Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work that suits you: Using BLS data to match your preferences

| February 2018

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Everyone has likes and dislikes, even on the job. Maybe you’d be happiest having a regular, predictable schedule. Or perhaps you don’t want to lift heavy objects.  

Whatever your work preferences, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has a survey for you. The Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS) can help identify types of jobs that may—or may not—be a good match for your interests and abilities. This new survey highlights some of the conditions and demands that are typical in different occupations. Read on to learn more about the survey and how its data may help you in choosing a career.

A new survey

In 2015, the BLS National Compensation Survey program began collecting occupational requirements data for the ORS. The first estimates were published in 2016 and 2017. BLS collects these data for the Social Security Administration, which plans to use them to help workers with disabilities.

The four categories of data from ORS are:

  • Environmental conditions
  • Mental and cognitive demands
  • Physical demands
  • Vocational preparation

The tables in this article illustrate one requirement from each category, showing data by selected occupational groups.

The tables also show median annual wages in the selected groups, using data from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. Compare these data with $37,040, the median annual wage for all workers—half made more and half made less than this amount—in 2016. These wage data exclude the self-employed.

When looking at overall wages for a group of occupations, keep in mind that these wages are averages of the occupations in the group; wages for specific occupations may be higher or lower than the average. For example, the sales and related occupations group had a relatively low median wage overall, $26,590, but occupations such as wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives for technical and scientific products ($78,980) had much higher wages.

Environmental conditions 

Identified in this category are some of the conditions workers might be exposed to in a job as it’s typically performed. These conditions include extreme heat or cold, hazardous contaminants, and outdoor work.

Some people are sensitive to noise, for example. These people might opt for a quiet job in an art museum, rather than a job with the loud intensity of bulldozing work. Table 1 shows selected occupational groups in which workers were, or were not, exposed to loud noises. About 13 percent of all workers were subject to this environmental condition in 2017.

Table 1. Occupational groups with high and low percentages of noise exposure, 2017, and median annual wages, 2016

View Chart Data

Table 1. Occupational groups with high and low percentages of noise exposure, 2017, and median annual wages, 20161
Occupational group Percentage of workers exposed to loud noise, 2017 Median annual wage, 2016

High percentages of noise exposure

   

Construction and extraction

50% $43,610

Production

38 33,130

Installation, maintenance, and repair

32 43,440

Transportation and material moving

29 30,730

Protective service

24 38,660

Personal care and service

16 22,710

Food preparation and serving related

15 20,810

Low percentages of noise exposure

   

Office and administrative support

2% $34,050

Sales and related

3 26,590

Healthcare practitioners and technical

3 63,420

Education, training, and library

4 48,000

Management

6 100,790

Architecture and engineering

8 77,900

Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media

10 47,190

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance

11 24,700

1 Data are for wage and salary workers only; self-employed workers were not surveyed.

Note: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Requirements Survey (requirements) and Occupational Employment Statistics Survey (median annual wage).

The construction and extraction group and the installation, maintenance, and repair group had the highest wages among occupational groups with above-average exposure to loud noises: $43,610 and $43,440, respectively.

About half of all workers in construction and extraction occupations were subject to loud noises—the most of any occupational group. If you prefer working in quieter surroundings, you may want to avoid occupations such as construction equipment operators, carpenters, and welders.

Mental and cognitive demands

An occupation’s cognitive requirements include the need to interact with others, make decisions, and adapt to changes.

If you prefer to work a consistent schedule, for example, ORS data help to identify occupations that may let you do that—as well as to find those in which your schedule might frequently change. Table 2 shows the percentage of occupational groups in which schedule changes were more common or less common. In 2017, about 48 percent of all workers had jobs with changing schedules.

Table 2. Occupational groups with high and low percentages of schedule changes, 2017, and median annual wages, 2016

View Chart Data

Table 2. Occupational groups with high and low percentages of schedule changes, 2017, and median annual wages, 20161
Occupational group Percentage of workers with schedule changes, 2017 Median annual wage, 2016

High percentages of schedule changes

   

Protective service

70% $38,660

Food preparation and serving related

60 20,810

Healthcare practitioners and technical

58 63,420

Sales and related

57 26,590

Personal care and service

56 22,710

Transportation and material moving

56 30,730

Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media

56 47,190

Construction and extraction

55 43,610

Installation, maintenance, and repair

55 43,440

Healthcare support

52 27,910

Low percentages of schedule changes

   

Education, training, and library

26% $48,000

Office and administrative support

32 34,050

Business and financial operations

38 66,530

Architecture and engineering

39 77,900

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance

45 24,700

Management

45 100,790

Production

45 33,130

Legal

46 79,650

Life, physical, and social science

47 63,340

1 Data are for wage and salary workers only; self-employed workers were not surveyed.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Requirements Survey (requirements) and Occupational Employment Statistics Survey (median annual wage).

A number of the occupational groups with lower-than-average percentages of workers with schedule changes had above-average wages in 2016. Occupations in these higher paying groups also typically require a bachelor’s degree or more education.

About 3 out of 4 security guards had schedule changes—the most of any of the detailed occupations for which there were data in 2017. Home health aides and police patrol officers also topped the list.

Occupations in which relatively few workers had schedule changes were teacher assistants, general office clerks, and elementary school teachers.

Physical demands

This category assesses the physical effort generally required to successfully do work-related tasks. It includes requirements such as kneeling, lifting, and carrying.

Maybe you know you don’t want to sit all day at work, for example, or maybe you’d prefer not to stand or move around. Table 3 shows, for selected occupational groups, the percentage of the workday in 2017 during which sitting was required. Workers, on average, spent about 40 percent of their day at work sitting.  

Table 3. Occupational groups with high and low percentages of sitting, 2017, and median annual wages, 2016

View Chart Data

Table 3. Occupational groups with high and low percentages of sitting, 2017, and median annual wages, 20161
Occupational group Percentage of workday that sitting is required, 2017 Median annual wage, 2016

High percentages of sitting

   

Computer and mathematical

84% $82,830

Business and financial operations

81 66,530

Legal

78 79,650

Architecture and engineering

69 77,900

Management

68 100,790

Office and administrative support

66 34,050

Community and social service

63 42,990

Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media

59 47,190

Transportation and material moving

42 30,730

Low percentages of sitting

   

Food preparation and serving related

4% $20,810

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance

11 24,700

Construction and extraction

16 43,610

Production

18 33,130

Installation, maintenance, and repair

21 43,440

Personal care and service

27 22,710

Healthcare support

27 27,910

Sales and related

27 26,590

Education, training, and library

35 48,000

Healthcare practitioners and technical

36 63,420

1 Data are for wage and salary workers only; self-employed workers were not surveyed.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Requirements Survey (requirements) and Occupational Employment Statistics Survey (median annual wage).

Many of the occupational groups in table 3 include jobs that required sitting for extended lengths of time and also had relatively high wages. The level of education typically required to enter the occupations in these groups is often higher, too, with many employers requiring a bachelor’s or higher degree.

In specific occupations for which there are ORS data, telemarketers spent the largest portion of their day sitting—about 93 percent, on average. Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food workers spent the least, 2 percent.

For a mix of sitting and standing, consider light truck or delivery services drivers, driver/sales workers, and first-line supervisors of correctional officers. Jobs in these occupations required about equal amounts of time sitting and standing or moving around.

Vocational preparation

Data in this category provide information about the education level, work experience, and pre- and post-employment training required to prepare for an occupation.

To qualify for jobs in some occupations, for example, you might need pre-employment training. This type of training may lead to a credential—such as an educational certificate, license, or certification—or may be available in an apprenticeship. Table 4 shows the prevalence of pre-employment training in selected occupational groups. In 2017, about 28 percent of all workers needed some form of pre-employment training.

Table 4. Occupational groups with high and low percentages of pre-employment training, 2017, and median annual wages, 2016

View Chart Data

Table 4. Occupational groups with high and low percentages of pre-employment training, 2017, and median annual wages, 20161
Occupational group Percentage of workers requiring pre-employment training, 2017 Median annual wage, 2016

High percentages of pre-employment training

   

Healthcare practitioners and technical

78% $63,420

Healthcare support

68 27,910

Legal

63 79,650

Education, training, and library

62 48,000

Protective service

59 38,660

Personal care and service

44 22,710

Transportation and material moving

42 30,730

Community and social service

39 42,990

Construction and extraction

37 43,610

Installation, maintenance, and repair

34 43,440

Low percentages of pre-employment training

   

Office and administrative support

6% $34,050

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance

8 24,700

Sales and related

9 26,590

Production

11 33,130

Computer and mathematical

13 82,830

Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media

17 47,190

Architecture and engineering

18 77,900

Food preparation and serving related

18 20,810

Business and financial operations

19 66,530

Management

21 100,790

Life, physical, and social science

22 63,340

1 Data are for wage and salary workers only; self-employed workers were not surveyed.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Requirements Survey (requirements) and Occupational Employment Statistics Survey (median annual wage).

As table 4 shows, occupational groups with higher-than-average requirements of pre-employment training had varied wages. These ranged from a high of $79,650 for legal occupations to a low of $22,710 for personal care and service occupations.

Healthcare occupations had the highest percentages of workers who required training prior to employment. Many of the occupations in this group have specific licensing or certification requirements, which vary by state. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, nursing assistants, and registered nurses were among those with the highest percentages of workers who need pre-employment training.

For more information

This article provides an overview of the many types of data available from the ORS. For more, visit the ORS website. Find summaries of requirements by occupational group at www.bls.gov/ncs/ors/orsprofiles.htm.  

You can get detailed descriptions of occupations, including specific work duties, job outlook, and more in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). Additional wage data are available from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics program.  

About the Author

Elka Torpey is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. She can be reached at torpey.elka@bls.gov .

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Suggested citation:

Elka Torpey, "Work that suits you: Using BLS data to match your preferences," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2018.

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