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.

Social Learning Theory icon

Social Learning Theory (SLTCDM and LTCC)

Krumboltz et al 1976, Mitchell & Krumboltz 1990 & 1996


The Social Learning Theory of Career Development (SLTCD) Krumboltz developed attempts to explain why people make the career decisions they make. People make their career decisions through an indefinite number of learning opportunities in their social environment which influence their views and ideas. These planned and unplanned learning moments, through the views and perceptions they influence and create, have an impact on which route an individual takes through the myriad of career and educational opportunities available to them. In planned happenstance theory, this is used by the career professional to reframe indecision and uncertainty into the client seeing these as positive opportunities. The career practitioner functions as a facilitator for further career planning focused learning. Krumboltz social learning theory consists of two parts:

  • The Social Learning Theory of Career Decision Making (SLTCDM)
  • The Learning Theory of Career Counselling (LTCC)


The Social Learning Theory of Career Decision Making (SLTCDM)

SLTCDM attempts to explain the origins of career choice. According to SLTCDM, there are four major influences on how we make career decisions:

Krumbolz Social Learning Theory of Career Counselling.

These four factors interact with each other in complex and unpredictable ways in each individual and influence the beliefs we have of ourself and the world. According to Krumboltz, the combination of these 4 factors result in correct or incorrect beliefs, stereotypes and generalisations about the self, careers, the world of work, society, etc…

People’s beliefs are either:

  • Self-observation generalisations – overt and covert observations about one’s own abilities, performance and views and resulting generalised conclusions the individual makes, which influence future behaviour and thinking – career planning.
  • World-view generalisations – overt and covert observations about the individual’s environment, drawing conclusions and consequences for how it’s going to behave in the future.
  • Task Approach Skills – interactions between genetic factors, environmental factors and learning experiences result in “cognitive and behavioral factors which represent the skills, a person brings to a decision situation” (Krumboltz, 1979, p. 2), in this case career decision making skills. These probably affect outcomes or decisions and therefore an individual’s career development.
  • Actions – learning experiences eventually lead to career actions.

What can we do with this for the client?

In general, as will be clear from above, the practitioner’s task is to be a facilitator for the client to recognise and correct false and incorrect beliefs and behaviours as well as reinforcing supporting beliefs.

Krumboltz proposes 7 steps that can be taken to help clients make career decisions (Krumboltz and Hamel, 1977):

  • D = Define the problem
  • E = Establish an action plan
  • C = Clarify values
  • I= Identify the alternatives
  • D = Discover probable outcomes
  • E = Eliminate alternatives systematically
  • S = Start the action

This model is not just useful for individual practice but Krumboltz applied this within a group setting during his investigation, taking the group through the different steps to find out whether the model worked (Krumboltz, 1979, p.172). At first sight it’s difficult to determine how this relates to social learning, until we realise that Krumboltz theory is about facilitating and promoting learning. It’s about encouraging people to act and not just to plan by matching themselves to a career. Krumboltz recognises that the world of work is in constant flux and the act of social learning is preparing clients for this ever changing reality. This starts to point towards Planned Happenstance Learning Theory which he later developed.


The Learning Theory of Career Counselling (LTCC)

LTCC was developed to help practitioners support clients through interventions to resolve career concerns. Krumboltz would like career professionals to do the following:Krumboltz LTCC model of career guidance theory.

The key to this is that career professionals support clients in building satisfying lives for themselves and not to match them with specific jobs or career paths.



This theory is a lot to take on and to get to grips with. What is represented on this page is only part of Krumholtz’s theory and suggestions for career practitioners and I would suggest it’s a good idea to read some of the links below or even to dig into the sources I consulted below. I think this is really helpful for two reasons: It gives us a different vantage point from matching theories and other theories such as developmentalism and it points towards how our surroundings influence our thinking and in turn our career planning, based on in depth research. it’s a good introduction to the background to Planned Happenstance Learning Theory and you can see how Krumboltz came to develop this theory.

How do you feel? Did you, or do you find it easy to get to grips with this theory and to decide on how to use it with clients?

  • Do you agree that social learning is the key to good career decisions? Or are there other factors that are equally or more important?
  • Here too, have a look at Brown’s criteria to determine how this theory compares.
  • Also have a look to how this compares to Planned Happenstance Learning Theory. What are the differences and what and how did Krumboltz develop his ideas further in this.
  • What is your experience with your own ‘social learning’? Take some time to reflect o how the learning you have been exposed to has influenced your thinking and career decisions. How does it confirm Krumholtz’s thinking and theory? What doesn’t fit?


Useful links


  • Krumboltz, J., (1979). The Effect of Alternative Career Decision-making Strategies on the Quality of Resulting Decisions. School of Education, Stanford University, California.
  • rumboltz, J. D. & Hamel, D. A., (1977). Guide to career decision making skills. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.