Career Development Inventory (CDI)

Career Development Inventory (CDI)Interest inventories are commonly used to assist high school and college students with vocational choices. However, the results of such instruments offer little value if the individual lacks the requisite attitudes and competencies required to make sound vocational decisions. The Career Development Inventory (CDI), created by Albert Thompson, Richard Lindeman, Donald Super, Jean Pierre Jordaan, and Roger Myers, can be used before administering an interest inventory to measure an individual’s readiness to make vocational choices or with an interest inventory to determine how best to interpret the interest inventory results.

The CDI operationally defines Super’s structural model of career choice readiness among adolescents and emerging adults. Inspired by the construct of reading readiness, Super, at mid-20th century, reasoned that the readiness to and resources for making fitting educational and vocational choices emerged during childhood and developed during adolescence. He spent nearly 40 years identifying the critical attitudes and competencies that lead to sound educational and occupational decisions, constructed inventories to measure these attitudes and competencies, and studied their development in students from middle school through college.

Career Choice Readiness

Super believed vocational choice to be an individual’s attempt to implement his or her self-concept in a work role. Through fitting work, individuals can manifest their self-concepts in daily activities. Accordingly, the choice of an occupation is a major decision that adolescents must make as they enter the adult world. Workers’ levels of satisfaction and success depend on the realism and wisdom of their occupational choices. To make a fitting choice and avoid occupational failure and frustration, individuals must possess the requisite readiness and resources.

Career choice attitudes denote an individual’s disposition with regard to the amount of thought, effort, and planning he or she gives to future occupational or educational choices. Career choice competencies denote an individual’s ability to apply his or her knowledge and understanding of careers and the world of work in making rational career decisions.

The two most important attitudes are planfulness and curiosity. Attitudes toward planning reflect a future orientation, an awareness of choices to be made, and a disposition to be involved in preparing to make imminent and distant choices. Well-developed attitudes toward planning prompt behaviors such as discussing career plans with adults, getting part-time jobs, taking part in college or community activities, and finding out what people do in one’s field of interest. All of these can help one gain a clearer understanding of one’s vocational interests. Attitude toward exploration means curiosity about the world of work and one’s place in it. Well-developed attitudes toward exploration prompt behaviors such as information seeking, role-playing, and talking with career counselors, professors, and professionals in one’s field of interest.

The critical competencies identified by Super are knowledge about occupations and skill at decision making. Occupational information, in breadth, means knowing the requirements, routines, and rewards of a variety of occupations in which one may be interested. Information, in depth, means having detailed knowledge about the occupational group that one currently prefers. Decision-making competence means the ability to apply the principles of rational decision making to one’s educational and vocational choices.

These four variables, two attitudinal and two cognitive, compose Super’s model of readiness for making vocational choices during adolescence. Super and his colleagues operationally defined this structural model of vocational development during adolescence and emerging adulthood by creating the CDI.

Interpretation of the CDI Scales

Two versions of the CDI exist. The CDI School Form is designed for students in Grades 8 through 12, and the CDI College Form is designed for college students from freshman through senior years. Although both forms measure the same constructs, they differ in content. The different content reflects the educational level of the subjects being tested. Scores are reported for four scales: Career Planning (CP), Career Exploration (CE), Decision Making (DM), and knowledge of the World of Work (WW). CP and CE make up the attitudinal components of Super’s model, whereas DM and WW measure the competencies.

Low scores on CP indicate that one may have given little thought to career decisions and therefore may not yet be serious about attending to future occupational or educational choices. One may benefit from increasing one’s awareness of current and future occupational decisions that need to be made, as well as engaging in activities that arouse one’s curiosity about different occupational paths. High scores on CP indicate that one has actively engaged in career-planning activities and behavior, indicating an appropriate awareness of occupational decisions that need to be attended to, as well as a heightened sense of curiosity with regard to one’s place in the world of work. As a result, high CP scores indicate a readiness to narrow one’s choices and focus on advanced exploration in a few occupational fields.

Low scores on the second attitudinal scale, CE, indicate one has not yet adequately explored sources of quality information regarding career opportunities available to them. One may benefit from identifying quality resources and investigating a number of different occupational fields. High scores on CE indicate one has actively employed the resources available and gathered information relevant to future occupational choices. One may be ready to engage in broad exploration of the world of work and to investigate occupational fields that are attractive.

Because DM represents one’s skill at applying the principles of rational decision making to educational and vocational issues, low scores indicate that the student may benefit from studying and practicing the principles and processes involved in effective decision making, such as identifying the problem and gathering the information required to solve the problem. High scores on DM indicate that the student has developed the essential decision-making skills for making effective vocational decisions. Thus, the individual may now be ready to match his or her abilities and interests to the requirements and rewards of different educational majors and occupations.

The second competence scale is WW, where low scores indicate that the student may need more information about, and inquiry into, occupational fields and career development tasks before making important career decisions and occupational choices. Students may benefit from learning more about their tentative preferences, how people get jobs in those occupations, and how they adjust to those jobs. High scores on WW indicate that students may have a broad fund of information to support their career decision making. However, they still may need to gather more information about the specific occupations they are considering before committing themselves to particular choices.

In addition to the above-mentioned scales, there is a fifth scale, Knowledge of Preferred Occupation (PO). PO measures the amount of in-depth knowledge one has with respect to one’s primary field of interest. PO is measured separately from the other four scales and should not be administered to students below the 11th grade. This is due to the fact that it is unlikely such students have acquired the knowledge and maturity to answer the questions in an informed manner. When administered to the appropriate population, low scores on PO indicate students may need to gather more detailed information regarding their occupations of choice. Such information can be ascertained from professors, career counselors, and professionals already working in that field.

The CDI also reports on three composite scales. Career Decision Attitudes (CDA) is the combination of CP and CE. Career Decision Knowledge (CDK) is the combination of DM and WW. Career Orientation Total (COT) is the combination of CDA and CDK. These composite scores exist to help gain a more reliable measure of attitudes toward career, knowledge of careers, and the world of work.

The CDI on the Internet

With the permission and encouragement of the CDI authors, the CDI is now available at no charge on the Internet. The CDI is one of a number of career instruments available through Vocopher: The Online Career Collaboratory ( Scoring of the CDI is done on the Internet, and the results are shown immediately to the user. It is important that practitioners take the time to interpret these results with their clients. Practitioners can use the ideas presented herein to help raise their clients’ levels of awareness and curiosity with regard to vocational decisions they will be required to make. Suggestions for improving one’s decision-making skills and knowledge about the world of work have also been outlined. Additional ideas are presented in the CDI manual, which is also available on Vocopher.

See also:


  1. Glavin,   K. W.   2004. Vocopher:   The Online Career Collaboratory Web Site. Retrieved October 17, 2004 (
  2. Super, D. E. 1974. Measuring Vocational Maturity for Counseling and Evaluation. Washington, DC: National Vocational Guidance Association.
  3. Super, D. E. 1990. “A Life-span, Life-space Approach to Career Development.” Pp. 197-261 in Career Choice and Development, 2nd ed., edited by D. Brown, L. Brooks and Associates. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  4. Thompson, A. S., Lindeman, R. H., Super, D. E., Jordaan, J. P. and Myers, R. A. 1981. Career Development Inventory. 1, User’s Manual. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.