Reference Book of the Week: Occupational Outlook Handbook
Welcome to another post in the Reference Book of the Week series. Once again, we are featuring a U.S. Government publication: the Occupational Outlook Handbook. It is officially known as U.S. Deparment of Labor Bulletin 2700. When it comes to career information, this item is a lifesaver. Most libraries, whether they are document depositories or not, will carry a copy of this publication. In brief, this book gives information on careers. If you want to know more about a particular job or career, how much it could pay, what education it would require, and its outlook in terms of employment, this is the place to go. The handbook is published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an agency within the Department of Labor, which is "the principal fact-finding agency for the Federal Government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics" (from the BLS website).
The Robert R. Muntz Library has the "library edition" of the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This is basically a hardcover edition with stronger binding for institutional use. In plain English, we buy a stronger edition because we expect it to be heavily used. You could also buy the book in trade paperback through the Government Printing Office (GPO) online bookstore if you were so inclined. However, you are welcome to come to the library and use our copy. So, what's in the book then?
- The table of contents: This can be your first point to start a search. It gives you a sense of how the book is organized. The OOC is organized by career groups (clusters) such as: management, business, and financial occupations; professional and related occupations; and service occupations. Each cluster is then further divided. For example, you would find education, training, library, and museum occupations under the professional and related occupations cluster. My job, librarian, would be in that section (on page 266).
- Each job entry features the following: a set of significant points to give you some quick facts about the job; nature of the work describing what the job typically does and entail; training, other qualifications, and advancement where you learn what kind of education and/or training is needed for that job; employment; job outlook; earnings; and related occupations which often tells you other careers that are similar or require some of the same skills. Finally, each entry gives a list of additional sources of information, mostly websites.
- Special features: the volume includes a series of special sections on topics such as: sources of career information; and finding and applying for jobs and evaluating offers. There is also a section labeled "Data for Occupations Not Studied in Detail." The OOC does not cover in detail every single career. They claim to cover 9 out of 10 jobs in the U.S. (23). This additional section "presents summary data on 128 additional occupations, for which employment projections are prepared, but for which occupational information is not developed" (843).
- The book features an index in the back of the book, which allows readers to look up a specific job and find the page directly. There are some cross-references. For example, let's say you want to be a pet groomer. You look it up and find there is no "pet groomer" listing. However, you look a bit more, and there is a listing for "groomers," telling you then to go to page 485. It also tells you that for groomers, you need to see jobs under "animal care and service workers." However, unlike other reference books, it does not make you take the extra step of finding the "see also" entry in the index; it gives you the page right away.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook is revised every two years. The library just acquired the new 2008-2009 edition. It is available in the library's ready reference shelves (the shelving right behind the reference desk) under the call number HF 5381 .A1036.
Also, like a good number of government documents, the OOC is available online is freely available online. Here is the direct link to the OOC. The BLS site, which I linked above, also links to it under the "Publications" heading. The online version allows you to look at the career clusters, there is a link to the A-Z index, or you can search the publication by typing a term in the search box to get the information (this is what I usually do when I use the publication). The online resource also features some other helpful features such as a guide for teachers. In addition, I would like to note that you can find other valuable labor resources through the BLS website such as information on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), productivity, and employment. If you want to see where many news anchors get their labor numbers or want to know what exactly is the CPI, the BLS site is a good place to look.