Career maturity is defined as the degree to which individuals are prepared to make good educational or vocational decisions. It is usually seen as dependent on their knowledge of themselves and of the world of work, their ability to make decisions, and a positive attitude toward making career decisions. It is developmental in nature, following an individual’s growing maturity in all life areas. Frank Parsons, generally considered to be the father of career development, saw career maturity as encompassing a clear understanding about oneself, knowledge of the requirements of different occupations, and true reasoning on the relationships among these. The term career maturity was first promulgated by Donald E. Super, and many authors have used it subsequently in developing career counseling assessment instruments and career counseling processes and procedures.
Counselors and others who run career programs in schools and other institutions that are developmental in nature often consider career maturity to be an objective of these programs. This is in contrast to programs that see a career decision as the desired outcome of intervention.
Career maturity may encompass the ability to make good career decisions or the state of having made these decisions. The term good is used as a shortcut for the variety of elements that enter into career decision making. These elements include areas of self knowledge, such as knowing one’s values, understanding one’s interests, being aware of one’s temperament, and thinking about one’s lifestyle preferences. The term includes knowing about one’s strengths and weaknesses, abilities and liabilities, skills, aptitudes, learning style, and motivation. The elements of good also include knowledge of the world of work, such as knowing about the requirements of various occupations— training or formal education, apprenticeship, on the job training, and so forth. It includes knowledge of the opportunity structure, for example, is the field growing or declining? How many potential openings are there in an individual’s desired geographical location? It includes understanding how to find out occupational information. And of course it basically means knowing what the work entails.
A positive attitude toward making a career decision is implicit in the concept, and that attitude includes individuals’ confidence in their knowledge and skills in the arenas outlined above including confidence in their ability to make good decisions. This often derives from having had successful previous experience in decision making.
Recently, there have been questions about the appropriateness of the concept in a world where individuals must frequently reassess their career plans and objectives. Some, including notably Super himself, have stated that career flexibility or adaptability may be more fitting descriptors for individuals who are capable of being self-directed in their career decision making.
- Herr, E. L., Cramer, S. H., & Niles, S. G. (2004). Career guidance and counseling through the lifespan (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.
- Parsons, F. (1989). Choosing a vocation. Garrett Park, MD: Garrett Park Press. (Original work published 1909)
- Super, D. E. (1957). The psychology of careers: An introduction to vocational development. New York: Harper.