Competency Category:

10.1 – Understand Career Development Theories and Models

Purpose & Context

Career Development Professionals (CDPs) draw from a wide variety of traditional and emerging career development theories, models, frameworks and approaches. A strong theoretical foundation enables CDPs to understand a client’s situation and choose relevant approaches and interventions.CDPs also use theoretical models to generate knowledge, stimulate thinking, and provide direction for research on the field of practice.

Effective Performance

Competent career development professionals must be able to:

  • P1. Describe career development theories, models, frameworks and approaches, i.e. recognize the unique body ofliterature, research and evidence informing the practice of CDPs
  • P2. Distinguish between evidence-based theoretical foundations and other approaches:
    • Evidence-based: research-based interventions inform theory-based practice, i.e. scientific method
    • Other approaches: untested but commonly recognized practices
  • P3. Identify traditional career development theories, for example:
    • Trait-factor theories, e.g. Holland’s person-environment fit
    • Developmental, e.g. Super’s theory of lifespan/life space career development
  • P4. Identify key components of contemporary and emerging career development theories, for example:
    • Responding to the unexpected, e.g. chaos theory of careers, happenstance learning theory
    • Collaborative meaning making, e.g. cognitive information processing, life design counselling, narrative and
      socio-dynamic counselling
    • Systems, e.g. career engagement, holistic, life roles, social justice, sociological, systems theory framework
      and 4s model of life transitions
    • Psychology, e.g. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
    • Cultural complexity, e.g. career counseling with under-served populations, culture-infused service delivery,
      cultural accommodation
  • P5. Identify theories from other professions that are applicable to career development, for example:
    • Human development, e.g. Erikson’s developmental stages, Skinner’s behaviourism
    • Change and transition, e.g. Bridges’ transition model, Prochaska and Diclemente’s stages of change
      model/transtheoretical model
    • Human resource development, e.g. theory of work adjustment
    • Education, e.g. Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development
    • Mental health/optimal experience, e.g. Csikszentmihalyi’s flow, Keyes’ mental health continuum
  • P6. Keep up-to-date with latest developments in career development theory, models, frameworks, approaches and research,
    for example:

    • Seek information from reliable sources
    • Consult colleagues
    • Participate in professional development and learning

Knowledge & Understanding

Competent career development professionals must know and understand:

  • K1. Theories, models, frameworks and approaches specific to the field of career development
  • K2. Theories, models, frameworks and approaches from related fields relevant to career development practice

Contextual Variables

Competent career development professionals must be able to perform this competency in the following range of contexts:

Theoretical models may need to be adapted based on client characteristics.

Glossary & Key References


Industry-specific terms contained in the standard defined here, where applicable.

Theory: An idea that has gained enough evidence to be accepted as true through observed or measured phenomenon.

Model: Simplified representation of something complex.

Information Sources and Resources for Consideration

Arthur, N., Neault, R., & McMahon, M. (Eds.). Career theories and models at work: Ideas for practice. Toronto, ON: CERIC, 2019.

Neault, R. A. Theoretical foundations of career development (pp. 129-152). In B. C. Shepard, & P. S. Mani (Eds.), Career development practice in Canada: Perspectives, principles, and professionalism. Toronto, ON: CERIC, 2014.

Context Rating Scales


Q: What is the consequence of a professional being unable to perform this skill according to the standard?



Q: How frequent and under what conditions is this skill performed?

Routinely, regular course of procedure

Level of Difficulty

Q: Under routine circumstances, how would you rate the level of difficulty in performing this skill?

Moderate difficulty or complexity

Time Required to Gain Proficiency

Q: What is the average length of time or number of repeated events that are minimally necessary for an individual to become proficient in performing the skill to the standard?

A career development professional requires a minimum of one year of experience with at least 40 different clients, representing a broad range of individuals.


Practitioners typically perform this competency without supervision, and alone.


It is unlikely that this competency will automate.

Requisite Work Aids, Tools, Equipment or Materials


Career Development Professional Centre

Help us cultivate a community we all enjoy by reviewing and following the Code of Conduct.  

Our Purpose  

Thank you for being a part of the online CDPC social learning community. To ensure that all members have the best possible experience, we have a few ground rules that we ask everyone to adhere to. This code of conduct applies equally to every person in the community and is intended to foster an online space that is inclusive, safe, and welcoming to all. 

Community Rules 

Be welcoming 

We strive to be a community that welcomes and supports people of all backgrounds and identities. We aim to create and facilitate a community that promotes excellence and innovation in career and workforce development. Please extend respect to all members; we all come from different backgrounds and levels of knowledge and there is no such thing as a stupid question. 

Be respectful 

We won’t all agree all the time, but when we disagree don’t let those disagreements turn into personal attacks. A community where people feel uncomfortable or threatened will not be a productive one. Instead, when having discussions in the online community, create productive conversations around the content being presented, not the person behind the content. Any post that is determined to be “hate speech” towards any individual or group will be deleted, and the user account may be locked until an investigation regarding the post has been concluded. The user may be given a written warning or removed from the CPDC community platform depending on the findings of the investigation.  

Hate Speech could include and is not limited to:  

  • Violent threats or language directed against another person 
  • Discriminatory jokes, language, or materials 
  • Defamatory or abusive language or materials 
  • Profane or illegal materials 
  • Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior 

A good rule of thumb is to never post anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable with the world seeing or that you wouldn’t want anyone knowing came from you. We ask that you keep in mind the focus of this community, which is building excellence and innovation in career and workforce development for all individuals.  

Be considerate of the purpose of the community 

This community will be focused on building excellence and discussing innovation in the career and workforce development field. The goal of this community is to communicate goals, challenges, constructive feedback, and questions in relation to career and workforce development. The community should be a place for continued learning and development as well as a place to discuss the future of our field (solicitation without written consent by the Project or Advisory team, is strictly prohibited). Any post that is determined to be soliciting any individual or group will be deleted, and the user account may be locked until an investigation regarding the post has been concluded. The user may be given a written warning or removed from the CPDC community platform depending on the findings of the investigation. 

Post your discussions or documents in the most appropriate group or topic 

Make reasonable efforts to ensure that posts and materials are allocated to the appropriate group or topic. This will prevent cluttering the community and make it easier for everyone to find the information that they are seeking. Individuals who do this repeatedly will be contacted by one of the group admins and asked to follow these guidelines.  

Privacy and Release of Information  

CDPC-CEDC will not release your information to any third-party agencies.  

Group Admins 

There are four group admins who are available to you. Below are their names and their spoken language. 

Heather Powell | Anglophone 

Gabrielle St-Cyr | Francophone/Anglophone 

Florence Desrochers | Francophone/Anglophone

Muriel Andoblé-Yao | Francophone

Thank you and welcome to the CDPC Community!