Career Decision Scale

The Career Decision Scale (CDS) grew out of S. H. Osipow, C. Carney, J. Winer, B. Yanico, and M. Koschier’s counseling experience with undergraduate students who sought help in dealing with their inability to decide on an educational or career goal. Specifically, it was thought that identifying a limited number of problems connected with that indecision would lend itself to the development of specific counseling interventions designed for helping resolve career indecision.

Based on clinical experience, a limited number of statements were devised, each designed to allow the client the opportunity to indicate the degree to which each statement describes his or her situation. Ultimately, 16 indecision type statements were devised along with 2 statements of a decided type for a total of 18 items. The respondent is required to indicate on a 4-point scale the degree to which each statement accurately described his or her situation. From these responses, a total undecided score can be calculated by summing the one to four responses for each of the 16 undecided items as well as a total certainty score by adding the two decided items. Thus, scoring is simple, and a total indecision score can be generated for each respondent.

A variety of reliability and validity studies have been conducted on the instrument. These include studies of the correlation of the CDS with other instruments purporting to measure career indecision. The studies also assessed the ability of the instrument to differentiate between self-proclaimed decided and undecided students as well as students of different levels of career maturity. In all, the results of these studies generally support the validity of the CDS.

Studies of the effects treatment for indecision were also made in a variety of settings, again generally indicating that the instrument is responsive to interventions for career indecision. Test-retest reliability measures have generally shown high correlations between undecided scores over short time periods, but not so high that interventions would be unable to change an individual’s status.

Finally, a number of investigators have studied the factor structure of the measure. Here, the results are mixed with some studies finding four factors, others fewer, and the interpretation of each factor being slightly different. The factors have been described as a lack of structure and confidence in dealing with vocational decision making, an external barrier to a preferred choice, an approach-approach problem where two options appear to be equally attractive, and finally a personal conflict of some type interfering with implementing a choice.

The interpretation of scores is based on a set of norms—norms for high school males and females, college student males and females, adults seeking continuing education, and adult women returning to college—and on comparisons between males and females at the high school and college levels. Comparisons by age are also available.

In summary, the CDS can be useful in counseling by identifying problem areas. It can also be useful in measuring the outcomes of various group and individual interventions to deal with career indecision and has the virtue of well-established norms, reliability, and validity.


  1. Osipow, S. H. (1987). The manual for the Career Decision Scale. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
  2. Osipow, S. H., Carney, C. G., Winer, J. L., Yanico, B., & Koschier, M. (1976). The Career Decision Scale (3rd ed.). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

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