Campbell Interest and Skill Survey

The Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (CISS) is a career assessment instrument that analyzes an individual’s self-reported interests and skills to assist in effective career planning and decision making. The CISS provides four kinds of scales that help individuals age 15 through adult understand how their interests and skills relate to important areas in the world of work and to specific occupations, particularly those requiring a college or professional degree. The test’s primary author, David P. Campbell, incorporated measures of self-assessed skills into the survey to highlight the importance of an individual’s self-confidence in skills when making career decisions. The profile reports both interest and skill scores on 7 Orientation Scales, 29 Basic Scales, 60 Occupational Scales, and 2 Special Scales (Academic Focus and Extraversion), providing comparisons between an individual’s strength of interest and strength of self-confidence for each scale. The CISS’s innovative combination of interests and skills scales provides the user with valuable information that is unavailable from alternative inventories that measure interests alone. The CISS can be used to identify areas of academic study and to clarify occupations that are likely to lead to both satisfaction and success for traditional-aged and adult students, and to support career changers, transitioning employees in outplacement programs, and preretirees in future career and life planning.

History of the CISS Development

Campbell developed the CISS building on his more than 30 years of experience in interest measurement research. Campbell’s experience with interest measurement research began in 1959 when, as a graduate research assistant at the University of Minnesota, he became involved in revisions of the Strong Vocational Interest Blank (SVIB). After many years on the faculty at Minnesota researching and revising the SVIB, and later the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory (SCII), Campbell was recruited to the Center for Creative Leadership in 1974 where he continued to develop other assessment instruments. Eventually, in 1988, he ended his professional ties with the developers of the SCII, and turned his focus to developing a new, easy to use survey with both interest and skills scales intended to be free of bias in vocabulary, norms, and profile presentation. Building on his long-term experience on the Board of Directors for National Computer Systems (NCS), Campbell chose NCS—now Pearson Assessments—as the publisher of the CISS in 1992.

CISS Item Content

Campbell carefully selected 320 items for the CISS out of an extensive pool of hundreds of items to avoid content that was biased or offensive and on the basis of item response characteristics. The CISS has 200 interest items. A unique feature of the CISS interest items for occupations is that each occupation is defined. For example, the item for architect reads, “An architect, designing new homes and buildings.”

The key strength of the CISS is that it also has 120 skill items that measure individuals’ beliefs about their abilities to perform a range of activities. The skill items are designed to be measures of self-confidence in abilities rather than direct measures of skills. Research data reported in the manual indicate that individuals’ self-rated skills and behavioral observations of their skills are highly correlated.

The CISS uses a 6-point response format that allows for a refined response to the items and also forces respondents to state at least a mild preference in one direction or the other by eliminating a neutral response. Respondents are asked to rate their level of interest for most of the interest items using the response options: strongly like, like, slightly like, slightly dislike, dislike, and strongly dislike. Respondents are also asked to rate their level of skills for the skill items using: expert, good, slightly above average, slightly below average, poor, and none.

CISS Scale Construction

The Orientation Scales

The CISS profile report is organized around seven factors referred to as the Orientation Scales. The Orientation Scales are homogenous scales based upon earlier factor studies of interests by Thurstone, Strong, Holland, and Campbell. After numerous analyses designed to accommodate the Basic Scales, Campbell chose a seven-component structure for the Orientations. Campbell’s Orientations are similar to Holland’s RIASEC (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional) types, but are described using action-oriented words (gerunds) with clearer meanings more connected to workplace activities. The seven orientations are Influencing, Organizing, Helping, Creating, Analyzing, Producing, and Adventuring.

Basic Scales

The 29 Basic Scales comprise parallel interest and skill scales that measure individuals’ attraction to and confidence in a range of life activities. The Basic Scales are homogeneous subscales of the Orientation Scales and were constructed by identifying items that had high intercorrelations with each other, low correlations with items in other clusters, and appeared to belong together, based on their content.

Occupational Scales

The 60 Occupational Scales were empirically constructed from a general reference sample made up of all respondents from 65 occupational areas by identifying items that statistically differentiated members of each occupational sample of workers who reported they enjoyed their work. Each Occupational Scale consists of a set of items that varies widely in content, and it is not intuitively obvious which item belongs to which Occupational Scale. The Occupational Interest Scales contain positively and negatively weighted items that reflect both the likes and dislikes of an occupational group. For example, a respondent might score higher on a particular Occupational Scale simply by disliking the same items that members of that Occupational sample disliked. The Occupational Skill Scales, however, contain only positively weighted items—the rationale being that it would be unwise for a client to make a career decision based on negative data, such as, “You have the same lack of skills as an attorney; therefore, you should consider law.” The CISS uses combined gender scales to ease interpretation.

Special Scales

The Academic Focus Scales, intended to measure respondents’ interests and confidence in doing well in formal academic endeavors, were constructed by identifying items that that were rated high and low by people with high levels of education and by assigning positive and negative weights, respectively. The Extraversion Scales, which measure respondents’ interests and confidence in working with people (as opposed to working alone), were constructed through identifying and positively weighting items that correlated with “Extraverted” and negatively weighting items that correlated with “Introverted” on the Campbell Leadership Index.

CISS Administration

There are several ways to administer the CISS, including the Internet, local scoring software, an optical scan scoring system, and paper and pencil administrations using a mail-in scoring service to Pearson Assessments. It takes anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes to complete the 320 multiple-choice items.

CISS Report Format

The CISS results are reported in an appealing profile format with both interest and skill scores presented for each of the Orientation, Basic Interest and Skill, Occupational, and Special Scales. The interest and skill scores are presented both numerically and graphically for ease in interpretability, allowing respondents to compare the strength of their interest with strength of their self-reported skill on each scale. The numerical scores are standard scores based on the reference group, whose distribution is bell shaped with a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10. The consistency of score reporting makes it easy to identify scores of 60 and above as high scores, and scores of 40 and below as low across all scales. In addition, the patterns of interest and skill combinations for each scale are further clarified with the following helpful descriptors: Pursue, Develop, Explore, and Avoid, which can enlighten further career exploration and choice.

CISS Interpretation

The CISS can be taken online by any interested individual without assistance from a career counselor. Respondents are provided helpful online tools to aid in interpretation, such as the CISS Career Planner. However, individuals are encouraged to discuss the CISS profile with a skilled career counselor for help with understanding the profile layout, the definitions of the scales, and the meaning of the scores. An interpretation of the CISS profile from a skilled counselor can be particularly valuable for clients needing help with decision making or with connecting their results to future career exploration.


  1. Boggs, K. R. (1998). Career decisions: The Campbell and Ms. Flood. Career Development Quarterly, 46, 311-319.
  2. Campbell, D. P. (2002). The history and development of the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey. Journal of Career Assessment, 10, 150-168.
  3. Campbell, D. P., Hyne, S. A., & Nilsen, D. L. (1992). Manual for the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey. Minneapolis, MN: National Computer Systems.
  4. Prince, J. P., & Heiser, L. J. (2000). Campbell Interest and Skill Survey. In Essentials of career interest assessment (pp. 70-127). New York: Wiley.
  5. Pugh, R. (1998). Review of the Campbell Interest and Skill Inventory. In Mental measurements yearbook (pp. 167-170). Lincoln, NE: Buros Institute of Mental Measurements.

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