Department of Labor Logo United States Department of Labor
Dot gov

The .gov means it's official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.

Https

The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Occupational Requirements Survey

Strength levels 

PDF version

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.

The ORS publishes five strength levels (sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy), which are part of the published physical demands, and are calculated from the weight and duration associated with lifting, carrying, and in some cases, standing.[1]

strength_chartA

 

Chart A data table
Chart A. Percent of civilian workers by strength level, 2021
Sedentary Light Medium Heavy Very Heavy

Civilian workers

28.5% 33.3% 28.2% 8.9% 1.1%

 Duration levels are used to calculate the amount of time spent lifting or carrying. There are four duration levels in relation to a job's workday schedule: seldom (up to 2 percent), occasional (2 percent to 1/3), frequent (1/3 to 2/3), and constant (2/3 or more).

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 (51-100 pounds) or the duration of carrying or lifting 26-50 pounds increased to being performed frequently, then the job would be classified as a heavy strength level. “Negligible weight” includes anything lifted or carried weighing less than one pound. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Determining strength level based on lifting or carrying duration or percentage of the workday spent standing
Strength level Duration of lifting or carrying Percent of workday standing[1]
Seldom Occasionally Frequently Constantly

Sedentary work

Up to 10 pounds Up to 10 pounds Negligible weight[2] No weight Less than or equal to 1/3[3]

Light work

11–25 pounds 11–25 pounds 1–10 pounds Negligible weight[2]

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

[1] Standing estimates includes time spent standing, walking, and in low postures.

[2] Negligible weight includes anything lifted or carried weighing less than 1 pound. 

[3] When the sedentary lifting or carrying requirements are met, and more than 1/3 of the workday is spent standing, light work is required.

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 is required less than or equal to 1/3 of the work schedule or workday.

Occupations with critical tasks where workers typically spend the day sitting and occasionally lift items of little weight, like a pen or a few pieces of paper, require sedentary strength. (See Table 2.)

Table 2. Percentage of civilian workers with a sedentary strength level by occupation, 2021
Occupation Estimate Standard Error

Statistical assistants

100.0 [1]

Architectural and civil drafters

99.2 0.9

Software developers

98.8 0.6

Financial and investment analysts

98.2 0.7

Computer programmers

97.6 1.3

Management analysts

97.2 1.3

Editors

97.1 1.8

Bill and account collectors

96.9 2.2

Clinical and counseling psychologists

96.6 4.0

Public safety telecommunicators

96.3 1.0

Insurance sales agents

95.9 2.3

Billing and posting clerks

94.8 2.2

Budget analysts

93.0 5.2

Human resources specialists

91.8 1.6

Human resources assistants, except payroll and time keeping

91.5 2.6

[1] Standard error is less than 0.5.

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

Light strength level

If the work level of an occupation does not meet the conditions for the other strength levels, including sedentary, a light strength level is required.[2] Examples of occupations with light strength level requirements include:

  • Hosts and hostesses (96 percent light strength required) may do activities such as carrying menus and raising and lowering pagers for customers in a queue for 2/3 or more of the workday.

  • Music directors and composers (80.8 percent light strength required) may carry an instrument over 1 pound for 1/3 to 2/3 of the workday.

 

Table 3. Percentage of civilian workers with a light strength level by occupation, 2021
Occupation Estimate Standard Error

Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists

97.7 2.3

Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop

96.0 1.4

Gambling managers

89.4 8.5

Substitute teachers, short-term

88.9 5.1

Hearing aid specialists

87.5 13.1

Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks

83.1 7.2

Biological science teachers, post secondary

81.9 4.1

Physics teachers, post secondary

81.9 8.0

Recreation workers

78.2 12.9

First-line supervisors of gambling services workers

78.1 19.1

Waiters and waitresses

77.4 3.9

Opticians, dispensing

75.7 15.8

Dental assistants

74.1 5.2

Teaching assistants, preschool, elementary, middle, and secondary school, except special education

73.3 3.2

Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers

72.9 8.4

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

Medium strength level

For civilian workers, 28.2 percent of workers were required to work at a medium strength level. Examples of occupations with medium strength level requirements include:

  • Animal caretakers may lift 30 pound bags of grain to feed horses at the racetrack for up to 2 percent of the workday.

  • Chefs and head cooks may carry a 2 pound tray of cooking supplies to prepare dinner meals for 2/3 or more of the workday.
Table 4. Percentage of civilian workers with a medium strength level by occupation, 2021
Occupation Estimate Standard Error

Animal caretakers

88.4 6.5

Tool and die makers

86.5 4.3

Production workers, all other

85.1 9.4

Magnetic resonance imaging technologists

76.8 16.1

Helpers--production workers

76.5 5.5

Museum technicians and conservators

75.7 14.8

Cooks, fast food

74.6 7.6

Chefs and head cooks

73.9 8.7

Multiple machine tool setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

68.9 13.4

Landscaping and groundskeeping workers

66.7 6.6

Grinding, lapping, polishing, and buffing machine tool setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

66.0 11.4

Preschool teachers, except special education

65.3 7.2

Packaging and filling machine operators and tenders

64.4 9.7

Team assemblers

63.3 8.3

Carpenters

62.5 6.3

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

 Heavy strength level

For civilian workers, 8.9 percent of workers were required to work at a heavy strength level. Examples of occupations with heavy strength level requirements include:

  • Construction laborers at a building site may wear a 30 pound tool belt from 1/3 to 2/3 of the workday.

  • Shipping, receiving, and inventory clerks might lift 15 pound crates for 2/3 or more of the workday.

Table 5. Percentage of civilian workers with a heavy strength level by occupation, 2021
Occupation Estimate Standard Error

Light truck drivers

70.1 5.0

Electrical power-line installers and repairers

57.8 13.3

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers

54.9 9.4

Bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists

46.3 7.7

Construction laborers

38.8 5.7

Highway maintenance workers

36.0 6.9

Carpenters

34.7 6.4

Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders

34.2 10.1

Recreational vehicle service technicians

34.1 10.0

First-line supervisors of material-moving machine and vehicle operators

30.8 9.0

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers

28.6 3.0

Shipping, receiving, and inventory clerks

28.1 6.5

Multiple machine tool setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

27.4 13.4

Lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers

25.1 9.0

Furnace, kiln, oven, drier, and kettle operators and tenders

23.8 10.7

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

 Very heavy strength level

For civilian workers, 1.1 percent required a very heavy strength level, which indicates requirements beyond the conditions set for heavy work. Examples of occupational groups with heavy strength level requirements include:

  • Laborers in construction and extraction occupations may lift items that weigh 50 pounds or more, like bags of cement or sheets of plywood, for more than 1/3 of the workday.

  • Workers in healthcare support occupations may lift patients to and from their beds for 10 minutes during an 8-hour shift.

Table 6. Percentage of civilian workers with a very heavy strength level by occupational group, 2021
Occupation Estimate Standard Error

Construction and extraction occupations

1.9 0.6

Transportation and material moving occupations

1.6 0.5

Health care support occupations

1.4 [1]

Community and social service occupations

0.7 [1]

Personal care and service occupations

0.7 [1]

Production occupations

0.3 [1]

Management occupations

0.1 [1]

[1] Standard error is less than 0.5.

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

Additional resources:

 

Articles:

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

 

 


[1] See the sitting and standing factsheet for more information on these requirements.

[2] For more information on work levels, see National Compensation Survey: Guide for Evaluating Your Firm's Jobs and Pay and the Calculation section of the Handbook of Methods.