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Frank Parson's Theory of Vocational Development

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Caitlyn Buchanan

on 2 March 2014

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Transcript of Frank Parson's Theory of Vocational Development

Who was Frank Parson's?
Began at Cornell at age 15 to study math and engineering
Became a civil engineer for a railroad which soon failed because of the depression of 1873.
Switched careers and became a teacher in multiple subjects.
He then became a lawyer completing 3 years of law school in one year.
At the time of his death, he had worked as an engineer, teacher, professor, administrator, vocational counselor, social critic, writer, and lawyer.
Parsons was interested in how people made their occupational choices
He began to lecture to students at the Civic Service House about vocational choice
He believed vocational choice was a form of individual and social efficiency
Students began to request personal meetings with him to discuss their futures
How to Vocationally Counsel
When Parsons began helping young people, there were few resources available to them so they relied solely on interviewing clients.
Parsons Outlined the Method (Seven Steps) to Vocational Counsel:

Personal data:
create a statement of key facts about the person, remembering to include every fact that has bearing on the vocational problem.

Self-analysis:
a self-examination is done in private and under the instruction of the counselor. Every tendency and interest that might impact on the choice of a life work should be recorded.

The client’s own choice and decision:
this may show itself in the first two stages. The counselor must bear in mind that the choice of vocation should be made by the client, with the counselor acting as guide.
The Roots of Vocational Education
Image by Tom Mooring
Frank Parson's Theory of Vocational Development
How to Choose the Best Vocation
Parson's explained that three factors determined if someone would choose the wisest vocation:
A clear understanding of yourself, your aptitudes, your abilities, interests, ambitions, resources, limitations, and their causes
A knowledge of the requirements and conditions of success, advantages and disadvantages, compensation, opportunities, and prospects in different lines of work
True reasoning on the relations of the two other factors
How to Choose the Best Vocation
The role of adults:
Parson's explained that students were not capable of selecting the best vocation for themselves alone.
"Every young person needs help on all three of these points. He needs all the information and assistance he can get. He needs counsel. He needs a vocational counselor. He needs careful and systematic help by experienced minds in making this greatest decision of his life."-
Choosing A Vocation (pg. 5)
Frank Parsons the Progressivist
Parson's was an advocate for the rights and needs of those whom he believed were exploited by industrial monopolies.
He had a distrust of big business which motivated and informed his vocational work
He believed the government should ensure that societal institutions responded to the needs of all its members
It's believed that his progressivist roots were inspired by his time at Cornell
Why the Need for Vocational Education?
Counselor’s analysis:
the counselor tests the client’s decision to see if it is in line with the “main quest”:
The main quest involved a selection of the most important categories from the interview/data inventory
Outlook on the vocational field:
the counselor should be familiar with industrial knowledge such as lists and classifications of industries and vocations, in addition to locations of training and apprenticeships.
Induction and advice:
A broad-minded attitude coupled with logical and clear reasoning are critical at this stage.
This would be considered the closest stage to counseling
General helpfulness:
the counselor helps the client to fit into the chosen work, and to reflect on the decision.
How to Vocationally Counsel
Understanding Parsons' Theory
His theory is considered to be trait and factor. There are two major assumptions of this trait and factor theory:
Individuals and job traits can be matched
Close matches are positively correlated with job success and satisfaction.


"An occupation out of harmony with the worker's aptitudes, abilities, ambitions, resources, and limitations means inefficiency, unenthusiastic and perhaps distasteful labor, and low pay;while an occupation in harmony with the nature of the man means enthusiasm, love of work, and high economic values, superior product, efficient service, and good pay." -
(Choosing a Vocation, pg. 3)
He did not believe he or any vocational counselor should choose a career for a student:
"No person may decide for another what occuptation he should choose, but it is possible to help him so to approach the problem that he shall come to wise conclusions for himself."
-Choosing a Vocation
It is argued that trait and factor theory focuses too much on testing methods:
Because the theory focuses on understanding the student's factors and traits, it is difficult to apply holistically to career counseling.
It is argued that this approach to career guidance is too scientific to provide a holistic vision of a person’s career journey.
Matching assumes a degree of stability within the labor market
Parson usually met with a student once which may be difficult to determine a person's career.
Criticisms of Parsons' Theory
How the Theory is Used Today
Father of Vocational Guidance
Career centers on college campuses
Career testing
Career Counseling
**Though he had written down his methodology, Frank Parsons died at age 56 prior to the publishing of his book in 1909,
Choosing a Vocation
. His friend, Ralph Albertson believed that it was important to publish Parsons' work and was responsible for compiling his writings into book form.
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