History of Guidance

This paper highlights the history of guidance and vocational education in the United States. The roots of guidance and vocational education have been prominent for the most part of the last century. However, there were efforts to guide and educate people to find jobs and learn through methods such as apprenticeship long before the last decade.

Modern forms of guidance and vocational education arose in the late 19th century and early 20th century. During this time, the world of employment and career interventions grew at a rapid pace. Groups of scholars and practitioners published their theories and studies in journals and other sources. The central goal of these concepts and researches was to develop a scientific benchmark in advising and counseling. In the United States, Frank Parsons (1854–1908), an engineer and lawyer, is considered as the principal visionary and architect of guidance and vocational education (Gladding, 2013). Parsons established a Vocational Bureau in Boston to provide a scientific framework for assisting immigrants and other marginalized Americans to develop effective strategies for choosing particular jobs. Parsons is renowned for his interests in assisting individuals to make occupational and career choices (Glosoff, 2009). He is credited as the father of contemporary guidance and vocation education. In 1909, the Bureau helped in drafting a system of vocational training in the Boston public schools (Gladding, 2013). The output of the Bureau influenced the need and application of guidance and vocational education not only across the United States, but also in other countries such as China and Uruguay (Gladding, 2013). Following to the changes and improvements instituted by Frank Parson, more and more secular influences mushroomed in early 1900s as sociology and psychology became widely accepted as academic disciplines. Advances in career directions appeared alongside developments in social sciences at the beginning of the 20th century. By the end of the 20th century, the integration of psychological testing and career counseling advanced vocational guidance and education. In addition, developments in testing and advising techniques established by the army made the discipline more credible in the business world. Moreover, these techniques were soon introduced in college campuses. In 1930’s, there was a growth in application of interest and aptitude measurements. The use of trait-factor psychology and aptitude measurements gave guidance and vocational education respectability and credentials (Glosoff, 2009). Following the Greta Depression and the Stock Market Crash, employment rate was affected more than in any previous period in the United States history. After the Second World War, there was an array of options for vocational guidance and education (Glosoff, 2009). However, these developments were parallel to the conflicting political and social thoughts. Since then, vocational guidance and education is a reflection of the changing needs of both the society and a diverse student population. As of this writing, vocational guidance and education was secondary to academic interests at post high school level (Gladding, 2013). Nevertheless, it continues to be vital in meeting the demands of the present-day college students.

In 1900s, Frank Parson wrote Choosing a Vocation; Jesse B. Davies found a systematic school guidance; and Clifford Beers put emphasis on mental health in careers (Gladding, 2013). Between 1910s and 1930s National Vocational Guidance Association was formed; psychometrics were introduced, vocational education was enhanced through George-Dean Act and the directive trait and factor counseling was introduced by E.G. Williamson (Gladding, 2013). According to Gladding (2013), after the World War II, more women worked outside their home questioning the traditional gender roles. GI and VA Bills shaped counseling. In 1990s, AACD became American Counseling Association (ACA), which factored in cultural diversification.

In summary, the early development years of guidance and counseling were characterized as being mostly vocational in nature. However, the profession advanced other personal concerns and became an agenda for counselors in schools. In the US, Frank Parsons is considered as a visionary and founder of the vocational guidance movement because he developed the talent-matching theory, which was later advanced into the Trait and Factor Theory of Occupational Choice (Gladding, 2013).


Gladding, S. T. (2013). History of and Trends in Counseling. In Author, Counseling: A Comprehensive Profession (7th ed.) (pp. 3-28). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Glosoff, H. L. (2009). Beginnings of the Vocational Guidance. In D. Capuzzi, & D. R. Gross, Introduction to the counseling profession (5th ed.) (pp. 5-8). Columbus, OH: Pearson/Merrill.