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Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System

What is the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System?

The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system was created by federal government agencies in order to meet their need for a single job classification system that could be used for all federal statistical reporting.

The current, 2000, version of the SOC system, like previous versions, is hierarchical. It is divided into 23 major occupational groups. These 23 major groups are subdivided further into 96 minor groups. Each major group contains two to nine minor groups, with three or four minor group members being the typical number in the major group. There are 449 broad occupations in the minor groups. The broad occupations are further subdivided into 821 specific occupations. [The counts for the immediately preceding version, SOC 1998, were: 23, 98, 452, and 822, respectively.] Some broad occupations only have one detailed occupation. Most have a number of detailed occupations.

The detailed occupation of "Education Administrators, Postsecondary," for example, flows down from the major group "Management Occupations." Each specific SOC occupation has its own title, code, and definition.

The six-digit SOC codes aid in the identification of occupational levels. The first two digits correspond to the major group, the third to the minor group, the fourth and fifth to the broad occupation, and the sixth to the detailed occupation.  

The SOC System classifies all legitimate, compensated work done in the United States into one of its categories. The system also allows for the creation of statistical reports with varying degrees of specificity, depending on the level of classification (major, minor, broad, or detailed) chosen for analysis. There is a provision for locally expanding the system for those who require more detail than that provided by the SOC.


What are the benefits of using the SOC? 


1. Responding to and using job surveys:

Several employment surveys are conducted by the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The Occupational Employment Survey (OES) is conducted once a year. Every year, every large employer is polled. Every three years, small businesses are polled. The average survey form is 45 pages long. Previously, state agencies were relieved of the burden of responding to these forms because the responses could be prepared using PMIS class codes (Personnel Management Information System).

Because of the change in Role codes, positions were not identified in sufficient detail to accurately respond to this survey. By assigning SOC codes to positions, data for state government can be collected without requiring agencies to fill out traditional survey forms. Furthermore, state agencies frequently respond to or seek information from other employers when they request employment data. Such information exchanges will be facilitated by SOC codes. Furthermore, SOC codes will make it easier to match agency data with data reported by other government agencies, individual employers, and private salary and employment data publishers.


2. Recruiting applicants:

The SOC is the fundamental classification system used by employment services in state employment security agencies such as the VEC. It also serves as the foundation for the systems used by America's Job Bank. The use of SOCs by agencies will make it easier for them to list jobs with the VEC and use AJB. It will also make it easier for job seekers to find state jobs because it reflects a more widespread and common understanding of jobs and their titles.


3. Staffing and career management:

The SOC's extra detail will help agencies better use and apply career data from sources like the Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*NET, an automated resource that replaced the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT).  It will make it easier to identify relationships within and between Roles, as well as evaluate career advancement options. It will assist agencies in developing staffing and competency-based plans, as well as in identifying related positions and similar employees when staffing reductions are necessary. Furthermore, assigning SOC codes to positions will improve state HR professionals' understanding of their agency's staff in terms of the larger world of work.

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