The Bureau of Labor Statistics

A Treasure Trove of Economic and Career Information

The Bureau of Labor Statistics
September 2, 2016

Are you familiar with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)? If so, you probably associate the BLS with either jobs and unemployment reports, or statistics quoted by politicians (sometimes incorrectly or out of context) who want to make a point. However, the BLS contains a treasure trove of other useful statistics and functions of which you are probably not aware.

For example, if you are entering college and have not decided on a professional career path, or are in the middle of a midlife career switch, you may want to consult the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). The OOH is a searchable database that contains information on over 500 careers, from accountants to zoologists.

Careers may be sorted and analyzed in five categories: average pay (2012 reference), number of projected new jobs from 2012-2022, entry-level educational requirements, growth rate of the field, and the type of on-the-job training that employees in the field receive. Estimates and projections are based on results from the bi-annual Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey and adjusted to include results from the previous three years.

Special buttons are available to display the three categories that most people are interested in — the highest-paying jobs, jobs with the fastest expected growth, and careers with the most projected new jobs. One broad field dominates with most of the top spots in all three categories — medicine. As Obamacare meets our aging population, high-paying positions are available at all levels of the medical system from surgeons to physical therapists, personal care to home health aides.

However, you don't have to be in medicine to find jobs with good pay and high demand. For example, general and operations managers are expected to add over 151,000 jobs with an average salary of $97,730 per year.

What do they do and how do I become one? Glad you asked. Simply click on the link with the occupation name, and a secondary page will show up with tabs showing what people in that profession do, their work environment, how to become an employee in that field, pay distributions, job projections, and other useful career information.

What careers should you avoid? Search by the lower end of one category if you want to rule out a profession by any criteria.

If money is your concern, there are 42 occupations that average less than $25,000 annually. Several of those categories also have a declining number of jobs, including farmworkers for crops, and fast food and short order cooks. That doesn't mean that if you love cooking you shouldn't go into the field — just have reasonable expectations.

Occupations can also be browsed and searched alphabetically. If you prefer to sort by groups, the home page also contains 25 occupational groups. Is math your specialty? Click on the math group and you can find more detailed information about the four occupations listed: Actuaries, Mathematicians, Operations Research Analysts, and Statisticians. What about math teachers? They would be included under the Education, Training, and Library group.

The OOH page does not have geographical data, but the OES webpage does. It contains an occupational map that you can use to look for regional differences. Drop down menus allow you to filter by category. Want to be a landscape architect? Your average wage is $55,300 in Kansas versus $71,490 in New York. Prefer to be a social worker? You could make $47,860 in Mississippi or $59,880 in Alaska.

If you are a fan of statistics, the BLS is an interesting place to browse. There are many other labor-related statistics available. Get familiar with the site and not only can you potentially find your new career choice, you can find just the fact you need to refute politicians or obnoxious Facebook "friends." It's great to be armed with facts.

  Conversation   |   41 Comments

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Victor | 09.05.15 @ 04:22
This is great information to have, since we need to know what we need to expect and what to prepare for
Crystal | 09.05.15 @ 04:24
Great information and very informative
Ambar | 09.05.15 @ 04:26
OOH seems like a great tool. Thanks for sharing this info.
Nancy | 09.05.15 @ 04:27
I'm returning to work after a four year absence. I will definitely be checking out the OOH database.
Kyle | 09.05.15 @ 04:35
This was a lot of great information. Good thing to know.
Britt | 09.05.15 @ 04:37
This article had a lot of useful information that I wasn't aware of.
Angie | 09.05.15 @ 04:38
This is quite timely - I'm one of those midlife persons who has found themselves in a position for new employment...
Elaine | 09.05.15 @ 04:54
That was a big pay difference between Mississippi and Alaska. I guess you would have to pay more for some area of Alaska.
Leah Gardner | 09.05.15 @ 05:22
Good information!
Alec | 09.05.15 @ 05:34
This is brilliant! I've been meaning to look at statistics for the field I want to go in to but never got around to it. I wasn't aware a list like the OOH existed. I'll be able to look up my field and help some of my friends who are still trying to decide on careers.
Beverly | 09.05.15 @ 06:02
This was actually quite interesting and something that will be quite useful!
Jennifer Sears | 09.05.15 @ 06:11
This was very educational!
Kamie | 09.05.15 @ 06:26
That is so nice that the OES webpage will tell you where you can get paid the best.
Wanda Langley | 09.05.15 @ 09:40
Great information. I was not aware of some of it.
Irene | 09.05.15 @ 09:41
What a great way to figure the earnings potential on various career paths. Good information
Donnie | 09.05.15 @ 10:33
Very interesting. A lot of great information
George Middleton | 09.05.15 @ 11:25
The OOH is bookmarked now. Thanks for the information.
George Middleton | 09.05.15 @ 11:32
Good Information..
Christina | 09.05.15 @ 11:35
Very good information...
Owen | 09.05.15 @ 11:36
Great information!
Stokes | 09.05.15 @ 11:46
This is great information. I'm planning to return to the job market in the next few years after 4 years as a housemom. I'll bookmark this for later use.
Erin | 09.05.15 @ 12:38
This sounds like a wonderful site to check out. I will have to pass it along to my children as they start to make college decisions.
Steffanie | 09.05.15 @ 12:43
Thanks for sharing the information. Great article.
Sara | 09.05.15 @ 12:53
Great information to have around. This helps know what exactly to prepare for.
Jackie | 09.05.15 @ 12:53
Lots of great information. Interesting statistics about the median wage in various states.
Daniel Dohlstrom | 09.05.15 @ 13:06
More great info shared here greatly appreciated
Selena Walls | 09.05.15 @ 13:17
Sounds like this could be very, very helpful to a person searching for a new career
trish | 09.05.15 @ 13:33
This is great information to have to share with my children when they get older, and decide what career path they wish to take.
Christina | 09.05.15 @ 13:35
Interesting read, especially the bit about what fields pay the best/worst.
Ron | 09.05.15 @ 13:51
The problem with statistics is it can tell a macro story, but only in a snapshot. The stories of it got there are lost.
Meredith L | 09.05.15 @ 14:06
I actually spoke to a person about how they researched the location of where they wanted to start up a new business. Based on demographics, stats from the BLS, and the climate they wanted to live in, they made the move based on those things. Personally, I would never jump into a new career just for money but rather for passion in that field.
Crystal | 09.05.15 @ 14:11
The BLS is a goldmine! Used it for years for research and to gather info on projects, employment, etc.
Carla Truett | 09.05.15 @ 14:29
I wish I had had access to this information many years ago. Sadly many people finish college just to be very disappointed in the availability and the pay rate of the jobs in their major.
Andrea | 09.05.15 @ 14:29
I definitely will be checking this out. Thank you for sharing.
Casey | 09.05.15 @ 16:35
OH thank you so much for the information!
Heather | 09.05.15 @ 16:42
Great information since I'm looking into a career switch.
Irene | 09.02.16 @ 15:23
I really like that it lets you look at the projected number of new jobs
Daniel Dohlstrom | 09.02.16 @ 15:30
Lots of information here many including myself were probably not aware of, always good to have resources available to you
Jane | 09.02.16 @ 15:44
I used the Occupational Outlook Handbook when I was looking for my major for college when I returned to college as an adult. It is a very helpful tool in finding out what a job or industry really is about.
Christina | 09.02.16 @ 15:50
Really interesting statistics - it's all about having realistic expectations!
Tina | 09.02.16 @ 15:55
This is a great tool for those of us who find ourselves out of work. The searchable database is fantastic, thanks for sharing!
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.04.16 @ 16:27
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