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The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook—updated every 2 years—is a career reference that describes the job duties, working conditions, education and training requirements, earnings levels, and employment levels and projected employment change, and employment prospects for hundreds of occupations. It presents the analysis of the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment projections, along with related information, to help students and job seekers identify and learn about careers.
There are many ways to find information about a particular occupation described on this site. A search box can be found at the top of each page, together with a link to the site’s alphabetical index of occupations. Moreover, on the right side of the page, a navigational bar lists the broad groups into which the occupations in the Handbook are categorized. These groups are based on the Standard Occupational Classification System.
The Handbook describes each occupation in eight sections listed at the top of each occupational description. The first section—nature of the work—describes workers’ job duties in the occupation. Sometimes, different occupational specialties and job titles are discussed. The second section—working conditions—describes typical working hours and any health risks or drawbacks associated with the occupation. Third, the training, other qualifications, and advancement section describes typical methods of training for an occupation. Formal education and occupational certifications are described, together with personal characteristics or skills that are often important in the occupation. The fourth section—employment—gives the total number of jobs in the occupation and sometimes describes the industries, States, or occupational specialties that offer the most jobs.
The fifth section, job outlook, describes the projected change in the number of jobs in the occupation and the economic trends that are driving job growth or decline. When describing projected job growth in an occupation, the Handbook uses phrases such as "faster than average," "average," and "slower than average." The "average" referred to in these phrases is the projected job growth across all occupations. These projections are developed by economists in the Bureau's Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections. Employment projections are National in scope and do not always reflect local conditions. Also, they describe expected employment change over the entire projections decade; job change could be expected to vary within the decade.
Projections are based on assumptions of economic and labor force growth. These assumptions reflect long-term trends, but because the economy is affected by unforeseeable events, assumptions and projections are subject to error.
Many job openings come not from job growth but from the need to replace workers who retire or permanently leave an occupation for other reasons. For some occupations, the job outlook section describes these job openings. Sometimes, the Handbook also describes how competitive the job market is expected to be in an occupation, or what kinds of traits and preparation are expected to give jobseekers the best prospects.
The sixth section provides statistics about median earnings (half of workers earn more than this amount and half earn less) and the earnings of the top- and bottom-earning 10 percent of workers. Earnings usually vary by experience, qualifications, industry, and geographic location.
The seventh section on related occupations lists other occupations in the Handbook that have similar job duties. Finally, sources of more information are listed in the seventh section. These sources are provided as a service to readers, but they are not endorsed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
To learn more about using the Handbook, please see How to Interpret Occupational Information Included in the Handbook.
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In addition to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has developed other sources of career information that might be useful to teachers and students. One source is the Occupational Outlook Quarterly. The Quarterly is a career guidance magazine that includes articles about specific occupations and industries, types of training and education, and methods for exploring careers and finding jobs. The magazine also previews upcoming Handbook statements and summarizes current labor market research, and presents brief 2-page profiles of unusual careers.
To find career information for younger students, please see the BLS kids’ page. The kids’ page describes many of the occupations found in the Handbook using simpler language. Occupations are grouped by interest area, such as reading, math, science, or nature.
Another source of career information is the Bureau's Career Guide to Industries. This publication describes employment opportunities and prospects in many industries.
For the most detailed employment projections, visit the Employment Projections Web site. The site includes prepared tables, searchable databases, and technical publications about the projections.
For comprehensive data on earnings and employment by occupation, see the homepage of the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey. The OES Survey provides earnings and employment data for more than 700 occupations and shows how earnings and employment vary by geographic area and industry.
To find employment and earnings data related to demographic variables, such as age, sex, race, and educational attainment, visit the Current Population Survey homepage.
The U.S. Department of Labor—of which the Bureau of Labor Statistics is a part—offers additional career information of use to students. The Department of Labor's Youth Rules! site uses simple language to explain the laws that govern youth employment. America's Career InfoNet provides links to career resources, including a library of occupational information. And Career Voyages—a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education—offers career-related posters, brochures, and information about occupations and industries.
Finally, the U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of lesson plans on the website Gateway to Educational Materials. Some of these lesson plans relate to careers and can be adapted for use with the Handbook.
The text on the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook is in the public domain and can be reproduced without further permission.
Appropriate citations are requested. In addition, one may link to this site without obtaining special permission. Lastly, information
from the Handbook will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice Phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: 1-800-877-8339.
Last Modified Date: December 20, 2005