Career Development Inventory

The Career Development Inventory (CDI) is a 120-item standardized measure of career development attitudes and knowledge first published in 1979. This measure operationally defines career maturity based on Donald Super’s theory of career development. In general, the CDI assesses level of readiness for making realistic educational and career-related decisions. There are two forms of the CDI, one for middle school and high school students and another for college students.

Having its roots in the Career Pattern Study, the CDI emerged as the culmination of years investigating central dimensions related to Super’s model of vocational maturity. The five basic scales of the CDI are described as follows:

  1. Career Planning (CP; 20 items) assesses future orientation and the extent to which one has thoughtfully engaged in educational and career planning activities.
  2. Career Exploration (CE; 20 items) measures clients’ willingness to use various educational and career resources (e.g., books, counselors) and the efficacy of those utilized.
  3. Decision Making (DM; 20 items) measures understanding of the process of effective career decision making based on respondents’ solutions to hypothetical career decisions.
  4. World-of-Work Information (WW; 20 items) assesses general knowledge of occupations and understanding of how to attain and succeed in certain fields.
  5. Knowledge of Preferred Occupation (PO; 40 items) first involves selecting one of 20 occupational groups (e.g., writing and law) to designate one’s work interests. Next, the respondent’s degree of knowledge regarding typical duties and personal characteristics of workers involved in that particular occupational group is examined.

Consistent with Super’s theory, the CDI includes two broad factors—each comprising two cognitive (DM and WW) and two attitudinal components (CP and CE)—in addition to the PO, a separate content domain suitable only after 10th grade. Composite scores are also provided by combining CP and CE to form the Career Development Attitudes (CDA) scale, DM and WW to form the Career Development Knowledge and Skills (CDK) scale, and CDA plus CDK for a Career Orientation Total.

The CDI has multiple uses including career research, practice, education, and program evaluation. Numerous publications provide insights into interpreting results. Beyond the assessment of interests, abilities, personality, and work values, the CDI provides supplementary information on the process of coping with complex tasks associated with choosing a career.

A substantial amount of research has been conducted on the CDI. The content and theoretical relationships between its scales have proven sound. Scores on attitudinal components increase throughout high school. Interestingly, the cognitive scales of the CDI have shown positive relationships to grade point average and measures of intelligence. These associations are slight, but consistently emerge across studies. Although the CP, CE, and WW scales demonstrate sufficient reliability estimates, lower values for DM and PO warrant caution. In addition to these concerns, factor analyses suggest that users emphasize the broader composite scales. Moreover, ongoing needs for investigating its predictive validity persist.

The CDI is an exemplar applied career assessment based on career development theory. Continued efforts to update the measure are necessary to solidify its legacy for informing our understanding of career development.


  1. Savickas, M. L., & Hartung, P. J. (1996). The Career Development Inventory in review: Psychometric and research findings. Journal of Career Assessment, 4, 171-188.
  2. Sundre, D. L. (2002). Review of the Career Development Inventory. In J. T. Kapes & E. A. Whitfield (Eds.), A counselor’s guide to career assessment instruments (4th ed., pp. 323-330). Alexandria, VA: National Career Development Association.
  3. Thompson, A. S., & Lindeman, R. H. (1981). Career Development Inventory: User’s manual. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

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