It’s not my intention to give full information or an extensive discussion on every theory. This website is intended to be a starting point and the main difference with other websites is the visual representation of the theory, which I hope will help get to grips with the theory. There are also links it the bottom to get your further research started.

Career Anchors

Edgar H. Schein 1975

Strange tip that helps you remember Schein and his Career Anchors:

Edgar Henry Schein was born in Zürich in 1928, in the German speaking region of Switzerland. In German, his name is normally pronounced [shine]. To remember him and his theory, think of Schein’s shipshape shiny anchor!


We create meaning through our work which can be classified and identified and be used to make decisions. Schein recognised 8 categories of meaning and argues that individuals preference falls within one of these eight. A “career anchor” is a combination of perceived aptitudes, motives and values. The theory argues that people are usually happier when they can fulfil their preferred ‘anchor’ in their work or career.

Career theories on marcr and Schein career anchors.



Which theories are related to Schein’s anchors?

If you look closely you can see similarities with personality based techniques and theories. If you compare Schein’s theory with that of Myers Briggs for instance, you can see definite similarities. Have a look at Holland as well and recognise the similarities between Holland’s six personalities and Schein’s career anchors. This means similar techniques can be used and similar restrictions or criticism applies to this theory. You can also see that this theory is strongly linked to trait and factor, bringing along with it all its pros and cons.



The background to this theory is from within organisational psychology. Apart from for career choice and planning, this theory can also be used within an organisational context to make management decisions or to support staff in achieving their potential.



Just like Holland’s theory and theories like Myers Briggs and the Big Five, you can imagine there would be some questionnaire to tease out someone’s career anchors. There are some you can find online. One example is: but be careful, there may be some out there which don’t really give you much you can use in practice and some may not be up to much. I can’t vouch for the value of any of them but please feel free to have a look, do a search and see what you think.

Another way to use this theory is by questioning the client to tease out their career anchors. Once you have a good idea of what someone’s career anchor is you would be able to use this to help them reflect on any career ideas they have and whether their values match with the career.

Pros and Cons of anchoring your practice on career anchors

As mentioned before, there are some real disadvantages to Schein’s theory and it shouldn’t be used on its own in my view. The result can however provide you and the client with an excellent starting point from which to build up your work with them.

Have a think to see what your answers would be to the following questions before you do a bit of research about the pros and cons of Schein’s theory:

  • Can clients really be fitted neatly into six career anchors?
  • How can the clear categories they offer be used to help with career planning and career assessment?
  • What are the dangers when clients use a ‘career anchor test’ without guidance or follow up by a professional?
  • Can career anchors be used to make real career decisions? If so, why and if not, why not?
  • Is it possible to use this theory with people who haven’t had any work experience yet?


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