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The History of Career Guidance

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You might take for granted that today you have several resources for career counseling: private consulting forms, college career centers and organizations such as the National Career Development Association. The history of career guidance has its roots in the late 1800s and the dawning of the 20th century.


Before the late 19th century, little was available in the form of career guidance for those looking to find a job. Back then, career guidance was known as vocational guidance. Most work prospects developed from close community contacts such as family, friends and perhaps church. The turn of the 20th century saw a rise in immigration, resulting in an increased need for a more organized effort to help people find jobs.

Vocational Guidance Movement

The Vocational Guidance Movement was the precursor to career counseling. It begin in 1907, when the founding father of vocational guidance, Frank Parsons, created the first methodology of career guidance. In 1908, he began the Vocational Bureau of Boston, with a mission of aiding people to discover what careers were available. His theories were rooted in first improving working conditions, then focusing on the individual workers' needs. Parsons' methodology focused on making people more in tune with their skills and interests, thus leading to the right fit for a career.

Mid-20th Century

The mid-20th century brought several changes to the work force and with it, some changes to the career counseling industry. With the end of World War II, more women and veterans were in the work force with higher education levels. Technology development increased, opening new types of jobs and demand for certain skills. The government began placing a higher emphasis on education and vocational guidance with several acts such as the Vocational Educational Acts of 1963 and the 1964 Education Opportunity Act.

Contemporary Thinking

Though the types of jobs have changed considerably in the past century, some of the fundamentals of career guidance remain. The central themes continue to be developing an awareness of personal skills and interests, and learning about career opportunities and requirements. However, career guidance today is seen as an ongoing process. Age is no longer the driving force it once was, and that has been brought an increased focus on the self at work and work-life balance.


Julia Forneris has been a writer and editor since 2002. Her work has appeared in economics magazines such as "Region Focus" and on various websites. The editor of Scratch That! Editorial, Forneris holds a Master of Arts in literature from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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