Occupational Requirements Survey

Sedentary Strength Level 

The Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS) publishes job-related information on physical demands; environmental conditions; education, training, and experience; as well as cognitive and mental requirements. The job requirements reflect those necessary for workers to perform critical tasks in support of the critical job functions, and not the capabilities of individual workers. Strength estimates are physical demands requirements.

The ORS publishes five strength levels (sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy), which are based on the job requirements for performing physical demands within specific weight classes and the duration of these demands.

In 2019, a medium strength level was required for 28.5 percent of workers in the U.S. economy. Sedentary strength was required for 27.0 percent of workers and light strength was required for 33.8 percent of workers. A heavy strength level was required for 9.3 percent of workers and 1.5 percent had a very heavy strength level. (See Chart A.)

 

Percent of civilian workers by strength level  

 

 

 

Calculating strength level estimates

Strength levels are calculated from the weight and duration associated with lifting, carrying, and in some cases, standing or walking. A duration chart is used to calculate the amount of time spent lifting or carrying. There are four categories of time in relation to a job's workday schedule: seldom (up to 2 percent), occasional (2 percent to one-third), frequent (one-third to two-thirds), and constant (two-thirds or more). “None” and “negligible weight” are additional categories.

For example, if workers deliver items weighing between 26-50 pounds occasionally, then the job would be classified as a medium strength level. However, if they delivered slightly heavier items (26-50 pounds) frequently, then the job would be classified as a heavy strength level.

Table 1. Determining strength level based on duration of lifting or carrying
Strength level Duration of lifting or carrying
Seldom Occasionally Frequently Constantly

Light work

11-25 pounds 11-25 pounds 1-10 pounds Negligible weight

Medium work

26-50 pounds 26-50 pounds 11-25 pounds 1-10 pounds

Heavy work

51-100 pounds 51-100 pounds 26-50 pounds 11-25 pounds

Very heavy work

>100 pounds >100 pounds >50 pounds

>25 pounds

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Requirements Survey


Table 2. Special cases for calculating strength level
Strength level Description

Unknown

If it is unknown how often lifting or carrying occur or none of the conditions in table 1 are met and standing or sitting are unknown. The estimate is treated as item nonresponse.

Sedentary

If none of the conditions in the strength level chart are met and standing or walking occurs less than or equal to 1/3 of the workday.

Light work

If none of the conditions in the strength chart are met and does not meet the special conditions for unknown or sedentary.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Requirements Survey


Sedentary strength level

Strength is considered sedentary when none of the conditions in the strength chart are met and standing or walking is less than or equal to one-third of the work schedule or work day (see Tables 1 and 2).

Table 3 provides the percent of workers with a sedentary strength level by occupation. Some examples include budget analysts (97.2 percent), purchasing managers (90.3 percent), human resources specialists (87.3 percent), graphic designers (77.8 percent), and healthcare support occupations (6.8 percent) with a sedentary strength level.

 Table 3. Percent of civilian workers with a sedentary strength level by occupation, 2019
Occupation Percent

Financial and investment analysts

99.0%

Budget analysts

97.2%

Bill and account collectors

96.9%

Dispatchers, except police, fire, and ambulance

95.5%

Public safety telecommunicators

93.0%

Billing and posting clerks

92.8%

Purchasing managers

90.3%

Medical secretaries and administrative assistants

89.3%

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks

88.2%

Human resources specialists

87.3%

Computer and information systems managers

85.8%

Graphic designers

77.8%

Social and community service managers

70.8%

Medical records specialists

67.8%

Chief executives

65.3%

Sales managers

64.0%

Bus drivers, school

58.1%

Instructional coordinators

49.3%

Occupational health and safety specialists

47.5%

Training and development specialists

44.6%

Production, planning, and expediting clerks

44.4%

Education administrators, kindergarten through secondary

23.3%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Requirements Survey

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For additional information on occupational requirements see the ORS homepage or download the ORS complete dataset to explore the latest estimates.