Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Indispensable Reference Gets an Update

Next week, the a new edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook will be posted on the Web. It used to be the best-selling publication of the U.S. government. Now that JIST publishes it (based on the Web text, with some additional material), it’s JIST’s best-selling book. I am deeply grateful to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for providing this indispensable reference work. The OOH is one of the few well-researched sources we have for occupational information that is written in prose, rather than presented as tables of numerical ratings. The writing style is usually just right for a very broad readership that includes students in high school as well as adult workers.

This year, the venerable publication will have a new format. On the Web, it will appear in a tabbed interface rather than as one long page. You don’t have to wait till next week to see what this will look like. A prototype description of Electricians is already viewable on BLS’s Beta Labs site.

Besides the tabbed interface, the new format has some valuable new features that will be incorporated in JIST’s print edition of OOH. The first tab has a “Summary” table that includes the most essential facts about the occupation: the earnings, the level of education, the current workforce size, projected percentage of growth, and projected job openings. I’d like to think that this table was inspired by the quick facts that I put at the head of every job description in my Best Jobs books.

Another new feature is a pair of bar charts that compare the earnings and outlook for the occupation with the earnings and outlook of other occupations. There’s also a table of “Similar Occupations” that shows, for each one, a very brief statement of the job duties, the level of education usually required, and the annual earnings. On the Web, you can sort this table by clicking on the head of any column, although I can’t think of a reason you’d want to sort them by putting the job duties in alphabetical order.

I’m happy to point out that the new edition of OOH will fix one of the few problems that I’ve criticized in the past: the level of aggregation used to group occupations as subjects of separate articles (or, as the OOH calls them, “statements”). In the past, the OOH taxonomy was considerably less fine-grained than the Standard Occupational Classification, not to mention the O*NET-SOC classification. For example, SOC itemizes 18 kinds of engineers, but the previous edition of OOH furnished just one article called “Engineers.” This new edition, however, will have articles about 16 different kinds of engineers. In fact, it will cover about 345 occupations, compared to about 270 in previous editions.

Just this morning I learned that the Department of Labor has decided not to issue a print version of OOH. Starting with this edition, Labor will make the OOH a Web-only publication as they did with the Career Guide to Industries a few years ago. But fear not: JIST will continue to publish a print version of OOH--with the updated content--in both hard and soft covers. Next week, when the new content hits the Web, I’ll repackage it as a manuscript, and the finished book will come out this summer.

The JIST edition of OOH will have these additional exclusive features that you won’t find on the Web:
  • A section on emerging green occupations
  • The Personality-Career Quiz, a quick assessment to help you identify occupations that may suit you
  • An article on how teachers can use the book in the classroom
  • For the first time, a listing of the 100 best jobs in the OOH, created by the same sorting procedure that I use in books such as Best Jobs for the 21st Century and 50 Best Jobs for Your Personality.

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