How to Use the “Holland Code” to Determine Your Major |

Holland Code
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

You’ve probably done plenty of online tests to determine your personality type. But far beyond just knowing who you are, personalities – often baked into us from a young age and probably define us for a very long time – can also help you decide on a lot of things. One of the most interesting is how it can help you find your ideal university course (and career).

Many of you will have heard of the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, which categorises personalities into 16 types based on your introversion/extraversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. While on the surface it sounds just like a test for fun, it’s also been used by corporate HR departments, colleges and even government agencies to gauge their potential new recruits.

However, if you’re looking for a personality test that helps you decide your university major, you’ll most likely be using the “Holland Code.”

What’s the “Holland Code”?

The term was coined by John Holland in the 1970s and is still in use today to help people make effective career choices. You can take the Holland Code test from a variety of online providers like this or this.

Much like the Myers-Briggs personalities, the Holland Code breaks down your personality by assessing your interests – except it’s for classifying people according to their interests so that they can be matched with appropriate university courses and careers. It breaks down careers as well as peoples’ personalities into six broad types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional – or RIASEC, for short.

Choosing an education programme that matches, or is similar to your personality, will most likely lead to success and satisfaction. It’s like choosing to work together in an environment of like-minded people (ie. a group of artistic people in an artistic environment, like a theatre production house).

The 6 personality types and matching degree programmes

  • Realistic types (doers) like to work with “things” whose problem-solving involve motor coordination, skill, and strength. Degrees to consider: Engineering, IT, Geography, etc
  • Investigative types (thinkers) are problem solvers who tend to be analytical, preferring to work with data and logic. Degrees to consider: Nursing, Law, Psychology, Political Science, etc
  • Artistic types (creators) think outside the box, and see things from different perspectives to come up with innovative ideas. Degrees to consider: Asian Studies, Marketing, Music, Design, Languages, etc
  • Social types (helpers) are people-oriented and tend to be welcoming, sociable and find great joy in helping others. Degrees to consider: Audiology, Education, Sociology, Psychology, etc
  • Enterprising types (persuaders) are very persuasive by nature and have the natural ability to lead others and sell things. Degrees to consider: Political Science, Economics, Management, Business, etc
  • Conventional types (organizers) are very organised and methodical, preferring structure, rules, and order to get things done. Degrees to consider: Finance, Mathematics, Business Administration, Paralegal, etc

The types are displayed on a hexagon showing the relationship between each of the personality types. Neighbouring types are closest to each other in personality, while totally different types are opposite to each other. For instance, realistic and social types are represented as completely opposite to each other in the diagram as the two types are very different.

By the time we reach the end of our adolescences, our interests would more likely be a combination of the six personality types. This means there could be 720 possible type combinations, but when applying the model for assessment, we only need to pay attention to the first three letters (ie. Artistic-Investigative-Realistic, or AIR).

Consider a university major that most closely align with your top two or three codes, which will result in a better fit and less friction between your personality/interests and the nature of the course you’ve chosen.

For example, those with artistic personalities will excel in the arts courses, but also in business, languages or architecture. Enterprising people tend to thrive in hospitality, business, psychology or human resources because these careers are ideal for those who are energetic, ambitious, and sociable – they’re good at politics, leading people, and selling things or ideas.

Knowing what you’re good at, or how you’re intelligent, can help you decide what courses to choose – as it’ll eventually lead to your ideal career.