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Standard SDS®

Standard Self-Directed Search®

John L. Holland, PhD, and Melissa A. Messer, MHS

Assesses career interests
Paper and pencil, Online
Age range:
11 years to 70 years
25-35 minutes
Qualification level:
No special qualifications are required, although the range of products eligible for purchase is limited. Close

Supplemental material from Jennifer A. Greene, PhD, explains how to use the online VeteranSDS report and the My Next Move for Veterans website to assist military veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce. Click the Resources tab above or here to view or download.

The StandardSDS is a career assessment and exploration tool that uses John Holland's RIASEC theory to classify individuals according to six basic types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. The theory is based on the idea that if your personality type matches your work environment type, you are more likely to find job fulfillment and career satisfaction.

The StandardSDS asks questions about aspirations, activities, competencies, and level of interest in a variety of occupations and produces a three-letter Summary Code that helps individuals find educational and occupational matches to their personality type.

The StandardSDS is based on the SDS Form R, 5th Edition (2013). Although it has been completely redesigned and repackaged, no new data were collected for this revision, so information can be used equally and interchangeably between the two editions. 

To learn more about the development and evaluation of revised SDS materials and online reports, see this presentation from NCDA 2018.

Watch this video
to learn more
about the SDS.

Features and benefits

  • Self-administered, self-scored, and self-interpreted, so users can complete on their own time or with a career counselor for additional interpretive assistance.
  • Summary Codes are linked to more than 1,400 occupations on the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a continually updated online database developed and maintained by the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration.
  • Online administration and scoring and new interactive digital reports (see sample reports under "Resources" tab) are available via the mobile-friendly Self-Directed Search website, which generates a fully customized report that allows users to sort, filter, and print results. 

Test structure

  • Features an assessment booklet in which users rate their like or dislike of certain activities and occupations and note which competencies (e.g., "I can read blueprints") they feel they can do well. Finally, users rate their abilities on a scale of 1-7 (e.g., "artistic ability") and calculate their results, which generates a three-letter Summary Code.
  • Using this Summary Code, users can then identify careers and programs of study that best match their personality by using the StandardSDS Occupations Finder or the SDS Educational Opportunities Finder.
  • The StandardSDS You and Your Career Workbook helps users narrow down their career matches, learn more about their matched careers, and explore other careers.
  • Using the O*NET database, users can learn more about their matched careers, including the education level typically required, salary information, outlook, and more. 
  • The StandardSDS Professional Manual includes detailed information about interpreting the SDS, calculating indexes, and assisting clients with career decision making.

Technical information

  • The StandardSDS uses normative data from the SDS Form R, 5th Edition (2013). It was standardized on 1,739 students and adults ages 11 to 70 years.
  • Coefficients for the Activities, Competencies, and Occupations scales range from .71 to .93, and summary scale coefficients range from .88 to .94.
  • Test–retest reliability ranged from .82 to .96 on the overall sample, indicating that summary scale scores have substantial stability over time.
  • Correlates significantly with three factors from the NEO Personality Inventory (Extraversion, Openness, and Agreeableness) and other measures of personality, including the Career Thoughts Inventory.

Available in Spanish

The SDS Form R, 5th Edition, Spanish Version (2013) was designed specifically for Spanish-speaking individuals living in the United States. It was translated by experts and reviewed by practicing bilingual counselors.

Want to learn more about assisting your veteran clients? This presentation from NCDA 2018 discusses how to use the SDS and My Next Move for Veterans to help veteran clients narrow down civilian occupations.