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.

Value-based Career Decision Making

Duane Brown 1995, 1996& 2002; Brown & Crace 1995


The assumptions this theory starts from are as follows (Brown, 2002):

    1. Many occupational choices are uninformed – they are the result of chance, external variables and circumstances
    2. To achieve an informed occupational decision, the individual engages in a conscious exploration of:
      • their personal characteristics
      • the rewards they may accrue by choosing various occupations
      • the environmental variable that may influence the outcomes of their decisions
    3. “The values system, which is made up of the cultural and work values of individuals, is the primary basis of perception, cognition, and affect.” (Brown, 2002).
    4. People base assigning negative or positive attributes to occupations on the basis of values (Rokeach, 1973).
    5. All career decisions are made in uncertainty because clients nor practitioners have full details on all aspects and implications
    6. Most existing career theories are based on the perspective of a white (often male) western perspective and have limited value for other ethnic, social or cultural groups or clients (Leong, 1995).

Point 1 and 2 would suggest there are two categories of clients:

  1. those making unplanned decisions
  2. those making planned decisions


Value Based Decision Making in practice

  • work values are of critical importance in career development and career decision making.
  • cultural values play an important role in career development and decision making.

An individual’s cultural context, and life values linked to this influence, determines how they make decisions and which occupations they come in contact with or prioritise/see as important. If both the practitioner and the client have a more in depth understanding of these, then lifestyle planning or career planning can move forward in a more effective way. This theory is therefore particularly useful in working with people with a non-white and/or non western background or context or value framework. At the same time it’s important to remember that values don’t only vary between groups but also within groups.

For clients who are not aware of what their values are or who have conflicting values, making valuable career decisions is going to be difficult. Clients make decisions on value priorities, as such, working with clients on prioritising can be a tool to work through or around this.

The work values section below also prompts the client and the practitioner to take values within the workplace or from the employer into account.Duane Brown’s Values-Based Career Theory.

7 Propositions Role of values in the Career Decision -Making Process (Brown & Crace, 1996)

  1. Work values that are high in priority are the most important determinants of choice from among alternatives.
  2. An individual’s value system is learned from the society they grow up in, and thus this society is of great influence when career decisions are made.
  3. Culture, sex and socioeconomic status affect the opportunities an individual is offered.
  4. Choices that are in line with an individual’s values is essential to career satisfaction.
  5. Life Satisfaction is the result of role interaction.
  6. An individual’s level of functioning correlates with their values; high- functioning individuals have crystallized and prioritized values.
  7. Success in any role depends on the abilities required to perform the role’s functions.Value-based Career Counselling Model by Duane Brown.


Brown and Brown and Crace recognise that many of the traditional career theories are not value free in that they are based in male dominated, white western society. In developing their theory they seem to have made a valuable attempt at being more inclusive by focusing career decisions around values, which differ from person to person. I tend to agree that values are very important in career/life choice and I recognise the effort Brown and Crace have made in including other ethnicities, backgrounds etc… However, implied in centring around values is that this creates decision making based on that value framework. This risks the individual looking outside this value framework and being challenged, thereby expanding their value framework and options. Brown and Crace recognise this of course, but it’s still a valid comment I feel. They risk falling in the same trap as many of the traditional career theories and focus on one aspect of life/career planning mainly.

What do you think?

  • Are you part of one of the groups traditional theories don’t really cater for, or do you feel traditional theories don’t include you? If so, how does Value-based Career Decision Making help with this, if at all?
  • Have you come across clients where this theory would have been useful? Or do you work with client groups to whom this theory could apply? Imagine a couple of case studies and in your mind, work through how you would have used Value-based Career Decision Making. How would it have worked out? Would this theory have added something?
  • A cheeky question could be: is this a matching approach with a difference? Instead of matching skills and interests, or personality, Duane Brown’s theory seems to be matching client values with workplace values. Do you agree? (ideally do a bit of further research into the details of the theory not represented here to answer this question).
  • As per usual (if you’ve looked at other theories on this site), have a look at the other Brown reference, by the same author, as well and see how this own theory measures up.


Useful Links

References and further reading:

  • Brown, D., 2002. Career Choice and Development. 4th Edition ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Brown, D., & Crace, R. K., 1996. Values in life role choices and outcomes: A conceptual model. Career Development Quarterly, 44, 211– 223.
  • Leong, F.T.L. (Ed.)., 1995. Career development and vocational behavior of ethnic minorities. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Rokeach, M., 1973. The nature of human values. New York: Free Press.