This study examined perceptions of a university-level occupation
using the recently developed Position Classification Inventory (PCI).
Results suggest that the PCI shows promise as a method of classifying
specific occupations according to Holland's theory.
Perhaps the most widely accepted method for describing occupations
is Holland's theory of people and occupational environments
(Holland, 1985, 1997). Holland's theory can be perceived as a
direct attempt to organize and systemize the knowledge of self and,
secondarily, as the matching of that self with occupational environments
(Slaney, Hall, & Bieschke, 1993). Both occupational environments and
personalities are grouped into six major categories: Realistic (R),
Investigative (I), Artistic (A), Social (S), Enterprising (E), and
In Holland's typology, both personality and environment are
expressed in three-letter codes. A three-letter code is formed by
selecting, from Holland's six types, the three types that most
closely characterize the person or his or her work-school environment.
The three-letter code provides a brief summary of what a person or
environment is like by showing the degree of resemblance to three
occupational groups. For example, the three-letter code of CER suggests
that the person or environment has dominant Conventional aspects but
also possesses the Enterprising and Realistic characteristics to a
somewhat lesser degree. Extensive descriptions of the six types can be
found in Holland (1985).
Two of Holland's basic notions are that (a) persons in a
vocation have similar personalities, and (b) persons tend to choose
actual occupational environments consistent with their personality
orientations. Finally, a primary assumption behind Holland's
approach is "vocational satisfaction, stability, and achievement
depend on the congruence between one's personality and environment
in which one works" (1985, p. 10). It is clear that the validity of
Holland's theory hinges on not only the ability to adequately
describe personality types but also to accurately characterize
occupational environments. Thus, the more comprehensively specific
occupations are studied, the more useful they are likely to be in
meeting the need of predicting a favorable match between clients and
large numbers of occupations.
One publication often used to assist clients in considering
occupations consistent with their personality is the Dictionary of
Holland Occupational Codes (DHOC; Gottfredson & Holland, 1996). The
DHOC provides a way of classifying most occupations according to
Holland's (1985, 1997) theory. The DHOC, however, does not provide
a method of directly assessing any specific position using
Holland's (1985, 1997) personality/environmental typology. The
Position Classification Inventory (CPI; Gottfredson & Holland, 1991)
was developed, in part, to address this particular shortcoming of the
DHOC. The PCI shows promise as a method of classifying occupations
according to Holland's theory (Maurer & Tarulli, 1997).
The most straightforward application of the PCI involves
classifying occupations (Gottfredson & Holland, 1991). The purpose
of this study, then, is to analyze the degree of congruence between the
DHOC's classification of a specific occupation and one
worker's classification of the same occupation using the PCI. It is
assumed that information from this article will provide additional
support for the usability and validity of the DHOC in career counseling.
Finally, most of the research on Holland's model has involved
students or workers in occupations that require a college degree
(Tranberg, Slane, & Ekberg, 1993). The present study included a
specific semi-professional occupation: Financial-Aid Counselor.
The second author delivered the PCI to one financial-aid counselor
at a medium-size southern university. The financial-aid counselor was
female, in her 40's, earned a master's degree, had worked on
the job for 20 years, and expressed a moderate level of job
The Position Classification Inventory (PCI; Gottfredson &
The Position Classification Inventory (PCI) was developed to
provide a valid, economical method with which to classify any position
or occupation according to Holland's (1985, 1997) typology of work
environments. The PCI's most important use is as an inventory for
classifying positions and occupations. It is also helpful for
understanding sources of dissatisfaction with a current job.
The PCI is an 84-item inventory in which a job incumbent or
supervisor describes the demands, rewards, and opportunities to express
or display preferences that an occupation environment provides. Each
environmental model is represented by 13 items, for a total of 78 items.
Six experimental items are not scored. Typically, the inventory can be
completed in 10 minutes or less.
No special instruction or supervision is usually required. The user
simply follows directions in the item booklet and records responses on
the hand-scored answer sheet. Respondents are encouraged to mark one
response for each item.
Alpha (internal consistency reliability) coefficients for the PCI
scales range from .74 to .87, with a median of .79. The alpha
coefficients for the supervisor's sample range from .71 to .91,
with a median of .83. In writing the initial items and in writing new
items for revisions, empirical evidence from the broad literature on the
theory (Holland & G.D. Gottfredson, 1990) was attended to, with
special attention to occupation analysis data and the theory (G.D.
Gottfredson & Holland, 1989). Thus, the PCI appears to have both
face and content validity.
Some Research on the PCI
Initial attempts to validate the PCI indicate it is potentially
useful for researchers and counselors (Austin, 1993). Maurer and Tarulli
(1997) examined the relationship between the environmental dimensions
underlying Holland's theory of vocational choice and skill
requirements, context characteristics, and task frequency rating for
managerial jobs. The profile of observed correlations was generally
consistent with the judges' expectations based on Holland's
theory, providing support for both the framework and the construct
validity of the PCI. Other researchers have used the PCI to investigate
how well Holland's (1985) typology can distinguish among
occupational specialties (see Upperman & Church, 1995).
The job title of financial-aid counselor was located in the DHOC
and a three-letter code of SEC was identified. Specifically, the job
description in the DHOC was as follows: Financial-Aid Counselor
(education) SEC, DOT 169.267-018.
Scoring of Congruence
Quantifying the degree of similarity between two Holland codes is
at the heart of measuring congruence. Much of the research in vocational
psychology concentrates on attempts to clarify this similarity (Osipow,
In his review, Spokane (1985) listed 8 indices of congruence.
Later, Camp and Chartrand (1992) compared 13 different measures that had
been developed to operationalize Holland's congruence, however,
Brown & Gore, (1994) "may have hit pay dirt" (Holland,
Thus, the index chosen for this study was the Brown and Gore (1994)
"'C" (for congruency) index. This "C" index was
selected because it (1) is consistent with Holland's theory, (2) is
more comprehensive than other indices, such as Zener and Schnvelle
(1976) index, (3) is recommended by Holland (1997), (4) has a normal
distribution, (5) is easy to calculate, and (6) is sensitive to code
The Brown and Gore (1994) index (C) is an extension of
Holland's first-letter hexagonal distance measure to a three-letter
code. The formula for C=3(x)+2(x)+(x), where x is a score of 3, 2, 1, or
0 assigned to each comparison according to the hexagonal distance
between the letters (3= identical letters, 2= adjacent hexagonal
letters, 1= alternate hexagonal letters, 0= opposite hexagonal letters).
To illustrate, a person with an ISA code who is in a perfectly
congruent (ISA) environment would receive a congruency score (C) of 18,
C= [3(3) + 2 (3) + 1(3)] = 18. However, an ISA person in an SAE
environment would receive a score of 8, C= [3(1)+ 2(2) + 1(1)1 = 8. C
can range from 0 to 18, with higher scores reflecting progressively
higher levels of congruence.
The purpose of this study was to examine the degree of congruency
between the DHOC's classification of a specific working class
occupation and a worker's classification of the same occupation
using the PCI. Results reveal a moderate congruency score (x = 9) using
the Brown & Gore Index (range 0-18).
Upon closer inspection, however, the worker's PCI
classification of CSE contained the identical letters of the DHOC's
classification (i.e., SEC), albeit arranged differently. The
dissimilarity between the codes could be explained as slight individual
differences in perceptions of job and self. It could be argued that
important similarities do indeed exist between the DHOC and the PCI.
The findings of this study provide some additional data in support
of Holland's theory (1985, 1997) and helps explain why his theory
of occupations has survived over thirty years of empirical scrutiny and
remains the premier theory in vocational literature (Camp &
Chartrand, 1992). For example, the authors of the PCI (Gottfredson &
Holland, 1991) state that the "PCI has passed enough tests to
recommend its use in practical application as a method of assessing
positions and occupation" (p.45). The results of this study further
reinforce Gottfredson's and Holland's assertions.
In conclusion, it appears that both the DHOC and PCI hold promise
as tools for understanding semi-professional occupations and for
providing realistic occupational information on these types of
occupations to college bound clients. Before generalizing the results of
this study to similar populations, however, larger sample sizes are
needed. In addition, future research in non professional settings will
broaden the validity of the PCI (as well as the DHOC).
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MARK J. MILLER, PH.D.
ERNEST L. COWGER, PH.D.
MARY M. LIVINGSTON, PH.D.
Louisiana Tech University