Budtender, uber driver, drone technician . . . these occupations are among the strangest new careers of 2015, according to Parade
magazine. With continuous policy/social changes and advancement in technologies, new — and even somewhat unusual — occupations are emerging all of the time.
So, how do these peculiar occupations make their way among the more ordinary jobs in the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) data in North Carolina? Well, the 2010 version of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system is currently used to classify workers into occupational categories. There are 840 detailed occupations, broken into 461 broad occupations, 97 minor groups, and 23 major groups based on duties, and in some cases, skills, education, and/or training.
Since the first SOC was developed in 1977, there have been several revisions, with the next one scheduled for 2018. Changes for occupations are considered based on the nature of the work performed, how it is distinct from other occupations, what job titles the work falls under, and the number of workers in the occupation. More information can be found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics SOC web page.
There is no way to know what magnitude of changes to expect with the new revision, but the 2010 SOC revision added 24 new detailed occupations, including solar photovoltaic installers, and wind turbine service technicians — a reflection of the country’s increased focus on harnessing alternate power sources. And although the new occupations fell into several groups, most were classified under the Healthcare and Computer groups.
It is important to understand changes in the SOC designations for occupations for several reasons. First, and the most obvious, is that when new codes are included, there are data on those occupations that was not previously available. But, this refinement may also change existing occupations.
Consider the change that occurred in the 2010 SOC revision with Registered Nurses. There was a refinement in the occupation to break out Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Anesthetists, and Nurse Midwives from Registered Nurses so they were reported separately. If you were not aware of this change, you would think the number of Registered Nurses decreased from 91,310 in 2011 to 86,240 in 2012. In reality, as illustrated in the chart below, since the new occupational designations were separated, when considered together there was a growth of 500 in the comparable occupations.
While the process for updating coding systems like SOC takes quite a bit of time, it is ultimately important that all occupations — no matter how unusual — are assigned codes as they play a significant role in U.S. labor statistics, as well as organizations’ abilities to classify these jobs.
What new occupational codes will be added with the next SOC revision? It is hard to predict what may now be thought of as a radical or rare occupation, could one day be ordinary. Consider this: social media manager, application developer, and cloud computing servicer were occupations that, until a little more than 10 years ago, were nonexistent1, but are now integrated into the lexicons of Generations Y and Z. So, it’s not only possible, but probable that unusual occupations will eventually find their way into the SOC system.
1. Casserly, M. (2012, May) 10 Jobs That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago. Forbes