Psychology Wiki

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Industrial & Organisational : Introduction : Personnel : Organizational psychology : Occupations: Work environment: Index : Outline

Frank Parsons (1854-1908) is known as the Father of Vocational Guidance. Although he was educated as an engineer at Cornell University, he wrote several books on social reform movements and articles related to women's suffrage, taxation, and education for all. Additionally, he taught history, math, and French in public schools, worked as a railroad engineer, and passed the state bar examination for lawyers in Massachusetts in 1881. His university occupations included teaching at Boston University School of Law and at Kansas State Agricultural College and serving as dean of the extension division of Ruskin College in Trenton, Missouri. However, Parsons is best known for his interests in helping individuals make occupational and career choices.


In 1901, Mrs. Quincy Agassiz Shaw, a philanthropist, established the Civic Service House in Boston as an effort to provide educational opportunities for immigrants and young persons seeking work. Later in 1905, Parsons became director of one of the Civic Service House programs called the Breadwinner's Institute (Zunker, 2002). Afterwards, Parsons organized the Bureau of Vocational Guidance. Nine months later, Parsons used the Bureau to train young men to be counselors and managers for YMCA's schools, colleges, and businesses. A few years later, the School Committee of Boston created the first counselor certification program, and eventually the program was adopted by Harvard University as the first college-based counselor education program (Schmidt 2003). Also, the superintendent of Boston schools designated 100 elementary and secondary teachers to become vocational counselors, this became known as the Boston Plan. Within a few years, school systems across the country followed suite.

On May 1, 1908, Parsons presented a lecture that had tremendous impact on the career guidance movement, by presenting a report that described systematic guidance procedures used to counsel 80 men and women who used the bureau for help. Shortly later, he died on September 26, 1908, and his major work, Choosing a Vocation, was published in May 1909. Parsons developed a framework to help individuals decide on a career. This framework contained a three part formulation.

  1. First, a clear understanding of yourself, aptitudes, abilities, interests, resources, limitations, and other qualities
  2. Second, a knowledge of the requirements and conditions of success, advantages and disadvantages, compensations, opportunities, and prospects in different lines of work
  3. Third, true reasoning of the relations of these two groups of facts (Parsons, 1909, p. 5, as cited in Zunker, 2002)

According to Parsons, ideal career choices are based on matching personal traits (aptitude, abilities, resources, personality) with job factors (wages, environment, etc) to produce the best conditions of vocational success. Parson's framework later became the basis of the contemporary trait/factor theory of career development.


  • Parsons, F. (1909). Choosing a vocation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
  • Schmidt, J.J. (2003) Counseling in schools: essential services and comprehensive programs. 4th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon
  • Studer, J.R. (2005). The professional school counselor: An advocate for students Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole
  • Zunker, V.G. (2002). Career counseling: Applied concepts of life planning. 6th ed. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole

See also[]

External links[]