Krumboltz Career Choice Theory

Krumboltz's theory maintains that your career choices aren't predestined or set in stone.
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As a kid, your career goals -- ballerina, astronaut, or ballerina-astronaut with X-ray vision -- were probably a far cry from your current professional aspirations. Maybe you remember your dream job springing from a cartoon, book or inspirational person. Career theorist Dr. John Krumboltz of Stanford University expands on this idea with theories that explore the origins of career choice based on influential life events.

The Basics

    Dr. Krumboltz's two-part career choice theory is actually called A Learning Theory of Career Counseling. As a sort of thesis that summarizes his views of career choice, Krumboltz calls the ultimate career decision the “logical outcome of an infinitely complex sequence of learning experiences.” The first part of the theory focuses on the origins of career choice, based on four important life factors.

Key Factors

    Krumboltz believes that genetic endowment and special abilities -- qualities you inherited from birth, even -- can make your more apt to pursue certain careers and limit you from chasing others. Just as the mind and body you're born with have an effect, so, too, does the world into which you're born; Krumboltz says that environmental conditions and events are the second factor in career choice development. On the same page, learning experiences have a very significant influence. Finally, the doc considers task approach skills the fourth factor. With these factors in mind, this theory accounts for life experiences that are both in and out of your control.


    The LTCC theory recognizes that life is constantly changing, and Krumboltz makes allowances for the appearance of unexpected career opportunities, or what he calls “planned happenstance.” This theory also divides learning experiences into two categories: instrumental experiences, which you gain by reacting to consequences or actions or observing others as they do so; and associative experience, which you create when you associate feelings with people or events, for better or worse.

The Second Part

    The origins of career choice make up only one half of Krumboltz's theory. In the second part of the theory, he focuses on career counselors, and specifically on how these counselors can solve career-related problems. Lots of the LTCC focuses on counseling; in the second part, Krumboltz notes that even when you can't decide on a career or reconsider a past goal, it's not a bad thing -- life changes, and so, too, can your career choice. For these reasons, Krumboltz considers each career seeker an explorer, and his theory encourages curiosity, persistence, flexibility, optimism and the ability to take risks.

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