College Student Career Development

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College student career development refers to the processes involved in making career decisions and the outcomes of those decisions for individuals in college. According to developmental theories of career decision making, traditional-age college students are often attempting to refine their understanding of themselves, learn about the world of work, and discover how they might make work a part of their lives. Nontraditional-age college students report similar challenges, although they generally have less need to select career goals than do younger students. Not all individuals who pursue a college education do so solely for the purpose of preparing for a career, although for many, career preparation is a significant factor contributing to their decisions to enroll in a college or university. Thus, the primary vocational challenge faced by college students is choosing a major and deciding on career goals. Other important challenges include performing effectively in academic pursuits and learning skills that will enable students to succeed in a desired career.


This article was originally published as Kahn, J. H., & Nauta, M. M. (2006). College student career development. In J. H. Greenhaus & G. A. Callanan (Eds.), Encyclopedia of career development (Vol. 1, pp. 180–184). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.