Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

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Labor Market Information Center

Standard Occupational Classification system (SOC)

LMIC uses the Standard Occupational Classification system (SOC) to ensure consistent and accurate tabulation of employment, wage and projections data by occupation. SOC is a federal statistical standard used by federal and state agencies to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating or disseminating data.

The SOC system classifies all occupations in the economy, including private, public and military occupations. It is designed to reflect the current occupational composition in the U.S. and to cover all occupations in which work is performed for pay or profit. Information about occupations—such as employment levels and projections, pay and benefits, skills required, and demographic characteristics of job holders—is widely used by individuals, businesses, researchers, educators and public policy-makers.

The SOC system is updated every few years as needed to better accommodate ongoing changes in occupations for reasons such as technological advancements and new business practices.

The SOC is designed exclusively for statistical purposes. Although the SOC may also be used for various non-statistical purposes (e.g., for administrative, regulatory or taxation functions), the requirements of government agencies, businesses or private users that choose to use the SOC for non-statistical purposes play no role in the development or revision of the SOC. The appropriateness of using the SOC for non-statistical purposes must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

All workers are classified into one of 867 detailed occupations according to their occupational definition. To facilitate classification, detailed occupations are combined to form 459 broad occupations, 98 minor groups, and 23 major groups. Detailed occupations in the SOC with similar job duties, and in some cases skills, education and/or training, are grouped together. The table below illustrates the hierarchy of the SOC system.

SOC Hierarchy Number of Digits Example Number 
Major Groups 2 17-0000 Architecture and Engineering Occupations 23
Minor Groups 3 17-1000 Architects, Surveyors and Cartographers 98
Broad Occupations 5 17-1010 Architects, Except Naval 459
Detailed Occupations 6 17-1011 Architects, Except Landscape and Naval 867

The level of detail at which occupational data is published is determined to some degree by the amount of data available at each level. LMIC publishes data at detail occupation level to the extent possible, if disclosure restrictions are met. In accordance with U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) policy, data are not published for any occupation when necessary to protect the identity of cooperating employers.

Learn more about the SOC system on the BLS website.

Correlation with O*Net

Workforce data users familiar with the O*Net classification system for occupations (see the O*Net Online resource for more information) will see the correlation between the two classification systems. The first six digits of occupational codes in the O*Net system match the SOC code of coordinating occupations. The only major difference is the O*Net system uses an additional two digits in some cases to break occupations down into even more specialized categories. The table below illustrates this, using the example of registered nursing occupations.

SOC Code SOC Title O*Net Code O*Net Title
29-1141 Registered Nurses 29.1141.00 Registered Nurses
  21.1141.01 Acute Care Nurses
21.1141.02 Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurses
21.1141.03 Critical Care Nurses
21.1141.04 Critical Nurse Specialists