Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) The SOC was first released in 1977 and was intended to provide a mechanism for cross-referencing and aggregating occupation-related data collected by social and economic statistical reporting programs. This work began in 1966 to address a long-standing need to establish a single occupational classification system for governmental agencies. As noted above, the SOC has been revised and is intended to be the primary occupational category system used by all federal agencies (Office of Management and Budget, 1997).

All federal agencies that collect occupational data will use the new system; similarly, all state and local government agencies are strongly encouraged to use this national system to promote a common language for categorizing occupations. The new SOC system will be used by the OES program of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for gathering occupational information. It will also replace the Census Bureau's 1990 occupational classification system and will be used for the 2000 census. In addition, the new SOC will serve as the framework for information being gathered through the Department of Labor's Occupational Information Network (O*NET™), which is in the process of replacing the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.

The revision process of the SOC began with the establishment of the Standard Occupational Classification Revision Policy Committee (SOCRPC). The SOCRPC used the Bureau of Labor Statistics' OES system, together with O*NET™, as the starting points for the new SOC framework. It laid out 10 criteria for revising the SOC (Box 5.1). Although these are similar to the principles outlined for the original system, there are some important differences. The scope of the SOC is extended to include "all occupations in which work is performed for pay or profit"; only occupations unique to volunteers are excluded. Wording was added to the second principle, reflecting that the structure should be flexible enough to assimilate new occupations as they become known, a feature of particular importance in light of the changing context and content of work. A new principle, the third, indicates the need for a linkage with past systems. The fourth principle significantly extends the kinds of factors that would be used to classify occupations, from just work performed, to work performed plus skills, education, training, licensing, and credentials.

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