Do Free Career Assessments Cost You More In The Long Run?

As a counselor or advisor, you desire to offer the best resources available for your students. You spend numerous hours in your office helping students by providing them with the tools necessary to succeed. One of the most important resources for college students are career assessment tools. They allow for early major and career exploration, which leads to informed decisions when it comes to selecting a path suitable for them. This subsequently helps with graduating on time and entering a career that aligns with the students’ goals, skills, and interests. With so many instruments to choose from—including free resources—one question to consider is: do free career assessments cost you more in the long run?

Because of the wealth of information and direction these tools can provide, it’s important to choose an assessment wisely to recommend to your students. When searching for assessments to offer, you’ll be presented with hundreds of publishers, but it’s worth it to take the time to find the publishers that offer reputable career and psychological assessments. First and foremost, the goal is for your students to obtain valuable results. But even more crucially, they should be accurate.

You may now be asking yourself, how do you know if a career assessment is reputable and trustworthy? It’s all about the quality. From reliability to graphic sophistication, the following are factors to consider when targeting quality and reputable career assessments:

Manual Availability

The first thing to look for when choosing a career assessment is manual availability. A trustworthy career assessment will offer a manual with useful information for the individual taking the assessment. Evidence of the reliability and validity of the tool is what you should look for in the manual. If a manual isn’t readily available, which you can usually find on their website or by simply contacting the publisher, this should raise a red flag, which highly questions the instrument’s trustworthiness.

Publish Date

Pay attention to the assessment and manual’s publish date. It’s important to opt for a tool that is based on current research. Staying up-to-date is crucial in career development.


If a student was to take a career assessment more than once, is he/she going to obtain the same results every time? The main concern that students have when advised to use an instrument like this is reliability. A publisher that lacks the resources to conduct the necessary research to build a valuable tool may ultimately be providing randomly-generated results, which diminishes the trustworthiness in the tool. As mentioned above, you may find reliability data through an assessment’s manual or the publisher’s summary statement.

On the manual, find the test-retest reliability correlation coefficient to obtain reliability data. The range for correlation coefficients is from 0.0 to 1.0. The higher the number, the more stable the results will remain from test to test. A coefficient of at least .80 is equivalent to a standard of excellence.

By recommending a tool that’s effective and respectable, you’re not only helping your students, but also strengthening your school’s or organization’s credibility.

Is The Publisher Reputable?

Reputable career assessment publishers are transparent. They have a web presence, they publish print or online resources and/or catalogs and have knowledgeable representatives available to help their customers. These representatives should be able to provide you with answers about research practices, validity, and reliability, as well as other general questions about their assessment tool.

User Reviews

Learn more about the assessments’ pros and cons from previous users. Talk to other schools and professionals about what works for them and what hasn’t. Inquire about the student experience, because this is an important piece that plays into fully adopting a successful tool at your school. If the student doesn’t like the tool and isn’t engaged, the tool will not provide the best results for them, and will ultimately fail in helping you meet your school’s goals. User reviews area great way to compare different instruments in order to find the best one to help with your students’ and school’s needs.

Reviews From The Experts

Another great way to learn more about an instrument and how it works is through the experts. Find reviews of the top career assessments on Buros and the Journal of Career Assessment. But remember, while reading peer reviews is a great resource, it’s always important to also hear it from users who work with these tools on a day-to-day basis and who can share the direct feedback they receive from their end-users (the students).

Test Duration & Result Time Frame

Test duration is calculated based on the average test taker and how long it takes them to complete all of the questions on the assessment. The more questions a student answers related to their goals, interests and skills allows for more accurate and reliable results. If an assessment only takes a couple of minutes to complete, this may raise some concerns, so pay attention to what questions are being asked. This is where the manual will come in handy in terms of validity. Prompt result availability after test completion is also ideal because it helps students to begin to explore their options, which in turn advances your conversations when you are ready to meet with them.

Research & Graphic Sophistication

A career assessment tool should be user-friendly in order to simplify the test-taking process for your students. Both research and graphic refinement are crucial in enhancing usability. This ensures that the students become more engaged with the tool, and will answer the questions more thoroughly, rather than feeling like this is “just another test” they have to forcibly take.  


Selecting the right career assessment wisely is crucial to your students’ career success. We’ve come a long way from assuming that all free assessments are “bad” or “inaccurate”. There are plenty of great assessments out there, whether free or paid for, but make sure you keep in mind, what are your goals and what are you trying to achieve for the student? Where do you go next after the student receives his or her results? What type of follow-up is required and does the student feel more prepared after getting their results?

Some free career assessments don’t typically offer the elements discussed above, which is why they might cost more in the long run because of bad advice on the front end. This can affect students if they take unnecessary courses, or select a major that doesn’t align with their interests and/or personality. Take the time to research and review several instruments until you find one that meets your students’ needs. Keep in mind that quality, reputation, validity, and trustworthiness are key—whether the tool is free or not.

Do Free Career Assessments Cost You More In The Long Run?

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