Strong interest Inventory® Occupational Scales: A Closer Look

Leon Jesmanowicz, Vice-PresidentCareers, featured, Resources, STRONG

Strong Interest Inventory Occupational Scales (OSs), in my opinion, should win MVP honors when it comes to the Strong Interest Inventory test.  Unfortunately, when the Strong Inventory is mentioned, it’s common for the RIASEC Hexagon and the General Occupational Themes (GOTs) to receive most of the initial attention.  Less in the spotlight, but equality as important, are the Occupation Scales.  This blog will give you additional information on the Strong Interest Inventory Occupational Scales; explain what makes them different from the General Occupational Themes (GoTs) & Basic Interest Scales (BISs), and why you should care about your Occupational Scale scores.

When discussing what the Occupational Scales (OSs) are it helps to first mention what they are not.  The Strong Interest Inventory Occupational Scales (OSs) are not built like the General Occupational Themes (GOTs) or the Basic Interest Scales (BISs).  This is consistent across the scale from the ground up.  At their core, both the GOTs and BISs are scored on a +/- point system related directly to “like” and “dislike” responses.  Both these scales are also considered homogenous, meaning that scales are created from clusters of responses that have clear connection to each other.  For example, if an individual answered “Like” to “Algebra”, “Using math to solve problems”, and “Geometry” then that individual would score higher on the Mathematics Basic Interest Scale then someone who chose “Dislike”; a similar format is used for the GOTs. 

The transparent nature of both the Strong Interest Inventory General Occupational Themes and Basic Interest Scales makes them very easy to identify and read, but it also makes them very easy to manipulate.  Meaning, if you want your test to score high on the Mathematics BIS you simply reply favorably to anything related to Math.  This can be an issue if it provides you with “false positives” for career interests and negate the test’s ability to properly recommend career paths for exploration.  Most of the time the intent is not malicious and the test taker is simply being influenced by outside influences.  It is common for family or social pressures to “tell” a student what they like or need to do.  For example, if a child of a prominent mathematician is raised around math and told that “math” is “in his blood” then the child very may well be “trained” to like something or at the very least say they like a subject.  This individual may have yet to take “Calculus” or “geometry”, but might choose “Like” as a response simply because he’s been told that he likes math and needs to focus on that field. 

This is where the Occupational Scales can come in handy.  The Occupational Scales are constructed in a completely different way than the General Occupational Themes (GOTs) or the Basic Interest Scales (BISs).  Unlike the GOTs and BISs, the OSs are not homogenous in design.  Instead of directly rating your interests in a specific field, your results are instead compared to how individuals in a specific career field answered.  The theory is that if your likes and dislikes are similar to individuals that work in a specific field, then you are more likely to enjoy that field.  After all, it makes sense to enjoy working with likeminded individuals.  Occupational Scales are also gender specific; separate scales were constructed for both male and female respondents and in some cases can differ greatly in their included items.  In the example above, if the student’s answers were similar to that of Mathematicians, then the student would score high on the Mathematician Occupation Scale. 

 It’s important to note that this does not mean that the student needs to necessarily answer “like” to all the same items as the sampled Mathematicians.  The way the scale is constructed is that the results of the Mathematicians in the general sample are compared to the rest of the general sample.  If Mathematicians tend to answer in the “Like” or “Dislike” direction consistently on a term more than the rest of the general sample, then that term  is added to the “Mathematician” scale.  Theoretically, if a large number of Mathematicians answered “Dislike” on the “Interviewing prospective customers” item, then that item would be associated with the Mathematician Occupational Scale.  If you answered in the “Dislike” direction on this item then your score on the Mathematician Scale would increase.  This process was repeated for all items and in the end each Occupational Scale had a unique set of items associated with it.

Relating this information to the previous example of the student and Math, an interpretive expert can see if the student’s OSs match their GOTs and BISs.  If they do not, then a conversation can be had with the student to see what might have caused the discrepancy.  It’s plausible that an individual might enjoy Math, but have no interest in having it as a career field.  Also, it is important to note that over half of the people that take the STRONG Interest Inventory have GOT and BIS scores that are different from their OS scores.  It doesn’t mean that an individual that has GOT and BIS scores that support Mathematics, but OS scores that do not, should avoid Math.  This is simply an invitation to re-examine their options and do some further research on whether the career path is right for them.  It is very possible for this student to be successful in a Math field, but if their interest are wildly different than that of other Mathematicians, then a fulfilling career path might be less likely.

The optimal scenario would be one where an individual scores high in an Occupational Scale (OS) that matches their top Basic Interest Scale (BIS) and General Occupational Theme (GOT).  Any career field that matches all three criteria should be a career path that is worth further research and attention.  To find out what Occupational Scales you score high in, head over to our Strong Interest Inventory Assessment Page and take advantage of the Strong Interest Inventory Interpretive Report.