Overview of O*NET and its Content Model

The Occupational Information Network or O*NET program is USA’s primary source of occupational information. The O*NET system uses a common language and terminology to describe occupational requirements, superseding in early 2000’s the older Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) which was established in 1930's.

There were problems identified with the DOT system owing to its primary focus on the tasks associated to an occupation since  each new job meant new task definitions leading to about 12000 listed occupations. Also absence of information on skills and knowledge required for a job meant it couldn’t be used to determine similarities between occupations.

The O*NET system was recommended to drastically reduce the number of occupations, as well as have multiple windows into the world of work. It was also recommended to have a hierarchical taxonomy and a common language to ensure cross – job skills and knowledge areas for comparisons. The taxonomies define an area comprehensively and thus make it possible to have a common language to compare. The hierarchical (organized in levels) nature makes it useful for comparison at different levels. As an example the skill taxonomy categorizes skill areas at the top most level as Basic Skills & Cross Functional Skills and further into 7 mid level and finally comprehensively defines 46 lower level skill areas (e.g. Reading, decision making etc.). Now data collected for careers on these 46 different skill areas makes it possible to compare and evaluate skill requirements across the world of work. Similarly there are taxonomies existing for knowledge areas, tasks, work activities and several other important aspects of the world of work.

O*NET’s career taxonomy provides details of 1,110 occupations covering the entire sphere of work and divided into a fivefold job zone system. There are job families, clusters and pathways which provide taxonomies at a higher level. Few free Career Exploration tools are provided to recommend careers to users and these assess individuals on single traits (like interest or values alone) and guide them to matching procedures.

Central to the project is the O*NET database, containing information on several occupation-specific descriptors and worker attributes. The database is available to the public free and is continually being updated based on surveys and analysis. The O*NET content model provides six main content domains and multiple major categories inside each domain. The content domains are like different windows (aspects) from which you can look at the world of work and see similarities and differences.  Details of the six content domains are identified below

Worker Characteristics

These are defined as attributes that influence the capacities they can ultimately develop as well as willingness to engage in certain kind of activities. Abilities, work styles, work values and interests are the sub domains of worker characteristics. These attributes more or less remain stable across an individuals lifetime and are thus most useful for career guidance and decision making.

Worker Requirements

These are attributes which are more amenable to change than the Worker Characteristics and are developed through education and experience. The sub domains include education, knowledge and skills . 

Occupational Requirements

These represent the characteristics of the work itself as against the descriptor of the worker. These describe the work activities and the context under which the work is performed

Experience Requirements

The experience requirements are the type and quantity of experiences required, including experience required, training, licenses and any other certification needs. This also lists the entry level skills required however currently the data for the same is not available. The primary use of the information is in career and vocational counseling, selection and promotions.

Occupation Characteristics

These are occupation specific aspects of the labor markets and include labor demand, labor supply and other labor market information which can help counselors and job seekers make more informed choices on the labor market situation as well as for government and other agencies to drive economic betterment and other similar initiatives.

Occupation-Specific Information

While the previous five content domains are for comparing across occupations, this content domain determines in-depth information on single jobs. The type of information includes detailed level tasks, skills and knowledge areas as well as information about duties, tools and equipments used. For this area since the data is highly dependent on the occupation, taxonomie do not exist.