Work Values

It is generally accepted that there are three or four things that contribute to success and satisfaction at work or in a career. Skills or abilities are foundations of success; interests and work values are the sources of satisfaction. Skills and abilities and interests are generally understood by people seeking jobs; work values are less well understood.

Generally work values have been defined in terms of preferences for jobs, occupations, or careers. Work values differ from interests, which are preferences for activities, such as science, helping others, or selling things. Work values vary from one person to another even in the same job: One person may like a job because it pays well; another may like the same job because it affords many social relationships.

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Many work values have been named, and Donald Super has classified them into three categories: the results of work, such as high pay; the concomitants of work, such as the people one works with; and the nature of the work itself, such as challenging assignments. These job characteristics are typically termed as positive attributes. Negative attributes, such as danger, are not valued, but in an occupation like firefighting where danger is inevitable, it is reframed as challenge.

Super’s Work Values Inventory-Revised is a popular measure of work values. It was first formulated by Super in the 1950s and published for general use in the 1970s. A revision is now available from Kuder, Inc., that assesses 12 work values using 12 scales: Achievement, Challenge, Co-Workers, Creativity, Income, Independence, Lifestyle, Prestige, Security, Supervision, Variety, and Workplace. Other measures of work values include additional concepts measured on scales such as Moral Values and Physical Activity. Each scale consists of four statements about jobs, such as “A job in which I work with people I like,” and “. . . have coworkers who are easy to work with” (Co-Workers scale). Responses are made on a 5-point scale from not important at all to crucial. Percentile scores are used to rank order the importance of the work values. Interpretation is in the form of, “You describe yourself as valuing prestige, creativity, and variety most in a job.”

Some conceptualizations of work values indicate that occupations are homogeneous with respect to work values. That is, one may name a work value and identify all the occupations that are responsive to that value. Super’s Work Values Inventory endorses the concept that the variety of jobs within an occupation may satisfy different values. For instance, an engineer might be self-employed in consulting work because he or she values independence, while another might be employed in a research and development position because he or she values creativity. In its application in the Kuder Career Planning System, Super’s Work Values Inventory users may open several job interviews that illustrate each work value in the context of a job. For instance, a probation-parole officer for adult offenders values “the capacity to make ninety-five percent of my decisions without approval from others; a realistic statement of Independence” (Super, 1995).


  1. Super, D. E., & Sverko, B. (Eds.). (1995). Life roles and careers: International findings of the Work Importance Study. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Kuder, Inc.:

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