by Tom Melander

Ever wonder how your salary compares to what other people in your occupation earn? What other sorts of jobs you might qualify for? How much demand there is in your field, in Minnesota, or in the U.S.? The first step to answering any of these questions is finding your job in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC).



SOC it to me!


Tell me, what do you do? No, that’s your job title. Hmm, nice elevator speech, but that’s not what I’m after either. I’m talking about your SOC, your Standard Occupational Classification.


The SOC is how the federal government classifies all of our jobs and collects data, or what they call labor market information. This data is really the language of the labor market, and you can use it to find a new job, a new career, negotiate a raise, or figure out if your job outlook is bright and sunny (keep an eye out for the little sunshine icons). There are more than 800 job titles in this list, and at least one of them more or less describes what you do.


By far the easiest way I know to figure out your SOC is to use the Occupation Search tool at O*NET, which is short for Occupational Information Network. There is a ton of really useful information on this site and great tools for planning your career. For now, let’s stick to the task at hand: figuring out your SOC. All you need to do is to go to the site, find the Occupational Search tool on the right side of the screen, and type in your job title. Then, up comes a list of occupations ranked by relevance to the title you entered.  There is a number next to each job title. The SOC code is the first six digits of that number [xx-xxxx] and the O*NET code is all eight digits [xx-xxxx.xx]. The government collects data collection on wages, job vacancies, and employment outlook by SOC.


You might need to try a few different keywords and read a few descriptions before you find the one that best describes your job. Once you think you’ve figured out your SOC, take some time to study the Summary Report. It should sound like what you do.


By completing this exercise, you’ve taken the first step toward being in the driver’s seat on your career. Once you know your broad occupational classification, you’ll be able to get the best use out of online tools, to learn about things like:


  • The average pay in your occupation (this can help you negotiate a raise or evaluate a job offer)
  • The employment outlook in your occupation (remember the sunshine icons)
  • Whether or not you’re in an occupation that’s greening
  • How to move into a new career that can make use of the knowledge, skills, and abilities you used in your last occupation.


Good luck, and let know how it goes.