O*NET OnLine: The interactive occupational information network (Part I)

By Zafer Sonmez

This is the first of two blog posts exploring O*Net Online, and how it can be useful for workforce development agencies in advancing our green economy (Part II is here). The online tools and information provided by O*NET, the occupational information network, and its complementary databases can help with defining green occupations and analyzing skill gaps, transferability and educational requirements.

The transition to a green economy is causing big changes in employment demand and worker requirements such as tasks, skills, knowledge, and credentials. In this process, the importance of systematic, up-to-date data is critical in advancing workforce development goals.

The O*NET database, maintained by the U.S. Department of Labor, is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. It contains information on hundreds of occupational characteristics. The publicly accessible database is continually updated by surveying a broad range of workers from each occupation. The latest dataset is for 2014, but the database contains projections for the period of 2014-2014. O*NET OnLine, an interactive application for exploring and searching occupations, forms the heart of the O*NET database. O*NET Resource Center is a complementary application that offers various skills assessment tools.

O*NET OnLine’s interface is relatively simple and user friendly. The occupational search area of O*NET OnLine targets searches towards green occupations. The system currently allows searches for twelve green economy sectors and the green economy as a whole (1). When a specific green economy sector is selected, a detailed table with a list of occupations relevant to that sector appears on the screen. Besides the occupational title, the table contains information about the SOC codes (2), the level of demand for that occupation and green skills needed.

Clicking on an occupation generates a summary report that first defines the occupation selected and then provides detailed information on more than a dozen aspects of that occupation including:

  • tasks performed in that occupation
  • technology skills required
  • educational degrees needed
  • knowledge base
  • detailed work activities
  • work-zone
  • work context
  • work-style
  • credentials

In addition, there is information related to wages and employment trends in that occupation (such as current employment level, projected growth rate, anticipated number of job openings in the next ten years, median local wages etc.).

Finally, there is a link to Job Postings on the Web where searches can be carried out for specific occupations. Job postings on the CareerOneStop, which is accessed through the database, are updated daily and searches can be done at the zip-code level.

The Credentials section deserves a little more attention. It contains occupational information linked with national and state level educational and industry databases, which workforce agencies might find particularly useful. Under the credentials section, the user can search for four different components: (1) Training, (2) Certifications, (3) Licenses, and (4) Apprenticeships. For example, if you are analyzing “Wind Tribune Service Technicians”, clicking on Training will list all educational institutions that offer a degree in that occupation (with the location of the school and the length of the program). Clicking on Apprenticeships will list the apprenticeship name and sponsor organizations in Illinois.

In order to generate occupation-specific training results, O*NET OnLine links occupational data from the Department of Labor with the information from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). For the apprenticeship results, O*NET OnLine links occupational data with the information from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship and from CareerOneStop. Unfortunately, it is currently not possible to run queries below state level under the Credentials section, but the state-level data can be analyzed further for smaller geographies such as counties or cities.

All information viewed online can be downloaded in CSV or XLS formats for future analysis. If the user thinks the information provided in the summary report is not sufficient or too much, he or she can generate a detailed report or a custom report. While the detailed report provides additional technical information related to different components of the selected occupation, a custom report allows the user to limit the report to information on certain occupational attributes.

Finally, searches can be targeted for “bright outlook occupations” which allows users to focus on rapid growth occupations (3), occupations with numerous job openings, and newly emerging occupations. For example, there are at least nine rapid growth occupations that are green.

Want to learn more?

A Database for a Changing Economy: Review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). National Research Council (U.S.) Panel to Review the Occupational Information Network (O*NET); Tippins, Nancy Thomas; Hilton, Margaret L National Academies Press, 2010.



(1) This classification roughly corresponds to clean economy segments analyzed in our report, “Sizing up Our Green Economy”.

(2) The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system is used by federal statistical agencies to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data. All workers are classified into one of 840 detailed occupations according to their occupational definition.

(3) These occupations are expected to grow much faster than average (employment increase of 14% or more) over the period 2014-2024.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s