The Holland Code (RIASEC) Theory of Career Choice

Dr. John L. Holland was an academic psychologist best known for developing the most widely used system of career classification used today, the Holland code or RIASEC system.

Dr. Holland's theory proposes that there are six broad areas into which all careers can be classified, and which can describe people and their interests as well. Determining a person's top interest area allows him or her to easily find careers that will match those interests.

The 6 Interest Areas

Each of the 6 interest areas describes a broad field of similar work tasks and activities. Interest areas are also descriptive of people: their values, motivations, and preferences. For each interest area, there is a collection of typical job tasks, as well as a description of the type of person who would be interested in doing those sorts of tasks.

Most professional career advisors are familiar with the system of Holland codes or RIASEC. RIASEC is an acronym for Holland's original 6 types. Because the names of Holland's 6 types may not be obvious to non-professionals, we use a slightly different terminology which is more self-explanatory.

Interest Area

Holland Code

About this Area

Building

Realistic

Building jobs involve the use of tools, machines, or physical skill. Builders like working with their hands and bodies, working with plants and animals, and working outdoors.

Thinking

Investigative

Thinking jobs involve theory, research, and intellectual inquiry. Thinkers like working with ideas and concepts, and enjoy science, technology, and academia.

Creating

Artistic

Creating jobs involve art, design, language, and self-expression. Creators like working in unstructured environments and producing something unique.

Helping

Social

Helping jobs involve assisting, teaching, coaching, and serving other people. Helpers like working in cooperative environments to improve the lives of others.

Persuading

Enterprising

Persuading jobs involve leading, motivating, and influencing others. Persuaders like working in positions of power to make decisions and carry out projects.

Organizing

Conventional

Organizing jobs involve managing data, information, and processes. Organizers like to work in structured environments to complete tasks with precision and accuracy.

Many career interest tests have been based on Holland's theory, including the Strong Campbell Interest Inventory, the ONET Interest Profiler, and the Career Surveyor. In general, these tests ask the respondent to rate their interest in a variety of activities, such as "build a stone wall" or "counsel a patient with a drug addiction." The respondent's interest level in each area is then calculated by summing their interest in the related activities. Once a person's interest profile has been determined, careers can be recommended based on the top interest areas of the respondent.