What's the Best Career Test for Adults? Here Are 9 of the Top Options

Smiling young woman in a white top resting one elbow on a desk and holding a pen while sitting in front of an open laptopDeciding on a career is no easy feat. So if you're struggling to define your ideal job, a career test for adults may be just what you need. Such tests are designed to help you recognize your interests, skills, aptitudes, or personality traits, and they provide concrete ideas about how to parlay those things into a fulfilling role.

"What career path should I take? What is the right career for me?" You wouldn't be the first individual to ask these questions. And it's not just students who wrestle with the answers: Many people who have been in the workforce for several years wonder how they can switch fields or find a career, not just a job. Undergoing a career assessment can be an excellent way to learn more about yourself and discover a path that suits you.

Below, you will learn about the different types of career tests that are available and what they measure. You'll also get important tips about how to select an appropriate assessment and how to get the maximum benefit from one. Plus, you'll read about nine of the best options you may want to check out.

The Basics of Career Tests

Career assessment tools are meant to help you gain meaningful insights into yourself so that you can get a better sense of how you may want to focus your working life. But it's important to understand that different types of tests are designed to measure different things.

Man in green jeans and a blue denim shirt lying on a couch and smiling at a digital tablet in his hands
  • A career aptitude test is intended to gauge your current strengths in various areas and suggest careers for which your abilities make you well-suited. The idea is that you are likely to be successful in a role that draws upon your past training and experience. By taking an aptitude test, you know what you are good at. However, being good at something doesn't necessarily mean you enjoy it. And if you're yearning to try something completely new, the results of an aptitude test may not help you, since they only reflect your current skills rather than your capacity to gain new ones.
  • A career interest test (also known as an interest inventory) looks at the types of tasks and activities you like to do and identifies careers that align with those interests. Assessments like the Self-Directed Search and Strong Interest Inventory can help you discover areas of work that you may find satisfying and enjoyable. However, you may not yet have the education or skills to qualify for those jobs. Once you've chosen a path, you may want to consider focused training at a trade school or vocational college to help fill any gaps in your skill set.
  • A personality career test attempts to define your temperament and traits in order to help you understand how you relate to the world. It can point you in the direction of career fields or sectors that may fit your particular character type. For instance, if you are an extrovert who thrives on making personal connections with others, you may not be happy in a job that has you isolated in front of a computer all day. Myers-Briggs is the most popular personality-based assessment in the world (although as you will read below, there is some debate about its reliability). The Big Five is another example.

Some assessments that are marketed as "career aptitude tests" measure a combination of the above factors or are really more like interest inventories. Be sure to look closely at what a particular test claims to measure so that you can interpret the results appropriately.

Tips on Choosing and Taking Career Tests

Smiling young woman relaxing on a couch with her hands on an open laptop that is resting on her kneeHere's some guidance to follow when considering different tests:

1. Be aware that not all tests are created equal.

Some career quizzes and job aptitude tests are fun to take but unsupported by science. They can still serve a purpose in that they encourage self-reflection and introduce you to careers that you may want to delve into further. But from a counseling perspective, the best career aptitude test is one that has been peer-reviewed and proven to be both valid and reliable; that is, it measures what it claims to measure and gives consistent results. So before you invest any faith (or money) in a career assessment, you may want to see if it stands up to psychometric scrutiny.

2. Look beyond the marketing jargon.

In the promotional material for a career aptitude test, "free" might mean completely without charge. However, it may also mean that the test itself is free, but you will have to cough up some cash in order to get a full report of your results. Even if there is a fee, it might be small enough that you're happy to pay it. But dig into the details before you commit so that you don't end up disappointed and frustrated.

3. Be honest.

Self-assessment tools are reliant on honest input. For any assessment to be effective, you have to be truthful. So don't answer the questions based on what you think you should say or what you think would make you sound better. If you're taking a test to determine a career focus and you want truly useful results, you need to give responses that accurately reflect the real you.

4. Focus on the big picture.

Don't dismiss any career matches lightly, even if they seem unsuitable at first. For instance, if a test suggests you explore a career in the military but you have no interest in being a soldier, stop and consider why you got such a result. Maybe you would thrive in a structured work environment with clearly defined leadership and expectations. Or perhaps you demonstrate some of the key traits required for that career, such as self-discipline and a desire to serve others. Insights like these can help direct you to the right career path.

5. Remember that the results are only suggestions.

Some people make the mistake of thinking that the job matches that come out of career testing are their only options. But it's important to realize that career tests typically focus on general careers such as engineering and nursing; they often don't include more offbeat or unusual occupations. And they obviously can't point you toward careers that are still emerging or don't yet exist.

The truth is that no test can definitively encapsulate your aptitudes, interests, and personality traits and tell you what you should do with the rest of your life. After all, if it was that easy, no one would ever be left wondering, "What should I do for a career?" A career assessment test is a good tool for finding areas of work you may want to explore. But don't assume that one test has all the answers.

9 of the Best Assessments You Can Take

Smiling man in a grey-hooded sweatshirt sitting in a white room and typing on a laptop keyboardMany people find it useful to take more than one type of assessment, such as an interest inventory and a personality test, in order to get a more complete picture of their likes, skills, traits, and career options. Each of the following assessments (listed in random order) offers valuable methods of self-discovery that can aid in your career exploration:

1. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The most widely used personality test in the world is Myers-Briggs. Career test experts, however, are divided on its true value. Some believe it's an effective tool for increasing self-awareness and helping people understand how their psychological preferences can help them select a fulfilling career path. Others argue that it's scientifically unsound because a high percentage of people get completely different results when they take the test on different days. You can learn more about the MBTI in our article on Myers-Briggs types.

The MBTI is designed to elicit information in four categories:

  • Whether you are more extroverted (E) or introverted (I)
  • Whether you prefer to take in information through intuition (N) or sensing (S)
  • Whether you base your decisions on thinking (T) or feeling (F)
  • Whether you deal with the world through perceiving (P) or judging (J)

By completing the questionnaire, you indicate a preference for one option in each category. Thus, your Myers-Briggs personality type is a four-letter combination, such as ISFJ. The theory is that if you understand your own type, you can get a better sense of which careers might be a good fit and which ones you may want to avoid.

The full Myers-Briggs assessment must be taken through an MBTI practitioner, and costs vary. Free online career tests like 16 Personalities are based on MBTI principles, but the results are not as comprehensive.

2. Strong Interest Inventory (SII)

Created by psychologist E.K. Strong in the early 20th century and revised several times since, the Strong Interest Inventory is used for helping you identify your career interests and the type of work you may find the most satisfying. It's based on the premise that people who work in and enjoy the same careers share similar interests. After answering 291 questions about your likes and dislikes related to educational subject areas, occupations, people, and work and leisure activities, your interests are compared to the interests of satisfied workers within different occupations.

The SII uses six themes to describe the kinds of work environments you would likely find enjoyable. These themes are based on the six interest types identified by psychologist John Holland: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional (often abbreviated as RIASEC). Your Holland Code is a combination of two or three of these interest areas. For example, your interests might indicate that your code is AIC or SER. Based on that, you can explore careers that tend to be a good fit for people who demonstrate those interests.

You can take the Strong Interest Inventory through a career development professional; the process takes roughly 40 minutes. Some versions of the test can be taken online, but you can only get the full report of your results by scheduling a session with a certified facilitator. The SII is a registered trademark of CPP Inc., the same company that distributes the Myers-Briggs assessment.

3. Self-Directed Search (SDS)

Like the Strong Interest Inventory, the SDS evaluates your career and work interests and is based on the Holland Codes. Your results tell you which of Holland's personality types you resemble the most (i.e., some combination of enterprising, social, realistic, artistic, conventional, and investigative). You also get a list of occupations related to your type that you may want to explore.

The Self-Directed Search is shorter than the SII, takes less time to complete (20 minutes vs. 40), and does not have to be administered or interpreted by a professional. It's available online and costs roughly $10.

4. Motivational Appraisal Personal Potential (MAPP)

The MAPP assessment is designed to identify what drives you and guide you to careers that fit your interests. It's made up of 71 sets of preferences; for each set, you are given three options and must indicate which one you most prefer and which one you least prefer. For example, you may be asked to choose whether, at a pro sports event, you'd rather be a cheerleader, coach, or player.

Once you complete the test, you are presented with a narrative report that offers information on the kinds of tasks you like to do, the way you prefer to carry them out, and the way you deal with data, people, language, and reasoning. You also get a list of suggested career areas.

You can complete the self-assessment online in approximately 20 to 25 minutes. The test itself and a teaser report are available for free, but you must purchase a package in order to get full details. Package prices start at $89.95.

5. Big Five Personality Test

If you're looking for a career personality quiz that is well-respected within the scientific community, consider a Big Five test. It measures how strongly you embody each of five different traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness. While Myers-Briggs categorizes your preferences as either/or in each of its four categories, the Big Five is more nuanced; it describes where you fall on the spectrum between two extremes for each of the five dimensions of personality. Your results can help you understand what makes you tick and what types of work roles may be most suitable for you.

Tests based on the Big Five theory (which is also known as the Five-Factor theory) are available for no cost on websites like Truity and Psychology Today. However, you will have to pay in order to receive your complete results.

6. CliftonStrengths

This career strengths test is meant to help you determine your natural talents and identify areas where you show the most potential. The online assessment consists of 177 pairs of descriptive statements placed on opposite ends of a continuum. For example, at one end you may see the statement, "I get to know people individually" while at the other end you may see, "I accept many types of people." For each pair, you have 20 seconds to select which statement best reflects you and to what degree it applies to you. (The idea behind the time limit is that the answer that first comes to mind is the most accurate one.)

The CliftonStrengths assessment is built around the premise that once you understand where your greatest strengths lie, you can be better prepared to further develop them and apply them to a work role that draws on those abilities. Unfortunately, it's not free; different versions of the test come with different costs.

7. Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (CISS)

Designed as a career aptitude test for high school students and anyone else who plans to pursue occupations that require a college degree, the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey assesses test-takers' vocational skills as well as their interests. It draws on the RIASEC themes, though there are a few minor differences.

The survey consists of 320 items, each of which has six response options ranging from extremely positive to extremely negative (there is no neutral response). For the skills items, you indicate your level of confidence in your ability to perform that task. The whole process takes 30 to 40 minutes and can be done online.

Once you complete the assessment, you receive a report that connects your interest and skill profile to different careers. Professional interpretation is recommended but not required. However, there is a fee to access the test.

8. O*NET Interest Profiler

Backed by the U.S. Department of Labor, the O*NET Interest Profiler is the best free career test that provides your full results for no cost. To complete the assessment, you indicate your level of interest in each of 60 career-related activities, such as developing new medicines, building kitchen cabinets, writing screenplays, teaching high school students, and investigating fires. When you're finished, you receive your scores in each RIASEC category.

The profiler then allows you to connect your interests to occupations based on the level of training you either currently have or plan to get in the future. That means you can view career options that match both your interests and your education level, whether that's an associate degree, bachelor's degree, or some other type of credential.

9. CareerExplorer

This free career assessment from Sokanu gathers information about your personality, interests, and values as well as factors like your job history, work environment preferences, and salary expectations. After answering all the questions (which takes roughly 20 to 30 minutes), you get a short list of the top careers you may want to explore further.

If you pay $35 to upgrade to the premium package, you get a much more detailed report that describes your strengths and weaknesses and matches your profile against hundreds of possible careers.

Explore the Possibilities

Even the best career test for adults can only take you so far. Once you've assessed your interests and traits, it's time to focus on the next step: getting the appropriate training. Did you know that vocational colleges offer a broad array of streamlined programs that can help you augment your skills? Just enter your zip code into the search tool below to generate a list of convenient training options!