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Standard Occupational Classification System

by Bettsy Hjelseth
November 2019

The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system is a national system used to classify workers into one of 867 detailed occupational categories. It codes workers based on the work they do for pay. In the United States data on occupations have been collected since the 1850 Census of Population. In 1942 the monthly labor force survey was introduced to collect occupational statistics. The U.S. Employment Service created a Convertibility List of Occupations with Conversion Tables to help compare data from the monthly labor force survey and the 1940 Census of Population. Because there was no standard coding system, however, comparing data from various sources was difficult. The solution to this was to create the current SOC system which was first issued in 1977 and then updated in 1980. During that time, it was not used much. In 1994 the SOC Revision Policy Committee was created by the Office of Management and Budget to update the system for 20001. The SOC system was updated again in 2010 and most recently in 2018.

Several government agencies including the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau, and state employment agencies use the system. Many stakeholders rely on the data produced using the SOC system. For example, the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program is a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey that collects job titles and wages from employers throughout the country. Once the data are collected from employers, OES staff code each job title to an SOC. Once the data are published, employers can use it to set fair and competitive wages in their region, job seekers can use it to negotiate once they see what kind of wages they should be expecting to make, and policymakers can use it to make decisions on staffing shortages and wage gaps.

SOC Implementation

The OES program started coding using the 2018 SOC in the November 2018 panel. OES has two panels a year, May and November. Estimates are published in the spring of every year and use six panels of data. The implementation of the 2018 SOC for the OES program will use a hybrid system with both the 2010 SOC and the 2018 SOC for the May 2019 and May 2020 estimates. These estimates will be published in the spring of 2020 and 2021, respectively. The May 2021 estimates will be the first estimates using only the 2018 SOC. They will be published in the spring of 20222.

The implementation schedule for the 2018 SOC varies across federal programs. The Current Population Survey will use a reference date of January 2020 for a publication date of February 2020. Employment Projections will use a reference date of 2019-2029 for a publication date of Fall 2020. The OSH, Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, will use a reference date of 2019 for a publication date of November 2020. The American Community Survey will use a reference date of 2018 for a publication date of Fall 2019. The full 2018 SOC implementation schedule for federal programs can be found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics webpage at https://www.bls.gov/soc/socimp.htm3.

Coding Guidelines

SOC coding guidelines are used to maintain consistency across the many agencies that use the SOC. First, workers are coded based on the work they do. Employees with more than a single occupational code, are coded into the occupation that requires the higher skill level. For example, teachers who teach at different levels are coded to the highest educational level they teach. If the skill level is the same, teachers should be coded in the occupation where they spend more time. If a worker cannot be coded into a detailed occupation, s/he should be coded as “All Other” where the last number ends in a “9”. To be coded as a supervisor in the Major Groups 33-0000 through 53-0000, employees need to spend at least 80 percent of their time performing supervisory duties4.

In the 2018 SOC there are 23 major SOC groups, 98 minor groups, 459 broad occupations, and 867 detailed occupations. This was an increase of 27 detailed occupations and one minor group.5 The 23 major SOC groups are as follows (see Table 1).6

Table 1

SOC

Major Group

11-0000

Management Occupations

13-0000

Business and Financial Operations Occupations

15-0000

Computer and Mathematical Occupations

17-0000

Architecture and Engineering Occupations

19-0000

Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations

21-0000

Community and Social Service Occupations

23-0000

Legal Occupations

25-0000

Educational Instruction and Library Occupations

27-0000

Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations

29-0000

Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations

31-0000

Healthcare Support Occupations

33-0000

Protective Service Occupations

35-0000

Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations

37-0000

Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations

39-0000

Personal Care and Service Occupations

41-0000

Sales and Related Occupations

43-0000

Office and Administrative Support Occupations

45-0000

Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Occupations

47-0000

Construction and Extraction Occupations

49-0000

Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations

51-0000

Production Occupations

53-0000

Transportation and Material Moving Occupations

55-0000

Military Specific Occupations

 

11-0000 Management Occupations

Employees are coded into the management occupations major group if they focus primarily on planning and directing. There were a few changes to the 2018 Management Occupations major SOC group. First, Funeral Service Managers (11-9061) had a direct match change to 11-9171. Public Relations and Fundraising Managers (11-2031) disaggregated into 11-2032 Public Relations Manager or 11-2033 Fundraising Managers. Administrative Services Managers (11-3011) disaggregated into 11-3012 Administrative Services Managers or 11-3013 Facilities Managers. Managers, All Other (11-9199) disaggregated into 11-9071 Entertainment and Recreation Managers, Except Gambling, or 11-9171 Personal Service Managers, All Other, or 11-9199 Managers, All Other, or 13-1082 Project Management Specialists7 (see Table 2).


Table 2

2017 OES Code

2017 OES Title

2018 OES Title

11-2031

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Disaggregated to 11-2032 Public Relations Managers or 11-2033 Fundraising Managers

11-3011

Administrative Services Managers

Disaggregated to 11-3012 Administrative Services Managers or 11-3013 Facilities Managers

11-9061

Funeral Service Managers

Funeral Home Managers

11-9199

Managers, All Other

Disaggregated to 11-9072 Entertainment and Recreation Managers, Except Gambling, or 11-9179 Personal Service Managers, All Other, or 11-9199 Managers, All Other, or 13-1082 Project Management Specialists

 

15-0000 Computer and Mathematical Occupations

SOC 15-0000 was the major group that saw some of the most changes with the 2018 SOC. A majority of the codes had a direct match change. For example, Computer Programmers code changed from 15-1131 to 15-1251. A few of the codes, however, were aggregated or disaggregated. For example, in the 2010 SOC, Software Developers were broken out into Applications (15-1132) and System Software (15-1133). Now instead of having two separate codes there is only one aggregated Software Developer code which is 15-1252. Web Developers were 15-1134, but now that code is disaggregated into 15-1254 Web Developers and 15-1255 Web and Digital Interface Designers. Computer Occupations, All Other (15-1199) disaggregated into 13-1082 Project Management Specialists, 15-1243 Database Architects, 15-1253 Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers, 15-1255 Web and Digital Interface Designers, or 15-1299 Computer Occupations, All Other. Miscellaneous Mathematical Science Occupations (15-2090) disaggregated into 15-2099 Mathematical Science Occupations, All Other and 15-2051 Data Scientist. Similarly, Mathematical Science Occupations, All Other (15-2099) disaggregated into 15-2051 Data Scientist or 15-2099 Mathematical Science Occupations, All Other. Tables 3 and 4 show these changes.8

Table 3

2017 OES Code

2017 OES Title

2018 OES Title

15-1131

Computer Programmers

15-1251 Computer Programmers

15-1132

Software Developers, Applications

Disaggregated to 15-1252 Software Developers or 15-1253 Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers

15-1133

Software Developers, Systems Software

Disaggregated to 15-1252 Software Developers or 15-1253 Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers

15-1134

Web Developers

Disaggregated to 15-1254 Web Developers or 15-1255 Web and Digital Interface Designers

15-1199

Computer Occupations, All Other

Disaggregated to 13-1082 Project Management Specialists, 15-1243 Database Architects, 15-1253 Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Tester, 15-1255 Web and Digital Interface Designers, or 15-1299 Computer Occupations, All Other

15-2090

Miscellaneous Mathematical Science Occupations

Disaggregated to 15-2099 Mathematical Science Occupations, All Other or 15-2051 Data Scientist

15-2099

Mathematical Science Occupations, All Other

Disaggregated to: 15-2051 Data Scientists or 15-2099 Mathematical Science Occupations, All Other

 

Table 4

2017 OES Code

2017 OES Title

2018 OES Title

19-4011

Agricultural and Food Science Technicians

Disaggregated to 19-4012 Agricultural Technicians or 19-4013 Food Science Technicians

21-1011

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

21-1018 Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors

21-1014

Mental Health Counselors

21-1018 Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors

25-3099

Teachers and Instructors, All Other

Disaggregated to 25-3031 Substitute Teachers, Short-Term, 25-3041 Tutors, or 25-3099 Teachers and Instructors, All Other

25-9041

Teacher Assistants

Disaggregated to 25-9042 Teaching Assistants, Preschool, Elementary, Middle, and Secondary School, Except Special Education, or 25-9043 Teaching Assistants, Special Education, or 25-9049 Teaching Assistants, All Other

29-1069

Physicians and Surgeons, All Other

Disaggregated to 29-1212 Cardiologists, or 29-1213 Dermatologists, or 29-1214 Emergency Medicine Physicians, or 29-1217 Neurologists, or 29-1222 Physicians, Pathologists, or 29-1224 Radiologists, or 29-1229 Physicians, All Other, or 29-1241 Ophthalmologists, Except Pediatric

29-2041

Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

Disaggregated to 29-2042 Emergency Medical Technicians or 29-2043 Paramedics

31-1011

Home Health Aides

31-1120 Home Health and Personal Care Aides

39-9021

Personal Care Aides

31-1120 Home Health and Personal Care Aides

53-3041

Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs

Disaggregated to 53-3053 Shuttle Drivers and Chauffeurs or 53-3054 Taxi Drivers


1“Revising the Standard Occupational Classification,” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 1999, Retrieved August 29, 2019 from www.bls.gov/soc/2000/socrpt929.pdf.
2“Implementing the 2018 SOC in the OES Program,” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2018, Retrieved August 28, 2019 from www.bls.gov/oes/soc_2018.htm.
3“2018 SOC Implementation Schedule,” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 2018, Retrieved August 28, 2019 from www.bls.gov/soc/socimp.htm.
4“2000 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) User Guide,” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2016, Retrieved August 28, 2019 from www.bls.gov/soc/2000/socguide.htm.
5“2018 SOC User Guide,” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2017, Retrieved August 27, 2019 from www.bls.gov/soc/2018/soc_2018_class_and_coding_structure.pdf.
6Ibid.
7“Standard Occupational Classification,” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2017, Retrieved August 27, 2019 from www.bls.gov/soc/2018/crosswalks.htm.
8Ibid

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