Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


General FAQs

What is the Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS)?

ORS is a new survey designed to collect data about the requirements of work in the national economy conducted under an interagency agreement with the Social Security Administration (SSA). BLS will collect and publish data on the following information:

  • Physical demands of work, ranging from keyboarding to lifting
  • Environmental conditions such as extreme heat and cold
  • Vocational preparation including education, prior work experience, and training
  • Mental and cognitive demands of work including decision making and communication

Why is the ORS being conducted?

SSA uses five steps of Sequential Evaluation to determine whether disability applicants qualify for benefits. At steps 4 and 5 of this process, adjudicators need information about a representative sample of occupations in the national economy to determine whether people with functional limitations resulting from severe impairments can still perform work. Currently, SSA uses the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) at steps 4 and 5, and it has not been updated in more than 20 years. SSA is developing an Occupational Information System (OIS) to replace the DOT which will incorporate the data collected through ORS. This information is crucial to the equitable and efficient operation of SSA's disability programs.

Why did SSA and BLS decide to start working together?

SSA became interested in BLS's National Compensation Survey (NCS) because some of the information collected through this survey resembled the type of occupational information they need. In 2012, SSA and BLS entered into an interagency agreement to test the feasibility of using the platform of the NCS to collect occupational information for use in SSA's disability programs. Feasibility testing showed that BLS could collect this data for SSA. BLS will use the National Compensation Survey (NCS) platform because it already captures information about occupations similar to the data needed for the Social Security Administration's (SSA) disability programs.

How will SSA use ORS data?

The ORS data will be used by SSA to adjudicate its disability claims. SSA disability adjudicators will use this information to determine if applicants for disability can do their past relevant work despite their impairments, and if necessary, determine the number of occupations and types of occupations that an applicant can perform despite their impairments.

When will ORS production data be available?

BLS began collecting production data in September 2015. The estimates are scheduled for publication on December 1, 2016.

Will ORS data be kept current?

BLS plans to collect data from a new sample of establishments annually to refresh a portion of the data.

How many occupations are chosen for each establishment?

BLS is collecting information for a limited number of occupations from sampled establishments based on each establishment's total number of employees. Most private industry businesses will be asked to provide data for no more than eight occupations.

Are small employers included?

Yes. Small employers are an important part of the U.S. economy. We need to include establishments of all employment sizes in order for this study to be representative of work in the national economy to meet SSA's needs.

What kind of information does BLS collect to describe the mental and cognitive demands of work?

The survey includes questions to collect information about the following mental and cognitive job demands:

  • decision-making;
  • supervision received;
  • the pace of work;
  • the amount and type of adaptability required; and
  • personal interactions required to conduct the work

Does ORS collect information about accommodations provided by employers?

No. SSA needs information that describes how work is generally performed in the national economy. Since employers accommodate employees on an individual basis, accommodations do not represent how work is generally performed. To learn about how SSA uses work information in their disability determination process, see

Are ORS collection forms available online?

The BLS field economist captures information throughout a conversational interview with respondents based on the collection forms below.

The collection forms and manual corresponding to the estimates published December 1, 2016 are available through the following links:

  1. Collection forms
    • Work schedule and leveling:
      • Government (PDF) Private (PDF)
    • ORS elements:
      • Government (PDF) Private (PDF)
  2. Collection manual (PDF)

The collection forms and manual corresponding to reference year 2017 estimates that are tentatively scheduled for a November 2017 release are available through the following links:

  1. Collection forms
    • Work schedule and leveling:
      • Government (PDF) Private (PDF)
    • ORS elements:
      • Government (PDF) Private (PDF)
  2. Collection manual (PDF)

How can I obtain details about ORS methodology?

Information about the ORS design is available in this paper presented at the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology 2013 Research Conference. Survey methodology used in ORS testing is available in the ORS Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 summary reports.

Are there any plans to enhance ORS data?

BLS will continue initiatives including the evaluation of benchmarks for data collection and future testing of inter-rater reliability. BLS will also continue to refine collection procedures, the data review process, estimation, and validation techniques to ensure ORS produces quality occupational data in the areas of vocational preparation, mental and cognitive and physical requirements, and environmental conditions.

Who should I contact if I have additional questions?

Call the NCS information office at 202-691-6199 or send e-mail via Request for Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS) Information.

What other data does the BLS publish?

  • National Compensation Survey change over time in labor costs and level of average cost per hour worked, and comprehensive data on incidence and provisions of selected employee benefit plans.
  • Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities (IIF) annual report on workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatal injuries.
  • Current Population Survey (CPS) labor force, employment, and unemployment statistics for persons with or without a disability. These are estimates for the nation as a whole; data are not available by state.
  • Occupational Employment Statistics data on employment and wages for over 800 occupations and for about 400 nonfarm industries for the nation, plus occupational data for States and metropolitan areas.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook provides data for 250 occupations, by nature of the work, working conditions, employment, job outlook and earnings, related occupations, sources of additional information, training, other qualifications, and advancement.

Do estimates reflect work or calendar days?

The components of specific vocational preparation (SVP), which include degree, certification, license, training, prior work experience, and post-employment training, are measured in calendar days after standardizing to a full-time schedule. For example, a respondent indicates that a four-hour-per-day job and eight-hour-per-day job each require two days of post-employment training. The two-days of post-employment training is converted to one calendar day for the four-hour-per-day job. No conversion is necessary for the eight-hour-per day job.

For physical requirements and environmental conditions elements, the percentage of the workday takes into account the work schedule. For example, if 2 hours of standing or walking are required for four-hour-per-day and eight-hour-per-day jobs, then standing or walking is required 50 percent of the day for the four-hour-per-day job and 25 percent of the day for the eight-hour-per-day job.

Are measures of reliability available?

Yes, standard errors are available to assist users in ascertaining the reliability of ORS estimates. Standard errors provide users a measure of the precision of an estimate to ensure that it is within an acceptable range for their intended purpose. The standard errors are calculated from collected and imputed data, the BLS is researching methods for estimating the variance excluding imputed values. For further information see: standard errors.

Respondent FAQs

Why should I participate?

You count! The quality of data produced by the BLS is a direct reflection of the quality of information and cooperation received from employers. Your participation will help the BLS deliver accurate survey results. The data will help SSA determine whether individuals meet the requirements for disability benefits. A letter (PDF) from the Social Security Administration's Acting Commissioner, Carolyn W. Colvin, further explains why your participation is important.

Will my information be kept confidential?

Yes! Your organization's participation and specific occupational information will be held in confidence to the fullest extent of the law. The BLS will use the information you provide for statistical purposes only in accordance with the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002.

Who do you typically speak to within establishments to obtain your survey data?

The people we typically speak with can answer questions about the duties, qualifications, physical and cognitive demands, and environmental conditions of the establishment's occupations. This person could be someone in human resources, a risk manager, or a supervisor.

How do I provide data?

A BLS economist will contact you to provide more information about the questions that will be asked and to determine your preferred method for providing data such as a personal visit, a phone call, or via email.

Do I need to have anything prepared?

Job descriptions, if your company uses them, and current payroll information would allow for a more efficient and targeted interview.

Can I just e-mail you a job description?

Written job descriptions are helpful in understanding the duties and tasks of an occupation. However, we need to ask additional questions to obtain a complete assessment of the vocational preparation, physical and cognitive demands, and environmental conditions of each job.

How much of my time is required?

The typical interview averages approximately one hour but may vary depending on the company size and the types of jobs discussed.


Last Modified Date: December 1, 2016