Occupational Information Network

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Occupational Information Network

O*NET, or the Occupational Information Network, is an electronic replacement for the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). Like the DOT, which was last published in 1991, O*NET provides a comprehensive database of worker attributes and job characteristics. By describing the tasks to be performed and the levels of education that must be achieved, the O*NET database can be used as a tool for training and education, career guidance, employment counseling, and for writing job descriptions.

The U.S. Department of Labor developed the DOT in the mid-1930s, soon after the federal-state employment service system was established. O*NET was also developed by and is supported by the U.S. Department of Labor. The main difference between the DOT and the O*NET database is the flexibility of the new database and its depth of information. Rather than having information for 12,000 occupations, as the DOT did, the O*NET database has 974 occupations which are related to a common framework describing job requirements and worker characteristics, the content, and the context of work. A second difference between the DOT and the O*NET database is that O*NET can be updated more frequently; the Department of Labor uses a data collection program that provides for an update to the database twice annually. The most recent update was in December 2004. Additionally, there is now a Spanish-language version of the O*NET database available.


O*NET can be used by many different people for a variety of reasons. Some of the uses for managers are:

  • Writing and updating job descriptions and job specifications
  • Developing criteria for recruitment and selection
  • Developing criteria for performance appraisal systems
  • Structuring training and development activities
  • Structuring compensation systems
  • Improving career counseling


The O*NET database provides a common language that can be used to communicate in different areas of the economy and in workforce development efforts. This common language provides definitions and concepts for describing worker attributes and workplace requirements that can be widely understood and accepted. Knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs), interests, content, and context of work are described in comprehensive terms, and there is a common frame of reference in O*NET for understanding how these characteristics relate to successful job performance. O*NET's common language is intended to

aid those who communicate about jobs in understanding one another, even when operating in different segments of the economy. The goal is for job descriptions and worker requirements to have the same meaning for human resource professionals, employees, educators, and students.

The conceptual foundation of the O*NET database is the Content Model; it provides a framework that identifies the most important types of information about work, integrating them into one system. Information in the model reflects both the character of occupations and of people, and it allows for information to be applied across jobs, sectors, or industries and within occupations. The Content Model was developed using research on job and organizational analysis, and thus has a strong theoretical and empirical foundation.

The Content Model has six domains:

  1. Worker Characteristicsenduring characteristics that might influence job performance and the ability to acquire knowledge and skills used for effective work performance; this includes abilities, interests, values, and work styles.
  2. Worker Requirementswork-related attributes gained and/or developed through a worker's education or experience; this includes knowledge, experience, and skills (basic skills and cross-functional skills).
  3. Experience Requirementsprevious activities, linked specifically to certain types of work activities that are required for effective job performance; this includes formal education, certifications, licensures, and training.
  4. Occupational Characteristicsglobal contextual characteristics that define and describe occupations and that may influence requirements for that occupation.
  5. Occupational Requirementsdetailed information regarding typical activities required in various occupations; generalized work activities (GWAs), or dimensions that summarize the kinds of tasks that may be performed within a single occupation are identified; additionally, information about the context, such as physical and social elements of the work, that may create specific demands on the worker are included.
  6. Occupation-Specific Informationelements that apply only to a single occupation or a narrowly defined job family; this domain provides related information available in other areas of the Content Model, but is used when developing specific applications of O*NET information, such as writing a job description.

The O*NETSOC taxonomy provides the background information for defining different classes of occupations. The information contained in the O*NETSOC taxonomy is updated every two years with statistics derived from surveys conducted on serving employees. The 2006 update raised the number of occupations to 812.

The U.S. State Department, in conjunction with the National O*NET Center, are introducing translated versions of O*NET to give better access to populations, that do not speak English very well. For example, the U.S. State Department has released the Spanish O*NET 4.0 Database, a translated version that is designed to enable predominantly-Spanish speaking members of the population of the United States to access the latest career information in the country.


Cassio, Jim. Career Pathways Handbook, Career Pathways Publications, 2007.

Hollander, Eran, and Robert, J. Harvey. Generalizability Theory Analysis of Item-Level O*NET Database Ratings. Available from:*NET+database&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=10.

U.S. Department of Labor. Employment and Training Administration. 2007 Available from: http://www.doleta.gov/programs/ONET/glance.cfm.

U.S. Labor Department: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-2007. November, 2005.

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