Understanding and Enhancing Career and College Readiness Self-Efficacy: Evidence-Based Practice

By Stanley B. Baker

Becoming career and college ready is a challenging process requiring intentional activity during the early stages of career development. Mastering a variety of related challenges is an important pathway to being career and college ready. If youths believe they can master related challenges, they are more likely to persevere (Bandura, 1997). Their perseverance can lead to enhanced career and college readiness self-efficacy, and school counselors are well-positioned to assist in the process.

What are the components of career and college readiness self-efficacy and how can they be understood and enhanced by professional counselors? Colleagues and I developed the Career and College Readiness Self-Efficacy Inventory (CCRSI; Baker & Foxx, 2012) and produced reliability and validity evidence (Baker et al. 2017; Martinez, Baker, & Young, 2017). Four components or factors that identify the ingredients of this self-efficacy construct and provide insight for how counselors can help students enhance their career and college readiness self-efficacy were identified. The factors are as follows. Career and college readiness self-efficacy will be enhanced through interventions that help students (a) meet procedural and financial challenges associated with postsecondary education and future careers, (b) believe they possess positive personal characteristics that will enhance readiness, (c) believe they possess the academic competencies needed to be successful in the future, and (d) believe that they have the potential to set and achieve future goals.

How Can Professional Counselors Apply this Information?

Previous research findings indicated that career and college readiness self-efficacy can be enhanced via structured classroom guidance interventions for ninth graders (Martinez et al. 2017) and fourth graders (Allen, Jones, Baker, & Martinez, 2019) and via customized individual career counseling interventions for high school aged females (Williams, Baker, & Williams-DeVane, 2017).

How can professional counselors apply this information? The first step is to understand the self-efficacy concept and agree that it is an important component of achieving career and college readiness. The second step is to understand that professional counselors are well-positioned to engage in interventions that can enhance self-efficacy beliefs. A third step is to design and deliver psychoeducational group and customized individual counseling interventions based on enhancing one or more of the CCRSI factors listed above.

The four career and college readiness self-efficacy components provide requisite structure for group and individual counseling interventions and the CCRSI (Baker & Foxx, 2012) and its companion scale, the Elementary Career and College Readiness Self-Efficacy Inventory (Allen, Baker, & Foxx, 2018), can be used to assess the effects of group and individual interventions and provide proof for one’s evidence-based practice. Both are free, copyrighted assessment scales. Two examples for counseling practitioners follow.

The REACH Career and College Readiness Curriculum

An elementary school counselor and her intern designed and delivered a six-session classroom guidance program (Allen et al. 2019) that covered the following topics which were selected to address all of the four career and college readiness self-efficacy components: (a) a value sort lesson to help children determine what is most important to them; (b) a vision board to create their perfect futures; (c) a goal-setting session to learn how to set goals and reflect on what is needed in a perfect future; (d) a reality check session to learn about what is necessary to sustain a perfect future; (e) a career exploration session to become acquainted with career exploration tools and learn about requirements for achieving career readiness; and (f) a college exploration session to learn about the search process, admission requirements, and financial aid options. The EECCRSI was used as a pre- and post-treatment measure to assess effects of the intervention, and the process was undertaken by a school counselor and her intern.

Customized Counseling Interventions

A female licensed professional counselor with previous school, college, and mental health counseling experience provided customized career counseling interventions for three female adolescents, ages, 15, 17, and 17 (Williams et al. 2017). The three students completed the CCRSI prior to the counseling interventions, and the counselor used their data to customize the interventions. Based on the CCRSI self-efficacy data, the counselor helped each student set somewhat different goals for the eight-week counseling process. Sample goals for one student (age 17) were to explore ways to improve her academic performance and ways to pay for college. A second student (age 15) wanted to understand the college admissions process and ways to acquire financial aid and also to learn how to set short and long-term goals. The third student (age 17) wanted to enhance her time-management skills and understand how a college education will influence her future income and life style. Over the duration of the independent career counseling interventions, the three students completed the CCRSI once a week. The base-line CCRSI data completed prior to the counseling sessions, the weekly CCRSI data, and additional CCRSI data for three weeks following the intervention provided evidence of the effects of each intervention. Counseling practitioners engaging in similar interventions can chart the findings graphically and plot horizontal lines from the beginning to the end of the process that will indicate the direction of the effects of the counseling intervention.

Enhancing Self-Efficacy

Understanding and accepting the potential importance of self-efficacy in the quest for career and college readiness can lead to discovering additional avenues to enhancing students self-efficacy. As attributed to Bandura (1997) above, if individuals believe they can master challenges, they are more likely to persevere. Being career and college ready is fraught with a variety of challenges related to students’ perceived self-efficacy, and professional counselors are well-positioned to provide interventions that can enhance career and college readiness self-efficacy.



Allen, A. A., Baker, S. B., & Foxx, S. P. (2018). Elementary Career and College Readiness Self-Efficacy Inventory (ECCRSI). Raleigh, NC. North Carolina State University.

Allen, A. A., Jones, G. E., Baker, S. B., & Martinez, R. R. (2019). Effects of a curriculum unit to enhance career and college readiness of fourth graders. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Baker, S. B., & Foxx, S. P. (2012). Career and College Readiness Self-Efficacy Inventory. Raleigh, NC, North Carolina State University.

Baker, S. B., Parikh Foxx, S., Akcan-Aydin, P., Gavin Williams, R., Ashraf, A., & Martinez, R. R. (2017). Psychometric properties of the Career and College Readiness Self-Efficacy Inventory. In Ideas and research you can use: VISTAS 2017. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/vistas/article_3166ce2bf16116603abcacff0000bee5e7.pdf?sfvrsn=f8d84b2c_4

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

Martinez, R. R., Baker, S. B., & Young, T. (2017). Promoting career and college readiness, aspirations, and self- efficacy: Curriculum field test. Career Development Quarterly, 65(2), 173–188. doi:10.1002/cdq.12090

Williams, R. G., Baker, S. B., & Williams-DeVane, C. R. (2017). Effects of customized counseling interventions on career and college readiness self-efficacy of three female foster care youth. The Professional Counselor, 8, 159-174. doi, 10.14241/rgw.8.2.159



Stanley BakerStanley B. Baker, PhD, LPC, NCC is a professor of counselor education at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC. A former high school teacher and counselor, he joined NVGA in 1967 and previously published meta-analyses of career education interventions in the Career Development Quarterly (1983; 1998). He was the first editor of Professional School Counseling. Dr. Baker is the coordinator of the school counseling program at NC State and teaches and mentors both doctoral and master’s degree students. His current research interest is understanding and enhancing career and college readiness self-efficacy. An important professional service goal is to promote postsecondary education-going cultures in schools and school systems. Copies of the CCRSI and ECCRSI instruments introduced in this article can be obtained from Dr. Baker at sbaker@ncsu.edu


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