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Career Development Theories Revisited

As 2017 marks ContactPoint’s 20th anniversary, we wanted to take a look at the most popular sections of our website as well as the most-read articles through a series of blog posts, and reflect on what they say about how the field has evolved over the past two decades.

By Vincent Agorini

Career development theories help make sense of experiences. A theory is, in effect, a rationalized set of assumptions or hypotheses that allows you to explain the past and predict the future. As such, theories may provide “direction”; and as theories are tested and prove “true,” they may be said to expand knowledge. Since writing my article in 2005 on Concepts of Guidance: Value of Theory for Practitioners of Guidance debate in the career field has remained largely unchanged despite new theoretical accounts being advanced.

There is still little disagreement within the career theory field that while there are a number of theoretical propositions and models accounting for career behaviour, the field remains segmented, incomplete, and lacking in comprehensiveness and coherence. Each theory or model offers explanations about different parts of the process of career development. Such a theoretical base however, presents difficulties for the instructors attempting to provide students with an integrated theoretical base on which to prepare for career practice.

Theory vs. practice

The issue of whether career theories need integration or convergence continues to be debated and texts have been written on this issue. A related debate within the career field is the relationship between theory and practice, with authors suggesting that practitioners either disregard theory because of its irrelevance or adhere rigidly to one theory only because of the confusion engendered by trying to come to terms with many theories. More recently in the context of an increasingly globalized society, the emphasis of career theory and practice and its transferability and cultural appropriateness to a broad range of populations has been questioned and examined.

There should be more international collaborations to further develop career development theories, both in research and practice (Leung, 2003). Long distance international collaborations, such as collaborative data collection, theory based interventions, and documentations of cross-cultural research and practice initiatives, were difficult to accomplish because of tangible social, political and geographic barriers. However, with advances in communication technology and the emergence of the internet platform (Friedman, 2006), it is considered that such collaborations are now much easier to implement and allow for a metatheorectical framework for the integration of careers theories to help practitioners integrate theory with practice. Theories offer international career guidance professionals a collection of frameworks on which they could anchor and advance the career guidance discipline locally and globally.




Vincent Agorini is a member of the Career Development Institute, UK, and is Head of Careers and Information at Lincoln College. Vincent continues to be involved in developing career models in schools and colleges and currently undergoing research into “How schools and colleges prepare young adults for their Future.” He can be reached through email at

Lucie Morillon
Lucie Morillon is the Bilingual Content & Communications Co-ordinator for CERIC. With a passion for quality content, she connects with her online communities and provides strong resources to engage members – and always encourages new ones to get involved. She identifies, creates and curates the content destined for the ContactPoint website, the weekly CareerWise newsletter and Careering magazine.

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