What is a Career Test?

Using Assessment Tools To Help You Choose a Career

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You may have heard about a career test or tests you can take to help you choose an occupation. It sounds kind of intriguing, even magical. You answer a few questions and—voila—you are presented with a career choice that is perfect for you. Well, unfortunately there isn't such a beast. There isn't a test you can take that will provide you with an answer to the age old question "what should I be when I grow up?"

Although commonly used, the term "career test" is a bit of a misnomer. It implies there are right or wrong answers just as there are with tests that evaluate mastery of a subject, or negative or positive results, such as you might find with medical tests. What people usually are referring to when they talk about a career test is a self assessment. This consists of using several instruments to learn about one's interests, personality type, work-related values and skills in order to come up with a list of possible career options.

A self assessment doesn't result in right or wrong answers. Being one personality type is no better than being another, nor is it more desirable to have certain values, interests or skills than it is to have others. Like having brown eyes or blue eyes or being left or right handed, these traits just make us who we are. Knowing as much as possible about ourselves can provide the information we need to make wise career-related decisions.

A self assessment tool may also be called an inventory, for example "interest inventory" or "value inventory."

What Self Assessment Tools (aka Career Tests) Can Tell You

Self assessment tools, or career tests, if that term is easier for you to remember, can tell you what your personality type is, what values are important to you and what your interests and skills are.
They will identify the occupations that are most suitable for you based on this information.

Self assessment tools will also help you make decisions regarding the types of work environments in which you will be most successful. For example, if a personality instrument like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, reveals that you are one of eight personality types that favors introversion as the way in which you energize, this hints strongly that you will be successful in a work environment in which you would work independently. A values inventory that identifies job security as important indicates you should consider only occupations that are extremely stable.

What Self Assessment Tools (aka Career Tests) Won't Tell You

A self assessment tool won't tell you what one career is best for you. It's up to you to figure that out and it requires doing quite a bit of homework. After using any tool, you will receive a report that should include a list of approximately 10 to 20 suitable occupations. At first glance some of them will appeal to you while others might make you ask "What the heck ?" Unless you have personal (and accurate) knowledge about any of these careers, everything on your list is worth exploring.

You may think you know enough about a career to either cross it off your list or decide that it's perfect for you, but through your research you could learn something that will surprise you.

How many "tests" do you have to take to help you choose a career? In order to get the most complete picture of yourself, you should use a variety of self assessment tools, including an instrument that tells you what your personality type is and others that identify your interests, work-related values and skills. It is looking at all these things in combination that can help you figure out what careers will be good matches for you.

Many instruments used in career self assessment, for example the Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, are psychological assessments that must be administered by professionals, including career counselors, psychologists or others who have received special training.

While the Internet abounds with free and fee-based "career tests," it is important to remember that the results of these may not be as accurate as those a professional administers.