Holland’s Vocational Personality Types

John Holland is a vocational choice theorist. Holland developed six broad catagories that can be used to group occupations or the people who work in them, based on core values. These are known as "Holland’s Vocational Personality Types" (or sometimes "Holland’s Vocational Types" or "Holland’s Personality Types").

The theory is useful for:

The types are based on an assumption that the people who are characteristic of each group have similar personalities, and therefore will have a similar response to a particular situation.


  1. I am not a psychologist and have no training in Holland's Vocational Types. I learned about them by participating in a workshop, run by a vocational psychologist. If you do have greater expertise than me in this area, and want to point out an error in this node that should be changed, please /msg me.
  2. Holland’s Vocation Types is just another tool, similar to tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). As with any psychological testing instrument, it is useful for understanding yourself and others; it is not intended as a comprehensive explanation for every behaviour, person or reaction.
    That said, I have found it quite useful for understanding my own way of working. For example, I often have trouble finishing off a project. This is a typical of the Investigative type (which I am): these people are the "80 percenters", who enjoy the process far more than the outcome and therefore deliberately and/or subconsciously avoid finishing something – the last 20% never gets done. Of course, my other explanation for why I (and presumably most people) like these sort of psychological tests is that it indulges the ego. :)

The six types are:

Each type has an opposite:

  • Realistic - opposite to Social
  • Investigative - opposite to Enterprising
  • Artistic - oppostive to Conventional

and two other types that it is closer to

  • Realistic - closer to Investigative and Conventional
  • Investigative - closer to Realistic and Artistic
  • Artistic - closer to Investigative and Social
  • Social - closer to Artistic and Enterprising
  • Enterprising - closer to Social and Conventional
  • Conventional - closer Enterprising and Realistic

There are quite a few Web sites that explain what the types are. Some universities have their courses grouped by type (Michigan State University, University of Missouri-Columbia).

Working out your type

Your type is written as a three-letter combination, representing the three types that most describe you, in order of significance. For example, ISA or EAC.

There are questionnaires that you can do to establish your type (for example, the Self Directed Search - www.self-directed-search.com). However, when I was introduced to the Vocational Types in the workshop setting, we just spent a lot of time looking at the characteristics of each type, discussing them with each other and practising by typing famous people. This gave us a feel for each type and after a few hours, most people in the workshop felt quite confident to start typing themselves.

So, start by looking at each type and see how you go...


  • Description of J. Holland's Vocational Personality Types, followed by the article "Personnalité oblige" by Diane Dontigny (1996) - www.agora-canada.org/mentor/images/pdf/profile.pdf
  • University of Missouri Career Centre - http://career.missouri.edu/holland/
  • Pay someone to analyse your type - www.self-directed-search.com
  • Michigan State University - www.couns.msu.edu/self-help/holland.htm
  • Vocational Psychology - http://vocationalpsychology.com/index.htm

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