The Standard Occupational Classification code system was developed and is maintained by the BLS as a way to classify occupations. It is intended to cover all jobs where work is done for payment, and as a result the code list is periodically updated as new occupations are created and become a part of the labor force.
SOC codes are always six digits, with a tiered system to organize occupations from major groups to detailed work. In the most recent update, there are 23 major occupation groups, containing nearly 900 detailed occupation descriptions.
SOC codes are the standard method to categorize career statistics. Career data collections that does not use SOC codes directly are commonly accompanied by a crosswalk which links back to SOC codes. Most notably, the Census Bureau (ACS microdata , Current Population Survey) collects data on a much smaller and broader set of careers. Another career resource, O*NET, uses SOC codes as a base, and adds additional digits to the code to further differentiate between occupations.
There are also crosswalks which allow the direct comparison between occupations and other definitions. One such crosswalk is the comparison between SOC codes and CIP codes, providing one possible link between education and corresponding employment.
Our best career information is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which uses SOC codes, and from the US Census Bureau. As we mentioned above, Census career information may map multiple SOC careers to a single Census career. Because the Census career data provides rich details about the workers in a job, we focus our job pages at the Census level, and when there are multiple corresponding SOC designations, we refer to each SOC job as a specialty of the broad career. On the career pages, the broad Census career designation is the title, and when there are specialties those appear on the right-hand-side of the menu bar.