Holland Codes

The Holland Codes represents a set of personality types described in a theory of careers and vocational choice formulated by psychologist John L. Holland.[1] Holland’s theory argued that “the choice of a vocation is an expression of personality” and that the six factor typology he articulated could be used to describe both persons and work environments.[1] His typology provides an interpretative structure for a number of different vocational interest surveys, including the two measures he developed: The Vocational Preference Inventory and the Self Directed Search. His model has been adopted by the U.S. Department of Labor for categorizing jobs relative to interests.[2]

Holland’s theory does not assume that a person is just one type or that there are “only six types of people in the world.” [1] Instead, he assumed that any person could be described as having interests associated with each of the six types in a descending order of preference. This assumption allows the Holland Codes to be used to describe 720 (6!) different personality patterns. As the theory is applied in interest inventories and job classifications, it is usually only the two or three most dominant codes that are used for vocational guidance.

In presenting his theory, Holland graphically represented the six types as arrayed on a hexagon.[1] This graphic representation serves to describe the empirically determined correlations between the types. The shorter the distance between their corners on the hexagon, the more closely they are related.

Taken together, the Holland Codes are usually referred to by their first letters: RIASEC.

The six personality and work environment types described by Holland are as follows:

  • Realistic – practical, physical, hands-on, tool-oriented
  • Investigative – analytical, intellectual, scientific, explorative
  • Artistic – creative, original, independent, chaotic
  • Social – cooperative, supporting, helping, healing/nurturing
  • Enterprising – competitive environments, leadership, persuading
  • Conventional – detail-oriented, organizing, clerical

Example professions

The following lists contain examples of professions that typify persons dominant within a category.

Doer (Realistic)

Working with your hands, tools, machines, and things; practical, mechanically inclined, and physical:

  • Agriculture
  • Archaeology
  • Architect
  • Astronaut
  • Athlete
  • Chef
  • Computer science
  • Driver
  • Electrical engineering
  • Engineer
  • Firefighter
  • Gardener
  • Information technology
  • Instructional technology
  • Martial arts
  • Mechanic/Automobiles
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Paramedic
  • Pharmacy
  • Physical therapy
  • Pilot
  • Police Officer
  • Soldier
  • Veterinarian

Thinker (Investigative)

Working with theory and information, analytical, intellectual, scientific:

  • Actuary
  • Computer science
  • Economist
  • Engineer
  • Finance
  • Lawyer
  • Mathematics
  • Pharmacy
  • Physician/Medical school
  • Professor (all fields)
  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Science
  • Statistics
  • Surgeon

Creator (Artistic)

Non-conforming, original, independent, chaotic, creative:

  • Actor
  • Writer/Poet
  • Dancer
  • Painter/Graphic designer
  • Musician
  • Cosmetology

Helper (Social)

Cooperative environments, supporting, helping, healing/nurturing:

  • Therapist
  • Audiologist
  • Babysitter
  • Caretaker
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Education
  • Instructional technology
  • Martial arts
  • Nurse
  • Nutritionist
  • Physician
  • Professor
  • Psychologist
  • Receptionist
  • Social Worker
  • Teacher
  • Theology
  • Trainer (business)
  • Speech-language pathologist

Persuader (Enterprising)

Competitive environments, leading, persuading, selling, dominating, promoting, status:

  • Administration
  • Academic administration
  • Business/MBA
  • Communications
  • Insurance
  • Investment Banker
  • Journalism
  • Law / Politics
  • Marketing / Advertising
  • Management
  • Management Consultant
  • Public Health
  • Publishing
  • Public relations
  • Public policy
  • Real Estate
  • Retail
  • Stockbroker
  • Salesmen

Organizer (Conventional)

Precise, perfect attention to detail, orderly, organizing, status:

  • Accountant
  • Actuary
  • Administration
  • Banking/Investment bank
  • Business/MBA
  • Clerk
  • Copy Editing
  • Instructional technology
  • Lexicographer
  • Librarian
  • Payroll
  • Proofreader
  • Secretary
  • Technical writer


  1. ^ a b c d Holland, Choices: a theory of careers. Prentice-Hall, 1973.
  2. ^ Formerly published by the Dept. of Labor as The Guide to Occupational Exploration, this text has been become one component in a comprehensive online job search system: O*net online


  • Collins, A. M., & Sedlacek, W. E. (1972). Comparison of satisfied and dissatisfied users of Holland’s Self-Directed Search. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 19, 393-398.
  • Holland, John. L. (1997). Making Vocational Choices: A Theory of Vocational Personalities and Work Environments. Psychological Assessment Resources Inc.
  • Holland, John. L. (1996). Dictionary of Holland Occupational Codes. Psychological Assessment Resources Inc.
  • Tracey, T. J., & Sedlacek, W. E. (1980). Comparison of error rates on the original Self-Directed Search and the 1977 revision. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 27, 299-301.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holland_Codes