Do Career Tests Actually Work? I Tried 5 of Them to Find Out

Updated: Nov. 03, 2022

It turns out that knowing yourself is the key to choosing the perfect career, with or without a test.

It’s impossible to make it through a modern school system without confronting a barrage of assessments, career quizzes included. But are career tests actually worth our time?

Though I am happy with the winding career path that put me behind a writer’s desk a few years ago, I tested out five popular career assessments to see if they would reiterate my choice. Would the quiz suggest a list of exciting vocations I’d never considered? Or would the free career tests fail completely, indicating jobs that wouldn’t suit my strengths and weaknesses?

Before diving into the results, let’s look at the terms. Career tests usually fall into one of two broad categories: personality or aptitude.

What is a personality test?

Personality tests are often rooted in psychology. They ask a variety of questions that determine whether an individual is introverted or extroverted, emotion-driven or logic-driven, or even optimistic or pessimistic. Two common personality tests are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Enneagram Test.

What is an aptitude test?

Rather than matching personality traits with interesting jobs, aptitude tests measure skills and suitability for specific careers. High school students often take aptitude tests to evaluate their readiness for college. Many U.S. public high schools administer the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) to recommend students for different branches of the military.

Though there are dozens of career tests available, both free and paid, I tested the following five to see if they actually work.

1. Jung Typology Test

The Humanmetrics Jung Typology Test, a free career test, first determined my personality type. Jung Typology then matched my personality traits to specific work environments and career paths.

The career personality test includes several statements for me to identify as very true, somewhat true, somewhat false, or very false. An example: “When with a group of people, you enjoy being directly involved and being at the center of attention.” (For the record, my introverted self identified this as very, very false.)

The Jung Typology Test matched my INFJ personality (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging, according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) to either a career in education or the arts. Not bad! I was a high school teacher before switching to a full-time writing career.

My score: 5/5

2. My Next Move O*NET Interest Indicator

This career assessment required me to indicate interest, distaste, or neutrality for 60 activities. Activities ranged from building cabinets to performing a tap dance routine.

At the end of the quiz, my career interests were broken down into six categories: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, and enterprising. I wasn’t surprised to see that I ranked highest for “artistic” proclivities.

The O*NET Interest Indicator presented a list of careers based on both my highest category and my highest level of education. It suggested that if I was willing to go back to school for a post-graduate degree, I would enjoy education administration or acting as a family social worker. The education level adjustment in this quiz makes it an ideal career test for teenagers. For someone similar to me, but who is still in high school, for instance, it suggested working as a barista or food server.

My score: 4/5

3. Career Personality & Aptitude Test’s Career Personality & Aptitude Test felt similar to a career test I’d taken with my school counselor years ago. The 240-question assessment (not an ideal test for kids or young teens) began by gauging my desired salary and minimum education goals.

While this test was comprehensive, with questions about everything from my hobbies to whether or not I would hate a job that requires me to twist my torso, the results were confusing. It suggested that I become an industrial-organizational psychologist—not at all similar to being a freelance writer.

So why did such a long, detailed test tell me to choose a career I’ve never even heard of? It’s possible that this personality career test is too narrow, eliminating my ideal jobs—writer or teacher—because of specific questions about my preference for regular exercise or limiting screen time. If you feel like you’re in the wrong career or are considering a career change, take this test’s results with a grain of salt.

My score: 3/5

4. Holland Code Career Test

This breezy 15-minute personality career test asked me to rate my interests and rank adjectives according to how accurately they described me. My take is that the Holland Code Career Test will only offer accurate suggestions to individuals already familiar with their personality types.

The free results (a full paid report is available) included a description of my ideal work style, what motivates me, and six careers that would match my personality. The options? Art director, multimedia artist, writer, editor, musician, or interior designer.

While a few of the choices aren’t quite right for me, I was happy to see that this test recommended matched me with a writing career. Though my job isn’t on the list of careers that will make you a millionaire, I’m happy with my daily grind.

My score: 4/5

5. The Princeton Review Career Quiz

The Princeton Review, a college admission services company, offers a “Would You Rather”-style test that asked me to click my favorite jobs in a list of several pairs. For instance, I chose bookkeeper over electrician and writer and over an elected official.

After completing the 24 short questions, the career quiz gave me a long list of creative or human-centric choices, from photographer to hospice nurse. While I don’t think this quiz is ideal for career changers, it provides a helpful starting place for high school students. If you are a mid-life career changer, here’s how to write a resume that will get you hired.

My score: 3/5

Will these tests help you find a career you love?

The verdict: Maybe. Four out of five career tests offered me vocations similar to what I have done in the past (teaching) or am doing now (writing). The most accurate career tests are those that take into account both personality traits and personal interests.

In the end, the same self-awareness that helps us choose a career path in the first place is what the tests use to generate job lists. The assessments simply bring our preconceptions and passions to the surface.

If you’re still not sure which career is the right one for you, take several tests. Compare the results and see if the lists have any careers in common. You can also check out these job recommendations based on your zodiac sign.