John Holland, PhD

John Holland, Creator of the SDS and the RIASEC theory

The SDS is a direct product of a theory of personality types and environmental models developed by John Holland.

John Lewis Holland is born in Omaha, Nebraska.
Holland receives a BA in psychology from the Municipal University of Omaha.
Works for the U.S. Army as a test proctor and psychological assistant, among other duties. His interest in the classification of individuals into set psychological types begins as he watches army recruits sorted according to results obtained from a short interview form.
Earns a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Minnesota.
Front cover of the Vocational Preference Inventory, or VPI, created in 1953
Creates the Vocational Preference Inventory, which includes occupational lists and organizes items into scales—the predecessor to the RIASEC hexagonal model.
1953- 1970
Hones his theory based on the latest research while working at a VA psychiatric hospital, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the American College Testing Program, and Johns Hopkins University.
Publishes the Self-Directed Search and the Occupations Finder (OF).
Publishes the first revision of the SDS, which includes major changes to scoring and increases the number of occupations in the OF.
Holland retires, but doesn’t stop working on his theory.
Front cover of the third edition of the Self Directed Search, or SDS, published in 1985
Publishes the third edition of the SDS. It improves instructions, revises items, reduces item overlap across scales, and doubles the number of occupations in the OF.
Front cover of the Position Classification Inventory, or PCI, published in 1991
Publishes the Position Classification Inventory, which allows Holland’s theory to be applied to existing positions and organizations.
Front cover of the fourth edition of the Self Directed Search, or SDS, published in 1994
Publishes the SDS Form R, 4th Edition, which features revised items and more occupations in the OF; Holland receives the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Professional Contributions to Knowledge award.
Receives the American Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology. Holland dies at age 89 years in Baltimore, Maryland.
The OF is revised to include Occupational Information Network (O*NET) codes.
Front cover of the fifth edition of the Self Directed Search, or SDS, published in 2013
The SDS Form R, 5th Edition, is published, along with the Veterans and Military Occupations Finder (VMOF).
Front cover of the Self Directed Search report, or SDS report, published in 2017
StandardSDS and StudentSDS are published; SDS Web site is revised to include standard, student, and veteran reports.


American Psychologist staff (2008). Award for distinguished scientific applications of psychology: John L. Holland. American Psychologist, 63, 672-674. 

Gottfredson, G. D. (1999). John L. Holland’s contributions to vocational psychology: A review and evaluation. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 55, 15-40.