Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

A Super Contribution to Vocational Theory: Work Values

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

A Super Contribution to Vocational Theory: Work Values

Article excerpt

It has been virtually axiomatic from the beginnings of the theories of vocational behavior that abilities and interests are important variables in the choice of a career. Recently, a third variable, so-called "work values," has begun to be incorporated into vocational theory, either explicitly, as in the theory of work adjustment (Dawis & Lofquist, 1984), or implicitly, in a number of career education programs. Donald E. Super has played a pivotal role in the introduction of the concept of work values into contemporary career development theory.


Hoppock & Super (1950, p. 132), in their review of the job satisfaction literature, observed that generalized expressions of job satisfaction tended to relate to expressions of satisfaction with specific aspects of work such as earnings, hours worked, advancement, opportunity to help others, independence, variety, management policies, and others. Their view was amplified by Ginzberg, Ginsburg, Axelrad, and Herma (1951) in their study (for which Super was a consultant) of the career development of young men. They asserted that "Differences in the value schemes of adolescents are precursors of the different satisfactions individuals will seek and derive from work" (p. 216).

Super (1957), in his book about the psychology of careers, expanded this thesis, naming similar work attributes as in the Hoppock & Super article (1950) that may be differentially valued. In the course of his discussion, Super termed these aspects "work values," and noted that they are among the many variables assessed in his Career Pattern Study (Super et al., 1957). From such beginnings, work values have attained a status equalling that of abilities and interests in the array of individual differences that are considered important in career development.

The first formal assessment of work values in career development research was the Work Values Inventory (WVI; Super, 1970) assembled for the Career Pattern Study (Super et al., 1957). Items were refined by means of interviews and essays of eighth-grade boys to ascertain their understanding of the values. Ultimately, a version was prepared consisting of 210 paired-comparisons of 15 work values: altruism, esthetics, creativity, intellectual stimulation, independence, achievement, prestige, management, economic returns, security, surroundings, supervisory relations, associates, variety, and way of life. Subsequently, these work values were cast in a Likert-scaled rating format, which proved to be most reliable (Super, 1973), and the inventory published (Super, 1970) for use by vocational researchers and counselors.

Subsequent measures of work values include the Minnesota Importance Questionnaire (MIQ; Rounds, Henly, Dawis, Lofquist, & Weiss, 1981) and the Work Aspect Preference Scale (WAPS; Pryor, 1983) among others. Also, SIGI-PLUS (Educational Testing Service, 1993), DISCOVER (American College Testing, 1993), and the ASVAB Career Exploration Program (Defense Manpower Data Center, 1992) all incorporate work values into their search variables.

Super and Nevill (1985) have incorporated work values and several more general values into their recent Values Scale (VS). Having been created for use in Super's multinational Work Importance Study (WIS), the VS is available in a number of translations for use in cross-cultural studies of vocational behavior. Results from the WIS will be available in a forthcoming book tentatively titled Life Roles, Values, and Careers in International Perspective, by Super and his Yugoslavian colleague, Branimir Sverko, to be published by Jossey-Bass.


A certain confusion is evident in the conceptualizations of work values. Super (1957) first wrote about aspects of work that relate to job satisfaction. The WVI described these aspects as qualities desired by people in their activities, life situations, and acquisitions. Dawis and Lofquist (1984) wrote that the MIQ measures needs that correspond to occupational reinforcers, employing scales that are titled very similarly to Super's values. …

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