Teacher's guide

Dear Teacher:

The Occupational Outlook Handbook—updated every 2 years by the Bureau of Labor Statistics—is a career reference that describes the job duties, working conditions, education and training requirements, earnings levels, current employment levels, projected employment change, and employment prospects for hundreds of occupations. It presents the results of research and analysis conducted by the Bureau's Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, along with related information, to help students and job seekers identify and learn about careers.

Career information for younger students is accessible on the BLS kids' page, which lists and explains many occupations found in the Handbook using simpler language. Occupations are grouped by area of interest, such as reading, math, science, or nature.

Navigating this Web site

There are many ways to find information about a particular occupation described on this site. A search box can be found at the top of each page, together with a link to the site's alphabetical index of occupations. Moreover, on the right side of the page, a navigational bar lists the broad groups into which the occupations in the Handbook are categorized. These groups are based on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system.

About the information in the Handbook Back to Top Back to Top

The 2008-09 edition of the Handbook includes subsections within several sections of each occupational description to help the reader find specific information. The new format is as follows:

  • Significant Points
  • Nature of the Work
    • Work environment
  • Training, other Qualifications, and Advancement
    • Education and training
    • Licensure (or "Licensure and certification" if a certification is required)
    • Other qualifications (or "Certification and other qualifications" if entry-level certifications exist)
    • Advancement (or "Certification and advancement" if voluntary certifications exist)
  • Employment
  • Job Outlook
    • Employment change
    • Job Prospects
  • Earnings
  • Related Occupations
  • Sources of Additional Information

Sections of Occupational Descriptions

The Significant Points section highlights the most important occupational characteristics.

The Nature of the Work section describes typical job duties. In some cases, relevant occupational specialties and job titles are discussed. The Work environment subsection describes typical working hours and any health risks or other drawbacks associated with the occupation. Information in this subsection was formerly included in the "Working Conditions" section of previous editions of the Handbook.

The Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement section describes the education and training generally required to enter the occupation, as well as advancement opportunities. This section begins with a few sentences highlighting the most important points. The Education and training subsection describes any formal education or training required to enter the occupation. The Licensure subsection details any mandatory licenses to work in the occupation. In cases where there are no mandatory licenses or certifications, this subsection is not included. The Other qualifications subsection discusses personal characteristics or skills that are often important for success in the occupation. The Advancement subsection discusses various ways workers can enhance their careers through experience in the occupation.

The Employment section gives the total number of jobs in the occupation and sometimes describes the industries, States, or occupational specialties that offer the most jobs.

The Job Outlook section describes the forecast of jobs in the occupation and, similar to the Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement section discussed above, this section begins with a sentence or two highlighting the most important points. The Employment change subsection discusses the projected change in the number of jobs in the occupation and the economic factors that are driving job growth or decline. The Job prospects subsection describes the expected degree of competition in the job market, as well as any education, training, or personal characteristics that would provide job seekers the best prospects.

The Earnings section provides statistics on median earnings and earnings of workers in the top 10 percent and bottom 10 percent. Earnings usually vary by experience, qualifications, industry, and geographic location.

The Related Occupations section lists other occupations in the Handbook that have similar job duties or other characteristics.

The Sources of Additional Information section lists outside associations and organizations involved with the occupation, and may help those who have additional questions not covered in the Handbook. These sources are provided as a service to readers, but they are not endorsed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

About the Projections Back to Top Back to Top

Employment projections are based on assumptions of economic and labor force growth. These assumptions reflect long-term trends, but because the economy is affected by unforeseeable events, assumptions and projections are subject to error. Refer to Assumptions and Methods Used in Preparing Employment Projections.

When describing projected job growth in an occupation, the Handbook uses phrases such as "faster than average," "average," and "slower than average." Average refers to the projected job growth for all occupations combined. Employment projections are national in scope and do not always reflect local conditions. State employment projections may be found here. In addition, projections describe expected employment change over the entire forthcoming decade; job change could be expected to vary within that 10-year period. Furthermore, many job openings do not stem from job growth but rather from the need to replace workers who retire or permanently leave an occupation for other reasons. In the case of occupations for which replacement needs are particularly significant, these job openings are discussed.

To learn more about using the Handbook, see Occupational Information Included in the Handbook. For answers to frequently asked questions, please see our FAQ page.

Other Career-Related Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Back to Top Back to Top

In addition to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has developed other sources of career information that might be useful to teachers and students. One source is the Occupational Outlook Quarterly-a career guidance magazine that includes articles about specific occupations and industries, types of training and education, and methods for exploring careers and finding jobs. This magazine also previews occupations that will be added to the next edition of the Handbook, summarizes current labor market research, and presents profiles of unusual careers.

As a companion publication to the Handbook, the Bureau's Career Guide to Industries provides career guidance information from an industry perspective. It describes employment opportunities and prospects in many industries, along with a description of the industry, key occupations in the industry, and training requirements for these occupations.

For the most detailed employment projections, visit the Employment Projections Web site. This site includes prepared tables, searchable databases, and technical publications about the projections.

For comprehensive data on employment and earnings by occupation, see the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey homepage. The OES Survey provides earnings and employment data for more than 700 occupations and shows how earnings and employment vary by geographic area and industry. For comprehensive data on earnings, hours, and employment by industry, see the Current Employment Statistics (CES) Survey homepage. To get data for a specific industry or group of industries, create a customized table.

To find employment and earnings data related to demographic variables—such as age, sex, race, and educational attainment—visit the Current Population Survey homepage.

More Career Information Back to Top Back to Top

The U.S. Department of Labor—of which the Bureau of Labor Statistics is a part—offers additional career information useful to students. The Department of Labor's Youth Rules! site uses simple language to explain the laws that govern youth employment. America's Career One Stop provides links to career resources, including a library of occupational information. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) provides information on occupations such as major tasks, physical requirements, and required skills using information from the Handbook and from interviews with workers in the occupation. Career assessments and other teaching tools also are included. Career Voyages—a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education—offers career-related posters, brochures, and information about occupations and industries.

The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of lesson plans on the Web site Gateway to 21st Century Skills. Some of these lesson plans relate to careers and can be adapted for use with the Handbook.

NOTE: Back to Top Back to Top

The text in the Occupational Outlook Handbook is in the public domain and can be reproduced without further permission. The Bureau requests appropriate citations. In addition, one may link to this site without obtaining special permission. Information from the Handbook will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice Phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.


Last Modified Date: August 4, 2008