Fast Track to Federal and Commercial Occupational Information Sources

By Peter Manzi

The need for current and comprehensive national and regional information about occupations cannot be overstated in a labor market that dips and rises regularly. It is important to know what has happened in a job market, as well as what is projected to occur when career counseling clients plan to enter new fields and professions. This need is closely tied to how a job is performed, including the worker's characteristics (e.g., skills, abilities & experiential capacities) in relation to environmental demands; it is critical to career decision-making. Clients, counselor educators, teachers, librarians and career and employment counselors should be familiar with the resources that follow. This guide is an introduction to an extensive and growing world of occupational information.

Government Sources

The best single source for much of this information is the U.S. Department of Labor, and a division within it, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov)

For up to date information about six domains of occupation and worker characteristics contained in a summary report for over 950 occupations (knowledge, skills, abilities, interest, values, context, etc.) use the O'Net, an on-line database at http://online.onetcenter.org The O'Net is especially useful in introducing clients to self-assessment, configuring work demands and requirements, such as physical, affective and intellectual demands of a job, and for clients with a range of disabilities, this is very helpful information.

For information about occupations and categories of occupations, including training requirements, numbers employed, salary information, job prospects, and related occupations, access www.bls.gov/oco. This source also lists web sites and addresses for further information. This data is revised every two years, so there is a lag with statistics cited.

For detailed information about occupational projections (growth and decline rates of occupations and industries), and for descriptions of new and emerging occupations (usually not those employing a high number or workers), the Occupational Outlook Quarterly is the best source. There is a section, called "Grab Bag" designed for counselors. The most current edition of the OOQ, magazine formatted, is available for a very modest subscription, but recent and past editions can be viewed at

For annually computed employment and wage estimates for over 700 occupations (not including self-employed), at the national, state, and metropolitan regions (within a state) levels, the best single source is the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey reports http://www.bls.gov/oes/home.htm. OES survey data can be used to assess wage expectations, compare wages across different regions of the country, and give a sense of the overall number of workers employed in an occupation. Actual growth (versus projections) can be observed by comparing data across several years, e.g. 2000, 2001, and 2002 figures.

A recent collaboration between the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S Department of Education has produced an integrated school and work site called Career Voyages. It can be found at www.CareerVoyages.gov. It is designed to provide information on fast growing-high demands occupations, along with the skills and educational requirements needed for them. The site has targeted the following audience in its menu: Youth (high school and older), Career Changers, Parents and Career Advisors.

Commercial products

There are two major companies that specialize in the production and sales of both on-line and printed sources of career education and occupational information. Professionals in schools, colleges and business and industry use many of these products. Individuals doing their own career research will also find these resources helpful. Many of the occupational information products sold are based on US Department of Labor models and figures, and offer a different emphasis, as well as the advantages of print resources. The data published in commercial products can be more current and expansive than that found at the above web sites.

Jist Publishing (www.jist.com) markets the widest array of occupational reference books, workbooks, CD ROMS and videos (along with employability guides, materials and career assessment tools). Jist produces its own products and is a distributor of many other companies' products. The materials offered cover a full spectrum of life and career needs for clients. One useful comprehensive resource is the "Guide for Occupational Exploration, 3rd Edition."
Ferguson Publishing Company (www.fergpubco.com), one of the leaders in career information and education resources, produces the longstanding "Encyclopedia of Careers" that is updated annually, a 3 volume "Top Careers" series for college graduates, and an industry based, "Career Opportunities" series. These would be ideal for the student and/or graduate, and job seeker needing in-depth knowledge about a particular occupation or field. Some of these materials from Jist and Ferguson may be available in school, college and public career libraries. Currency and related accuracy is one of the most useful characteristics of career information. Ferguson offers a bi-monthly newsletter, "Career Opportunities News" that helps keep up with the latest employment issues, resources and labor market trends.

Other Sources

Organizational newsletters, such as that of the American Association for Career Education's "Careers Update" (1-310-376-7378), offer factoids and information on a range of career informational topics and resources. The National Career Development Association (www.ncda.org/crs.htm) produces the "Internet: A Tool for Career Planning (2nd ed.)" which offers over 100 web sites, evaluative criteria, as well as a model for doing career planning and using career information resources. This NCDA publication utilizes research and scholarly sources in offering a "best practices" approach to using the Internet.

Peter Manzi
, Ed. D, NCC, NCCC, MCC, CDFI is a part-time faculty member in counseling and education and a full-time vocational consultant and counselor, who resides in Rochester NY. His interests include technology in counseling and career development, working with diverse populations, and the relationship between mental health and career development. He can be contacted at parmcede@hotmail.com.

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