The Value of the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Student exploring career options

Many college students chose their career pursuits on the basis of career path surveys they were given in high school. These tests claim to be based on scientific research and assess your personality, strengths and weaknesses.

While these questionnaires can be useful in helping you better understand your preferences and aptitudes, they are not always the best way to gauge your career potential. An option that is commonly overlooked is the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), available through the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

What Is the Occupational Outlook Handbook?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics was founded in 1884 to research and compile information on economics and labor. In 1949, the Occupational Outlook Handbook was created primarily to assist veterans with finding jobs. Progress on the first Occupational Outlook handbook was slow. More then ten years progressed before it was developed. In 1938, a report by the Advisory Committee on Education, which was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, gave the Bureau of Labor Statistics the boost it needed. In this report, BLS was encouraged to provide a source of employment outlooks.1

Given the technology of the time, the original version was a printed booklet. The website was not created until 1995, and a fully functioning online version was not published on the BLS website until 2012. This site has now been active for nearly 10 years.1

What Can a College Student Find in the Occupational Outlook Handbook?

The Occupational Outlook Handbook contains an abundance of information. Approximately four out of five jobs are included in the 324 occupational profiles. These profiles include information on education, training, environment, responsibilities and what workers do and pay. Other details are also given including where to find more information and similar occupations.4

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide career guidance or advice, it does provide a 10-year growth projection for almost every job. Other projections and listings offered include the highest-paying jobs, the fastest-growing jobs, most new jobs and jobs that fall under a field or degree. This data is available by state, city and even zip code.

How Can a College Student Use This Information?

The handbook provides a realistic perspective on wages and job availability. For example, a recent graduate who insists on moving to Seattle to become an accountant should be aware that although the wages are higher, this market might be saturated, offering fewer opportunities. A job might be found faster in Portland, given the willingness to accept a slightly lower wage.

This resource is very easy to navigate. Colorful maps, basic tables, statistics and brief summaries make the information easy to find and grasp. The data can provide career clarity and valuable information about lucrative opportunities.

So rather than gauging a student’s career interests with just a survey, the new trend in college preparation should be to start with the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

“Knowledge is Power. Information is liberating. Education is the promise of progress, in every society, in every family.” – Kofi Annan6

Retrieved from:

U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, 70 years of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, in March 2021

U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, The early history of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, in March 2021

U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook Home, in March 2021

U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, OOH FAQs, in March 2021

U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, Announcements, in March 2021

Global Partnership for Education, Kofi Annan knew the importance of education, in March 2021

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.