What is a Career?

The following definitions are important to an understanding of 'career' as a concept.

A JOB is a paid position requiring a group of specific attributes and skills that enable a person to perform tasks in an organisation either part-time or full-time for a short or long duration.

An OCCUPATION is defined as a group of similar jobs found in different industries or organisations.

A CAREER is the sequence and variety of occupations (paid and unpaid) which one undertakes throughout a lifetime. More broadly, 'career ' includes life roles, leisure activities, learning and work.

CAREER DEVELOPMENT is the process of managing life, learning and work over the lifespan.

CAREER GUIDANCE is an inclusive term that has been used to describe a range of interventions including career education and counseling, that help people to move from a general understanding of life and work to a specific understanding of the realistic life, learning and work options that are open to them. Career guidance is often thought to incorporate career information, career education and career counseling.

The context for career decision-making

When developing and presenting career education programs it is important to be aware of the context in which career development and career decision-making occur. Career decision-making is not simply matching a person to an occupation. There are many influences that impact on a person's career decisions. The following table lists these influences.
Individual variables
Social context
Environmental context
Other factors
Sexual orientation
Physical attributes
World of work knowledge
Community groups
Socio-economic status
Political decisions
Education institutions
Geographical location
Employment market
Historical trends
Time perspective
(past, present and future)
Change over time
Interdependence of influences
Adapted from Patton, W. & McMahon, M. (2001). Career development programs: Preparation for lifelong career decision-making. Melbourne: ACER, p. 13.

MCEETYA definition of career education

The Australian Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) defines career education as:
The development of knowledge, skills and attitudes through a planned program of learning experiences that will assist students to make informed decisions about their study and/or work options and enable effective participation in working life. Career education encompasses:
·         learning about the world of work, its changing nature, the general expectations of employers, and the demands of the workplace
·         developing self-awareness in relation to interests, abilities, competencies and values
·         developing awareness and understanding of occupational information and career pathways
·         developing skills in decision-making which can be applied to career choices
·         acquiring the skills necessary to implement the career decisions made.
(MCEETYA Career Education Taskforce, 1998).
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