Occupational Requirements Survey: Concepts

The purpose of the Occupational Requirement Survey (ORS) is to collect the various physical demands, environmental conditions, education and training, and mental requirements for occupations within the national economy. The information in ORS is unique, compared with other job requirement documentation (such as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles or the Occupational Information Network (O*NET)), as the data give a better understanding of some of the cognitive and mental requirements for a job. In addition, ORS provides insight into the duration of specific physical demands and environmental exposures, as well as the amount of education, training, and experience needed to perform in the occupation.

The ORS data elements are grouped into four main categories:

    • Physical demands

    • Environmental conditions under which the work is typically performed

    • Education and training, known as specific vocational preparation or SVP

    • Mental and cognitive demands

It is important to note that the ORS is designed to capture information regarding what is required to perform a job and is not focused on the specific capabilities or experience of the worker. For example, a job may require a bachelor’s degree, but some workers performing the job may have a doctoral degree (Ph.D.). In this case, the ORS would capture the requirement of this particular occupation as being a bachelor’s degree. The distinction is significant because the desired outcome of the survey is to portray the requirements of a job, not necessarily the characteristics of the worker performing that job. See the Data sources section for more detail on what ORS data elements are collected.

The ORS is an establishment based survey and includes establishments in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the private sector and state and local governments. Major exclusions from the survey are workers in federal and quasi-federal agencies, military personnel, agriculture workers, workers in private households, the self-employed, volunteers, unpaid workers, individuals receiving long-term disability compensation, and those working overseas. Individuals who set their own pay, such as business owners, and family members--paid token wages--are also excluded.

The following sections provide definitions of key concepts and further explanation regarding occupational selection and estimation processes used for this survey. For more detailed definitions of survey terminology, please refer to the ORS Collection Manual.

Key concepts and definitions

Physical demands. Refer to the level and/or duration of physical exertion generally required to perform occupational tasks. For more information on individual demands, see the ORS Visual Overview for Physical Demands Data Elements.

Environmental conditions. Refer to the various tangible or concrete hazards or difficulties that are in the vicinity of which a job is performed. For more information about individual environmental elements, see the ORS Visual Overview for Environmental Conditions Data Elements.

Education, training, and experience. In ORS, this is known as Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) and refers to the amount of preparation time required by a typical worker to learn the techniques, acquire the information, and develop the facility needed for average performance in a specific job/worker situation.

Cognitive and mental demands. The requirements related to a worker’s need to use judgment, make decisions, and adapt to changes on the job.

Task. A distinct activity assigned to or performed by workers in an occupation that results in a meaningful outcome. A list of tasks aids field economists in understanding the relationship of ORS elements to an occupation.

Work as generally performed. Refers to the way in which most workers normally complete the duties, tasks, and responsibilities as assigned. Field economists collect occupational information representative of the typical duties performed in that occupation.

Accommodation. A modification or adjustment to a job or change in the work environment that enables a person with a disability or other constraints to compete equally or carry out the occupational tasks as generally performed. The ORS only collects how work is performed without accommodations, as not all employers can offer the same accommodations.

Job. A group of workers in an establishment that have the same position. The term job refers to a single position in a single company, whereas occupation refers to a profession or trade. Example: “waiters at Smith’s Restaurant” is a job, whereas “waiters” is an occupation.

Duration Scale. Scale used to categorize duration of a physical demand being performed or exposure to an environmental condition. The scale is as follows:

  • Seldom (up to 2 percent of the workday)
  • Occasionally (2 percent up to 1/3 of the workday)
  • Frequently (1/3 up to 2/3 of the workday)
  • Constantly (2/3 or more of the workday)

Percentage of workers. Measurement of the portion of workers in a given domain (civilian workers, private industry workers, state and local workers, or of a given occupation or industry) that have a certain requirement. For example, a percentage of teachers that are required to reach overhead.

Average percent of the day. Duration measurement of the average portion of the work day in which workers spend doing a physical activity or are exposed to an environmental condition.

Average time spent (in hours or days). Duration measurement of the average time in hours or days in which workers spend doing a physical activity, are exposed to an environmental condition, or spend obtaining education, experience, or training.

Strength. The capacity for exertion or endurance determined by the amount of weight lifted or carried, the duration of lifting or carrying that weight, and how long a worker sits or stands/walks per day.

Full-time or part-time status. For the ORS, full-time or part-time status is not determined by the number of hours worked, but is based instead on the establishment’s definition of those terms.

Time-based or incentive-based pay. Time-based workers are those whose wages are based solely on an hourly rate or salary. Incentive workers are those whose wages are based at least partially on productivity payments, such as piece rates, commissions, and production bonuses.

Union or nonunion workers. The ORS defines a union worker as any employee in a union occupation who satisfies all of the following conditions: a labor organization is recognized as the bargaining agent for all workers in the occupation; wage and salary rates are determined through collective bargaining or negotiations; and settlement terms, which must include earnings provisions and may include benefit provisions, are embodied in a signed, mutually binding collective bargaining agreement. A nonunion worker is an employee in an occupation not meeting all of the ORS-defined conditions for union coverage.

Last Modified Date: March 29, 2017