Occupational Requirements Survey: History

Hover over the red dot to see historical information.

Timeline Events:

October 2012: Occupational Requirements Survey established as a test survey

November 2012: Phase 1 test: Initial proof of concept

January 2013: Phase 2 test: Collection protocol testing

April 2013: Phase 3 test: Broad scale testing

November 2013: Observations Test conducted concurrently with other FY 2014 tests

November 2013: ORS-Only Efficiency Innovations Test

December 2013: NCS/ORS Joint Collection Test

December 2013: New Data Element Tests

November 2013: Central Office Elements Test

February 2014: Alternative Modes Test

October 2014 – September 2015: Pre-production testing

June 2015: Job Observations Pilot Test

September 2015 – December 2016: First year of production data collection and estimation

December 2016: Published estimates from first production sample

June 2017 – September 2017: Job Observations Test

September 2017: Testing of the revised mental and cognitive demands questions

November 2017: Published estimates combining two samples of collected data

The Social Security Administration (SSA) contracted with BLS to produce occupational data that would describe the requirements of an occupation. These data would aid SSA in determining eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits for applicants. During the developmental stages of the Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS), BLS identified its existing infrastructure already available to coordinate with the ORS. That framework had the capability to manage and implement a new survey to meet data needs as well as systems and processes to support all the steps of the survey. In addition, field economists who work on the National Compensation Survey (NCS) were already familiar with collecting data elements similar to those ORS captures. For example, the NCS classifies each job selected using the Standard Occupational Classification System (SOC), collects worker characteristics (such as bargaining status and part-time or full-time workers), and determines industry classification using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) for sampled establishments. BLS has experience collecting and reviewing information on the knowledge required to perform the job, job controls provided, the complexity of tasks, the contacts made by workers, and the physical environment where the work is performed—all similar to the types of data ORS would be designed to collect. This initial determination eventually led to formalized testing that would determine if the existing infrastructure can be used to collect data on occupational requirements.


BLS established ORS as a test survey in FY 2013 (that is, during October 1, 2012– September 30, 2013). In FY 2013 and 2014, several feasibility tests were performed to assess the viability of collecting data on occupational requirements using the platform currently used by the NCS.

In FY 2013, testing was conducted in three phases: The main objective of phase 1 was to ensure that BLS field economists knew how to describe the survey and find respondents for the ORS data elements. BLS also created and tested an initial set of data collection protocols and collection aides. In phase 2, BLS expanded the number of field economists that could describe and collect ORS data while obtaining additional information not included in phase 1. That test also evaluated the effectiveness of collection tools. The primary goal of phase 3 was to test whether field economists could collect ORS data elements and relevant information across the country in a uniform and efficient manner. Also during phase 3, BLS tested the feasibility of collecting both ORS and NCS elements; adding more ways to conduct ORS interviews; including new data capture systems and review procedures; and establishing the Central Office Collection (COC). Some companies have special arrangements with BLS, regarding the manner in which data should be collected for their individual establishments and a COC may require permission and coordination from headquarters in order to proceed with collecting data. Test objectives were successfully met in these phases, and the findings from these tests suggested that the collection of the ORS data was viable.

As a result of FY 2013 testing, areas were identified where further testing was needed before moving to full-scale production. In FY 2014, five feasibility tests were completed to refine ORS methodology tested in previous phases:

1. ORS Only Efficiency Innovations Test – refined the methods to develop more efficient approaches for data collection as identified during FY 2013 testing

2. NCS/ORS Joint Collection Test – determined how best to collect occupational requirements data elements and NCS data elements from the same establishment

3. New Data Element Tests – determined the new mental and cognitive demands of work data elements and evaluated the use of occupational task lists as developed by the Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA), Occupational Information Network (O*NET) program during data collection

4. Central Office Collection (COC) Test – determined how best to collect occupational requirements data elements from large firms and state governments

5. Alternative Modes Test – determined how to collect occupational requirements data elements efficiently when a personal visit is not optimal via phone, email, or fax

These tests provided evidence that the NCS platform could be adapted to ORS data collection and demonstrated the effectiveness of the revised materials and procedures.

Testing activities in FY 2013 and 2014 laid the foundation for the preproduction test conducted in FY 2015. Unlike the earlier tests, which were small-scale, testing a subset of data elements or the viability of different collection methods, the preproduction test was designed as a relatively large-scale, nationally representative test of ORS data collection. ORS preproduction data collection began in October 2014 and continued until May 2015. The sampling, data collection, procedures, and review were designed to mimic what will occur during ORS production. The results from the ORS preproduction test demonstrated that data on occupational requirements could be collected using the processes established by BLS. As a result of the preproduction test, some changes and refinements to several of the elements were made before the implementation of a move to production.

Additional tests that run concurrent with data collection are ongoing, such as job observation tests and the testing of a set of revised mental and cognitive demand questions. Detailed information on completed tests and other testing activities can be found in the research section of the ORS website.


The November 2017 estimates are from two samples of collected data. Many job requirement categories remained the same between the two releases, with the exception of the mental and cognitive elements. Specific durations in hours and percent of day for almost all of the physical demands and environmental conditions were excluded in this release. Although these types of estimates are no longer available for physical and environmental requirements, an estimate related to the duration level is still provided when publication criteria is met. In addition, new estimates providing information about the types of pre-employment training were added to this release. For more information on the types of estimates that were eligible for publication, see the Calculation section.


Last Modified Date: June 13, 2018