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Standard Occupational Classification


The information on this page relates to the 2000 SOC, for more recent information, see the 2010 SOC System.


2000 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) User Guide



The 2000 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System was developed in response to a growing need for a universal occupational classification system. Such a classification system allows government agencies and private industry to produce comparable data. Users of occupational data include government program managers, industrial and labor relations practitioners, students considering career training, job seekers, vocational training schools, and employers wishing to set salary scales or locate a new plant. It is used by federal agencies collecting occupational data, providing a means to compare occupational data across agencies. It is designed to cover all occupations in which work is performed for pay or profit, reflecting the current occupational structure in the United States.

The 2000 SOC is the result of a cooperative effort of all federal agencies that use occupational classification systems to maximize the usefulness of occupational information collected by the Federal Government.

SOC Classification and Coding Structure

The 2000 SOC classifies workers at four levels of aggregation: 1) major group; 2) minor group; 3) broad occupation; and 4) detailed occupation. All occupations are clustered into one of the following 23 major groups:

11-0000Management Occupations
13-0000Business and Financial Operations Occupations
15-0000Computer and Mathematical Occupations
17-0000Architecture and Engineering Occupations
19-0000Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations
21-0000Community and Social Services Occupations
23-0000Legal Occupations
25-0000Education, Training, and Library Occupations
27-0000Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations
29-0000Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations
31-0000Healthcare Support Occupations
33-0000Protective Service Occupations
35-0000Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations
37-0000Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations
39-0000Personal Care and Service Occupations
41-0000Sales and Related Occupations
43-0000Office and Administrative Support Occupations
45-0000Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Occupations
47-0000Construction and Extraction Occupations
49-0000Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations
51-0000Production Occupations
53-0000Transportation and Material Moving Occupations
55-0000Military Specific Occupations

Within these major groups are 96 minor groups, 449 broad occupations, and 821 detailed occupations. Occupations with similar skills or work activities are grouped at each of the four levels of hierarchy to facilitate comparisons. For example, "Life, Physical and Social Science Occupations" (19-0000) is divided into four minor groups, "Life Scientists" (19-1000), "Physical Scientists" (19-2000), "Social Scientists and Related Workers" (19-3000), and "Life, Physical and Social Science Technicians" (19-4000). Life Scientists contains broad occupations such as "Agriculture and Food Scientists" (19-1010), and "Biological Scientists" (19-1020). The broad occupation Biological Scientists includes detailed occupations such as "Biochemists and Biophysicists" (19-1021), and "Microbiologists" (19-1022).

Occupational Coding

Each item in the hierarchy is designated by a six-digit code. The hyphen between the second and third digit is used only for presentation clarity. The first two digits of the SOC code represent the major group; the third digit represents the minor group; the fourth and fifth digits represent the broad occupation; and the detailed occupation is represented by the sixth digit. Major group codes end with 0000 (e.g., 33-0000, Protective Service Occupations), minor groups end with 000 (e.g., 33-2000, Fire Fighting Workers), and broad occupations end with 0 (e.g., 33-2020, Fire Inspectors). All residuals ("Other," "Miscellaneous," or "All Other"), whether at the detailed or broad occupation or minor group level, contain a 9 at the level of the residual. Detailed residual occupations end in 9 (e.g., 33-9199, Protective Service Workers, All Other); broad occupations which are minor group residuals end in 90 (e.g., 33-9190, Miscellaneous Protective Service Workers); and minor groups which are major group residuals end in 9000 (e.g., 33-9000, Other Protective Service Workers):

33-0000  Protective Service Occupations

33-9000  Other Protective Service Workers
33-9190  Miscellaneous Protective Service Workers
33-9199  Protective Service Workers, All Other

Classification Principles

In order to ensure that all users of occupational data classify workers the same way, the following classification principles should be followed.

  1. The Classification covers all occupations in which work is performed for pay or profit, including work performed in family-operated enterprises by family members who are not directly compensated. It excludes occupations unique to volunteers. Each occupation is assigned to only one occupation at the lowest level of the classification.

  2. Occupations are classified based upon work performed, skills, education, training, and credentials.

  3. Supervisors of professional and technical workers usually have a background similar to the workers they supervise, and are therefore classified with the workers they supervise. Likewise, team leaders, lead workers and supervisors of production, sales, and service workers who spend at least 20 percent of their time performing work similar to the workers they supervise are classified with the workers they supervise.

  4. First-line managers and supervisors of production, service, and sales workers who spend more than 80 percent of their time performing supervisory activities are classified separately in the appropriate supervisor category, since their work activities are distinct from those of the workers they supervise. First-line managers are generally found in smaller establishments where they perform both supervisory and management functions, such as accounting, marketing, and personnel work.

  5. Apprentices and trainees should be classified with the occupations for which they are being trained, while helpers and aides should be classified separately.

  6. If an occupation is not included as a distinct detailed occupation in the structure, it is classified in the appropriate residual occupation. Residual occupations contain all occupations within a major, minor or broad group that are not classified separately.

  7. When workers may be classified in more than one occupation, they should be classified in the occupation that requires the highest level of skill. If there is no measurable difference in skill requirements, workers are included in the occupation they spend the most time.

  8. Data collection and reporting agencies should classify workers at the most detailed level possible. Different agencies may use different levels of aggregation, depending on their ability to collect data, and the requirements of users.

Associated Titles

Workers within an occupation may have many different job titles. A list of associated job titles is available through the Census Bureau to help users classify workers into the appropriate SOC occupation. Sometimes, however, a job title is not enough to classify a worker, and more information on work activities is needed. When a job title changes classification based on industry, the industries are also included.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I classify workers?   questions

The classification guidelines give the rules that are followed to classify workers based on occupational definitions and work activity.

2. Where can I get data on the occupations in the SOC?   questions

Depending on the type of information you are seeking, you may obtain information from several agencies.

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) Program provides occupational employment and wage estimates by industry and across industries. For State and area data, contact the State Employment Security Agency for the State or States needed. For national data, and selected State data see the OEWS homepage or call the information request line 202-691-6569. Employment and wage data for SOC occupations has been available since December, 2000.

The Census Bureau publishes data on detailed occupations from the decennial censuses. Census 2000 used the SOC to classify occupations. Standard and customized tabulations are available through the Census Data Website. Only summary data are published on paper.

Biennially, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Office of Employment Projections (OEP) publishes the Occupational Outlook Handbook, Career Guide to Industries, and Occupational Projections and Training Data. In addition, OEP publishes the Occupational Outlook Quarterly. For more information about these publications, visit the OEP homepage or contact the Chief, Division of Occupational Outlook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2 Massachusetts Ave. NW., Room 2135, Washington, DC 20212.

The Department of Defense publishes data that cross-references military occupational codes of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard with civilian equivalent occupations. The next update of this data will include linkages of military occupations to the SOC. Additional information on available data products can be obtained by writing to Director, Defense Manpower Data Center, 1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 400, Arlington, VA 22209-2593.

Career and job vacancy information may be obtained from the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration's One-Stop homepage.

3. Why are there different levels of detail in the SOC?   questions

There are four hierarchical levels in the SOC to enable users to choose a level of detail corresponding to their interest and ability to collect data on different occupations. Users using different levels of detail will still be able to compare data at the defined levels.

4. Why can't I find my job title in the SOC?   questions

The SOC lists occupations which may have many different titles. It does not attempt to list all job titles. It includes workers having different job titles, but similar job duties in the same occupation. A broad list of job titles and their associated SOC occupation can be found at

5. Why are supervisors of most professional occupations not listed? Where should they be classified?   questions

Supervisors of professional occupations are classified with the occupations they supervise because they often need the same type of training, education, and experience as the workers they supervise.

6. The SOC isn't detailed enough for our needs. How do I modify it?   questions

Users who would like to collect or tabulate data in more detail should add a decimal point and additional digits after the six-digit SOC code. For more information, see Revising the Standard Occupational Classification System (PDF 98K) - Report 929, June 1999.

7. When is the next revision of the SOC scheduled?   questions

It is anticipated that the next major review and revision of the SOC will begin in 2005 in preparation for use in the 2010 Decennial Census.

8. Can the SOC be used for nonstatistical purposes?   questions

The SOC was designed solely for statistical purposes. Although it is likely that the SOC will also be used for various nonstatistical purposes (e.g., for administrative, regulatory, or taxation functions), the requirements of government agencies that choose to use the 2000 SOC for nonstatistical purposes have played no role in its development, nor will OMB modify the classification to meet the requirements of any nonstatistical program.

Consequently, as has been the case with the 1980 SOC (Statistical Policy Directive No. 10, Standard Occupational Classification), the SOC is not to be used in any administrative, regulatory, or tax program unless the head of the agency administering that program has first determined that the use of such occupational definitions is appropriate to the implementation of the program's objectives.


Last Modified Date: June 23, 2022