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Occupational Requirements Survey

Sedentary strength requirements

The Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS) provides information about the physical demands for civilian workers in the U.S. economy. The job requirements reflect those necessary for workers to perform critical tasks in support of the critical job functions, and not the capabilities of individual workers. The ORS’ strength estimates are part of the physical demands provided by the ORS program.

The ORS publishes five strength levels (sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy), which are based on the job requirements for performing physical demands within specific weight classes and the duration of these demands.

In 2018, a medium strength level was required for 35.5 percent of workers in the U.S. economy. Sedentary and light strength levels were each required for 26.6 percent of workers. A heavy strength level was required for 9.6 percent of workers and 1.7 percent had a very heavy strength level. (See Chart A.)

Chart A. Percent of civilian workers by strength levels (sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy).      


Calculating strength level estimates

Strength levels are calculated from the weight and duration associated with lifting, carrying, and in some cases, standing or walking. A duration chart is used to calculate the amount of time spent lifting or carrying. There are four categories of time in relation to an individual’s workday schedule: seldom (up to 2 percent), occasional (2 percent to one-third), frequent (one-third to two-thirds), and constant (two-thirds or more). “None” and “negligible weight” are additional categories.

For example, if workers deliver items weighing between 21-50 pounds occasionally, then the job would be classified as a medium strength level. However, if they delivered slightly heavier items (26-50 pounds) frequently, then the job would be classified as a heavy strength level.

Table 1. Determining strength level based on duration of lifting or carrying
Strength level Duration of lifting or carrying
Seldom Occasionally Frequently Constantly

Light work

11-20 pounds 11-20 pounds 1-10 pounds Negligible weight

Medium work

21-50 pounds 21-50 pounds 11-25 pounds 1-10 pounds

Heavy work

51-100 pounds 51-100 pounds 26-50 pounds 11-20 pounds

Very heavy work

>100 pounds >100 pounds >50 pounds >20 pounds
Table 2. Special cases for calculating strength level
Strength level Description


If it is unknown whether lifting or carrying occurs occasionally, frequently, or constantly or none of the conditions in the strength level chart are met and standing or walking or sitting are unknown.


If none of the conditions in the strength level chart are met and standing or walking occurs less than or equal to 1/3 of the work schedule.

Light work

If none of the conditions in the strength chart are met and does not meet the special conditions for unknown or sedentary.

Sedentary strength level

Strength is considered sedentary when none of the conditions in the strength chart are met and standing or walking is less than or equal to one-third of the work schedule or work day (see Tables 1 and 2).

Table 3 provides the percent of workers with a sedentary strength level by occupation. Some examples include bill and account collectors (97.4 percent), financial analysts (96.8 percent), data entry keyers (96.6 percent), tellers (19.8 percent), and teacher assistants (9.3 percent) with a sedentary strength level.

Table 3. Percent of civilian workers with a sedentary strength level by occupation, 2018
Occupation Percent

Bill and account collectors


Financial analysts


Data entry keyers


Software developers, applications


Computer systems analysts


Payroll and timekeeping clerks




Insurance underwriters


Tax preparers




Software quality assurance engineers and testers


Insurance sales agents


Management analysts


Human resources specialists


Wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products


General and operations managers


Child, family, and school social workers


Mental health and substance abuse social workers


Property, real estate, and community association managers


Dental hygienists


Construction managers


Medical and health services managers


Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products


Social and human service assistants


Education administrators, elementary and secondary school




Teacher Assistants


Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Requirements Survey

Additional information

For more information about ORS collection processes see the collection materials. The ORS Handbook of Methods provides details on sampling methodology, calculations, weighting, and history of the ORS program. More information is available at