Canada’s National Occupational Classification (NOC)

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National Occupational Classification

Canada’s national system for describing occupations is called the National Occupational Classification (NOC).

The NOC provides a systematic classification structure that categorizes the entire range of occupational activity in Canada for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating occupational data for labour market information and employment-related program administration. Occupational information is of critical importance for the provision of labour market and career intelligence, skills development, occupational forecasting, labour supply and demand analysis, employment equity, and numerous other programs and services.

An occupation is defined as a collection of jobs, sufficiently similar in work performed to be grouped under a common label for classification purposes. A job, in turn, encompasses all the tasks carried out by a particular worker to complete their duties.

The basic principle of the classification of the NOC is the kind of work performed. Job titles are identified and grouped primarily in terms of the work usually performed, this being determined by the tasks, duties, employment requirements, and responsibilities associated with each occupation. Factors such as the materials processed or used, the industrial processes and the equipment used, the degree of responsibility and complexity of work, as well as the products made and services provided, have been taken as indicators of the work performed when combining jobs titles into occupations and occupations into groups.

The NOC comprises about 30,000 job titles gathered into 500 unit groups, organized according to four skill levels and ten broad occupational categories. Unit groups are based on similarity of skills, defined primarily by functions and employment requirements. Unit groups can often be linked directly to one occupation (such as NOC 3113 – Dentists) or to more than one occupation (such as NOC 2271 – Air pilots, flight engineers and flying instructors). Each unit group provides a short description of its associated occupation(s), lists its main duties and employment requirements, and provides examples of job titles.

Students, workers, employers, career and vocational counsellors, educational and training organizations use the NOC on a daily basis to support career and vocational decisions. The classification is also used to support policy development and program design and administration as well as service delivery.

The NOC has been developed as part of a collaborative partnership between Employment and Social Development Canada and Statistics Canada. The two departments also work together to maintain and update the NOC. The NOC 2016 version focused on the contents of individual unit groups, without affecting the structure of the classification. Updates to the content of the NOC 2016 will continue on a regular basis. The next major structural revision of the NOC is planned for 2021.

NOC REVISION PROCESS

The NOC is updated on a regular basis in partnership with Statistics Canada. Minor revisions, which do not affect the distribution of unit groups across skill levels and broad occupational categories, are conducted on an annual basis since 2017. These revisions focus on content updates such as the addition of job titles into a unit group or the modification of a lead statement or of the main duties of a unit group.

Major revisions take place every 10 years, with the next one being scheduled for 2021. These major revisions are associated with more important changes to the classification which can include the introduction of new unit groups and the reallocation of unit groups across skill levels and broad occupational categories.

Methodology

Research and analysis of occupations, skills, and competencies for the NOC have been ongoing since its introduction in the early 1990s.

Sources of research include data from Censuses, other classifications, employment services and job advertisements, job and career descriptions, educational and training material, regulations and professional associations’ material, government, business and labour organizations’ input, public and private sector feedback, employment program material, and issues identified by Statistics Canada through coding surveys.

Whenever consultations take place, the public can also participate to the process via the NOC website. From the Home page, just access the Participate in NOC consultations section.

Some consultation inputs propose changes at a structural level. However, structural changes are considered as major revisions and are only every ten years to allow users to compare data over broader time spans.

Approval procedures

Once data and information have been collected, findings are analyzed and analysts prepare revision reports. These documents are then submitted to an internal Employment and Social Development Canada review committee for discussion and approval.

The proposed revisions are then sent to Statistics Canada for review and assessment of concerns related to coding consistency and statistical considerations. The joint working committee of classification experts from the two departments then discusses and resolves any outstanding issues to reach consensus on changes for the NOC.

CONCEPTS AND CONVENTIONS

The development of an organizational framework such as the National Occupational Classification (NOC) relies on the use of clear and defined concepts and the use of conventions. These concepts and conventions help gather information and structure it into the classification.

NOC classification criteria

The two major attributes used as classification criteria in developing the NOC are the broad occupational category and the skill level. Other factors, such as occupational mobility and the industrial sector, are also taken into consideration.

Broad occupational category: Represents the type of work performed, the field of study, or the industry of employment whenever industry-specific work experience is required for entry into occupation. The first digit of a NOC code represents the broad occupational category.

Skill level: Represents a broad aggregation of education, training, and work experience and also takes into account the complexity of the tasks and responsibilities associated with the job. The second digit of a NOC code represents the skill level.

NOC concepts

Job title: Represents the name given to a job or a position.

Occupation: An occupation is a set of jobs that are sufficiently similar in work performed. A job corresponds to all the tasks carried out by a particular worker to complete his or her duties.

Unit group: Represents one or several occupations combined together within the NOC. It also refers to the four-digit code used by the NOC.

Minor group: Represents the domain in which an occupation is carried out (occupational domain). It is an aggregation of several unit groups and thus represents the three-digit code used by the NOC.

Major group: Represents the broad occupational category and skill level of an occupation. A major group encompasses several minor groups and thus represents the two-digit code used by the NOC.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE NOC

Who uses the National Occupational Classification?

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) is a system for describing the occupations of Canadians. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a standardized way of describing and understanding the nature of work. Each group uses the NOC for various reasons:

Economists and statisticians, to guide the collection and compilation of data.
Labour market researchers, to understand the underpinnings of the statistics they use.
Government analysts, to guide policy decisions, to develop systems for training, for recruiting and job matching, to allocate spending for labour market programs, and for immigration selection procedures.
Educational counsellors and students, for career planning and exploration purposes.
Job seekers, employment counsellors, and employers, to make effective use of labour market information services.

How can I learn more about the National Occupational Classification?

A National Occupational Classification tutorial is available online for individuals who wish to develop an understanding of the classification system. This tutorial is self-directed and allows individuals to study specific parts of the NOC.

How can I find my National Occupational Classification code?

If you are unsure of which National Occupational Classification (NOC) code is associated with your job, you can first try to search by job title.

To conduct a search by job title, go to the NOC home page; select the “Search by job title” tab in the search box and type in your job title. The results will return a list of NOC unit groups associated with the job title you have entered. If there are no results, please try again using other related job titles.

Once you have one or more NOC code(s) in your search results, you can click on any of them to look at its occupational description. Review the main duties and employment requirements within the occupational description to determine if these correspond to those associated with your occupation. Other information found in the occupational description, such as examples of job titles, additional information, and exclusions may also help. If the occupational description does not correspond to your job, consult a different one.

If you cannot find the NOC unit group associated with your occupation using the title job search, you access the NOC matrix via the Hierarchy and structure section to narrow down your research.

To do so, you will need to know which sector of activity your occupation is associated to (health, natural sciences, trades, or transportation for instance). That will allow you to limit your search to NOC unit groups found under one “broad occupational category”, which is represented by the first digit of the NOC code and displayed as rows in the NOC matrix. Then, further reduce the scope of your search based on the education level usually required to be employed in your job. Do people usually require a university degree, apprenticeship training, or on-the-job training? The level of education generally required (or skill level) corresponds to the second digit of the NOC code and is represented by a letter in the columns in the NOC matrix. Please note that this may differ from your personal education level.

Once you have identified both the broad occupational category and the skill level associated with your job, you will be able to identify a short list of relevant NOC minor groups (represented by the first three digits of the NOC code).

Keeping those minor group in mind, go to the Hierarchy and structure section and drilldown the structure to list all NOC unit groups found under the relevant NOC minor groups. You can then access to the occupational description of each unit groups to find where your occupation has been classified.

Why can’t I find my job title in the National Occupational Classification?

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) contains about 30,000 job titles in each of Canada’s official languages. While the listing in the Index is not meant to be exhaustive, it does provide extensive coverage of commonly used and understood titles in the economy and of more specific titles found in many occupational areas.

The list is updated on an ongoing basis to add emerging job titles and remove obsolete ones. Still, many job titles used everyday in the labour market are not included in the list of job titles found in the NOC. Here are a few reasons why:

The job title is very specific and not used often enough to be added to the list. Instead, a more generic job title, which encompasses these very specific job titles, is used.

For instance, in unit group 4011 – University professors and lecturers, there are currently 117 different job titles. Yet, many existing job titles are not included because they are too specific and they can be linked to a more generic one. This is the case for the job title “biology professor – university” which is used in the NOC to capture all job titles associated with distinct biology teachers such as all microbiology teachers and their subspecialties (molecular virology, molecular biology, immunology, genetics, etc.).

The job title is fairly recent and more analysis is required before including it in the list of job titles.

Why is my occupation combined with other occupations?

One of the objectives of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) is to provide a system to describe and organize occupations in Canada for data collection and data analysis purposes. As such, when the NOC was first developed and during each revision since then, several factors where taken into account to define each unit group found within the NOC. A given unit group may represent one or more occupations according to the following criteria:

Broad occupational category;
Skill level;
Main duties;
Employment requirements and;
Education level in the occupation(s) considered.
Basically, occupations in the same broad occupational category and skill level and that have very similar duties and employment requirements will tend to be combined together. This is notably the case for all university professors and lecturers (associated with NOC code 4011) and all specialist physicians (associated with NOC code 3111).

In some instances however, even after combining several occupations together, the number of workers in the unit group is still too low. As a result, occupations found under the same broad occupational category and skill level but with different duties and/or different employment requirements, such as air pilots, flight engineers, and flying instructors (associated with NOC code 2271) can be combined together into one unit group.

What is the difference between an occupation and a unit group?

An occupation is defined as a set of jobs that are sufficiently similar in work performed. A job corresponds to all the tasks carried out by a particular worker to complete his or her duties. For instance, dentist is an occupation which encompasses different job titles which carry out very similar tasks such as dental surgeon, dentist, general practice dentist, and orthodontist.

A unit group, as defined in the National Occupational Classification, can represent a given occupation (such as dentist — NOC code 3113) or a set of different occupations falling in the same broad occupational category and skill level and with very similar duties and employment requirements. For instance, unit group 2148 – Other professional engineers, n.e.c. regroups several occupations such as agricultural engineer, marine engineer, and textile engineer under the same unit group.

Finally, in very few cases, a NOC unit group can combine occupations presenting somewhat different duties and/or employment requirements, such as for unit group 2271 – Air pilots, flight engineers and flying instructors.

What are broad occupational categories and skill levels?

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) classifies occupations using two main criteria: broad occupational category and skill level.

The first digit of the NOC code identifies the broad occupational category of an occupation. This corresponds to the type of work performed, or the educational area of study required. For example, the NOC code of occupations associated with the health sector begin with a three (3).

Skill levels are used to represent the kind and/or amount of training or education required for entering an occupation and are represented by letters A to D in the NOC matrix. A unit group’s skill level is usually associated with the second digit of its NOC code.

The exception is management occupations, for which the first digit of the code represents the type of work (management) and the second digit represents the sector of employment.

For instance, for NOC unit group 0601 – Corporate sales managers, the first digit (0) represents the management broad occupational category while the second digit (6) represents the sales and service sector.

Please see the first step of the NOC tutorial for more information about the broad occupational categories and/or skill levels.

How are employment requirements defined?

Employment requirements represent prerequisites generally requested by employers and/or professional associations to enter a given occupation. Several types of requirements are listed:

type and level of education including specific subject matter if relevant, starting with the lowest possible requirement for entry into the occupation;
specific training required, including apprenticeship, on-the-job, or internal training;
experience in a related occupation, especially for supervisory or managerial occupations;
licences, certificates or affiliations; and/or
other requirements not dependent on formal education, such as athletic abilities, artistic talent, or presentation of a portfolio.
While some occupations have very specific employment requirements, others have a wide range of acceptable requirements. The following terminology is used to indicate the level of the requirement:

“Is required” indicates a definite requirement.
“Is usually required” means that the qualification is generally expressed as required by a majority of employers, but is not always mandatory.
“May be required” describes requirements that some employers may impose, but are not universal.
Qualities related to personal suitability that may have an impact on employability are not described in the classification. These factors are subjective and determined by employers and are assessed during the hiring process.

Why are some of my main duties not listed in the National Occupational Classification?

The main duties section describes the most significant duties of the occupations in the group. They do not intend to be comprehensive of all the tasks performed in the occupation. They represent key duties that are related to the occupation(s) associated with the unit group and can be listed using:

a series of statements that can be applied to all occupations in the group;
two or more sub-sets of occupations with statements that apply to each sub-set or component; and/or
a series of brief statements that are linked to specific occupations, that, while similar enough to be in the same group, can be described separately.
statements in italics, at the end of the section, which identify a specialization that may exist within the occupation.

How can I propose changes to the National Occupational Classification?

Every now and then, the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), in partnership with Statistics Canada, launches an online consultation process to gather comments on the structure, composition, and content of the National Occupational Classification.

Changes to the content of the NOC (addition of job titles, main duties for instance) take place on an annual basis. Changes which may affect the structure of the NOC take place every ten years with the next one planned for 2021.

What changes were made to the 2016 version of the National Occupational Classification?

The 2016 version of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) updated the content of the occupational descriptions and added over 200 job titles while maintaining the structure of the 2011 edition. No major groups, minor groups, or unit groups have been added, deleted, or combined, though some groups have modified labels and/or updated content. Many new job titles have been added to NOC 2016, which arise as the division of labour in Canadian society evolves, creating new jobs and new specializations and as technological change brings with it new terminology. To clarify the boundaries between occupations, a few titles have been re-assigned to (a) different unit group(s) in the 2016 version of the NOC. The impact of these on the comparability of data between 2011 and 2016 are negligible.

Where can I find information associated with previous versions of the National Occupational Classification?

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) is updated on a regular basis. Information regarding the changes associated with the current and previous versions of the NOC as well as concordance tables between those different versions can be found in the NOC Versions section of the website.

If you wish to access the NOC structure or matrix of a previous version of the NOC, you can access it here. Once on this page, you can select the relevant NOC version.

You can also search for job titles found in a previous version of the NOC by selecting the NOC version prior to conducting your search on the NOC home page.

How can I integrate information from the National Occupational Classification into applications or programs?

Individuals or organizations interested in integrating National Occupational Classification (NOC) information directly into their Internet-enabled applications can ask for the creation of a NOC Web Service account. Via this service, they will be able to download the NOC program’s codes directly into their applications.

The NOC Web Service enables individuals and organizations to:

Improve timely access to relevant occupational and skill information;
Ensure accuracy and consistency of information in their products and services;
Seamlessly integrate occupational information into websites under their own look and feel; and
Save money on costs related to application development, database uploading, and maintenance.

How can I find jobs related to my National Occupational Classification code?

Job Bank’s website provides a lot of information to help job seekers find a job related to their occupation as identified in the National Occupational Classification. Job seekers can notably:

Browse through thousands of job postings using the Job Bank website or mobile application and;
Get job alerts as new jobs matching their interests are posted.

For more information about the National Occupational Classification, click here.
For more information about the Job Bank, click here.
For more information about Employment and Social Development Canada, click here.

SOURCE: Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)


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