Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) User Guide
The 2000 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System was developed in response to
a growing need for a universal occupational classification system. Such a classification
system allows government agencies and private industry to produce comparable data.
Users of occupational data include government program managers, industrial and labor
relations practitioners, students considering career training, job seekers, vocational
training schools, and employers wishing to set salary scales or locate a new plant. It
is used by federal agencies collecting occupational data, providing a means to
compare occupational data across agencies. It is designed to cover all occupations in
which work is performed for pay or profit, reflecting the current occupational structure
in the United States.
The 2000 SOC is the result of a cooperative effort of all federal agencies that
use occupational classification systems to maximize the usefulness of occupational
information collected by the Federal Government.
SOC Classification and Coding Structure
The 2000 SOC classifies workers at four levels of aggregation: 1) major group; 2) minor
group; 3) broad occupation; and 4) detailed occupation. All occupations are clustered into
one of the following 23 major groups:
||Business and Financial Operations
||Computer and Mathematical
||Architecture and Engineering
||Life, Physical, and Social Science
||Community and Social Services
||Education, Training, and Library
||Arts, Design, Entertainment,
Sports, and Media Occupations
||Healthcare Practitioners and
||Healthcare Support Occupations
||Protective Service Occupations
||Food Preparation and Serving
||Building and Grounds Cleaning and
||Personal Care and Service
||Sales and Related Occupations
||Office and Administrative Support
||Farming, Fishing, and Forestry
||Construction and Extraction
||Installation, Maintenance, and
||Transportation and Material Moving
||Military Specific Occupations
Within these major groups are 96 minor groups, 449 broad occupations, and 821 detailed
occupations. Occupations with similar skills or work activities are grouped at each of the
four levels of hierarchy to facilitate comparisons. For example, "Life, Physical and
Social Science Occupations" (19-0000) is divided into four minor groups, "Life
Scientists" (19-1000), "Physical Scientists" (19-2000), "Social
Scientists and Related Workers" (19-3000), and "Life, Physical and Social
Science Technicians" (19-4000). Life Scientists contains broad occupations such as
"Agriculture and Food Scientists" (19-1010), and "Biological
Scientists" (19-1020). The broad occupation Biological Scientists includes detailed
occupations such as "Biochemists and Biophysicists" (19-1021), and
Each item in the hierarchy is designated by a six-digit code. The hyphen between the
second and third digit is used only for presentation clarity. The first two digits of the
SOC code represent the major group; the third digit represents the minor group; the fourth
and fifth digits represent the broad occupation; and the detailed occupation is
represented by the sixth digit. Major group codes end with 0000 (e.g., 33-0000, Protective
Service Occupations), minor groups end with 000 (e.g., 33-2000, Fire Fighting Workers),
and broad occupations end with 0 (e.g., 33-2020, Fire Inspectors). All residuals
("Other," "Miscellaneous," or "All Other"), whether at the
detailed or broad occupation or minor group level, contain a 9 at the level of the
residual. Detailed residual occupations end in 9 (e.g., 33-9199, Protective Service
Workers, All Other); broad occupations which are minor group residuals end in 90
(e.g., 33-9190, Miscellaneous Protective Service Workers); and minor groups which are
major group residuals end in 9000 (e.g., 33-9000, Other Protective Service Workers):
33-0000 Protective Service Occupations
33-9000 Other Protective Service Workers
33-9190 Miscellaneous Protective Service Workers
33-9199 Protective Service Workers, All Other
In order to ensure that all users of occupational data classify workers the same way,
the following classification principles should be followed.
- The Classification covers all occupations in which work is performed for pay or profit,
including work performed in family-operated enterprises by family members who are not
directly compensated. It excludes occupations unique to volunteers. Each occupation is
assigned to only one occupation at the lowest level of the classification.
- Occupations are classified based upon work performed, skills, education, training, and
- Supervisors of professional and technical workers usually have a background similar to
the workers they supervise, and are therefore classified with the workers they supervise.
Likewise, team leaders, lead workers and supervisors of production, sales, and service
workers who spend at least 20 percent of their time performing work similar to the workers
they supervise are classified with the workers they supervise.
- First-line managers and supervisors of production, service, and sales workers who spend
more than 80 percent of their time performing supervisory activities are classified
separately in the appropriate supervisor category, since their work activities are
distinct from those of the workers they supervise. First-line managers are generally found
in smaller establishments where they perform both supervisory and management functions,
such as accounting, marketing, and personnel work.
- Apprentices and trainees should be classified with the occupations for which they are
being trained, while helpers and aides should be classified separately.
- If an occupation is not included as a distinct detailed occupation in the structure, it
is classified in the appropriate residual occupation. Residual occupations contain all
occupations within a major, minor or broad group that are not classified separately.
- When workers may be classified in more than one occupation, they should be classified in
the occupation that requires the highest level of skill. If there is no measurable
difference in skill requirements, workers are included in the occupation they spend the
- Data collection and reporting agencies should classify workers at the most detailed
level possible. Different agencies may use different levels of aggregation, depending on
their ability to collect data, and the requirements of users.
Workers within an occupation may have many different job titles. A list of associated job titles
is available through the Census Bureau to help users classify workers into the
appropriate SOC occupation. Sometimes, however, a job title is not enough to classify a
worker, and more information on work activities is needed. When a job title changes
classification based on industry, the industries are also included.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I classify workers? questions
The classification guidelines give the rules that are
followed to classify workers based on occupational definitions and work activity.
2. Where can I get data on the occupations in the SOC?
Depending on the type of information you are seeking, you may obtain information from
The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Program provides occupational employment
and wage estimates by industry and across industries. For State and area data, contact the
State Employment Security Agency for the State or States
needed. For national data, and selected State data see the OES
homepage or call the information request line 202-691-6569. Employment and wage data
for SOC occupations has been available since December, 2000.
The Census Bureau publishes data on detailed occupations from the decennial censuses.
Census 2000 used the SOC to classify occupations. Standard and customized tabulations are available through its
Finder via the Internet. Only summary data are published on paper.
Biennially, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Office of Employment Projections (OEP)
publishes the Occupational Outlook Handbook, Career Guide to Industries, and Occupational
Projections and Training Data. In addition, OEP publishes the Occupational Outlook
Quarterly. For more information about these publications, visit the OEP
homepage or contact the Chief, Division of Occupational Outlook, Bureau of Labor
Statistics, 2 Massachusetts Ave. NW., Room 2135, Washington, DC 20212.
The Department of Defense publishes data that cross-references military occupational
codes of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard with civilian equivalent
occupations. The next update of this data will include linkages of military occupations to
the SOC. Additional information on available data products can be obtained by writing
to Director, Defense Manpower Data Center, 1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 400, Arlington, VA
Career and job vacancy information may be obtained from the Department of Labor's
Employment and Training Administration's One-Stop
3. Why are there different levels of detail in the SOC?
There are four hierarchical levels in the SOC to enable users to choose a level of
detail corresponding to their interest and ability to collect data on different
occupations. Users using different levels of detail will still be able to compare data at
the defined levels.
4. Why can't I find my job title in the SOC?
The SOC lists occupations which may have many different titles. It does not attempt to
list all job titles. It includes workers having different job titles, but similar
job duties in the same occupation. A broad list of job titles and their associated
SOC occupation can be found at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/ioindex/occ_a.html.
5. Why are supervisors of most professional occupations not
listed? Where should they be classified? questions
Supervisors of professional occupations are classified with the occupations they
supervise because they often need the same type of training, education, and experience as
the workers they supervise.
6. The SOC isn't detailed enough for our needs. How do I modify
Users who would like to collect or tabulate data in more detail should add a decimal
point and additional digits after the six-digit SOC code. For more information, see Revising
the Standard Occupational Classification System (PDF 98K) - Report 929, June 1999.
7. When is the next revision of the SOC scheduled? questions
It is anticipated that the next major review and revision of the SOC will begin in 2005 in preparation for use in the 2010 Decennial Census.
8. Can the SOC be used for nonstatistical purposes? questions
The SOC was designed solely for statistical purposes. Although it is likely that the SOC will also be used for various nonstatistical purposes (e.g., for administrative, regulatory, or taxation functions), the requirements of government agencies that choose to use the 2000 SOC for nonstatistical purposes have played no role in its development, nor will OMB modify the classification to meet the requirements of any nonstatistical program.
Consequently, as has been the case with the 1980 SOC (Statistical Policy Directive No. 10, Standard Occupational Classification), the SOC is not to be used in any administrative, regulatory, or tax program unless the head of the agency administering that program has first determined that the use of such occupational definitions is appropriate to the implementation of the program's objectives.
Last Modified Date: December 2, 2004