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Occupational Requirements Survey

ORS Technical Notes

The Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS) is conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The ORS is an establishment-based survey and provides job-related information about the physical demands; environmental conditions; education, training, and experience; as well as cognitive and mental requirements in the U.S. economy.

Estimates for detailed occupations and occupational groups are available through the public query tools and dataset (XLSX).

Sample size

The sample size for the current estimates is provided in the technical note of the news release.

Measures of reliability

To assist users in ascertaining the reliability of ORS estimates, standard errors are also available for each estimate. Standard errors provide users a measure of the precision of an estimate to ensure that it is within an acceptable range for their intended purpose.

Technical documentation

See the Handbook of Methods and collection manuals.


General terms

  • Job – group of workers in an establishment that have the same position. The term job refers to a single position within an establishment, whereas occupation refers to a profession or trade. Example: “waiters at Smith’s Restaurant” is a job, whereas “waiters” is an occupation.
  • Civilian workers – includes private industry and state and local government workers. Excluded are the federal government, the military, agricultural workers, private household workers, and the self-employed.
  • Duration levels:
    • Seldom – up to 2 percent of the workday
    • Occasionally – from 2 percent up to 1/3 of the workday
    • Frequently – from 1/3 up to 2/3 of the workday
    • Constantly – from 2/3 or more of the workday

Education, training, and experience

  • Preparation time – the amount of time required by a typical worker to learn the techniques, acquire the information, and develop the facility needed for average performance in a specific job/worker situation. This is also referred to as specific vocational preparation (SVP) and is measure in nine levels from a “short demonstration” to “over 10 years”. For more information see the Calculation section of the Handbook of Methods.
  • Minimum education – the lowest level of formal coursework required in a job and excludes general education, see the minimum formal education requirements factsheet for more information.
  • On-the-job training – the amount of training time that occurs after an employee has been hired.
  • Prior work experience – the amount of prior relevant work activity. This excludes any non-vocationally specific requirements.
  • Credentials includes requirements for certifications, licenses, educational certificates, and other types of pre-employment training.
    • A certification is issued by a certification body, industry association, or professional association and acknowledges that occupation specific skills and abilities exist, and expires if not renewed.
    • A license is issued by a government agency and constitutes a legal authority to perform a specific occupation. Similar to a certification, a license expires if not renewed.
    • An educational certificate is issued by an educational institution (or a training provider) and certifies that an occupation specific program of study was completed. Educational certificates typically do not expire.
    • Other credentials are vocationally relevant but not specific to an occupation, and may include any credentials issued by a standardized body, may be relevant for a wide variety of jobs and occupations, and may expire or be valid for life. This category includes time spent in vocationally relevant credit and non-credit courses that do not result in a degree, license, certification, or educational certificate.


  • Extreme cold – 40 degrees or below when exposed 2/3 or more of the workday or 32 degrees or below when exposed up to 2/3 of the workday.
  • Extreme heat – above 90 degrees in a dry environment or above 85 degrees in a humid environment.
  • Hazardous contaminants – exposure that negatively affects the respiratory system, eyes, skin, or other living tissue via inhalation, ingestion, or contact.
  • Noise intensity level – amount of noise that a worker experiences while working. Examples of noise level:
    • Quiet – settings such as a private office or art museum;
    • Moderate – business office, department store, fast food restaurant;
    • Loud – large earth moving equipment or can manufacturing department;
    • Very loud – rock concert or jackhammer work.
  • Outdoors– is considered present when two conditions exist, (1) a worker performs typical job duties outdoors or a worker moves between different work sites during the workday and (2) a worker is unprotected and exposed to the elements.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) – gear used or worn to minimize exposure to serious workplace injuries and illnesses.
  • Proximity to moving mechanical parts – refers to moving materials, mechanical parts, settings, or any moving objects that could cause bodily injury.
  • High and exposed places – when a worker is at risk of falling five feet or more from the worker’s center of gravity.


  • Fine manipulation is defined as picking, pinching, touching or otherwise working primarily with fingers rather than the whole hand or arm. Entering data on traditional keyboards or 10-key pads is excluded from fine manipulation and included as a keyboarding requirement. Some examples of fine manipulation include:
    • musicians playing a piano keyboard;
    • bartenders entering a drink order into a touch screen point-of-service system;
    • cashiers using a register with a hybrid keyboard;
    • dental hygienists using tools to scrape tartar off of a patient’s teeth;
    • scientists using a pipette to dispense a solution;
    • electricians using small tools to rewire a lamp.
  • Gross manipulation is defined as seizing, holding, grasping, turning, or otherwise working with the hand(s). This includes instances when fingers are used as an extension of the hand to hold or operate a tool. Some examples of gross manipulation include:
    • teachers using a board eraser;
    • goalies turning a hockey stick;
    • welders using tin snips;
    • truck drivers operating a steering wheel and gear shift;
    • artists drawing (whether with a stylus, pencil, or some other device).
  • Strength level – A job is classified into strength five levels: sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. The strength level is determined by how much weight a worker is required to lift or carry, how often they have to lift or carry that weight, as well as standing and walking in some special cases. Pushing or pulling – Pushing or pulling can be done with the hands and arms, feet and legs, or feet only. Additional detail on the calculation of strength levels is available in the Handbook of Methods.
  • Sitting - is present when either condition exists:
    • Workers remain in a seated position. This includes active sitting. For example, a police officer riding a bicycle to patrol traffic or a landscaper mowing a residential lawn in a seated mower. Riding a bicycle includes pushing or pulling with feet and legs; while mowing may include gross manipulation or pulling and pulling with the hands and arms.
    • Workers are lying down. This includes active lying down. For example, a mechanic lying on a dolly working underneath a vehicle is sitting.
  • Standing or walking - workers may choose between sitting and standing for a given task.
    • For example, office workers can choose a standing desk. Standing or walking is present whenever workers are not sitting or lying down. This includes time spent in “low postures” such as stooping, crawling, kneeling, crouching, or climbing. For example, pest control workers crawling in an attic to apply pesticides or workers who stand their entire shift except during paid breaks.