Roots of the National Career Development Association #3

By Rich Feller

Vocational Guidance: State of the Art and Science in 1913


The National Career Development Association (NCDA) currently is celebrating its centennial year. The formation of the National Vocational Guidance Association (NVGA) was completed at a series of meetings held in October 21-24, 1913 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a part of our centennial celebration we are examining our roots. This month, we consider the state of the art and science of vocational guidance as practiced in 1913, the year that NCDA was founded. [See also Roots #1 and #2, previously published here.]


The foundational model for vocational guidance was crafted by Frank Parsons. As a social reformer he often lectured about “The City of the Future.” He asserted that cities in the future would require specially trained personnel to help youth make vocational choices. Parsons urged that science be applied to the problems of vocational guidance, a term he coined in 1908. As part of developing the profession of guidance, Parsons established a Vocational Bureau in Boston to help young people make choices through counsel, guidance, information, and cooperation. In addition to providing direct service to young people, the Bureau trained teachers and personnel directors in the model and methods of vocational guidance.


By the year that NCDA was founded (1913), the Vocational Bureau had been the national center of the vocational guidance movement for five years. Annual reports concerning the work of the Vocational Bureau are stored in the Monroe C. Gutman Library at Harvard University. The records are at Harvard University Library because the Vocational Bureau moved to Harvard in 1917 when its Director, Meyer Bloomfield resigned his position to contribute to the war effort. The Record of the Vocational Bureau of Boston for 1913 can be found by clicking the link below. In its 28 pages you will be able to read about the state of the art and science of vocational guidance circa 1913.


The second link below will take you to a short list of “Aids for Vocational Guidance” published in the January 16, 1913 issue of the Journal of Education. These aids represent the first publications in professional literature on the practice of vocational guidance.


The Record of the Vocational Bureau of Boston for 1913


Aids for Vocational Guidance



Rich FellerRich Feller, Ph.D., is Professor of Counseling and Career Development and University Distinguished Teaching Scholar at Colorado State University, and a Nationally Certified Counselor. A Fellow and President (2012-2013) of the National Career Development Association, he received NCDA’s Eminent Career Award in 2009. He can be reached at Rich.Feller@ColoState.EDU

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Carol Vecchio   on Monday 04/01/2013 at 08:27 PM

Thanks, Rich! It's fascinating to learn about the roots of our wonderful profession. Love this stuff! :-)

Bob Chope   on Tuesday 04/02/2013 at 12:57 PM

The names and affiliations that Parsons was able to assemble are impressive and familiar: Filene, Agassiz, Harvard-MIT to name a few. He obviously had astute organizing skills at a number of levels to drum up the influential support that he had. Thanks Rich for helping us continue to discover who we are.

Rich Feller   on Tuesday 04/02/2013 at 02:50 PM

Bob...so many career counselors and specialists including yourself are helping NCDA bridge the centennial celebration to our second century. I hear the words vocational and career guidance more and more each day as the reason for NCDA's being remains as important today. As NCDA moves to models of life design and re-invention the Boston 13 committee and Centennial products team are very excited about how strong our roots have taken hold.

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.