted by Whiston, Brecheisen, and Stephens (2003), which compared career intervention modalities. Whiston et al. (2003) did not find that individual career counseling or classes were more effective, but they did find that counselor-free interventions were significantly less effective than any other modality. They also found that computerized career guidance systems were significantly more effective when counseling accompanied the use of the career guidance system.

Whiston et al.’s (2003) findings have important implications for policy and practice decisions. Sometimes schools and other agencies will purchase or utilize one of the computer-assisted career guidance systems. While offering this resource is beneficial, it is important that decision-makers also realize that this needs to be accompanied by career counseling services provided by a person appropriately trained with these systems. Furthermore, there is some evidence that many individuals (i.e., 61 percent of high school students and 60 percent of college students) do not use these computer-assisted career guidance systems to their full advantage (Gore, Bobek, Robbins, & Shayne, 2006), and counselors could provide instruction to individuals on how to effectively use these systems.

Length of Services

There is some research that can guide practitioners and policy makers about the number of sessions or the length of effective career development interventions. In their meta-analysis, Oliver and Spokane (1988) found that treatment intensity was a significant predictor of outcome. Treatment intensity was calculated using both the number of sessions and the number of hours involved in the intervention. They found that longer and more involved treatments produced more positive outcomes. Although Whiston et al. (1998) did not find a correlation between number of sessions and outcome, Brown and Ryan Krane (2000) did. Brown and Ryan Krane found that a clear but nonlinear relationship between the number of sessions and the outcome in which effect sizes increased from one session to four to five sessions and then decreased in effectiveness after the peak at four to five sessions. They recommended that either individual or group career counseling last around four to five sessions. However, it should be noted that clients’ needs are very heterogeneous and the length of the services should be adjusted based on the client. Furthermore, more research is needed that examines length of career services with diverse types of clients.

Measuring Intervention Outcome

In the previous sections, we have discussed the effectiveness of career interventions, but we have not explored how effectiveness is specifically measured. Oliver and Spokane (1988) found the most commonly used outcome measures were career information seeking and career maturity. Whiston et al. (1998) also found that career maturity was a frequently used outcome measure, and they found frequent use of career certainty/decidedness measures. Brown and Ryan Krane (2000) focused their series of meta-analyses on career choice outcomes, which included measures of congruence, vocational identity, career maturity, and career decision-making self-efficacy. One of the limitations of these meta-analyses is the predominance of self-report outcome measures and the lack of behavioral measures (e.g., employment, grades, declaring a major). One of the strengths emanating from the studies done by the Michigan Prevention Research Center is that they frequently used employment as an outcome measure. Brown (2015) argues that researchers should select outcome measures and statistical analyses that show that career and workforce development programs and services truly have an impact on people’s lives (i.e., clinical significance versus statistical significance). Therefore, clients’ level of satisfaction with the intervention is not as important as the implementation of the plan constructed during the career counseling.

Short-Term Versus Long-Term Effects

One of the central questions is whether career or workforce development interventions produce significant and long-lasting influences. In order to assess the long-term effects of career interventions, researchers need to conduct follow-up analyses. With Swiss adolescents, Hirschi and Läge (2008) found smaller effect sizes for four outcome measures at a three-month follow-up as compared to the post-test effect sizes. The effect sizes at the three-month follow-up were .07 for career decidedness, .18 for both career planning and vocational identity, and .39 for career exploration. With French clients, Bernaud, Gaudron, and Lemoine (2006) found the overall effect size decreased from .62 at post-test to .44 at the six-month follow-up. Verbruggen and Sels (2008) found that at the six-month follow-up to career counseling in Belgium, scores on self-awareness and career self-directedness remained consistent with post-counseling scores but career adaptability decreased. In another study, Verbruggen and Sels (2010) found at a six-month follow-up that the average career counseling participant had achieved 49 percent of the goals set during the career counseling and was moderately satisfied with his or her career and life. Also with Swiss participants who received individual career counseling, Perdrix, Stauffer, Masdonati, Massoudi, and Rossier (2012) quantitatively and qualitatively assessed participants at three months and at one year after they completed the intervention. Qualitative results showed that 64 percent of the clients implemented their career plans within one year. Furthermore, they found that life satisfaction moderately increased during the intervention, but no significant change occurred over the following year. For clients younger than 21, career decision-making difficulties continued to decrease from post-test to follow-up; however, for clients over 21, the difficulties did not continue to decrease. Kirschner, Hoffman, and Hill (1994) conducted a case study where they followed up with the client five years later. Although a case study has limited generalizability, they did find that the client described the career counseling as a very significant experience that served as a direct impetus in her changing jobs.

Therefore, over time, the effects of career counseling seemed to be maintained or decreased slightly. There needs, however, to be more research on this topic and more use of longitudinal designs before we can say definitively that career interventions have a long-term effect.

Treatment by Attribute Interactions

In his seminal paper, Fretz (1981) called for more research that examines the interaction between client characteristics or attributes and specific treatments. In essence, this was a call for more research on which career interventions worked with which clients. This is an area where more research is still needed. For example, although we know that career interventions are generally effective with middle school students, we do not know what specific interventions produce large effect sizes with middle school students. This lack of knowledge about what interventions work with whom is also accurate for other demographic variables, such as gender and race and/or ethnicity.

The lack of research regarding what interventions work with clients of different races and ethnicities is unfortunate because clients of different races and ethnicities are facing different challenges. Carter, Scales, Juby, Collins, & Wan (2003) found that African Americans were most likely to attend only one career counseling session, whereas Asian and Hispanic students seemed to be the most likely to attend two to nine sessions, and white students appeared to be most likely to attend 10 or more sessions. An exception to this dearth of research concerns Asian Americans and a series of studies conducted by Kim and colleagues. Kim and Atkinson (2002) found that participants with high Asian cultural values tended to rate Asian American career counselors as more empathetic and credible, whereas participants with low Asian cultural values tended to evaluate European American career counselors as more empathetic. However, in contrast to hypotheses, all participants rated the European American counselors’ sessions as being more positive and arousing. In another career counseling study, Kim, Li, and Liang (2002) found that Asian American college students preferred a more resolution-focused session over a more insight-oriented session. On the other hand, contrary to their hypothesis, they found that clients with high Asian cultural values rated counselors as being more culturally competent when the counselors encouraged the expression of emotions as compared to cognition. In the third study, Li and Kim (2004) found that regardless of Asian cultural values, clients in the directive approach rated their career counselors more positively than clients in the nondirective approach. Whereas these series of studies do provide clinicians working with Asian American clients some useful information, it is regrettable that we cannot report more information on other racial or ethnic groups. This is particularly disappointing as other racial or ethnic groups (e.g., African Americans) have significant unemployment rates and tend to enter low-paying, low-status occupations.

Gender is another client attribute that may affect treatment. Hence, there may be specific career interventions that are more effective with women or girls as compared to men and boys or vice versa. Surprisingly, there is little research regarding which interventions work best with males or females (Whiston & Rose, 2014). We do know that males as compared to females are more likely to attach a greater stigma to career counseling (Di Fabio & Bernaud, 2008; Rochlen, Mohr, & Hargrove (1999). Rochlen and O’Brien (2002) examined the reasons why men would or would not seek career counseling. The reasons men would seek career counseling included seeking general career assistance, securing professional advice, exploring job opportunities, and expanding career options. Conversely, the reasons these men would not seek career counseling involved doubting whether career counseling would be helpful, being independent and a preference for solving problems for themselves, and the time commitment and inconvenience.

Regarding gender, there have been a few intervention studies related to promoting nontraditional career interests. Turner and Lapan (2005) found with ethnically diverse middle school students that a three-module intervention called Mapping Vocational Challenges resulted in significant gains for the experimental group in terms of efficacy in career planning and exploration and efficacy. Also, both males and females were more interested in nontraditional areas after the career interventions, as compared to their more traditional interests before the interventions. To be specific, boys became more interested in Artistic, Social, and Conventional themes, whereas girls became more interested in Realistic and Enterprising themes.

There have been a number of recent calls to attend to issues of social class when designing career interventions (e.g., Ali, Fall, & Hoffman, 2013; Blustein, Kozan, Connors-Kellgren, & Rand, 2015). As emphasized by Ali (2013) and Blustein (2006, 2013), poverty in particular calls into question career interventions that focus on adjustment and choice, as many people living in poverty do not have the luxury of career choice. Ali, Yang, Button, and McCoy (2012) conducted an evaluation study of career interventions with many low-income students. In the school with the highest proportion of low-income students, they found the intervention was associated with a dramatic rise in career aspirations. Many of the students from this same school also reported that they learned the most from specific information about colleges and careers. When working with low-income clients, Blustein et al. (2015) recommend that counselors discard assumptions about what constitutes common career knowledge and possibly provide specific career and educational information.

Having more information on how to conduct career interventions with diverse clients (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation) is particularly important because career counselors tend to see themselves as being more culturally competent than external reviewers found them to be (Vespia, Fitzpatrick, Fouad, Kantamneni, & Chen, 2010). Multicultural competency includes critical self-awareness of influences and biases in working with clients particularly of minority groups and the ability to account for the influence and dynamics among various sociocultural aspects of a client. Vespia et al. (2010) found that the amount of multicultural training was the only variable that predicted self-reported and external reports on multicultural competence. Therefore, it is beneficial that career counselors have multicultural training. It is particularly crucial to incorporate an experiential component to training given the discrepancy between the internally and externally perceived multicultural competencies.

Global Implications

In discussing multicultural implications for career counseling, it is important to consider culture broadly and globally. First, we should note a disturbing decrease in career intervention research in the United States in the last 20 years. There are a few US-based researchers who have systematically published career intervention research, with some of the exceptions being Turner and Conkel (2010) and Turner and Lapan (2005). There have been some significant studies coming from Europe (e.g., Bernaud et al., 2006; Masdonati, Massoudi, & Rossier, 2009, Perdrix et al., 2012; Verbruggen & Sels, 2008, 2010). This may be related to Europe’s commitment to vocational guidance starting in the late 1950s and continuing through today (see Watts, Sultana, & McCarthy, 2010). According to Watts et al. (2010), vocational guidance in the European Union has now been replaced in policy matters by the term “lifelong guidance,” which emphasizes the career needs of citizens across their lifespans. It should be noted, however, that countries within the European Union vary in terms of the lifelong guidance services they provide but, unlike the United States, guidance services are usually publicly funded and free to users.

Although we note the decline in career research in the United States, many non-Western countries are producing little career intervention research. In our search for career intervention research, we found very few studies emanating from either China or India, even though these are emerging economies. According to Sun and Yuen (2012), career guidance and counseling in China started late, but there is emerging theory and practice. In particular, they note that many Chinese universities are now instituting career counseling services. We also found very little research coming from Africa. Perry (2009) suggests that international efficacy research be expanded to include social action research and mixed methods inquiry. He asserts that the purpose of efficacy research internationally “is to not simply show that programs are ‘efficacious,’ but to demonstrate that they can transform into viable, long-lasting solutions to alleviating systemic problems, such as school dropout, unemployment, or welfare subsistence” (p. 112). To accomplish these significant goals, Perry recommends social or participatory action research where researchers and participants collaborate in the research process. From this perspective, efficacy research and empowerment are inextricably linked. Perry further recommends that outcome research internationally incorporate mixed methods designs. That is that, according to Perry, the next step in the evolution of efficacy research would be to complement quantitative outcomes with qualitative outcomes. He argues that the voices of participants, not just total scores on a scale, need to be heard when the outcome measures are in the areas of vocational aspirations, career exploration, or attitudes about the value of education or training.


Meta-analyses indicate that, in general, career and workforce development interventions are moderately effective. Therefore, policy makers can be assured that the implementation of career interventions will produce positive results. However, these meta-analyses found heterogeneity of effect sizes, which indicates that some interventions are more effective than other interventions. It is somewhat more difficult to identify what are truly the more effective interventions, given the current research in this area. One consistent finding is that counselor-free interventions tend not to be very effective. Therefore, policy makers should institute career development interventions that involve aspects of counseling. The role of the counselor, however, will vary depending on the needs of the clients.

In this chapter, we identified two intervention strategies that we argue meet the criteria of evidence-based interventions. The first of these addresses issues of career choice, and the research indicates there are five critical ingredients that counselors need to include in career choice counseling. Based on meta-analyses, these five critical ingredients are written exercises, individual interpretations and feedback, world of work information, modeling opportunities, and attention to building support for choices within one’s social network. More research in this area, however, may provide greater clarity to clinicians. For example, in the area of written exercises, there may be specific written exercises that are more effective than others, particularly when we consider treatment by client attribute interactions. That is, there may be certain written exercises that are more appropriate for adolescents as compared to adults. We suggest that researchers continue to explore the five critical ingredients with the goal of providing more specificity to clinicians.

The second intervention strategy that we consider to merit the label of “evidence-based treatments” is the Michigan Prevention Research Center’s JOBS program. The JOBS program was evaluated using randomized clinical trials research, which is comparatively rare in career and workforce development research. Although the current research on the JOBS program is encouraging, more research is needed regarding implementation and adherence. One of the strengths of the JOBS program is its use of a treatment manual, which is lacking in some areas of programmatic career intervention research, but there is little research on whether adherence to the JOBS manual makes a significant difference. Further research is also needed on whether the JOBS program is effective with diverse groups and those groups where unemployment tends to be rampant (e.g., young African American men).

We further argue that it is problematic to identify only two intervention strategies that merit the label of “evidence-based practice” and wish to make a clarion call for more systematic research related to career interventions. For example, we make the argument that career intervention strategies should occur either before or during middle school; yet, we do not know precisely what interventions would be the most effective with these students. The need for career interventions in middle schools and high schools within the United States is becoming increasingly important, with the calls at the federal level for all students graduating from high school to be college and career ready.

In conclusion, the greatest need for more research related to career interventions centers on the question of what works for whom? Embedded in this question about what works are concerns about how we measure outcome and the need to utilize more macro-measures rather than micro-measures. We must also consider the lack of empirically based interventions for specific groups, such as low-income clients or clients of color. When it comes to career interventions, it may be that we know the least on how to help people who have the greatest need. This problem, however, can be remedied if policy makers, researchers, and clinicians all work together so that we know more about what works with whom.


Akos, P. , Konold, T. , & Niles, S. G. (2004). A career readiness typology and typal membership in middle school. The Career Development Quarterly, 53, 53–66. doi: 10.1002/j.2161–0045.2004.tb00655.x.
Ali, S. R. (2013). Poverty, social class, and working. In D. L. Blustein (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of the psychology of working (pp. 127–140). New York: Oxford University Press.
Ali, S. R. , Fall, K. , & Hoffman, T. (2013). Life without work: Understanding social class changes and unemployment through theoretical integration. Journal of Career Assessment, 21, 111–126. doi: 10.1177/1069072712454820.
Ali, S. R. , Yang, L. , Button, C. J. , & McCoy, T. T. H. (2012). Career education programming in three diverse high schools: A critical psychology-case study research approach. Journal of Career Development, 39, 357–385. doi: 10.1177/0894845311398131.
Bernaud, J.-L. , Gaudron, J.-P. , & Lemoine, C. (2006). Effects of career counseling on French adults: An experimental study. The Career Development Quarterly, 54, 242–255. doi: 10.1002/j.2161–0045.2006.tb00155.x.
Blustein, D. L. (2006). The psychology of working: A new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy. Mahwah, NJ: LEA Associates.
Blustein, D. L. (Ed.). (2013). The Oxford handbook of the psychology of working. New York: Oxford University Press.
Blustein, D. L. , Kozan, S. , Connors-Kellgren, A. , & Rand, B. (2015). Social class and career interventions. In P. J. Hartung , M. L. Savickas , & W. B. Walsh (Eds.), APA handbook of career interventions (Vol. 1, pp. 243–257). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Brown, S. D. (2015). Career intervention efficacy: Making a difference in people’s lives. In P. J. Hartung , M. L. Savickas , & W. B. Walsh (Eds.), APA handbook of career interventions (Vol. 1, pp. 61–77). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Brown, S. D. , & Ryan Krane, N. E. (2000). Four (or five) sessions and a cloud of dust: Old assumptions and new observations about career counseling. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Handbook of counseling psychology (3rd ed., pp. 740–766). New York: Wiley.
Brown, S. D. , Ryan Krane, N. E. , Brecheisen, J. , Castelino, P. , Budisin, I. , Miller, M. , & Edens, L. (2003). Critical ingredients of career choice interventions: More analyses and new hypotheses. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 62, 411–428. doi: 10.1016/S0001–8791(02)00052–0.
Caplan, R. D. , Vinokur, A. D. , Price, R. H. , & Van Ryn, M. (1989). Job seeking, reemployment, and mental health: A randomized field experiment in coping with job loss. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74, 759–769. doi: 10.1037/0021–9010. 74.5.759.
Carter, R. T. , Scales, J. E. , Juby, H. L. , Collins, N. M. , & Wan, C. M. (2003). Seeking career services on campus: Racial differences in referral, process, and outcome. Journal of Career Assessment, 11, 393–404.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Curran, J. , Wishart, P. , & Gingrich, J. (1999). JOBS: A manual for teaching people successful job search strategies. Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan Prevention Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.
Di Fabio, A. , & Bernaud, J.-L. (2008). The help-seeking in career counseling. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72, 60–66. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2007.10.006.
Fretz, B. R. (1981). Evaluating the effectiveness of career interventions. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 28, 77–90. doi: 10.1037/0022–0167.28.1.77.
Gore, P. A., Jr. , Bobek, B. L. , Robbins, S. B. , & Shayne, L. (2006). Computer-based career exploration: Usage patterns and a typology of users. Journal of Career Assessment, 14, 421–436. doi: 10.1177/1069072706288939.
Heppner, M. J. , Lee, D. , Heppner, P. P. , McKinnon, L. C. , Multon, K. D. , & Gysbers, N. C. (2004). The role of problem-solving appraisal in the process and outcome of career counseling. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65, 217–238. doi: 10.1016/S0001–8791(03)00100–3.
Heppner, M. J. , Multon, K. D. , Gysbers, N. C. , Ellis, C. A. , & Zook, C. E. (1998). The relationship of trainee self-efficacy to the process and outcome of career counseling. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 45, 393–402. doi: 10.1037/0022–0167.45.4.393.
Hirschi, A. , & Läge, D. (2008). Increasing the career choice readiness of young adolescents: An evaluation study. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 8, 95–110. doi: 10.1007/s10775–008–9139–7.
Kim, B. S. K. , & Atkinson, D. R. (2002). Asian American client adherence to Asian cultural values, counselor expression of cultural values, counselor ethnicity, and career counseling process. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49, 3–13. doi: 10.1037/0022–0167.49.1.3.
Kim, B. S. K. , Li, L. C. , & Liang, T. H. (2002). Effects of Asian American client adherence to Asian cultural values, session goal, and counselor emphasis of client expression on career counseling process. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49, 342–354. doi: 10.1037/0022–0167.49.3.342.
Lapan, R. T. (2004). Career development across the K-16 years: Bridging the present to satisfying and successful futures. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Lapan, R. T. , Aoyagi, M. , & Kayson, M. (2007). Helping rural adolescents make successful postsecondary transitions: A longitudinal study. Professional School Counseling, 10, 266–272. doi: 10.5330/prsc.10.3.u6j3j64h48p27w25.
Li, L. C. , & Kim, B. S. K. (2004). Effects of counseling style and client adherence to Asian cultural values on counseling process with Asian American college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 51, 158–167. doi: 10.1037/0022–0167.51.2.158.
Masdonati, J. , Massoudi, K. , & Rossier, J. (2009). Effectiveness of career counseling and the impact of the working alliance. Journal of Career Development, 36, 183–203. doi: 10.1177/0894845309340798.
McWhirter, E. H. , Crothers, M. , & Rasheed, S. (2000). The effects of high school career education on social–cognitive variables. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47, 330–341. doi: 10.1037/0022–0167.47.3.330.
Oliver, L. W. , & Spokane, A. R. (1988). Career-intervention outcome: What contributes to client gain? Journal of Counseling Psychology, 35, 447–462. doi: 10.1037/0022–0167.35.4.447.
Perry, J. C. (2009). A combined social action, mixed methods approach to vocational guidance efficacy research. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 9, 111–123. doi: 10.1007/s10775–009–9158-z.
Rochlen, A. B. , Mohr, J. J. , & Hargrove, B. K. (1999). Development of the attitudes toward career counseling scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 46, 196–206. doi: 10.1037/0022–0167.46.2.196.
Rochlen, A. B. , & O’Brien, K. M. (2002a). Men’s reasons for and against seeking help for career-related concerns. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 11, 55–63. doi: 10.3149/jms.1101.55.
Spokane, A. R. , & Oliver, L. W. (1983). Outcomes of vocational intervention. In S. H. Osipow & W. B. Walsh (Eds.), Handbook of vocational psychology (pp. 99–136). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=170.
Sun, V. J. , & Yuen, M. (2012). Career guidance and counseling for university students in china. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 34, 202–210. doi: 10.1007/s10447–012–9151-y.
Turner, S. L. , & Conkel, J. L. (2010). Evaluation of a career development skills intervention with adolescents living in an inner city. Journal of Counseling & Development, 88, 457–465. doi: 10.1002/j.1556–6678.2010.tb00046.
Turner, S. L. , & Lapan, R. T. (2005). Evaluation of an intervention to increase non-traditional career interests and career-related self-efficacy among middle-school adolescents. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 66, 516–531. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2004.02.005.
Verbruggen, M. , & Sels, L. (2008). Can career self-directedness be improved through counseling? Journal of Vocational Behavior, 73, 318–327. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2008.07.001.
Verbruggen, M. , & Sels, L. (2010). Social-cognitive factors affecting clients’ career and life satisfaction after counseling. Journal of Career Assessment, 18, 3–15. doi: 10.1177/ 1069072709340516.
Vespia, K. M. , Fitzpatrick, M. E. , Fouad, N. A. , Kantamneni, N. , & Chen, Y. (2010). Multicultural career counseling: A national survey of competencies and practices. The Career Development Quarterly, 59, 54–71. doi: 10.1002/j.2161–0045.2010.tb00130.x.
Vinokur, A. D. , Price, R. H. , & Schul, Y. (1995). Impact of the JOBS intervention on unemployed workers varying in risk for depression. American Journal of Community Psychology, 23, 39–74.
Vinokur, A. D. , Schul, Y. , Vuori, J. , & Price, R. H. (2000). Two years after a job loss: Long-term impact of the JOBS program on reemployment and mental health. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5, 32–47. doi: 10.1037/1076–8998.5.1.32.
Vinokur, A. D. , van Ryn, M. , Gramlich, E. M. , & Price, R. H. (1991). Long-term follow-up and benefit-cost analysis of the JOBS program: A preventive intervention for the unemployed. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 213–219. doi: 10.1037/0021–9010.76.2.213.
Vuori, J. , & Price, R. H. (2013). Evidence-based job search interventions for unemployed workers and youth. In P. J. Hartung , M. L. Savickas , & W. B. Walsh (Eds.), APA handbook of career interventions (Vol. 2, pp. 321–335). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Vuori, J. , & Silvonen, J. (2005). The benefits of a preventive job search program on re-employment and mental health at 2-year follow-up. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 78, 43–52. doi: 10.1348/096317904X23790.
Vuori, J. , Silvonen, J. , Vinokur, A. D. , & Price, R. H. (2002). The Työhön job search program in Finland: Benefits for the unemployed with risk of depression or discouragement. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 7, 5–19. doi: 10.1037/1076–8998.7.1.5.
Watts, A. G. , Sultana, R. G. , & McCarthy, J. (2010). The involvement of the European Union in career guidance policy: A brief history. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 10, 89–107. doi: 10.1007/s10775–010–9177–9.
Whiston, S. C. (2013). Principles and applications of assessment in counseling. Belmont, CA: Cengage.
Whiston, S. C. , Brecheisen, B. K. , & Stephens, J. (2003). Does treatment modality affect career counseling effectiveness? Journal of Vocational Behavior, 62, 390–410. doi: 10.1016/S0001–8791(02)00050–7.
Whiston, S. C. , & Rose, C. S. (2014). Career counseling process and outcome. In M. L. Savickas , W. B. Walsh , & P. J. Hartung (Eds.), APA handbook of career interventions (Vol. 1, pp. 43–60). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Whiston, S. C. , Sexton, T. L. , & Lasoff, D. L. (1998). Career-intervention outcome: A replication and extension of Oliver and Spokane (1988). Journal of Counseling Psychology, 45, 150–165. doi: 10.1037/0022–0167.45.2.150.
Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.