Occupational Requirements Survey: Concepts

The purpose of the Occupational Requirement Survey (ORS) is to collect the various physical demands; environmental conditions; education, training, and experience; and mental requirements for occupations within the national economy. ORS provides insight into the presence and duration of specific physical demands and environmental exposures, as well as the amount of education, training, and experience needed to perform in the occupation. Additionally, ORS data give an understanding of some of the cognitive and mental requirements of a job.

The ORS data elements are grouped into four main categories:

• Physical demands

• Environmental conditions under which the work is typically performed

• Education and training, and experience, collectively 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 generally required by employers to perform a job at their establishment. The survey is not focused on the specific capabilities or experience of the worker if the employer does not require them. For example, a job may require a bachelor’s degree, but a worker performing the job may have a doctoral degree (Ph.D.). In this case, the ORS would capture the requirement of this particular job as being a bachelor’s degree. The distinction is significant because the desired outcome of the survey is to portray the requirements of an occupation, not necessarily the characteristics of the workers performing in that occupation. See the Data sources section for more detail on what occupational requirements 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 physical activities required to perform occupational tasks. The presence and, in some cases, duration of these activities are collected. For more information on individual demands, see the ORS Visual Overview for Physical Demands or the Appendices in the Calculation Section.

Environmental conditions. Refer to the various tangible or concrete hazards or difficulties that are in the vicinity of where a job is performed. The presence and, in most cases, duration of these conditions are collected. For more information about individual environmental elements, see the ORS Visual Overview for Environmental Conditions and the Appendices in the Calculation Section.

Education, training, and experience. In ORS, this is known as Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) and refers to the amount of preparation time required for a typical worker to learn the techniques, acquire the information, and develop the facility needed for average performance in a specific job. The preparation time includes all time spent acquiring the minimum level of formal education required, pre-employment training including certifications and licenses, on-the-job training, and prior work experience.

Cognitive and mental demands. The requirements related to a worker’s need to use judgment, make decisions, and adapt to changes on the job. Specifically, ORS collects information on decision-making, work review, pace of work, adaptability to schedule changes, work location, and tasks, and information about work-related personal interactions.

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 the sampled job.

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

Job. A position of employment at an establishment that one or more workers are employed in. It is characterized by its main function and any work tasks in support of that function. The term job refers to a single position in a single establishment, but an establishment may have more than one instance of a job on their payroll. For example, a restaurant may have twenty waiters all serving the same function and performing identical tasks. All twenty of those waiters would be considered by ORS to be duplicates of the same job at that worksite. Because ORS focuses on the requirements of a job but is weighted by the amount of workers employed in that job, “jobs” and “workers” may be used interchangeably in ORS publications.

Occupation. A generalized job or family of jobs common to many industries and areas, such as an economist or carpenter. An occupation is different from a job because it refers to a profession or trade in general, and not a single position in a single establishment. Occupations are classified by the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system to the six-digit level. The ORS further classifies occupations by eight-digit codes used by O*NET’s detailed occupational taxonomy referred to as “O*NET-SOC 2010 Occupations”, when available. Military specific occupations (55-0000.00) are out of scope for the ORS.

Contractors. People working onsite at a surveyed establishment, but paid by a contractor, are not included in data collection from the establishment unless the contractor is part of the sample. In this case, the ORS collects data on those jobs with employees of the contractor who are working offsite at other establishments, as well as those working onsite. To be included in the ORS, employees in sampled jobs must receive payments (cash, check, or direct deposit payments) from the establishment for services performed and the establishment must pay the employer’s portion of Medicare taxes on those individuals’ wages.

Establishment. A single economic unit that engages in one, or predominantly one, type of economic activity. For private industries in the survey, the establishment usually is at a single physical location, such as a mine, a factory, an office, or a store, that produces goods or provides services. For private industry, if a sampled establishment is owned by a larger entity with many locations, only the employment and characteristics of the establishment selected for the sample are considered for the survey. For state and local governments, an establishment can include more than one physical location, such as a school district or a police department. The number of workers in an establishment includes workers on paid vacation or other types of leave; salaried of­ficers, executives, and staff members of incorporated firms; employees temporarily assigned to other units; and noncon­tract employees for whom the reporting unit is the perma­nent duty station, regardless of whether that unit issues their paychecks.

Duration Levels. The scale used to categorize duration of a physical demand being performed or exposure to an environmental condition. The levels are 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. The number of workers in a given domain (such an occupation) that have a certain requirement divided by the total number of workers in that domain. For example, the number of teachers that are required to reach overhead divided by the total number of teachers equals the percentage of teachers with that requirement. More detailed information is included in the Calculation section.

Average percent of the day. The average portion of the workday in which workers in a given domain (such as an occupation) spend sitting or standing/walking. More detailed information is included in the Calculation section.

Average time spent (in hours or days). The average time in hours or days in which workers spend sitting, standing/walking, or obtaining education, experience, or training. More detailed information is included in the Calculation section.

Average maximum weight lifted. The average of the most weight workers in a particular occupation or occupational group are ever required to lift or carry. More detailed information is included in the Calculation section.

Percentiles. Percentiles (10⁠th, 25⁠th, 50⁠th-median, 75⁠th, and 90⁠th) are used for estimates with continuous values, such as hours spent sitting, or days of prior work experience required. More detailed information is included in the Calculation section.

Modes. In this survey, modes for certain job requirement categories are calculated so that the user may identify the estimate within a category that has the largest weighted number of workers - essentially the most common value within that category. See the Calculation section for more information. These estimates are presented in the data via a footnote in the on-screen data tools, as well as in the excel spreadsheet of data.

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 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: June 13, 2018