Opening Doors for Work

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Career Exploration/Vocational Assessment

Vocational assessment is an ongoing process of gathering information that:

  • identifies a student’s strengths, interests and preferences;
  • identifies what training/support is required by the student to make the transition from school to work as successful as possible; and
  • assists professionals, parents and the student in making appropriate referrals to state agencies, i.e. Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), local adult service providers, and institutions of higher education.

Vocational assessment is one of the key components that provide the foundation for successful transition planning. Its primary purpose is to gather information to make decisions regarding employment. An objective vocational assessment will open doors of opportunity as the student moves toward employment and greater independence.

Vocational assessment requires a team approach in which all members effectively collaborate to help the student reach his/her vocational goals. Members may include the:

  • student
  • parents, family members
  • special, general and vocational educators
  • transition specialist
  • guidance counselor
  • social worker
  • school psychologist
  • rehabilitation professionals
  • employer

In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of a student’s abilities and strengths, it is important to look at a variety of both informal and formal assessment information.


  • Interviews/questionnaires of the student, parents and significant others
  • Records review, including personal history, medical background, academic achievement
  • Anecdotal information


  • Interest inventories*
  • Aptitude tests
  • Educational/achievement tests
  • Psychological tests
  • Situational assessments
  • Learning styles inventories**
  • Functional assessment, including an independent living assessment and a pre - employment checklist

The BENEFITS of vocational (transition) assessment are many, including:

  • Career awareness and exploration
  • Improved self-awareness and motivation
  • Identification of short-term and long-term career goals
  • Development of a career profile/portfolio

Vocational assessment needs to begin early, ideally during the middle school years. Developing a vocational, career profile is a wonderful way to showcase the student’s strengths and interests. Such a profile contains all the informal and formal assessment information performed on/by the student and goes with the student as he/she moves from one grade to the next.

*   Interest Inventories – A good portfolio contains one or more interest inventories completed by the student. An interest inventory is a verbal, written, or computer exercise that helps a student identify what jobs might be a good fit for him/her based on things he/she like to do.

Sample interest inventories include:

** Learning Styles Inventories – All students have a preferred learning style. Learning styles are a unique collection of skills and preferences that influence how we learn best. Learning styles impact how people act in a group, learn, participate in activities, relate to others, solve problems, teach and work.

Learning style assessments can be based on:

Types of Learning Style Inventories

Additional Resources are available on the following pages. The University of Kansas also has a wonderful site on the web. Online Modules has a wealth of information on Assessing Students with Disabilities: Transition Planning for the IEP.

Adapted from Connecticut State Department of Education/Bureau of Special Education Transition Task Force/Transition Training Manual