Occupational Requirements Survey: History

Hover over the red dot to see historical information.

Timeline Events:

October 2012: Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS) 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

November 2013: Central Office Elements test

December 2013: National Compensation Survey (NCS)/ORS Joint Collection test

December 2013: New Data Element tests

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: Narrowed the scope of collection from work as generally performed to work based on critical tasks in support of critical job functions; began testing of the revised cognitive and mental requirements questions

November 2017: Published estimates combining two samples of collected data

September 2018: Began collection of revised cognitive and mental requirements as well as started collecting the first of five samples

February 2019: Published estimates combining three samples of data

The Social Security Administration (SSA) contracted with BLS to produce occupational data that would describe the requirements of an occupation. These data will 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 is collecting and publishing 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. After the initial assessment of whether BLS could collect job requirements, BLS began testing the collection of these requirements (as described below). 


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. Phase 2 testing 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. Therefore, 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. The ORS-only Efficiency Innovations Test refined the methods to develop more efficient approaches for data collection as identified during FY 2013 testing.

  2. The NCS/ORS Joint Collection test determined how to best collect occupational requirements data elements and NCS data elements from the same establishment.
  3. The New Data Element tests determined the new cognitive and mental requirements work data elements and evaluated the use of occupational task lists as developed by the Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA),  and Occupational Information Network (O*NET) program during data collection.
  4. The Central Office Collection (COC) test determined how best to collect occupational requirements data elements from large firms and state governments.
  5. The Alternative Modes test determined how to collect occupational requirements data elements efficiently (such as via phone, email, or fax) when a personal visit is not possible.

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.. The sampling, data collection, procedures, and review were designed to mimic what would 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.

Detailed information on completed tests and other testing activities can be found in the Research section of the ORS website.

Change in scope of collection

Initially, BLS and SSA agreed to define the scope of collection as how work is “generally performed” in each establishment. This meant BLS collected requirements related to all aspects of work, including job functions that were incidental or not specific to one job and were unrelated to the primary hiring and pay factors of jobs.

Historically, SSA relied upon information from the DOT and its companion the Selected Characteristics of Occupations (SCO). The data from these publications appear to show a narrower scope for data collection. DOT data appears to show that analysts only rated work requirements that pertained to the hiring and pay factors of jobs.

Beginning with the third year of collection, BLS has taken steps to revise current procedures to align more closely with a narrower scope of work that pertains to the hiring and pay factors of the job. The revised scope of work is limited to only tasks related to the “critical job function” (i.e., the reason the job exists). These tasks must be expected and usual, now defined as “critical.” In addition, after reviewing the duration data in the first published results which included point estimates, respondent-determined ranges, and SSA-defined ranges, BLS determined collection of duration data only in the SSA-defined ranges would more accurately reflect duration of job demands. By adjusting the parameters of what work is included to only that of the critical functions of jobs and specifying duration ranges, the BLS expects to more accurately capture job requirements while still identifying changes in the way work is performed in the modern economy.

The estimates published for the 2018 reference year reflect the more narrow scope of work.


The 2018 estimates are from three samples of collected data. BLS did not collect the cognitive and mental requirements during the third year in order to better refine collection procedures and concepts related to these job requirements. Additional detail for pre-employment training estimates are available with this release. For more information on the types of estimates that were eligible for publication, see the Calculation section.


Last Modified Date: April 29, 2019