• Fraser Harper

Do occupation data refreshes tell us anything about changes in job content?

O*NET, the US Occupational Network database, has been running since 2003 and provides detailed work content data across around 1000 occupations1. It is widely used for research2 and for tackling practical operation issues3. It is updated through two prime means: a regular annual update of around 100 occupations, and a rolling update across all occupations primarily sourcing data from online job postings4. This is further supplemented by focused work on hot technologies5 and the green economy6. O*NET provides details of the various updates it makes on an on-going basis and some of the details of this are shown in the table below. The average currency of the data in O*NET is 2.59 years7.Table 1: Profile of Updates across the O*NET databaseJob Content Data Category20192018YearOccupations UpdatedNumber of Occupations UpdatedAbilities0992003854Alternate titles5094142004528Detailed work activities0322005610Education0992006522Interests002007359Job zone0992008817Knowledge0992009434Sample of reported titles01172010997Skills0992011381Tasks0992012177Technology skills and tools1561732013229Work activities0992014974Work context0992015841Work styles0992016874Work values00201743320187972019*572

Source: O*NET Center using the two updates issued for 2019; * next update due is August 2019

It is clear from Table 1 that the prime driver for the updates are twofold: the annual review across 100 or so occupations, and the more frequent review’s sourcing data from online job postings. Taking just the technology skills data (Table 2) and extracting a few examples to illustrate what it contains, we see the large number of the occupations (70-80%+) which have a common set of software technology skills. If we delve a little further and look at a few specific occupations we see a very clear pattern of very high information processing occupations (e.g. General and Operations Managers, Computer and Information Systems Managers) and others with very low information software usage (e.g. Wellhead Pumpers, Refuse Collectors, Packers and Packagers, see Table 3).

There are anomalies however and the Chief Sustainability Officers only score ‘12’ on the same basis shown in Table 3.Table 2: Sample of Technology SkillsSoftware Technology Skills ItemNumber of Items included in O*NETNumber of OccupationsSpreadsheet16858Word processing96802Data base user interface and query907727Analytical and scientific1692366

Source: O*NET Center – sample extracted from 141 types of software technology skills

Table 3: Examples of Information Use and Dependency for selected OccupationsOccupationTechnology Skills (Software) CountChief Executive46General and Operations Manager128Computer and Information Systems Manager175Pathologist96Wellhead pumpers4Refuse collectors4Packers and Packagers8

Source: O*NET Center

What this initial examination of the refresh data used by O*NET suggests is that there may be some useful indices to be derived to monitor the changing nature of an occupation from an information usage and skills requirement basis.


  1. O*NET (2012) O*NET Data Collection Program. Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor. 84 pages

  2. Peterson, N.G. et al (2001) “Understanding work using the Occupational Information Network (O*NET): Implications for practice and research”, Personnel Psychology, 54, 451-492; National Research Council (2010) A Database for a Changing Economy: Review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). National Academic Press, Washington DC. 232 pages

  3. Garcia, F.E.; Gasch, J.L. and Wertheim, M.L. (2002) Workforce assessment of information technology sailors. CAN Corporation, Alexandria, Virginia. 104 pages. Explores the use of SkillObjectsTM to match with National Occupational Standards where the SkillObjects are families of tasks that are performed on the job together, are trained together, or are evaluated in a similar fashion. Each SkillObjects contains the associated knowledge, skills, abilities and tools (KSATs) (Page 10); Handel, M.J. (2016) “The O*NET content model: strengths and limitations”, Journal of Labour Market Research, 49, 157-176

  4. O*NET Occupation Update Summary see: https://www.onetcenter.org/dataUpdates.html

  5. O*NET Hot Technologies see: https://wwwonetcenter.org/search/hot_tech/ and Lewis, P. and Norton, J. (2016) Identification of “Hot Technologies” within the O*NET system. US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. 12 pages

  6. National Center for O*NET Development (2013) Greening of the World of Work: O*NET Projects Book of References. US Department of Labor, Employment and Training. 124 pages

  7. National Research Council (2010) Op. Cit.

#DataAnalysis #ITSkills #onet

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All