Career Exploration in High School: Utilizing Two Online Inventories to Assess Students’ Strengths, Interests and Aptitudes

By Julie Yanosik

Career inventories provide counselors with resources for accessing important information about student’s characteristics, preferences and motivations (Prince & Heiser, 2000). These assessments can be valuable tools, especially when working with high school students. Not only do they allow career counselors to discover students’ strengths, aptitudes, values and interests, they provide a foundation of information for how students can proceed to explore and plan for their future careers. With a plethora of reasonably valid and reliable career inventories currently in existence (Loffredo, 2017), it is important for practitioners to remain knowledgeable regarding newly developed career tools. This is particularly important in an age where high school students across the nation are being educated remotely. By staying up-to-date about these evolving assessment resources, practitioners can make informed decisions and enhance the career exploration process.

Photo By Eliott Reyna On UnsplashThe internet has added a new dimension to the explosive growth of career assessments in career counseling. Today, there are multitudes of assessment instruments, particularly for students in high school (many of which are now online) that career counselors use as adjunct to the career counseling process (Loffredo, 2017; Prince & Heiser, 2000). With so many options to explore for assessing secondary school students, counselors can become overwhelmed gathering, deciphering and evaluating all pertinent information regarding a specific instrument. One of the ethical considerations for practitioners is to use instruments with acceptable validity and reliability (Stoltz & Barclay, 2019). Other authors echo similar sentiments as they emphasize the ethical responsibility of the creators of web-based career tests to establish reliability and validity (Wagner & Ruch 2015; Engelman, McKlin, & Howell, 2016).

This article highlights two relatively recent online inventories for career practitioners to add to their repertoire. The VIA Character Strengths Survey (viacharacter.org) and the YouScience Assessment (youscience.com) are two online tools that are spotlighted because of their strong psychometric properties, relevance and quality information for high school students. Adopting these two instruments during the career exploration process can help career practitioners assist high school students as they plan their preparatory actions and create their future.

The VIA Character Strengths Survey

The VIA Character Strengths Survey is an online assessment tool that outlines and ranks a person’s twenty-four innate character strengths, such as curiosity, leadership, and perseverance. Strengths are a family of traits that can be combined, tapped and promoted to bring out the best in oneself and in others (Yeager, Fisher & Shearon, 2011). The survey was developed by the VIA Institute on Character, Cincinnati, Ohio in the early 2000s based on years of research surrounding strength-based psychology. Two versions of the survey are available, one for adults and one for youth ages 10-17. The survey tool is designed using a self-reporting system measured by a five-point Likert scale. It takes about 15-20 minutes to complete and consists of 96 questions.

The survey itself is free of charge and upon completion the site provides a list of the students’ 24 strengths in rank order along with a brief explanation of each character strength. For an added cost of $10, students have the option to receive a detailed report about their strengths and their rankings. The report breaks down students' 24 strengths into three categories: signature strengths, middle strengths and lesser strengths. By focusing on “what is strong, not what is wrong”, career practitioners will be able to instill in students that they can utilize their signature strengths in school, life, and the workforce to their fullest potential (Doman, 2018). By exercising their middle strengths, students continue to grow as people and as future professionals. The development of their lesser strengths demonstrates student perseverance. Each strength can be reflected upon with high school students to consider how they can best be showcased in the classroom and in potential careers in order to facilitate future success.

The YouScience Assessment

With the YouScience Assessment, the student’s answers are not in a self-reported format, but rather as a response to a timed series of prompts referred to as “brain games.” The online assessment provides high school students with an array of tasks ranging from 5-8 minutes each which determines their aptitudes and interests then matches the results to compatible 21st century career recommendations. A pilot study was conducted with sophomore students throughout the state of Georgia with results demonstrating that YouScience had a significant impact on students within the areas of: self-awareness, career decision-making, self-empowerment, career exploration and intent to persist (Governor's Office of Student Achievement, n.d.).

The YouScience Assessment includes reporting features as well as exploration tools for high school students. Upon completion of the assessment, students can download a detailed report that explains their results, with descriptions of their strongest aptitudes within a strengths profile. A summary report called a discussion guide, is also available which provides students with personal statements about themselves that can be used on resumes or college applications to illustrate their strengths. Students are also able to explore potential careers and college resources that align with their results within the online portal. The interface is user-friendly, appealing to high schoolers, and students maintain access to their information for ten years. The online assessment is free for all academic institutions, non-profit organizations and WIOA workforce groups.

Further Recommendations for Counselors

To maximize the career exploration period, the following represent recommendations for counselors using the information gleaned from these two assessment instruments during the career planning process with high school students.

  • Conduct an in-depth analysis of results by personally meeting with each student regarding their individual strengths, values, aptitudes and interests
  • Group students with similar results to brainstorm ways that their attributes make them a desirable employee in the workforce
  • Ask students to draft a personal career statement or elevator pitch using the results
  • Instruct students to research careers and career pathways that align with their results with a focus on how their strengths and interests can be an asset to a particular career field or promote job satisfaction
  • Reinforce students’ goals and goal setting by utilizing strengths to drive motivation
  • Have students develop a bank of power statements for resumes and college applications that align with their strengths and aptitudes.

Supplemental Assessment Resource

It is important for career practitioners to remain current regarding newly developed career tools, particularly online assessments for students as indicated by the two instruments spotlighted. In addition to viewing articles and online information, the 7th edition of the NCDA assessment resource, A Comprehensive Guide to Career Assessment (Stoltz & Barclay, 2019) offers up-to-date information that career counselors, educators and practitioners will find invaluable in learning about career assessment and selecting assessments specific to client needs.

Career assessments can increase student’s self-awareness and help them make rational career choices (Osborn & Zunker, 2015). The featured career assessments allow career practitioners to work with high school students holistically by covering strengths, interests and aptitudes. Students gain a better understanding of themselves, and practitioners can support them in determining future career opportunities by taking into consideration the total picture. Helping students realize what they have to offer a future employer is a critical component of discovery in career exploration. By utilizing easily accessible, useful online tools such as the VIA Character Strengths Survey and the YouScience Assessment, students and practitioners can aid the career exploration process for high school students.



Doman, F. (2018). True you: Authentic strengths for kids. Next Century Publishing. 

Engelman, S., McKlin, T., & Howell, C. (2016). YouScience pilot program, evaluation report.

Governor's Office of Student Achievement. (n.d.). YouScience Evaluation. https://gosa.georgia.gov/research-evaluation-auditing/evaluation-reports/youscience-evaluation

Loffredo, S. (2017). Sorting Out Career Assessments. https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2017/07/31/some-career-assessment-tools-and-how-use-them-essay

Osborn, D. S. & Zunker, V. G. (2015). Using assessment results for career development 9th
Edition. Cengage Learning.

Prince, J. P., & Heiser, L. J. (2000). Essentials of career interest assessment. John Wiley.

Stoltz, K. B. & Barclay, S. R. (2019). A comprehensive guide to career assessment (7th Edition). National Career Development Association.

Wagner, L., & Ruch, W. (2015). Good character at school: Positive classroom behavior mediates the link between character strengths and school achievement. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 610. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00610

Yeager, J., Fisher, S., Shearon. D. (2011). Smart strengths. Kravis Publishing.




Julie YanosikJulie Yanosik is a Career Connections Instructor for Mid-East Career and Technology Centers in Zanesville, Ohio. The Mid-East Career and Technology Centers prepares junior and senior students in high school, as well as a select group of sophomores from thirteen local school districts by providing them with comprehensive career exploration, robust academic knowledge, and powerful technical skills. Mrs. Yanosik has served in K-12 education for seventeen years with the last two of those spent working in career development. She can be reached at jyanosik@mideastctc.org.

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Amy Policastro Schroeder   on Thursday 10/01/2020 at 07:47 PM

Appreciate this information, Julie! The Free VIA Character Strengths Survey is new to me and appears to provide valuable tools for K-12 students to reflect on as they build their personal toolkit. Thank you for sharing! Great resources throughout.

Linda Sollars   on Friday 10/02/2020 at 01:18 AM

Julie, this article is an excellent resource that encapsulates the advantages of both of these assessments for high school students. Such an excellent article!

Michael Herrera   on Friday 10/02/2020 at 08:49 AM

Great article! Thank you for sharing.

Pam Ennis   on Friday 10/02/2020 at 11:44 AM

Great article - thanks for highlighting these resources - I'm looking forward to checking them out and using them with students!

Susan Rose   on Saturday 10/03/2020 at 09:21 AM

Great article Julie. I especially appreciated the further recommendations.

Janet Wall   on Tuesday 10/06/2020 at 06:52 PM

Why is NCDA and this article promoting a product that people need to purchase? Is this blatant advertising?
I further object to the word aptitudes. Aptitudes are inherent and not changeable. Abilities can be modified and enhanced. If you believe we, as educators can make a differences you would focus on modifying abilities, not on aptitudes.

Michael Herrera   on Wednesday 10/07/2020 at 07:56 AM

Janet, what free assessments do you recommend to help place students in a CTE school setting?

Abiola Dipeolu   on Wednesday 10/07/2020 at 01:39 PM

Hello Janet,

Thank you for your comments. I like to call your attention to a few things regarding this publication. These two assessments are in fact free (to a point) (see Amy's comments), and it is not "blatant advertising" as the article simply shows examples of two tools to support the career exploration process. Second, I do not see that the article aims to "modify or enhance" aptitudes. The article is about assessing, not changing anything.

Again, thanks for adding your voice to the conversation.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.