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How to Interpret Occupational Information Included in the Handbook
The Occupational Outlook Handbook is best used as a reference;
it is not meant to be read from cover to cover. Instead, start by looking at
the table of contents, where related occupations are grouped in clusters, or
look in the alphabetical index for
specific occupations that interest you. This section is an
overview of how the occupational descriptions, or statements, are organized.
Two earlier chaptersTomorrow's Jobs, and
Sources of Career Informationhighlight the forces that are likely to determine
employment opportunities in industries and occupations through the year
2006, and tell you where to obtain additional information.
Unless otherwise noted, the source of employment and earnings data
presented in the Handbook is the Bureau of Labor
Statistics. Many Handbook statements cite earnings
data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), while other statements
include earnings data from outside sources. Since the characteristics of
these data vary, it is difficult to compare earnings precisely among
For any occupation that sounds interesting, use the Handbook to find out what the work entails;
what education and training is required; what the advancement possibilities, earnings, and job
outlook are; and what related occupations are. Each occupational statement in the Handbook
follows a standard format, making it easier for you to compare occupations. The following
highlights information presented in each section of a Handbook statement, and gives some hints on
how to interpret the information provided.
About those Numbers at the Beginning of Each Statement
- Highlights key occupational characteristics.
- What workers do on the job, the equipment they use, and how closely they are supervised.
- How the duties of workers vary by industry, establishment and size of firm.
- How the responsibilities of entry-level workers differ from those of experienced, supervisory, or self-employed workers.
- How technological innovations are affecting what workers do and how they do it.
- Emerging specialties.
- Typical hours worked.
- The workplace environment.
- Susceptibility to injury, illness, and job-related stress.
- Necessary protective clothing and safety equipment.
- Physical activities required.
- Extent of travel required.
- The number of jobs the occupation provided in 1996.
- Key industries employing workers in the occupation.
- Geographic distribution of jobs.
- The proportion of part-time (fewer than 35 hours a week) and self-employed workers in the occupation.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
- Most significant sources of training, typical length of training, and training preferred
- Whether workers acquire skills through previous work experience, informal on-the-job
training, formal training (including apprenticeships), the Armed Forces, home study, or
hobbies and other activities.
- Formal educational requirementshigh school, postsecondary vocational or
technical training, college, or graduate or professional education.
- Desirable skills, aptitudes, and personal characteristics.
- Certification, examination, or licensing required for entry into the field, advancement,
or for independent practice.
- Continuing education or skill improvement requirements.
- Advancement opportunities.
Key phrases about projected employment changes described in the Handbook
- Forces that will result in growth or decline in the number of jobs.
- Relative number of job openings an occupation provides. Occupations which are large and have high turnover rates generally provide the most job openingsreflecting the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or stop working.
- Degree of competition for jobs. Is there a surplus or shortage of jobseekers compared to
the number of job openings available? Do opportunities vary by industry, size of firm, or
geographic location? Even in overcrowded fields, job openings do exist, and good students
or well-qualified individuals should not be deterred from undertaking training or seeking
- Susceptibility to layoffs due to imports, slowdowns in economic activity, technological
advancements, or budget cuts.
- Typical earnings of workers in the occupation.
- If earnings tend to vary with experience, location, and tenure.
- Whether workers are compensated through annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, piece rates, tips, or bonuses.
- Earnings of wage and salary workers compared to self-employed persons, who held about 8 percent of all jobs in 1994.
- Benefits, including health insurance, pensions, paid vacation and sick leave, family leave, child care or elder care, employee assistance programs, summers off, sabbaticals, tuition for dependents, discounted airfare or merchandise, stock options, profit sharing plans, savings plans, or expense accounts.
- Occupations involving similar aptitudes, interests, education, and training.
(For additional sources of information, read the earlier chapter,
Sources of Career Information.)
- Listings of mailing addresses for associations, government agencies, unions, and other
organizations which provide useful occupational information. In some cases, toll-free
phone numbers, Internet homepage addresses, FAX num-bers, and electronic mail addresses
- Free or relatively inexpensive publications offering more information, some of which may be available in libraries, school career centers, or guidance offices.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Last modified: March 5, 1998
Cite: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 1998-99, UM-St. Louis Libraries Edition, derived and modified by Raleigh Muns April 14, 1998, from http://stats.bls.gov/ocohome.htm