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The Theory Behind the Holland Codes
The Theory Behind the Holland Codes
Markellos Diorinos avatar
Written by Markellos Diorinos
Updated over a week ago

Holland’s theory of vocational personalities and work environments has been considered the hallmark of the development and the evaluation of effective, valid and evidence-based career interventions and assessments. Starting in 1959, John Holland proposed an innovative approach in relation to the measurement of vocational interests suggesting that individual’s vocational choices stem from the unique way they interact with their environments. The US Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration has been using the RIASEC model (

The way individuals interact with their environments is indicative as to their subsequent vocational choices

Holland’s theory is based on 4 assumptions namely:

  • All individuals and their interests can be classified into specific types.

  • All environments can be classified into the same types.

  • All individuals have the tendency to choose and search for environments that fit their interests and personality and subsequently leave from environments that don’t fulfill these requirements.

  • The fit between the personality and the surrounding environment is so crucial that it affects and defines individuals’ behavior and well-being.

The better the fit between the individual and the environment, the best the outcome in job performance, job retention, job satisfaction and social behavior

Holland’s theory provides an insight into how individuals interact with their environments and how this interaction can lead to vocational choices. Specifically, according to him all individuals, their interests and all workplace environments can be classified into six types. The six Holland types which are also known with the acronym (RIASEC), are:

  • Realistic (R)-Doers

Individuals who fit in the Realistic type are characterized by an interest in orderly mechanical, manual, or outdoor activities. They are more interested in tools, machines, and objects rather than people and they tend to take a practical approach to life.

Occupational examples include: Carpenter, Electrician, Auto Mechanic

  • Investigative (I)-Thinkers

Individuals who fit in the Investigative type are characterized by interests in science and mathematics, problem solving and conceptual thinking. While they are not interested in work that involves repetitive tasks or dealing with emotions or people, they enjoy challenging work with ideas and symbols and they can successfully manage ambiguity.

Occupational examples include: Software Engineer, Mathematician, Biologist

  • Artistic (A) -Creators

Individuals who fit in the Artistic type are characterized by creative self expression and an interest in things of beauty as well as in the graphic, musical, literary, or performing arts.

Occupational examples include: Graphic designer, Musician, Art teacher

  • Social (S) -Helpers

Individuals who fit in the Social type are characterized by an interest in helping or caring for others and encouraging them to be more satisfied with their lives. They place great value in the quality of interpersonal relationships.

Occupational examples include: Counselor, Librarian, Social Worker, Physical Therapist, Nurse

  • Enterprising (E) -Persuaders

Individuals who fit in the Enterprising type are characterized by an interest in organizing, persuading, or leading people. They are dominant, confident, ambitious and action-oriented individuals who value power and possessions.

Occupational examples include: Sales Manager, Account Manager, Sales Engineer

  • Conventional (C) -Organizers

Individuals who fit in the Conventional type are characterized by an interest in accomplishing tasks or managing projects through organized, orderly, and efficient procedures. They are good at processing information, keeping detailed records, and operating computers and business machines.They tend to be conforming, to prefer clear instructions, and to dislike ambiguity.

Occupational examples include: Bookkeeper, Secretary, Bank Teller, Mail Carrier, HR Consultant

Of course, each individual may have an interest in all six types to some degree, creating thus a specific profile when these interests are combined

How Bryq assesses the Holland types

Research indicates that the 16 Personality Factors (see here ) can predict the 6 Holland Types. Subsequently, the primary factors of the 16 PF can mirror the pattern for the occupations as described by the Holland Types. According to literature, the usage of the 16PF Questionnaire along with the 6 Holland Occupational Types is strongly correlated to crucial career outcomes such as career satisfaction and training proficiency.


Armstrong, Patrick & Day, Susan & McVay, Jason & Rounds, James. (2008). Holland's RIASEC Model as an Integrative Framework for Individual Differences. Journal of Counseling Psychology. 55. 1-18. 10.1037/0022-0167.55.1.1.

Cattell, H. E., & Mead, A. D. (2008). The sixteen personality factor questionnaire (16pf).

Holland, J. L. (1997). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments. Psychological Assessment Resources.

Lounsbury, J. W., Park, S. H., Sundstrom, E., Williamson, J. M., & Pemberton, A. E. (2004). Personality, career satisfaction, and life satisfaction: Test of a directional model. Journal of career assessment, 12(4), 395-406.

Pietrzak, D. R., & Page, B. J. (2001). An Investigation of Holland Types and the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire‐Fifth Edition. The Career Development Quarterly, 50(2), 179-188.

Schuerger, J. M., & Sfiligoj, T. M. (1998). Holland codes and 16PF global factors: Sixty-nine samples. Psychological reports, 82(3_suppl), 1299-1306.

Tango, R. A., & Kolodinsky, P. (2004). Investigation of placement outcomes 3 years after a job skills training program for chronically unemployed adults. Journal of Employment Counseling, 41(2), 80-92.

Ward, G. R., Cunningham, C. H., & Wakefield Jr, J. A. (1976). Relationships between Holland's VPI and Cattell's 16PF. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 8(3), 307-312.

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