A Learning Theory of Career Counseling

(Career Choice Theory)

Krumboltz posits that an individual's life experiences and observations inspire the careers they choose. He believes that the factors influencing career choice and development can be broken down into 4 categories: These include parents, mentors, hobbies and interests that propels the individual to explore occupations associated with those elements in their life. Influences such as where they live or what is taught to them also play a part, according to the theory:

  1. Genetic Endowments and Special Abilities: The genes you inherited from your biological parents and your natural talents influence which careers you are more likely to pursue and which careers you are more likely to reject. The skills you appear to display more naturally may also typecast you so that you are only offered opporunities that require those skills. Additionally, your physical appearance, racial identity, and gender all play a role in your ability to gain access to opportunities.
  2. Environmental Conditions and Events: Individuals do not have control over some of the environmental social, cultural, and political factors that can influence career selections. These include the family they are born into, the neighborhood their parents raise them in, and the region of the country they live in during their formative years. The socioeconomic conditions they grow up in and the circumstances they observe their parents and other individuals in their environments in can either inhibit or promote the preferences and ideas they develop about certain careers.
  3. Learning Experiences: The lessons an individual is taught influences the skills they develop over time. Their ability to successfully acquire the skills taught during their learning experiences further supports the likelihood that they will pursue a career that makes use of those skills and it also increases the likelihood that they will be considered for careers that require those skills. The opposite is true if they fail to retain the lessons taught during their learning experiences.
  4. Task Approach Skills: The skills an individual develops over time are also important. These include how they approach the tasks they need to complete, the personal standards they set for themselves, the habits they form, and their emotional responses to successes, obstacles, and failures. When individuals are faced with a new task, they attempt to complete that task by applying their existing task approach skillset. When this does not lead to a successful result, they might decide to modify their task approach skillset in order to complete the task.


  1. Krumboltz, J. D. (1996). A learning theory of career counseling.