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O*Net (Occupational Information Network) – Definition

Cite this article as:"O*Net (Occupational Information Network) – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated March 26, 2019, last accessed September 30, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/onet-occupational-information-network-definition/.


O*Net (Occupational Information Network) Definition

The O*NET or Occupational Information Network is a free online database for the public, especially job seekers, students, workforce training professionals, and businesses, sponsored by the US government, that contains definitions for hundreds of job descriptions for jobs available in the United States. It was created in the 1990s by a Grant to the North Carolina Employment Security Commission by The US Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). The ‘Interests’ section of O*Net uses John L. Holland’s vocational model to profile users.

A Little More on What is O*Net

The official description of O*NET according to the USDOL/ETA is, “a database of occupational requirements and worker attributes. It describes occupations in terms of the skills and knowledge required, how the work is performed, and typical work settings. It can be used by businesses, educators, job seekers, human resources professionals, and the publicly funded Workforce Investment System to help meet the talent needs of our competitive global economy. O*NET information helps support the creation of industry competency models.”

Origins and History of O*NET

Before the advent of online databases, the vocational and occupational job listings directory was published by the government of USA as The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). The first copy of the DOT was published in 1938 and focused on blue collar jobs. Over the years, it was updated on the regular highlighting jobs from the manufacturing and heavy industries. Changing economic scenario and the shift to the information and services based economy brought about a drastic change in the way occupational information was being queried. The book format was upgraded to an online database in 1997, with limited usage. The public version was launched in 1998. It now carries information on all industries and occupations, serving as a database of useful information for the workforce. In a controversial move unclear to the public, the DOT was renamed to O*NET and has come to be known by that moniker 20 years since its inception.

While DOT offered a fixed data format, O*NET allows users to manipulate the data provided to suit their needs. This is in keeping with the current jobs scenario where information is tailored according to individual requirements unlike the one size fits all approach of the industrial age. It requires few USDOL/ETA resources, is easier and cheaper to maintain than publishing yearly books, and allows easy access to users.

O*NET provides information on different aspects of a job, namely:

  1. Personal Requirements: Specifics of the skills set required for the job.
  2. Personal Characteristics: The ethics, character traits, interests and abilities required to be hired for the job.
  3. Experience: The level of training, years of experience, and the license required to ace a job.
  4. Job Requirements: Education level, physical fitness, mental acuity, field of study, and other skills that are a prerequisite for applying to a job.
  5. Labour Market: Payscale, pay grades, and the outlook of the job in the long run.

References for O*Net (Occupational Information Network)

Academic Research on O*Net (Occupational Information Network)

Identifying the most important 21st century workforce competencies: An analysis of the Occupational Information Network (O* NET), Burrus, J., Jackson, T., Xi, N., & Steinberg, J. (2013). This paper analyses the most in demand jobs and competencies by looking at data from O*NET. It concludes that there are 15 core competencies that are most in demand and correlates these findings with O*NET data.

Using Online Occupational Information for Career Development. Practitioner File., Imel, S., Kerka, S., & Wonacott, M. E. (2001). This is a file aimed at helping users of O*NET find their way around the directory and make the most of it.

Replace with a database: O^* NET replaces the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, Mariani, M. (1999). Occupational outlook quarterly, 43, 2-9. This paper does a deep dive into the usefulness of O*NET, it’s origins, inception, impact, and more.

The O* Net jobs classification system: A primer for family researchers, Crouter, A. C., Lanza, S. T., Pirretti, A., Goodman, W. B., Neebe, E., & Family Life Project Key Investigators. (2006). Family Relations, 55(4), 461-472. This paper is a guide to family researchers to the job classification system of O*NET.

Use of O* NET as a job exposure matrix: a literature review, Cifuentes, M., Boyer, J., Lombardi, D. A., & Punnett, L. (2010). American journal of industrial medicine, 53(9), 898-914. This is a literature review of the usage of O*NET for jobs exposure.

Using job-title-based physical exposures from O* NET in an epidemiological study of carpal tunnel syndrome, Evanoff, B., Zeringue, A., Franzblau, A., & Dale, A. M. (2014). Human factors, 56(1), 166-177. This book takes a look at the occurrence of occupational Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by examining empirical data from O*NET.

Using values‐based approaches in employment counseling and assessment: Professional and related occupations, VanVoorhis, R. W., & Protivnak, J. J. (2012). Journal of Employment Counseling, 49(4), 160-171. This article takes a look at the growth of professional occupations from a historical as well as a predictive forecasting perspective, and presents a case study.

Carotene: A job title classification system for the online recruitment domain, Javed, F., Luo, Q., McNair, M., Jacob, F., Zhao, M., & Kang, T. S. (2015, March). In Big Data Computing Service and Applications (BigDataService), 2015 IEEE First International Conference on (pp. 286-293). IEEE. This paper examines the various methods of classifications used to sort job title in the online recruitment scenario.

Assessing interrater agreement in the O* NET, Harvey, R. J., & Hollander, E. (2002). Wilson, MA (Chair), The O* NET: Mend it, or end it. This document assesses the interrater agreement between 1147 units in O*NET.

Career Planning the Second Time around., Mullins, J. (2009). Occupational Outlook Quarterly, 53(2), 12-15. This journal takes a look at the opportunity to replan a career from scratch after gaining work experience.

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