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Super's Theory of Career Development

Page history last edited by Debra Lee 14 years, 10 months ago

Super's Theory of Career Development



Donald Super developed the best-known theory in vocational education, the life-span/life-space theory. What this means is that people develop careers in stages. Career decisions are not isolated from other areas of a person's life. Super has continually revised the theory to keep up with changes in the work environment. Vocational tests that use Super's theory include the Adult Career Concerns Inventory (ACCI), the Career Development Inventory (CDI), and the Work Values Inventory (WVI).


Super's five stages of development are

Growth (4-14)

Exploration (15-24)

Establishment (25-44)

Maintenance (45-65

Disengagement (65+)


The above information was taken from Bjorklund & Bee (2008). More details are provided in their book The Journey of Adulthood, 6th Ed.


Major Theorists

Donald Super (1957, 1963, 1996)


Citations to Major Works

  • Super, D.E. (1957). The psychology of careers. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Super, D.E., Starishevsky, R., Matlin, N., et al. (1963). Career development: A self-concept theory. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.
  • Super, D. E., Savickas, M.L., & Super, C. M. (1996). The life-span, life-space approach to careers. In D. Brown, L. Brooks, et al, (Eds.) Career choice and development: Applying contemporary theories to practice (pp. 121-178) San Franscisco: Jossey-Bass.


Web Links


     A brief overview of career development theories. Super's theory is included.


     From the National Guidance Research Forum an overview of Super's theory with criticisms of its lack of cohesion/simplicity.


     A nice overview of career development theories, including Super's, from the Canadian Career Development Foundation




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