Reducing Adolescent Career Indecision: The ASVAB Career Exploration Program

Article excerpt

An independent evaluation of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Career Exploration Program was conducted using nationally representative samples of high school students. The sample consisted of current ASVAB Program participants (n = 255) and two control groups of nonparticipants (n = 233, n = 189). A pretest-posttest design showed that participation in the ASVAB Program increased career exploration knowledge and reduced diffusion and approach-approach forms of career indecision, as assessed by the Career Decision Scale (S. Osipow, 1986).

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Career Exploration Program is one of the largest career exploration programs in the world. Annually, it serves between 800,000 and 900,000 high school and postsecondary students in more than 14,000 schools nationwide. This means that more than one fourth of all high school seniors will have participated in the ASVAB Program during their high school years (Baker, 2000).

Since its inception in 1968, the ASVAB Program has undergone considerable and substantial revision. The current version, fielded in 1992, is a cooperative endeavor between the nation's schools and the Department of Defense (DoD). The ASVAB Program provides a comprehensive vocational assessment package at no cost to participating schools or to their students. Funded entirely by the DoD, this comprehensive package contains two major assessment instruments and a number of exercises that help students identify and investigate occupations for which they show interest and ability. The ASVAB Program fulfills two major purposes. First, the program provides age and developmentally appropriate materials to support high school and postsecondary educational and career counseling. In this regard, the ASVAB Program assists students in planning for their post-high school years. Whether these plans include the pursuit of postsecondary education, job training opportunities, or immediate entry into the world of work, the ASVAB Program provides materials to enhance students' career exploration and career choices. Second, the program is useful to the military services as an aid in the process of identifying interested students who meet the qualifications for entrance into the U.S. Armed Forces (Defense Manpower Data Center, 1995).

In 1995, the DoD contracted with the American Institutes of Research to conduct a thorough review and evaluation of the ASVAB Career Exploration Program. This evaluation focused on the program's influence on student career choice and development, program implementation, the quality of the career guidance materials and components, the adequacy of the technical underpinnings of the program, and the program's effect on military recruiting. Questionnaires and interviews were used to collect the relevant data from nationally representative samples of nonparticipating students, current-year program participants, prior-year program participants, and high school counselors. In general, the findings indicated that although there are substantial gender differences in why students elect to participate in the ASVAB Program, about three quarters of both male and female adolescents participate because they want to engage in career exploration. Consistent with this, about a third of the students who elect not to participate do so because they fail to see the relevancy of the ASVAB Program to their career goals and plans. Compared with their nonparticipating peers, the students who participated indicated an increase in several career development areas during the course of this study. For example, they reported relative gains in self-knowledge, occupational knowledge, and ways to connect the two together. Furthermore, although students' attitudes and thoughts may have changed considerably because of participation, their career exploration behavior did not change. The only behavior that was found to increase more for participants than for nonparticipants was interaction with recruiters. …