Vocational evaluation as a career

Vocational evaluation as a career – Careers in Rehabilitation

Ronald Fry

Vocational evaluation, as a distinct process and profession, emerged largely in the late 1950’s. Created out of a need to better identify the employment characteristics of people with disabilities, the profession has grown significantly in the last three decades and is now recognized as an important and critical part of the vocational rehabilitation process.

Vocational evaluation has borrowed much from other disciplines. Psychology, vocational and industrial education, occupational therapy, medicine, the workshop movement, and the military have all contributed to the knowledge base of vocational evaluation. Today, this process is proving effective for use with nondisabled people as well as for those with disabilities.

Vocational evaluation is a professional discipline with an accepted definition, standards for practice, common principles, a code of ethics, and a distinct body of knowledge. By definition, vocational evaluation is “a comprehensive process that systematically utilizes work, real or simulated, as the focal point for assessment and vocational exploration to assist people in vocational development. It incorporates medical, psychological, social, vocational, educational, cultural, and economic data in the attainment of the goals of the evaluation process” (VEWAA Glossary, 1988, p. 14).

Basically, vocational evaluators analyze the skills and interests of their clients and match these skills to appropriate employment, training or educational opportunities. To do this, the vocational evaluator calls upon a variety of assessment tasks designed to achieve a vocational prescription. The evaluator may administer, score, and interpret psychometric tests and samples of work; may interview and counsel with clients regarding their work potentials; may recommend appropriate jobs or careers; and may analyze jobs in order to understand their requirements.

Following the evaluation, a vocational plan is developed which combines the evaluator’s knowledge of the labor market and the useful skills and potentials of the client. This plan may be for immediate job placement, for job training, or for further education.

The reason for performing an assessment can be very specific or very broad. The evaluator has the responsibility for determining the level of assessment that will best answer the questions from the referring source. Often, a brief process may be sufficient to provide the necessary information. At other times, a very comprehensive vocational evaluation may be necessary. In either case, the assessment is planned to meet the specific needs of the client.

Examples of different outcomes of a vocational evaluation are:

1) a realistic and objective analysis of a person’s vocational assets and needs;

2) an accurate estimation of a person’s potential to return or enter and engage in specific gainful employment;

3) an identification of different occupations for clients who need to or want to change occupations; and

4) an identification of barriers or obstacles to work (such as doorways too narrow to accomodate wheelchairs, etc.).

Placement recommendations for training or education programs may include an assessment of motivational factors related to vocational development or work and a description of necessary adaptations at a job site (e.g., location of the controls on a machine) to accommodate a person who is disabled.

Vocational evaluators most commonly perform assessment of people; however, they may also be asked to perform an analysis of a job. A job analysis is a comprehensive summary of all the requirements of the work. The job analysis can be extremely useful to an employer who needs to include the essential functions in job descriptions.

Educational and Training Requirements

A vocational evaluator may become qualified to provide evaluation and assessment services by the attainment of a master’s degree and appropriate internship and/or work experiences. A certification process, endorsed by the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association (VEWAA), assures that the client has gained the necessary competencies. A person who meets the educational and experiential qualifications can apply for certification through the Commission on Certification of Work Adjustment and Vocational Evaluation Specialists (CCWAVES). Certification is dependent upon achieving a passing score on a comprehensive examination. A person who has successfully attained certification is designated as a Certified Vocational Evaluator (CVE).


A number of universities in the United States offer training towards master’s degrees. Several universities also offer undergraduate training. However, graduates with bachelor degrees may not be qualified to provide services at the same level as those who have attained a master’s degree in vocational evaluation. (For a list of the universities which provide training, write to: VEWAA, National Rehabilitation Association, 1910 Association Drive, Reston, VA 22091 .)

CCWAVES has set standards of minimal competence which the applicant must meet to practice vocational evaluation. These standards include knowledge of required skills in the following performance areas: job analysis, occupational information, functional aspects of disability, work samples, psychometric testing, individualized vocational evaluation planning, situational assessment, learning style assessment, report development and communication, functional living skills, vocational interviewing, and adaptation of jobs and vocational training.

Vocational evaluators provide services when there is a need for decision-making for vocational preparation or employment. They are employed in hospitals, education (some high schools, colleges, technical schools, and universities), rehabilitation facilities, transition and supported employment programs/services, public agencies, and business/industry. Some vocational evaluators have developed their own private practice and may employ other types of rehabilitation practitioners to provide the full range of rehabilitation services to the public. Experienced and qualified vocational evaluators are frequently called upon by attorneys to provide vocational opinions and expert testimony for the courts.

Applying Evaluation Results

Teachers/vocational educators, parents, employers, physicians, job trainers, employment specialists, vocational rehabilitation counselors, attorneys, judges, insurance firms, and the courts may use vocational evaluation results to assist in placing the person into appropriate employment, training, or further education. Of course, the person being evaluated may be the one who gains the most through a better understanding of his or her vocational potential and the world of work.

Salaries of Vocational Evaluators

According to recent university surveys of vocational evaluation graduates, starting salaries range from the mid-teens to salaries in the $30,000 to $40,000 range. A starting salary, of course, is dependent upon educational qualifications, background, experience, and the employer.

Advancement Opportunities

Many vocational evaluators progress to supervisors and administrative positions, with commensurate increases in salary. Vocational Evaluators are employed in every state of the union. Some work in state operated agencies, some for nonprofit vocational rehabilitation facilities, and some in private rehabilitation businesses.

Employment Outlook

Recent university figures indicate that despite the number of students graduating with degrees in vocational evaluation, there is not an adequate pool of qualified people to fill vacancies. Meanwhile, the demand for trained and certified vocational evaluators continues to increase. Presently, graduates and employed vocational evaluators have a large selection of job vacancies from which to choose.

For more information, contact the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association at the National Rehabilitation Association, 1910 Association Drive, Reston, VA 22091 and the Commission on Certification of Work Adjustment and Vocational Evaluation Specialists (CCWAVES), 1835 Rohlwing Road, Rolling Meadows, IL 60008, (708) 394-2104.

Mr. Fry is a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin, and Ms. Harrand is the Marketing Chairperson for the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association.

COPYRIGHT 1992 U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group