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Life career development

Module information>

Academic Direction
Birkbeck, University of London
Modes of Study

This module reflects how significant careers have become as the world has become more complex and individualistic. A hotly debated issue in career studies is the extent to which people are experiencing more mobility generally in their careers, spending less time with one employer and making major career changes throughout their working life. Although anecdotal evidence suggests that this may be the case, large-scale research studies don't entirely bear this out. However, one change that does seem to be happening is an increased diversity in careers. Another focus is the importance of work in relation to the rest of life and the challenges of maintaining a healthy balance.The challenge for both scholars and practitioners is to understand and explain this and to help individuals navigate their careers in this new context.

Please note the availability of this module is for Term 1: September/October to December.

Topics covered

The module is based on a study guide. This begins by defining the term 'career' and discussing how social scientists in different disciplines have approached the study of careers. The effects of social, economic and organisational changes on individuals’ careers are outlined, and you are asked to think about your own career using concepts from the literature.

  • Chapter 2 discusses theories of occupational choice and career decision making, and outlines some implications of these theories for career management practice.
  • We then turn in Chapter 3 to examine models of adult development more generally.
  • Chapter 4 covers career transitions and the outcomes of these, for example career success and satisfaction. Later in this chapter you are asked to consider career forms other than traditional careers in organisations.
  • In Chapter 5 we discuss the impact of social networks and other interpersonal processes on careers, as well as the work-family interface.
  • The provision and practice of career management interventions are covered in Chapter 6, and we pay particular attention to mentoring and career counselling.
  • The module concludes with a short chapter on the relationship between theory and practice.

Learning outcomes

By completing this module, you will be able to:

  • broadly outline the current employment context and labour market trends.
  • discuss some of the factors that affect occupational choice and career development.
  • identify some of the developmental tasks and processes in adult life.
  • describe how theory can be applied in career management interventions.
  • evaluate theories and models of career development.
  • discuss the provision of career management interventions.
  • use career planning techniques to facilitate your own career development and that of others.


One two-hour unseen written examination​.​

Essential reading

  • A subject guide
  • The Handbook of Career Studies, edited by Hugh P Gunz and Maury Peiperl