Adolescent vocational interests predict early career success: Two 12-year longitudinal studies

Kevin A. Hoff, Chu Chu, Sif Einarsdóttir, Daniel A. Briley, Alexis Hanna, James Rounds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vocational interests are relatively stable individual differences that can change across the lifespan. However, little is known about the importance of interest changes, relative to stable interest levels, for predicting career outcomes. This study assessed the long-term predictive power of adolescent interest levels and interest growth for five career outcomes: degree attainment, occupational prestige, income, and career- and job-satisfaction. The study used two 12-year longitudinal samples (N1 = 485; N2 = 1290) with vocational interests measured across multiple waves from late adolescence to young adulthood. Results from both samples converged on three key findings. First, adolescents who showed better interest fit with their eventual vocation were more satisfied with their jobs over a decade later. Second, adolescent interests predicted objective career outcomes (i.e. degree attainment, occupational prestige, and income), revealing that early interests shaped educational and career choices. Third, interest changes were typically not associated with career outcomes, indicating that adolescent interest levels played a larger role. Together, these findings highlight the critical importance of childhood and adolescent interest development for guiding career trajectories and outcomes. We discuss implications for interest development theories, educational policies, and applied interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-75
Number of pages27
JournalApplied Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • career success
  • individual differences
  • interest development
  • person–environment fit
  • vocational interests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology


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