Occupational Outlook Handbook

Occupational Outlook HandbookCareer researchers and counselors emphasize the value of accurate information in the career planning process, and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) is the most widely used source of occupational information in existence. Drawing on an ongoing U.S. Department of Labor data collection project, the OOH is a print and Internet reference designed to provide essential information to individuals exploring their career possibilities. The Handbook covers around 270 occupations—accounting for nearly 90 percent of the U.S. labor force—and allots about two to three double-columned pages of text to each entry. In doing so, the OOH attempts to present the concise balance of occupational breadth and depth that readers need to develop an initial understanding of occupational paths worthy of further consideration.

Despite differing focus areas, most models of career development view effective career decision making as an integration of self-knowledge and occupational knowledge. Self-knowledge includes information obtained via interest inventories, aptitude tests, and other assessment techniques, while occupational knowledge implies a realistic, fact-based understanding of the world of work. As a person acquires self-knowledge, this usually stimulates a search for corresponding occupational knowledge: Which occupations will allow me to work with my hands, interact with people, make at least $50,000 per year, or operate my own business? The Occupational Outlook Handbook is an encyclopedia of answers to such questions.

All Occupational Outlook Handbook entries are organized according to a common set of category headings. A Significant Points section presents a few of each occupation’s most important characteristics or trends. Nature of the Work describes common job duties and day-to-day work activities. Working Conditions addresses the work environment, including hours, extent of travel, psychological stressors, and physical demands. An Employment section lists the total number of jobs that the occupation contributes to the labor market, as well as a breakdown of job numbers by various industries. Training, Qualifications, and Advancement delineates the experiences and credentials required to enter and progress within the occupation. Job Outlook projects the number of openings expected over a 10-year period given trends in job turnover and new growth, while Earnings presents salary averages and ranges. Finally, each entry offers a short list of Related Occupations, as well as a few Sources of Additional Information, such as professional association Web sites.

The Internet has transformed the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Though it continues to be published as a text, the OOH is also now available as a free online search engine, allowing people to locate information under various topic areas or by occupational keyword. Upon locating occupations of interest, Web users can download entire OOH entries or find answers to specific questions via an interactive menu of the aforementioned category headings (e.g., Earnings). The popularity of this new resource is evident in the 5.5 million hits it receives each month. With this advance in technology, a broader audience is utilizing the OOH in their career decision making.

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  1. Farr, J. M. and Shatkin, L. 2005. Enhanced Occupational Outlook Handbook. Indianapolis, IN: JIST.
  2. U.S. Department of Labor. 2004. Occupational Outlook Handbook: 2004-2005. Indianapolis, IN: JIST.