1. The SOC2010 manual

The manual is published as three volumes.

This first volume is comprised of the following sections:

  • Section 2 describes the background to the revision process

  • Section 3 outlines the resources that were used in this process

  • Section 4 gives a brief account of the important principles, concepts and conventions according to which SOC has been developed

  • Section 5 describes the continuing process of updating SOC

  • Section 6 sets out the detailed SOC structure of Unit, Minor, Sub major and Major Groups

  • Section 7 gives a description of each of the groups distinguished and lists job tasks which persons classified to the group typically carry out and common job titles which relate to the group.

Volume 2 consists of a detailed alphabetical index of job titles, giving both the SOC2000 and SOC2010 Unit Group to which each is assigned.

This is designed for use in coding occupations.

To aid consistent coding guidance notes are provided on the way in which the index has been compiled and organised and on how to locate exactly the right index entry, given the kind of description of the job typically provided by informants.

These notes form the introductory section to Volume 2.

Volume 3 details the relationship between SOC2010 and the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC).

This classification of socio-economic positions is based in part on the Standard Occupational Classification. The revision of SOC2000 has required additional work to rebase the NS-SEC on SOC2010.

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2. Background to the revision process

The Standard Occupational Classification, first introduced in 1990, is maintained by the Classification and Harmonisation Unit (CHU) of the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The CHU conducts this maintenance function by responding to user queries, collecting and collating information on new occupational areas and by developing databases of occupational information for the purpose of revising the classification.

The CHU also has longer-term responsibilities to prepare and publish revisions to the classification index and the structure of the classification.

As part of this longer-term work programme, the CHU invited the Institute for Employment Research (IER) at the University of Warwick to prepare a plan for the revision of SOC2000, taking account of the following factors:

  • The CHU has maintained a database of occupational queries arising from a wide variety of users. These queries indicated that there were certain key areas within SOC2000 which were proving problematic for those organisations and agencies which were tasked to prepare occupational statistics. These include information technology occupations, conservation and environment-related occupations.

  • A significantly higher proportion of the working population in the UK is classified via SOC2000 as managers. It is unlikely that this reflects major differences in the organisation and structure of work in the UK and most probably relates to the use of the job title ‘manager’ and associated classification methods and procedures in SOC2000.

  • Certain occupational areas were developing rapidly, both in terms of their scale and the complexity of work organisation, but were not easily recognised in SOC2000. These included customer service jobs, security-related occupations and a wide range of jobs in what can loosely be termed ‘caring’ and ‘community work’ occupations.

Additionally, work led by the International Labour Office, to revise the International Classification of Occupations (ISCO) from its 1988 version to create the 2008 version, was nearing completion.

The revised structure identified a number of supervisory occupations as unit groups within ISCO08.

To achieve a degree of harmonisation between the SOC in its international counterpart, these developments would have to be reflected within SOC2010.

The plan prepared by the IER became a blueprint for the revision process. Every part of the existing classification was scrutinised in terms of a number of criteria:

  • the extent to which producers of occupational statistics had been able to identify and classify job titles to the appropriate unit group of the classification

  • the size of each unit group and its projected change over the next ten years

  • the heterogeneity of skills associated with job tiles classified to each unit group

  • the demand from users for the identification of new occupational areas within the classification

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3. The resources used for the revision process

A number of major resources were used to inform the revision of SOC2000. These included:

  • for a full quarter of the Labour Force Survey (January to March 2007), text responses to questions on job titles, brief job descriptions, qualification requirements for jobs, and descriptions of what is made or done at the place of work

  • similar information from an Economically Active (EA) 1 per cent sample of the 2001 Census of Population for England and Wales

  • a database of queries logged by the CHU from occupational coding activities carried out by a variety of organisations and agencies across the UK

In addition to these sources, the CHU and the IER consulted widely with a range of stakeholder organisations with interests in occupational definition and structure.

All of these organisations gave freely of their time to assist with the revision process.

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4. Objects to be classified and criteria of classification

The object to be classified using the Standard Occupational Classification is the concept of a ‘job’.

Defined as a set of tasks or duties to be carried out by one person, the notion of a job represents a basic element in the employment relationship.

Jobs usually structured by employers (or by the worker in the case of self-employment) and others, including professional bodies, employer and/or worker organisations and governments, may regulate their definition.

Jobs are recognised primarily by the associated job title.

Jobs are classified into groups according to the concept of ‘skill level’ and ‘skill specialisation’.

As in SOC2000 and its predecessor SOC90, skill level is defined with respect to the duration of training and/or work experience recognised in the field of employment concerned as being normally required in order to perform the activities related to a job in a competent and efficient manner.

Skill specialisation is defined as the field of knowledge required for competent, thorough and efficient conduct of the tasks.

In some areas of the classification it refers also to the type of work performed (for example materials worked with, tools used).

Skill levels are approximated by the length of time deemed necessary for a person to become fully competent in the performance of the tasks associated with a job.

This, in turn, is a function of the time taken to gain necessary formal qualifications or the required amount of work-based training.

Apart from formal training and qualifications, some tasks require varying types of experience, possibly in other tasks, for competence to be acquired.

Within the broad structure of the classification major groups and sub-major groups reference can be made to these four skill levels:

  • The first skill level equates with the competence associated with a general education, usually acquired by the time a person completes his/her compulsory education and signaled via a satisfactory set of school-leaving examination grades. Competent performance of jobs classified at this level will also involve knowledge of appropriate health and safety regulations and may require short periods of work-related training. Examples of occupations defined at this skill level within the SOC2010 include postal workers, hotel porters, cleaners and catering assistants

  • The second skill level covers a large group of occupations, all of which require the knowledge provided via a good general education as for occupations at the first skill level, but which typically have a longer period of work-related training or work experience. Occupations classified at this level include machine operation, driving, caring occupations, retailing, and clerical and secretarial occupations

  • The third skill level applies to occupations that normally require a body of knowledge associated with a period of post-compulsory education but not normally to degree level. A number of technical occupations fall into this category, as do a variety of trades occupations and proprietors of small businesses. In the latter case, educational qualifications at sub-degree level or a lengthy period of vocational training may not be a necessary prerequisite for competent performance of tasks, but a significant period of work experience is typical

  • The fourth skill level relates to what are termed ‘professional’ occupations and high level managerial positions in corporate enterprises or national/local government. Occupations at this level normally require a degree or equivalent period of relevant work experience

Table 1 list the sub-major groups of SOC2010 and compares these with SOC2000.

As can be seen from the names of these sub-major groups, the skill specialisation criterion has been used to distinguish groups of occupations within each skill level.

Thus, for example, health professionals are distinguished from science, research, engineering and technology professionals, and skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades from skilled construction and building trades

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5. Major group structure of the classification and qualifications, skills, training and experience

The major group structure is a set of broad occupational categories that are designed to be useful in bringing together unit groups which are similar in terms of the qualifications, training, skills and experience commonly associated with the competent performance of work tasks.

The divisions between major groups also reflect the important aim of aligning SOC as far as possible with the international classification (ISCO08), in which major groups are distinguished on similar criteria.

SOC2000 had nine major groups, 25 sub-major groups, 81 minor groups and 353 unit groups.

SOC2010 retains nine major groups and 25 sub-major groups but now has 90 minor groups and 369 unit groups.

Table 2 shows the nine major groups of SOC, defined in terms of the general nature of the qualifications, training and experience associated with competent performance of tasks in the occupations classified within each major group.

It should, however, be noted that some occupational areas in major group 3 (and even major group 4) typically have a degree-level qualification associated with current entry routes.

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6. The UK qualifications credit framework

During the past ten years a system has been developed for locating within a single framework the wide range of qualifications available in the UK and Ireland.

This has culminated in the Qualifications Credit Framework (QCF) which combines information on both the difficulty entailed in a particular qualification and the time needed to achieve that qualification.

The QCF continues to evolve and to introduce other qualifications into the framework, and it will in turn be integrated into the European Qualifications Framework.

As in SOC2000, each of the SOC2010 unit group descriptions contains information on Typical Entry Routes and Associated Qualifications.

For reasons of simplicity and continuity, reference to vocational qualifications is again frequently expressed in terms of NVQ/SVQ Levels, and no attempt has been made within the unit group descriptions to relate these to the QCF.

However, the following sub-section provides summary information on work undertaken by the IER on the Qualifications Credit Framework that will assist in relating and assessing specific qualifications within the context of the new Framework.

Comparing qualifications

The IER has since 2004 been working with the UK qualifications authorities and the Republic of Ireland on ‘comparing qualifications’.

The Comparing Qualifications section of the GLACIER: Guidance, Learning And Careers at IER site outlines the developments that are taking place in each of the five countries and places these in the broader context of what is happening with proposals for a European Qualifications Framework.

The table for comparing qualifications across countries illustrates how qualifications are organised in Ireland and the UK.

On one side of the table are the main stages of education or employment, and the columns show the different national qualifications frameworks.

By looking at a level and/or qualification in a particular country, it is possible to locate the nearest levels and similar kinds of qualifications that are used in the other countries.

This makes it possible to draw broad comparisons between qualifications and their levels, rather than direct equivalences, for each country.

It is important to note that, because the system continues to evolve, the information provided here is indicative and is subject to change over time.

Those wishing to locate specific qualifications within the framework are advised to check up-to-date, online information.

One useful starting point could be the National Database of Accredited Qualifications (NDAQ) which contains details of qualifications that are accredited by the regulators of external qualifications in England (Ofqual), Wales (DCELLS) and Northern Ireland (CCEA).

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7. The main changes to SOC2000

The most important changes introduced in SOC2010 are as follows:

Redefining managers

The title ‘manager’, qualified in some way, is frequently used in the UK to denote what would be regarded as supervisory or administrative positions in many other countries.

Furthermore, the title is often used in the UK to denote the management of a set of activities that constitute a specific job, rather than the broader and more strategic managerial functions that define managerial roles in other countries.

For this reason, UK occupational statistical information is not comparable with similar information from many other countries.

While an attempt was made within SOC2000 to address this issue, the changes proposed in that revision had little impact upon the proportion of the UK workforce defined as managers.

There was general agreement about the need to tackle this issue as a priority in the definition of SOC2010.

The SOC review team approached this issue first by examining more closely the definition of corporate managers as described in SOC2000 and in the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO08). The points below reproduce these definitions

  • SOC2000 definition:

    Job holders in this sub-major group formulate government policy: direct the operations of major organisations, government departments and special interest organisations; organise and direct production, processing, maintenance and construction operations in industry; formulate, implement and advise on specialist functional activities within organisations; direct the operations of branches and offices of financial institutions; organise and co-ordinate the transportation of passengers, the storage and distribution of freight, and the sale of goods; manage the operations of the emergency services, customs and excise, the prison service and the armed forces; and co-ordinate the provision of health and social care services and establishments.

  • ISCO 08 definition:

    Corporate managers determine and formulate policies and plan, direct and coordinate the activities of enterprises and organisations, or their internal departments or sections.

    Tasks performed by workers in this sub-major group usually include: determining and formulating policies; planning, directing and coordinating the activities of the business enterprise or other organisation as a whole, or of their internal departments or sections. Supervision of other workers may be included.

To effect a definition of the managerial role which accords more closely with the broader, more strategic definition as used in ISCO08, the definition of managers within SOC2000 Major Group 1:

‘This major group covers occupations whose main tasks consist of the direction and coordination of the functioning of organisations and businesses, including internal departments and sections, often with the help of subordinate managers and supervisors.’

This was changed to the definition used in SOC2010:

‘This major group covers occupations whose tasks consist of planning, directing and coordinating resources to achieve the efficient functioning of organisations and businesses.’

This revised definition focuses upon the managerial occupation as one which is associated specifically with control over resources (planning, directing and coordinating) at the enterprise or organisational level and makes the strategic elements of the job more explicit rather than the day-to-day tasks.

Where the job title ‘manager’ is used yet the job description does not indicate significant responsibilities for strategic control over resources (financial, material or human), consideration was given to the reallocation of such job titles and their associated task descriptions to alternative major groups.

This required a careful examination of the mechanisms (index rules, guidance notes, coding procedures, etc.) by which such job titles and descriptions could be identified and excluded from Major Group 1.

To retain a degree of comparability with managerial groups as defined in SOC2000, certain managerial unit groups (the lowest level of the classification) have been retained in their entirety but repositioned in other major groups of the classification.

Information technology and telecommunications occupations

Continuing technological change together with changes in the way IT occupations are organised and integrated across many functional areas necessitated thorough reconsideration and consequent revision, mainly within Major Group 2 (Professional occupations).

Conservation/environmental occupations

Recognition of occupations relating specifically to conservation and the environment was made for the first time in SOC2000.

The increasing significance of this area has resulted in the creation of categories in Major Group 2 (Professional occupations) in SOC2010 and the re-classifying of some occupations previously located within Major Group 3 (Associate Professional occupations).


Supervisory minor and unit groups have been introduced into a small number of areas where the role of supervisor is distinct and is generally regarded as separate from the type of work that is being supervised.

This also improves the alignment between SOC2010 and ISCO08.

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8. Summarising changes to the classification structure introduced in SOC2010

This section presents a summary of some of the major changes that distinguish SOC2010 from SOC2000.

For more details of the relationship between SOC2010 and SOC2000 at the level of unit groups (the most detailed level of the classification), please contact the CHU.

Major Group 1 (Managers, Directors and Senior Officials)

The change of the name of this major group, from Managers and Senior Officials to Managers, Directors and Senior Officials reflects the substantial revision that has been made to this major group in the light of the stricter definition of managers in SOC2010.

The inclusion of ‘Directors’ in the major group title is repeated at submajor and most minor and unit group level titles in this area of the revised classification.

Minor group 111 changes from ‘Corporate Managers and Senior Officials’ to ‘Chief Executives and Senior Officials’ in order better to reflect current terminology and the focus placed on the most senior managers of major organisations in this part of the classification.

A number of minor and unit groups have been removed from Major Group 1 to other areas of the classification.

In some cases, this is because the professional knowledge and expertise required for the occupation is regarded as paramount and they are now classified with Professional occupations in major group 2: thus, Research and development managers have been moved from Functional Managers into a new Professional minor group 215 (Research and development managers); Quality assurance managers have been re-classified to a new minor group for Quality and Regulatory Professionals; Pharmacy managers are now classified as Health Professionals with Pharmacists in unit group 2213.

Other SOC2000 managerial unit groups have been re-classified to non-managerial areas of SOC2010: Customer service managers (previously Customer care managers in SOC2000) are now classified to unit group 7220 within one of the new minor groups created to identify supervisory occupations in selected areas of the classification; similarly, Office managers are now largely classified with Administrative and Secretarial Occupations in major group 4, in a new minor group for Administrative Occupations: Office Managers and Supervisors; Security managers have moved to SOC2010 unit group 3319 (Protective Service Associate Professionals n.e.c.).

Healthcare practice managers and Residential and day care managers have been removed from SOC2000 minor group 118 (Health and Social Services Managers) and allocated to a new SOC2010 minor group 124 within submajor group 12, because they are, in effect, running small businesses either as managers or – in the case of some residential care establishments – as proprietors.

The unit group title for 1242 reflects the wider functions of care services: Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors.

Conference and exhibition managers are re-classified to a new unit group, Conference and exhibition managers and organisers, within major group 3.

Major Group 2 (Professional Occupations)

In major group 2 additional unit groups for information technology and telecommunications professionals have been created, recognising the changing structure of IT occupations and their integration into a wide range of functional areas.

IT specialist managers and IT project and programme managers are allocated new unit groups, transferring these occupations from SOC2000 major group 1.

IT business analysts. Architects and systems designers and Programmers and software development professionals reconfigure many of the IT occupations in SOC2000 major group 2.

Web design and development professionals bring together web-related occupations previously classified in SOC2000 major groups 2 and 3.

These decisions reflect both the significant consultation that has taken place with the industry training bodies in this area and the attempt to create an effective mapping with ISCO08 in this important yet rapidly changing occupational area.

Scientists within the professional area of SOC2010 are deemed to encompass both the natural and social sciences and the humanities, as reflected in the minor group title: Natural and Social Science Professionals and the addition of a unit group for Social and humanities scientists.

The decision has also been made to include the professional researchers within their respective scientific disciplines and not to distinguish research professionals separately.

The submajor group for Health Professionals has been expanded to include some health occupations previously designated at associate professional level.

Similarly, a new minor group has been created for Therapy Professionals for occupations classified within major group 3 of SOC2000.

Nurses and Midwives are re-classified to separate unit groups within a new Professional minor group: Nursing and Midwifery Professionals.

A new minor group, Conservation and Environment Professionals, has been created into which are classified occupations that were assigned in SOC2000 to submajor group 12 and associate professional level.

An additional unit group within Legal Professionals has been created in order to identify Solicitors separately from Barristers and judges.

Major Group 3 (Associate Professional and Technical Occupations)

Changes to major group 3 result mostly from the re-classification of occupational areas at Professional level, as outlined above.

A new unit group within Protective Service Occupations has been created for Police community support officers.

Train drivers have been re-classified to a separate unit group within a new minor group 823: Other Drivers and Transport Operatives.

Major Group 4 (Administrative and Secretarial Occupations)

The key change in major group 4 is the creation of a new minor group for Administrative Occupations: Office Managers and Supervisors.

In addition to the re-allocation of Office managers from major group 1 (as mentioned above), those whose role is fundamentally to supervise across a wide range of administrative occupations are classified to a new unit group: Office supervisors.

Major Group 5 (Skilled Trades Occupations)

New minor groups and related unit groups have been created for: Skilled Metal, Electrical and Electronic Trades Supervisors; and Construction and Building Trades Supervisors.

Major Group 6 (Caring, Leisure and Other Service Occupations)

Caring Personal Services have been expanded to identify in separate unit groups Senior care workers and Care escorts.

Major Group 7 (Sales and Customer Service Occupations)

New minor groups have been created to classify Sales Supervisors and Customer Service Managers and Supervisors.

Major Group 8 (Process, Plant and Machine Operatives)

No significant changes have been made to the structure of this major group.

Major Group 9 (Elementary Occupations)

Apart from some re-ordering (and consequent re-numbering) at minor group level and the merging of a few unit groups, no significant changes have been made to the structure of this major group.

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9. Updating SOC

Changes occur in work organisation as a result of technological developments, innovation and new products, the use of new materials, improved methods of production or delivery of services.

New occupations arise either because tasks are enlarged, contracted or combined within and between existing occupations or because new, different tasks are introduced into the organisation of work.

Many new job titles have been introduced into Volume 2 and, where such new occupations have become sufficiently important to warrant their recognition and inclusion in the classification, this has been reflected within the structure of SOC2010.

However, occupational change is a continual process.

The Classifications and Harmonisation Unit of the Office for National Statistics, which supports the SOC, would welcome information on such changes.

This will be taken into account in the periodical updating of SOC.

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