Career Stages


  • Krysia Wrobel
  • Patricia Raskin
  • Vivian Maranzano
  • Judith Leibholz Frankel
  • Amy Beacom

Document type: Encyclopedia Entry

Appears in: Work and Family Encyclopedia

Year: 2002


  • Career(s)
  • Flexible Work Arrangements/Flexibility
  • Women
  • Work and Family


  • Business and Management
  • Psychology


Career stages are typically defined as evolutionary phases of working life. The concept of career stage evolved as psychoanalysts (Erikson), developmental psychologists (Buehler, Levinson, Piaget), and sociologists (Form, Miller) independently studied stages of life and work (Super, 1957). Developmentalists concentrated on stages of psychological development while sociologists identified periods of individuals’ working lives, and by combining these two foci career stages first emerge in the literature. For example, the Exploratory Stage defined by Buehler (1933), a German developmentalist, and the Initial Work Period classified by sociologists Form and Miller (1949) both describe the experience of adolescents’ exploration of work. As a developmental stage, the Exploratory Stage represents the time period in which adolescents define their adult identities through spousal, social, and career choices, while the Initial Work Period describes the first jobs adolescents take to explore the world of work. In this way, the contributions of both psychologists and sociologists created a framework for understanding careers using the concept of career stage. However, while these early models of career stage provide a useful structure to conceptualize career development, many of the early theorists assumed career stages to be linear and stable. Current researchers (e.g., Hall and Schein) have updated the concept of career stage to encompass modern, varied patterns of career development. These patterns tend to be more fluid and dynamic.

Link:Career_Stages encyclopedia