What Is the Occupational Outlook Handbook?

Definition & Examples of the Occupational Outlook Handbook

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The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a career resource with information about the majority of U.S. jobs.

Learn more about the handbook and how to use it.

What Is the Occupational Outlook Handbook?

The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a career guide developed and maintained by the U.S. Government's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It provides information on a wide range of occupations. For each profession, it describes what workers do on the job, working conditions, required training and education, earnings, and expected job prospects.

The BLS is an independent national statistical agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates essential statistical data to the American public, the U.S. Congress, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and business and labor. The BLS also serves as a statistical resource to the Department of Labor.

BLS data must satisfy several criteria, including relevance to current social and economic issues, timeliness in reflecting today’s rapidly changing economic conditions, consistent accuracy and high statistical quality, and impartiality in both subject matter and presentation.

How the Occupational Outlook Handbook Works

The Occupational Outlook Handbook is an excellent resource for job seekers and career changers. One way to start is to use the Occupational Outlook Handbook A–Z Index to browse a list of all the occupations included and then conduct in-depth research by reviewing the detailed descriptions of occupations that sound appealing. 

You can also look at clusters. The Occupational Outlook Handbook organizes information about occupations into 25 major groups. Users can scan groups that seem related to their interests and find lists of specific jobs related to the group in order to investigate options.

Occupational clusters in the Occupational Outlook Handbook include:

  • Architecture and engineering
  • Arts and design
  • Community and social service management
  • Computer and information technology
  • Construction and extraction
  • Education, training, and library
  • Entertainment and sports
  • Farming, fishing, and forestry
  • Food preparation and serving
  • Health care
  • Legal
  • Military
  • Office and administrative support
  • Personal care and service

You can also browse information in the Occupational Outlook Handbook by:

  • Growth rate: Browing careers by potential growth can help you assess whether a prospective field will grow by the time you finish your education or transition back into the workplace. This information is also included in the handbook's job descriptions.
  • Projected number of new jobs: You can also browse by which fields are projected to have the most jobs. This is different from growth rate, as a field with very few jobs could add a small number of jobs and grow quickly. This statistic looks at how many new jobs will be available, which doesn't necessarily mean that field is growing. It may be a career with a high turnover like bartending.
  • Median pay: This can help you look at which careers have the highest pay. Keep in mind that pay varies significantly depending on where you live. Median pay is the mid-point of all salaries in a given occupation. For example, if a career has a median pay of $80,000, half of the people in that occupation make more and half make less.

The Occupation Finder

The Occupation Finder allows you to filter a list of occupations in the handbook by combining any of five factors: median pay, level of education, whether on-the-job training is required, projected number of new jobs, and projected level of growth. 

Job Descriptions

The site also has detailed descriptions of many jobs. For each occupation included, the handbook provides a helpful summary of the job with brief references to median pay, education required, work experience required, on-the-job training, number of jobs, job outlook, and projected changes in employment.

For example, the description of a Registered Nurse offers information about what nurses actually do on the job, including the specific types of tasks that are carried out.

The work environment is detailed, including the types of employers where one might work and the stresses encountered on the job. It also explains the process of how to become a registered nurse, including education, licenses, and important qualities to have.

It also has detailed information about the average pay and range of pay, including the top 10% and bottom 10%, along with pay differences within various occupational settings within the field.

If you're looking at a job description that interests you but doesn't seem quite right, click on the "Similar Occupations" tab to see careers with similar duties.

Key Takeaways

  • The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a career resource with information about the majority of U.S. jobs. 
  • It's developed and maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • Use it to explore careers by looking at occupational clusters, sorting by factors like growth rate, and looking at job descriptions.