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O*NET versus DOT – You Have To Admit This is Getting Interesting

Summary – May, 2009

This web page was created soon after the initial release of O*NET 98, and has been updated numerous times since then.   After ten+ years of watching O*NET develop, it would be useful for future workforce entrants if the assessments had more validity (e.g., did not recommend Artistic careers for people who had high interest in Social or Enterprising using other assessments).  But for people already in the workforce, especially if they become disabled, this is a decidedly negative review - especially in comparison to what it could have been if they had instead improved and updated the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), or created a new system that could directly facilitate matching of individuals to jobs.  Sources for the information below have included the O*NET administrators, vocational software publishers, professors of Industrial/Organizational Psychology and Career Development, and a multitude of O*NET users (both positive and negative) in Workforce Development, Career Development, Vocational Rehabilitation, SSA Disability Determination, Private Insurance, and other health and helping professionals involved in getting people back to work, or deciding whether they can work.  

Two immediate, irreparable reasons why O*NET cannot be used for disability determination, forensic transferable skills analysis, or disability-related job-person matching:

  1. Aggregation:  O*NET has aggregated the many thousands of specific occupations in our economy into (at last count) 1102 Occupational Units, or Groups, each containing an average of about 15 specific occupations.  Occupations are often grouped without regard to physical, mental or cognitive requirements.  Therefore, you cannot say what specific occupation a person has done, nor can you say what specific occupation a person can do, especially in the case of a person with an impairment, since O*NET mostly refers to groups of occupations which may vary in their specific requirements (i.e., occupations requiring anywhere from Sedentary to Heavy Strength requirements might be in one O*NET group).  Not only are you unable to compare apples to apples, but you might not be able to compare fruits to fruits, depending on how the occupations were aggregated into the O*NET group.
  2. Validity Issues:  Data for O*NET was collected mostly through self-report by incumbent workers.  So Farmworkers were utilized to rate the Abilities like the Dynamic Strength, Static Strength, Explosive Strength and Trunk Strength required in their occupational group.  The initial data collection form was divided into four parts, partly because of its length, so another Farmworker might estimate the amount of Category Flexibility, Deductive Reasoning, Spatial Orientation and Problem Sensitivity required for their group.

After years of study, there is apparently no way to fix the above issues, so either the DOT needs to be revived, or a new Occupational Information System needs to be developed. In my opinion, the early-on and essential pitfall of developing the O*NET occupational database has become increasingly apparent:  The developer(s) would need to consider a fairly vast amount about reliability and validity of available or newly acquired occupational data, and the applications needs of the end-users . . . otherwise they will create an occupational information system that doesn't provide useful information, but perhaps does it quickly and efficiently, like O*NET.  O*NET was created by committees and subcontractors, many of whom were not aware that hundreds of billions of dollars were arguably at stake in highly specialized applications of our nation's occupational data.  Some of these applications include the SSA Disability Determination process, insurers who pay disability, Worker’s Compensation courts, Vocational Rehabilitation counselor’s who need to make precise training and job placements, the Veteran's Administration, and American companies who need to develop precise and valid job descriptions.  


Those of us in the vocational evaluation field who have also done database development suspected early on that O*NET had painted itself into a corner, but even many years later, the scope of the shortcomings continues to unravel.  Recent news on O*NET is added near the bottom of this page.  Please email John@theworksuite.com if you have comments, corrections, or find information that should be added. 

Recession Perspective, February, 2010:  

If the signs of a slow employment recovery continue to appear (sample article at http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/201003/jobless-america-future) - it might occur to some astute politician that O*NET is not up to the challenges to come.  Even as the U.S. economy recovers cyclically and structurally, Frictional unemployment will be a problem for many years to come.  "Frictional unemployment exists because both jobs and workers are heterogeneous, and a mismatch can result between the characteristics of supply and demand."  This was the realization that led in part to the creation of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles in 1939, during the slow recovery from the Great Depression.  But O*NET, conceived and allowed to go forward under U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich; ignored the heterogeneous reality of jobs and workers; and aggregated dozens, hundreds, sometimes over 1,000 jobs into homogeneous occupational bowls of soup.  My opinion is that if the US DOL had updated and improved the DOT, instead of abandoning it; we might not only have saved billions in Social Security claims, but mght alo be closer to that post-Great-Recession day when people could afford more than . . . soup. 


BLS Steps Up, November 2015


The Bureau of Labor Statistics is training Field Economists to do Job Analysis (nevermind that there is a DOT title called Job Analyst, and that numerous trained, certified, masters- and doctoral-level vocational experts have put in thousands of hours planning for this project). From: http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2015/article/pdf/the-occupational-requirements-survey.pdf -

"Preproduction testing of the BLS Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS) has generated estimates of the physical demands; exposure to environmental conditions; education, training, and experience requirements; and cognitive and mental requirements that workers encounter on the job. This article introduces these preliminary estimates and is a followup to previous articles that examined ORS data elements in the context of collection, review, and estimation.


Since the summer of 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been working with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to test and determine the feasibility of collecting information about the occupational requirements for workers in jobs across the United States economy."


A Brief History 

Since it was first published in 1939, the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) was the world's largest and most comprehensive reference for occupational information - but there were validity issues about some of the underlying data, and it was getting cumbersome and expensive to update.  The 1990 mission of the Advisory Panel on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (APDOT) was to improve and update the DOT.  After some apparent controversy, the Department of Labor (somewhat inexplicably) created O*NET, and released Version 1.0 of O*NET - the replacement to the DOT - in late 1998. You can go directly to the latest on-line version of O*NET at http://online.onetcenter.org/.

If you are used to the DOT's 80 or so variables on 12,762 occupations . . . brace yourself. O*NET is very different from the DOT even though it is still largely based on aggregates of DOT titles and descriptions. Many existing paradigms in the vocational sciences have been changed in O*NET - the nine levels of Specific Vocational Preparation requirements have been collapsed into five Job Zones, interest code definitions have changed, and physical ratings have changed, to name a few. O*NET emphasizes cognitive-oriented work skills to try to reflect today's knowledge-based occupations, rather than the psychomotor, physical and functional behaviors and abilities that were used to define work in the past (and very conveniently for rehabilitation and ADA professionals today). Many of the O*NET occupations are aggregations of 15 or more DOT occupations without regard to strength or other physical requirements. My opinion is that this aggregation approach is a major drawback for vocational evaluators.

In general, O*NET seems to be a good resource for general career exploration - although most counselors use Career Information Delivery Services (CIDS) that are more targeted to various age groups and populations. And I found it frustrating that you cannot simply look up occupations by your interests - more about that later.  I suspect that school guidance counselors would find it even more useful if local outlook and training programs could be added - but this information can currently be found at America's Career Information Network, on the internet at www.acinet.org. Human Resource departments will probably continue to develop their own job descriptions from scratch and largely ignore the generalized O*NET job descriptions, more so than they ignored the DOT. As far as using O*NET for curriculum development, I would say the task statements would be a good reference, but they are much too general. Although some references to other web sites are now included in Help, I could not find Help information that would be useful for using O*NET to determine compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They have improved the ability to Browse the O*NET database on individual dimensions, e.g., you can easily see a list of O*NET occupational units that require Gross Body Equilibrium, but you cannot combine the search criteria (e.g., add also Dynamic Flexibility to the Browse criteria). Perhaps future Help menus will address how this can be used for ADA.

Using O*NET 

It has to be mentioned that the term "O*NET" is not Google-friendly. Most search engines treat the asterisk in O*NET as a wild card, so if you Google O*NET, you will get over 3 million hits, but see very few references to the O*NET discussed here.

My first tour of O*NET at http://online.onetcenter.org/ started with the On-line Help button. It is both searchable and "context sensitive" - meaning that it will go to the Help section that addresses the part of the O*NET program you are in when you click on Help. A quick scan of topics and I felt assured that I could forge ahead and jump back into the help menu if I got lost. Back in the main screen of the O*NET On-line: at the top I clicked on the button for Find Occupations, which gives you the ability to search on title. You can also search on code, skills job family and several crosswalks.

Once you find the occupation and select it, the main screen allows you to view the occupation's tasks, tools, technology, knowledge, skills, abilities, work activities, work context, job zone, interests, work styles, work values, related occupations, wages and employment.

Having finally found one of my own occupational titles (sort of) under the Search Menu - Educational, Vocational, and School Counselors - I decided to review the Summary Report. I wondered how these new requirements and characteristics would be assessed in individuals. I do not recall seeing many of the physical and cognitive abilities on the functional capacity assessment forms that professionals use. Cognitive abilities like "Problem Sensitivity - Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do." might be a bit tricky to nail down. Based on a few Google searches, the only way to determine this is with a self assessment. I then went to the Related Occupations button and saw the "similar or transferable skills" occupations that I "may" be able to perform according to O*NET. Unfortunately, all on my list would require at least two years of additional education and certification even though I have a masters in Human Resource Development and have worked as a career counselor for over 20 years. The DOT would yield at least ten "transferable skills" occupations that I could perform tomorrow. My suspicions were confirmed that O*NET needed some close scrutiny before using it in the real world.

During several years of reviewing O*NET, the main question that I sought to answer was: "When should I abandon my DOT-based systems for assessment and occupational information?" My answer today would have to be, "Not yet, not for quite awhile, and, unless major changes are made - not ever." Here are some practical reasons:

  • First, O*NET 98 was a prototype. The initial version, O*NET 98, was based on the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) data structure, but the D.O.L. said this structure would change to the revised Standard Occupational Classification (S.O.C.) system by the end of 1999. It did indeed change in mid-2000. At that point the number of occupations described in O*NET went from the 1100+ of the OES structure to the 974 occupations of the revised SOC structure. But it is still a work in progress. You would expect that the initial occupational analysts' ratings in O*NET would be changed as the incumbent worker ratings are collected and added over the next several years. Even more interesting, the actual O*NET rating items were in for another change (from 483 original descriptor variables to 400 in the current version). As of 2010, O*NET 14.0, or whatever the latest release is referred to, is in some ways a completely different animal than the database structure they originally collected data for - and the number of revised SOC occupations has gone to 1102. This has proven to be a difficult situation for people who are currently developing computer applications, assessment tools, employment matching methodology and other programs.
  • Second, as of July 2002, it appeared there were still no computerized assessment tools available for O*NET, and the objective "Ability Profiler" appeared to be delayed indefinitely. It is finally available, but uses 1970's "bubble sheet" scoring technology, requiring an expensive scanner. The Technical Support Staff at the National Center for O*NET Development answered my query in September of 1999 with the following: "In answer to your question about assessment instruments developed for the O*NET system, there are no products currently available that measure all of the O*NET skills. However, the Ability Profiler, which will replace the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB), is in final stages of completion. The GATB, which you may be familiar with, was developed by the US Department of Labor and measures nine aptitudes that are important for most jobs. It has been in use for many years. Unfortunately, the Ability Profiler is not a self-administered instrument, but its results will relate to O*NET occupations. Other assessment tools nearing completion are a new interest inventory, the Interest Profiler, and a measure of work values/needs, the Work Importance Profiler. These two instruments are self-administered. Accompanying manuals, user guides, and documentation for all three instruments are in final stages of completion. We anticipate their release to be sometime in the next year. All of these assessment tools will be part of the O*NET Career Exploration Tools, along with the Workplace Literacy Tests." 

 The O*NET Interest Profiler, Ability Profiler and the Work Values assessments are now available, but these are not exactly breakthroughs in vocational assessment. The Interest Profiler has had some negative reviews and research results, cited at http://www.careerkey.org/asp/professional_resources/harmful_assessments.asp  Also, the D.O.L. has agreed that major revisions to the data structure are needed to serve the needs people who do disability determination and vocational rehabilitation. According to a memo from a member of the Interorganizational O*NET Task Force (IOTF) whose mission is to address O*NET shortcomings: "The Department of Labor now agrees the O*NET is not suitable, or appropriate for use by professionals who need an occupation-specific database to assist in the delivery of their services. These professionals include occupational and physical therapists, expert witnesses, vocational rehabilitation specialists, attorneys, LTD and industrial indemnity insurers, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, the Social Security Administration, and other government and non-government organizations who must rely on occupation-specific data for their use. In a meeting consisting of officials representing the US Department of Labor (DOL), Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Interorganizational O*NET Task Force (IOTF) which was held in Baltimore on 10/30-31/01, it was agreed that an occupation-specific database should be developed to meet the needs of those professionals who cannot use O*NET in their work. In essence, they need an acceptable replacement for the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). A brief development plan was prepared and will be presented to SSA and DOL decision makers for final discussions and general agreement. While not yet officially sanctioned, DOL, SSA and IOTF are to develop an occupation-specific database to replace the DOT. In the meantime, the life of the DOT has been extended to some degree."  (As of 2010, probably three to five more years, see "OIDAP" developments at end of this web page.) 

 So the Department of Labor and related agencies were either back to the drawing board or O*NET will be in for yet another major re-design. Incorporating new fixes and changes into O*NET will not be easy. From an earlier life as a database consultant, I know that databases are like a room full of marbles. You move one marble and, perhaps unseen to you, a few marbles on the other side of the room shift slightly. Because of this, debugging any computer system is maddening (some might recall Bill Gates crashing the pre-release Windows 98 at a national TV press conference). Future significant changes to O*NET are sure to move a lot of the internal database marbles, and probably a number of marbles in the assessment tools and employment processes that are supposed to interface with O*NET.

Implications for Professionals Who Make Vocational Recommendations

My initial main questions about O*NET for career counselors and vocational evaluators was: If you can't measure objectively, how can you recommend? And if the measurement is not validated, how can you defend it? Working out these issues will take time, regardless of the resources that are available. And, to date, the O*NET people seem to be a bit cavalier in their treatment of existing vocational practices. I personally wish they had kept the 12 Guide for Occupational Experience (GOE) interest categories, which the Department of Labor developed and probably owned outright. Instead, they went with the more popular Holland model and changed it.

Occupational Interest in the O*NET structure is measured/assigned by R-I-A-S-E-C: Realistic/Investigative/Artistic/Social/Enterprising/Conventional. Most of us would assume that this reflects Drs. Holland and Gottfredson's extensive research on occupational interests and preferred people environments. Indeed, the Dictionary of Holland Occupational Codes is perhaps the best-researched and most-widely-used model of occupational choice that we have.

Anyone who has worked with Holland codes will quickly spot that O*NET's interest codes are different. This brings up the question of, "Why?" It turns out that the analysts at O*NET came up with a different, alternative method to derive their codes using R-I-A-S-E-C. Since the interest codes assigned to occupations are different than the Holland codes, I wondered if this meant that the results of a Holland Code-based assessment, such as the Self-Directed Search or CAI, would be wrong when looking up occupations in O*NET. When asked about this, the Technical Support Staff at the National Center for O*NET Development replied:  "In answer to your questions about the interest information contained within O*NET, no, Holland is not wrong. The information within O*NET 98 is not Holland codes (Gottfredson & Holland, 1996). Occupational Interest Profiles (OIPs) are assigned to each occupation within O*NET. The OIPs are an independently developed vocational interest database that is compatible with Holland's (1985) R-I-A-S-E-C model. In addition to its own definition of the six interest areas, the OIPs present a six-letter numerical profile of each interest area, along with an example set of high-point codes."  (Again, there are several studies that would say the O*NET Interest Profiler is not valid - summarized and cited at http://www.careerkey.org/asp/professional_resources/harmful_assessments.asp.)  To be fair, since the O*NET analysts changed the actual definitions of the R-I-A-S-E-C interest areas, their coding might have been valid. But I find it inconvenient to change such a foundational paradigm as the Holland model, and I would not say the two are definitely not "compatible". Several examples of the differences in interest coding:

O*NET Code O*NET Occupational Unit Title 

171011 Architects, Except Landscape & Naval O*NET OIP Code: ARI Holland Code IAE

132021 Assessors O*NET OIP Code: CE Holland Code IER

132041 Credit Analysts O*NET OIP Code: CE Holland Code ESC

292021 Dental Hygienists O*NET OIP Code: SCR Holland Code SAI

518021 Stationary Engineers O*NET OIP Code: RC Holland Code REI

All of the above is somewhat moot, however, since after ten years, there is still no apparent way to search O*NET by interest codes . . . .

Does O*NET Do Transferable Skills Analysis? 

I also train vocational evaluators in my other role as a vocational software vendor. Several clients have asked about going into court as expert witnesses using O*NET data (which most software systems I represent has now included side-by-side with DOT descriptions - DOT is used to some up with accurate results and O*NET is used to results are reported to the US DOL). While some may feel it is getting a bit hard to expect DOT occupational data from 1991 or before to be viewed as the best source - the O*NET Occupational Units are basically an aggregation of the old DOT task statements, so how is this better? The DOT still has more to offer for Transferable Skills Analysis (TSA) - namely Work Fields (WF); Materials, Products, Subject Matter and Services (MPSMS); and Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP). The DOT also offers more than ten times the number of occupations to choose from to represent a person's work history and career options. If you start with the DOT, you can identify which O*NET Occupational Unit a DOT occupation falls in.  But if you start with O*NET, you have no idea which specific occupations in the group you are talking about, and their can be hundreds of specific occupations in an O*NET group.  In other words, once aggregated, you can't disaggregate O*NET groups.

For performing TSA, O*NET offers the Related Occupations Matrix (ROM). After looking at the ROM for several occupations, my question was, "How are they related?" The Help reference under Related Occupations gives this explanation: "The lists of related occupations were empirically derived using a mathematical algorithm comparing the selected occupation to all other O*NET occupations. All the O*NET Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Work Context and Generalized Work Activities variables were used to make these comparisons. The lists of related occupations were further refined through a multi-stage sensitivity screening process."

Perhaps O*NET's empirical method for determining transferable skills occupations is true in theory, but how about in practice? No other answer as to how O*NET performs a TSA, or whether it will change in the next release, has come forth that I know of, but they did e-mail a colleague with: "The Related Occupations Matrix (ROM) in the first version of the Viewer was designed to expedite the return of displaced workers to the workforce. The ROM . . . produces up to ten related occupations in rank order (the top occupation on the list is the closest match). Displaced workers would presumably look first for local area vacancies in the first occupation on the list, and then move down from there."The O*NET people are also saying the ROM can be used for "person-to-job" referral purposes in state employment security agencies. Looking at the "hands-on" world of work where the likelihood of worker injury (and lay-off) is high, let's examine the ROM for Operating Engineer (O*NET Occupational Unit Code 47 2073.02). The "Transferable Skills" occupations listed in the Operating Engineer's ROM up until 2004 were:

  1. Motorboat Mechanics
  2. Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Except Engines
  3. Small Engine Mechanics
  4. Air Hammer Operators
  5. Grinding and Polishing Workers, Hand
  6. Woodworking Machine Setter and Set-Up Operators, Except Sawing
  7. Roustabouts
  8. Construction Workers, Except Trade

Since my criticism of Motorboat Mechanic was easily found on the web for many years, it is not surprising that Motorboat Mechanic is no longer listed, although Small Engine Mechanic is still listed. With just a few jumps around in O*NET, I quickly found another puzzle: for Railroad Conductors and Yardmasters, the number one Related Occupation on the list is Chefs and Head Cooks. Okay, I tell my vocational expert client, you are in court, and you have just used O*NET to recommend that an injured Operating Engineer could get a job as a Mechanic, or a Yard Master could get a job as a Chef. Imagine the look of victory on the cross-examining attorney's face as he says, "Would a reasonable and prudent person recommend that my client, who was not allowed to do anything more than check the oil on the equipment he operated, if even that, can now find a job working on high-performance engines?" Or, even in the updated O*NET, would a restaurant really hire a Railroad Conductor or Yardmaster as a Chef? Are judges swayed by the announcement from the D.O.L. that O*NET completely replaces the DOT? There are years of case law history and billions of dollars of disability decisions that refer at least in part to the DOT. At this level of the vocational evaluation profession, it would seem the DOT is going to be around for a while. The Social Security Administration came to this same conclusion, as shown in their June 30, 1999, notice sent out to field personnel regarding O*NET:" . . . The organization of the data in the prototype version does not parallel SSA's disability determination process, as does the DOT. For example, the O*NET measures for exertional requirements of work, such as strength, are defined and rated differently than those in the DOT. In addition, O*NET contains data on only about 1100 occupational units, compared to over 12,000 job titles in the DOT. Each O*NET unit is an aggregation of data for a number of DOT job titles that have been grouped in such a way that they are not readily useable in SSA's disability decisions.

At this time, the prototype version of O*NET does not provide any advantage over the DOT (or other existing vocational resources). Therefore, DDS's and other SSA disability adjudicators and reviewers should not use O*NET when making disability decisions. . . ."   What the front-line Employment Services workers will do with the Related Occupations Matrix is anyone's guess, but I suspect that Job Developers who have worked hard to get a Chef opening listed in the state employment system will have some harsh feedback if Yardmasters are sent to the interview.

Preliminary Conclusion 

From the outset many people saw some significant barriers to O*NET entirely replacing the DOT.  Ten years later, questions still remain. Are 700 or 1100 occupational units enough? How many users have taken the time to understand 400 occupational variables - and who measures those variables? How many evaluators will have to retool as cognitive psychologists to understand the new skills model? Have new functional capacity assessments been developed to address the new physical descriptors in O*NET? How many textbooks on vocational counseling and courses on vocational evaluation have to be revised? Are the millions of annual assessments currently using Holland codes going to have to change? And these are only the marbles that I can see being moved. The people at the National Center for O*NET Development point out that they are following their directive, and that we will eventually get over it:"In answer to your question about O*NET replacing the DOT, it was DOL's Advisory Panel on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (APDOT) that recommended the direction that DOL's occupational information database would take. There will be a period of transition as users adapt. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may create. However, it is felt that, for the most part, O*NET is an improvement over the DOT."

Perhaps all of these issues will eventually be addressed, as the DOL assures us. There are some good ideas in O*NET, but I can't help thinking of the fate of the metric system, and the metric system is a much better-conceived system than O*NET. In 1999 I stated that I would not be surprised if a consortium of major DOT stake-holders seriously considered revising/updating/improving the old DOT on their own (the SSA and several dozen large insurance companies came to mind). I talked to several university programs about using new internet technology for doing the job analysis - but the scope of the project was overhwelming.  The DOT isn't perfect, but it does some things very well. Some of us guessed in 1999 that the existing DOT would be around in several sectors for another five years at least, and ten years later this seems to be the case.

Developments: In July of 2002, Robert E. Robertson, Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues, stated before the Subcommittee on Social Security, Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives: "Although Labor has been working on a replacement for the DOT called the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) since 1993, Labor and SSA officials recognize that O*NET cannot be used in its current form in the DI and SSI disability determination process. The O*NET, for example, does not contain SSA-needed information on the amount of lifting or mental demands associated with particular jobs. The agencies have discussed ways that O*NET might be modified or supplemental information collected to meet SSA's needs, but no definitive solution has been identified. Absent such changes to the O*NET, SSA officials have indicated that an entirely new occupational database could be needed to meet SSA's needs, but such an effort could take many years to develop, validate, and implement. Meanwhile, as new jobs and job requirements evolve in the national economy, SSA's reliance upon an outdated database further distances the agency from the current market place."

In June of 2003, the Social Security Administration published two more documents on the internet. These documents reflected continuing discussions amongst SSA, the US Department of Labor and the Interorganizational O*NET Task Force (IOTF). The first publication sought sources capable of providing SSA with a revised and updated version of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles Revised 4th Edition (DOT) and its companion publication, Selected Characteristics of Occupations Defined in the Revised Dictionary of Occupational Titles (SCO). Internet searches do not show any action on this idea as of March 2007.

The second SSA information request sought sources capable of developing an occupational database for use in SSA's disability programs which encompass the disability evaluation process and SSA's work opportunity and employment support initiatives. This would be a long-term solution that would benefit everyone in the vocational evaluation field.  Although no longer listed at the International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals' web site, http://www.rehabpro.org/, it was previously reported that: "SSA and DOL have been working, both independently and together, to prepare for the transition from DOT to an updated occupationally specific data. Both agencies are preparing a joint white paper that outlines recent and planned SSA and DOL efforts to support SSA's development of the type of data required for disability programs and vocational rehabilitation services. This document will serve as a basis for executive-level agency discussions, leading to more formal collaborative arrangements, such as an interagency workgroup established under a Memorandum of Understanding. To address the changes anticipated by the eventual obsolescence of the DOT, SSA needs to work with DOL on strategies for SSA's development of additional occupational data while simultaneously investigating options for updating its medical-vocational policies as well."According to one participant in the Interorganizational O*NET Task Force, IOTF has done nothing further for the past several years. Martin Gerry (Deputy Commissioner for Disability) apparently put a hold on the DOT update that the policy people wanted, and had an RFP ready for. There is now a new Commissioner, Michael Astrue. Not surprisingly, SSA apparently has no discretionary dollars because of war in Iraq, so the need for an occupational database might be unaddressed until after the next presidential election. 2009 update - see below.

Related News:

  • November 3, 2002:  Several Universities conduct a comprehensive review of O*NET - and other systems - showing the inherent flaws in the O*NET system for working with people with disabilities.  Funded by the Social Security Administration and Disability Research Institute.   The best way to read this report is by cutting SSA valid OASYS CareerScope and pasting it at http://www.google.com/ and then clicking Search.   One of the first search results should be:  dri.uiuc.edu/research/p02-06c/final_report_p02-06c.doc  This is a huge document so, unless you have a lot of hard drive and fast internet, you might go with the View as HTML option.  That way you only see reference to your key words.  (If you read this entire document you will perhaps know more about the history and scope of matching disabled people to jobs than many Professors and State Directors of VR.)
  • June 4, 2003: The Social Security Administration was soliciting bids to create a new occupational database that uses DOT variables.  As of November 2005 you could still find the reference at http://www.eps.gov/servlet/Documents/R/673663  As of January 2006 the entire www.eps.gov link no longer works.
  • 2004 Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists Conference (SIOP) Conference Presentation.  If you need to point out the technical flaws of O*Net from another profession's view, read this 11-page presentation: FJA Strategies for Addressing O*NET Limitations in a Post-DOT Environment by Sidney A. Fine of Sidney A. Fine Associates,  Robert J. Harvey of Virginia Tech and Steven F. Cronshaw, University of Guelph. (FJA stands for Functional Job Analysis.)  Read esp. Harvey's comments at http://www.pstc.com/documents/SIOP2004.Fine.Harvey.Cronshaw.in.Fine.symposium.pdf
  • October 25th, 2005: Many have noticed the apparent flaws in the O*Net Occupational Interest Profiler, but here is an in-depth look.  Most of us with some training in career guidance know Dr. Lawrence K. Jones has been a significant voice in the field for several decades.  See what he says about "Harmful Career Assessments" on the Internet at his excellent site: http://www.careerkey.org/asp/professional_resources/harmful_assessments.asp  
  • Case In Point:  In 2010 I started a local Job Club in Iowa where participants (average time unemployed is nearly eight months) have found their Holland codes using Self-directed Search and the Party Exercise from What Color is Your Parachute.  At someone's recommendation, we also tried a free version of the O*NET Interest Profiler.  People who are Social and Enterprising in all other assessments came up Artistic in the O*NET Interest Profiler.  One wrote WTF? - World Trade Federation?  Not one of them considered Artistic as their preferred environment, although they might be what is considered the "creative class".  Redirecting Enterprising and Social people into Artistic professions is serious disservice, in my opnion.

  • March, 2008  Social Security Administration planning to resurrect DOT.    Excerpt:  " . . . SSA defines sedentary, light and medium strength work in the same way they are defined in the DOT/SCO. However, DOL has not formally updated the DOT since 1991 and has no plans to do so. Instead, DOL has developed an entirely new system, the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). SSA has determined through contracted and other research that the Agency cannot use O*NET, or occupational information derived in part from O*NET, in SSA's disability evaluation process."
  • December 2008:  at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-30589.pdf   SUMMARY from SSA: We are establishing the Occupational Information Development Advisory Panel (Panel) under the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The creation of the Panel, while discretionary, is necessary and in the public interest. It will help us to perform our statutory duties. We have consulted with the Committee Management Secretariat, General Services Administration.   ADDRESSES: Members of the public may suggest to the Panel cities and States in the contiguous United States in which to hold Panel meetings. To the extent possible, we intend to hold Panel meetings in a variety of locations throughout the Nation to ensure access to as many interested parties as possible.  FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Debra Tidwell-Peters, Designated Federal Official, Occupational Information Development Advisory Panel, SSA, by: • Mail addressed to: SSA, Occupational Information Development. Advisory Panel, 3-E-26 Operations Building, Baltimore, MD 21235. • Telephone at: 410-965-9617.  • Fax at: 410-597-0825.
  • March 2009:  The National Academy of Science is holding review sessions regarding O*NET.  Upcoming meeting is April 17, 2009.  It is possible the new administration will improve O*NET, but it is still not likely to be useful in disability determination or vocational rehabilitation, in my opinion.  April agenda posted at http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/meetingview.aspx?MeetingID=3335&MeetingNo=4   Example of SSA concerns with O*NET at http://www7.nationalacademies.org/cfe/Karman%20Power%20point.pdf
    Guiding Questions for the Session:
    • What are the current strengths and weaknesses in the content model?
    • What improvements would you suggest to provide more accurate, reliable or more current information or to make it more useful?
    • Which current or potential future uses of the O*NET would these improvements support, and how would it support these uses?
    • What are the potential advantages and/or disadvantages of the proposed improvements, in terms of cost-effectiveness and validity? 
    •  In general terms, how would your recommended changes be made? What difficulties might be encountered?
  • In perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of the O*NET construct validity, Dr. R.J. Harvey provides an industrial psychologist's assessment of the foundational faults of O*NET: http://harvey.psyc.vt.edu/Documents/jobanalysis/2009.04.20.NAS.Harvey.Paper3.constructvalidity.pdf
  • May 2009 - O*NET transferable skills podcast:  Indiana identifies a career path for laid-off automotive "Team Assemblers" using a new transferable skills analysis tool "TORQ" based on O*NET descriptors.   Five minutes into this eight-minute audio file, it is revealed that Dental Hygienist is the occupation that Team Assemblers could easily transfer into with minimal training investment.  This is a typical false assumption that comes from people new to the field relying on O*NET data, where the phenomenon of Garbage In, Gospel Out can hold sway.  A DOT-based system would have many viable high-growth recommendations better than this, which do not reguire attending more than two and up to four years of college in order to get licensed by the state board of dentistry.  Laid off Team Assemblers can immediately transfer into food processing jobs, or train for other skilled occupations that do not require significantly higher reasoning, math and language skills and aptitudes - and are perhaps more in line with their interests, values, fine motor skills and soft skills development.  If you live in Indiana, be sure to clean your teeth carefully - or the laid off auto assemblers will do it for you!   http://www.onetacademy.com/view.cfm?id=95&info=1
  • June 2009 - The Social Security Administration has created several well-researched and comprehensive papers on why O*NET is inadequate for disability determination applications, and why a new occupational information system, more similar to the DOT, is finally on the horizon.  Excellent overview at   http://www.ssa.gov/oidap/Documents/WEBFORMATTED--071509%20Developing%20an%20Initial%20Classification%20System.pdf and you can review other papers and watch for new ones by clicking Panel Documents at http://www.ssa.gov/oidap/
  • March 2010 - The work being done by the SSA's Panel is spot on, in my opinion - watch the developments at http://www.ssa.gov/oidap/ - the only disappointment  being that policy dictates the new Occupational Information System (OIS) be focused on disability determination.  My estimate is that DDS users will account for less than 5 percent of the end users of this data.  Still, it is a great move forward.  Prediction:  The new database will not only be adopted by State Vocational Rehabilitation, Insurance Companies, Private Practice (Vocational Evaluators, Forensic Experts, Claimant Reps, Attorneys, Career Counselors ...), Workers Compensation, Veterans Administration (Medical Centers and VRE's) . . . but even Workforce Development (many of whom use OASYS) will turn to the new OIS for job matching.  And this might make things a bit difficult for O*NET.
  • Alas, due to budget limitations and other issues, the OIDAP project and SSA occupational database has been abandoned - and the US Department of Labor has taken over the project again, using O*NET and compensation survey data.

This web page is to inform you about my opinions and the results of my investigation into O*NET, and whether it adequately replaces the DOT.  These opinions are not necessarily the opinions of the software publishers I independently represent. The findings of the National Academies of Science will probably be more accurate and comprehensive than mine, and I look forward to posting a link to their eventual findings.  Most of the products represented elsewhere in this site - especially CareerScope, OccuBrowse and OASYS - will report O*NET codes and occupation groups, even though the underlying processes are not based on O*NET occupational information or methodology.