Students With Disabilities and Career Development


Career exploration

Better support students with disabilities’ long-term employment potential by using Social Cognitive Career Theory. K-12 School Counselors can improve vocational outcomes for all students using techniques of SCCT. 

Social Cognitive Career Theory

Social Cognitive Career Theory, or SCCT, is based on Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, which explains that our behaviors, thoughts, and environment all interact and influence learning. SCCT explains that career outcomes are influenced by a combination of these three things: how we practice job skills (behaviors), our career beliefs (thoughts), and our exposure to careers (environment).  Students at any grade level can benefit from a SCCT framework at school. SCCT can be implemented in a variety of ways depending on the developmental level of the students learning. I have listed a few examples below regarding how SCCT can be applied in elementary, middle, and high school. 

School building sketch.

How can Social Cognitive Career Theory help support students’ career development?

The disability community is less likely to be employed or participate in post-secondary education due to a variety of access gaps. Using SCCT ensures that all students have an equal opportunity to gain job exposure, build employability skills, and be supported in their career development.

Examples of Social Cognitive Career Theory

Elementary School

  • Teach social etiquette
  • Practice healthy discussions
  • Arrange career speakers and career days
  • Read books that spark vocational interest and have discussions about jobs

Middle School

  • Organize volunteer days
  • Offer hands-on experience for building employability skills
  • Teach independent life skills
  • Build self-efficacy and self-esteem
  • Start transition planning

High School

  • Help students understand their accommodations
  • Make a long-term plan with students
  • Anticipate challenges and changes in the plan
  • Teach students to self-advocate for accessibility
Students with disabilities selecting a career path.

Who can use Social Cognitive Career Theory?

School Counselors, Social Workers, Teachers, Administrators, Parents, and community agencies can all work together to support students using SCCT.


All students deserve equal access to career exposure and education. Implementing SCCT early and consistency throughout school gives an opportunity for all students to experience better self-efficacy and career readiness.


School counselors want to make sure all students have access to career knowledge and have equal chances of education and employment after high school. Professional School Counselors can better support their students with disabilities during career exploration by implementing early exposure to careers, identifying what limitations a student may face in a career, and ways to overcome barriers and work from a strength-based perspective.

Discussion Questions

#1. How can school counselors connect students with and without disabilities for mutual support during career exploration?

#2. What are some strategies we can provide for teachers, parents, and students who have disabilities to find their strengths and career options that would suit them?

Free Transition Planning Worksheet

See the above worksheet for a free transition planning activity. In this activity, students will take a multiple choice quiz with a word bank. The answer choices are related to each different life path. The key is included as well. This helps middle and high school students increase their career awareness. Enjoy!


Appling, B., Tuttle, M., Harrell, L., Ellerman, H., & Mabeus, D. (2022). Utilizing Social Cognitive Career Theory to Enhance the Self-Efficacy and Outcome Expectations of Students with Disabilities Through Career Development. Professional School Counseling, 26(1).

who is emily of oviedo, a counselor in oviedo fl experienced with kids and teens

About the Author

Emily Berndt, M.A., is a kids counselor in Oviedo, Florida who specializes in ADHD, Anxiety, and Self-Esteem Counseling. Interested in connecting with Emily of Oviedo? Click here to send me a message or schedule a 20-minute phone call.

Read Emily’s Mental Health Counseling Blog

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