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Choosing the Right Post Secondary Program

by Juliet Wehr Jones, Vice President, Career Key


With education costs going up and more people returning to school, the stakes are higher than ever for making a good program choice. Choosing the wrong major or instructional program is inconvenient, expensive, and increases students’ incompletion rate.  Fortunately, we know how to help people make a successful choice, one likely to result in a higher GPA, degree completion, and higher post-graduation earnings.


Recent large-scale studies convincingly demonstrate that students who choose a major that matches or is “congruent” with their interests and skills (Holland personality type – RIASEC) are more likely to stick with and be successful in that major, and in post secondary programs.


Many counsellors and practitioners use Holland’s Theory of Vocational Choice to help people choose a career. This theory explains work-related behavior – such as, which career choices are likely to lead to job success and satisfaction? It is the best-known and most widely researched theory on this topic.


And it also helps people choose the right post secondary major or program, as shown in the following research findings:

·        Greater interest-major congruence was associated with a higher GPA and rates of retention in a study involving 80,000+ students at 87 colleges.

Tracey, Terence J.G., Robbins, S.B. (2006).  The interest-major congruence and college success relation: A longitudinal study.  Journal of Vocational Behavior, 69, 64-89.

·        In a study involving nearly 50,000 students at 25 four-year institutions, “students are more likely to flourish in academic environments that fit their personality types.”

Allen, J., Robbins, S.B. (2008).  Prediction of College Major Persistence Based on Vocational interests, Academic Preparation, and First-Year Academic Performance.  Research in Higher Education, Volume 49, number 1.

·        Adult workers re-entering postsecondary education who chose college majors and career fields congruent with their interests and abilities were more likely to be satisfied.

Olitsky, N., Robbings, S., & Neumann, G. (2007).  Job congruence, academic achievement, and earnings.  Iowa City IA: ACT, Inc. (Manuscript submitted).

·        Research suggests congruence of interests and planned college major, when measured before college, has a positive relation with post-collegiate earnings.

Kristof-Brown, A.L., Zimmerman, R.D., & Johnson, E.C. (2005).  Consequences of individuals’ fit at work: A meta-analysis of person-job, person-organization, person-group, and person-supervisor fit.  Personnel Psychology, 58, 281-342.


If you would like to learn more about this research and how Holland’s Theory can be used to help clients choose a postsecondary program, I will be giving a presentation at CANNEXUS 2010 on this topic.


Our ad and registration-free website, Career Key Canada,, has many free, high-quality articles describing Holland’s Theory and how to use it to choose a college major and career. Our new ePublication, The Education Key, is the only resource to match all 1,400+ majors and instructional programs in Canada and the U.S. to the six Holland personality types.


Juliet Wehr Jones, J.D. is Vice President of Career Key Canada,, the #1 Internet source for helping people choose careers. Her popular blog, The Career Key Blog,, is featured on Alltop Careers.


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