Career Decision Scale (CDS)

Career Decision Scale (CDS)Samuel H. Osipow, with a colleague and several graduate students, developed the Career Decision Scale (CDS) at The Ohio State University (OSU) in the mid-1970s. First published by Marathon Press of Columbus, Ohio, the scale and its manual have been available from Psychological Assessment Resources of Odessa, Florida, since 1986. Although the instrument derives from an effort to establish types of career indecision, the CDS typically is used as a scale to assess degree of career indecision rather than as a set of category descriptors to assign to individuals. The CDS has 19 items, of which the first 2 items constitute a Certainty scale and act as a validity check on the rest of the scale; 16 items constitute an Indecision scale; and the last item provides an opportunity for the client to present a self-descriptive phrase or sentence if no other item appears to him or her to be sufficiently descriptive. The third revision is the only version of the CDS that has been readily available to researchers or practitioners outside the original group of authors during the development phase. The CDS has been translated from English into French, Hebrew, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish, but these translations have not been marketed.

Professor Osipow and his colleagues initially sought to describe types of career indecision in order to develop interventions keyed to specific problems of varying severity. The original research plan envisioned the outcome to be a set of audiocassette tapes that invited the client to engage in self-assessment and self-counseling for his or her career indecision, either independently or as a precursor of counseling by a professional. Each tape would describe a type of career indecision and present exercises to help the listener resolve the problems associated with that type. The proposed categories and interventions were developed from discussions among the investigators and others of their experiences as career counselors and from knowledge and review of the career decision-making literature. The actual outcome of the initial research program was the CDS, in which each scale item had evolved from the drafts of the scripts originally developed for the audiocassette tapes.

Research using the CDS has been conducted by the original investigators and others in the United States and numerous other countries, primarily but not exclusively in the English-speaking world. In addition to being the subject of thesis and dissertation research (e.g., OSU, Texas Tech University [TTU]), the CDS has appeared in research published in refereed journals and presented at professional conferences. By 1986, the CDS had become one of the most highly cited new works in Journal of Vocational Behavior and Vocational Guidance Quarterly.

Measurement research on the CDS has focused primarily on the Indecision scale or the Indecision scale and the Certainty scale, addressing questions of reliability and validity across samples, factor structure, and the relative merits of using the CDS as a scale or as a set of categories. Other questions addressed in CDS research have included the relationship of career indecision to vocational interests, gender, irrational beliefs, alcohol use, success in the first year of college, anxiety, and neuroticism. The CDS has been used to assess the effectiveness of counseling interventions, such as classroom- and computer-based career-planning courses, and to understand possible interactions between degree or type of career indecision and responsiveness to various career counseling modalities. Populations of research interest have included college undergraduates of various nationalities, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, and geographic locations in the United States; students in various undergraduate and graduate majors; traditional and nontraditional students; pre- and post-college individuals; college students who are physically challenged; individuals employed in various occupations, such as managers or professionals; and parents who wish to help their children make career decisions.

The CDS has contributed strongly to a better understanding of career indecision. The literature of the CDS led to the development of other measures of career decision problems, some more grounded in theory, some emphasizing particular factors suggested by work on the CDS. In particular, the CDS helped focus attention on possible differences between a state of career undecidedness and a more trait-like career indecision. Career undecidedness could be changed by, for example, the provision of specific occupational information, but career indecision suggested the presence of barriers to decision perceived by the client as irresolvable.

The greater attention paid to undecidedness versus indecision has led to the discovery of the apparent usefulness of the CDS in suggesting psychodynamic explanations and interventions for career issues. Three decades ago, what was intended to be a typology became a scale, and what was intended to be a counseling device became a research instrument. The CDS, a scale based in practical counseling experience in what some consider the most mundane and simple counseling issue, has helped to restore interest in the most venerable of psychological theories, for which no counseling issue is mundane or simple. This, perhaps, is the research and practice direction most unexpected for the CDS by its authors. As these authors have reached or approached retirement age, it is a matter of professional satisfaction that the CDS continues to raise new questions for others to pursue.

See also:


  1. Osipow, S. H. 1987. Manual for the Career Decision Scale. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
  2. Osipow, S. H., Carney, C. G. and Barak, A. 1976. “A Scale of Educational-vocational Undecidedness: A Typological Approach.” Journal of Vocational Behavior 27:233-244.
  3. Osipow, S. H., Carney, C. G., Winer, J., Yanico, B. and Koschier, M. 1987. Career Decision Scale. 3d ed. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
  4. Osipow, S. H. and Winer, J. L. 1996. “The Use of the Career Decision Scale in Career Assessment.” Journal of Career Assessment 4:117-130.
  5. Winer, J. L. 1992. “The Early History of the Career Decision Scale.” Career Development Quarterly 40:369-375.