SOC codes and structure

A Standard Occupational Classification, or SOC code is a standardised system of organising occupation titles. It is used by all government bodies in the UK for describing the different socio-economic groups of occupations.

The scheme currently in use by the UK government is the year 2000 edition; which breaks down the 26161 recognised job titles down into 9 main groups, with 353 sub-groups. By using this system, any job can be represented as a four-figure number.

The nine main groups under which all other occupations fall are:

1. Managers and Senior Officials

Most occupations in this major group will require a significant amount of knowledge and experience of the production processes, administrative procedures or service requirements associated with the efficient functioning of organisations and businesses.

2. Professional Occupations

This major group covers occupations whose main tasks require a high level of knowledge and experience in the natural sciences, engineering, life sciences, social sciences, humanities and related fields. The main tasks consist of the practical application of an extensive body of theoretical knowledge, increasing the stock of knowledge by means of research and communicating such knowledge by teaching methods and other means.

3. Associate Professional and Technical Occupations

This major group covers occupations whose main tasks require experience and knowledge of principles and practices necessary to assume operational responsibility and to give technical support to Professionals in the natural sciences, engineering, life sciences, social sciences, humanities and related fields and to Managers and Senior Officials.

4. Administrative and Secretarial Occupations

Occupations within this major group undertake general administrative, clerical and secretarial work, and perform a variety of specialist client-orientated clerical duties. The main tasks involve retrieving, updating, classifying and distributing documents, correspondence and other records held electronically and in storage files; typing, word-processing and otherwise preparing documents; operating other office and business machinery; receiving and directing telephone calls to an organisation; and routing information through organisations.

5. Skilled Trades Occupations

This major group covers occupations whose tasks involve the performance of complex physical duties that normally require a degree of initiative, manual dexterity and other practical skills. The main tasks of these occupations require experience with, and understanding of, the work situation, the materials worked with and the requirements of the structures, machinery and other items produced.

6. Personal Service Occupations

This major group covers occupations whose tasks involve the provision of a service to customers, whether in a public protective or personal care capacity. The main tasks associated with these occupations involve the care of the sick and the elderly; the supervision of children; the care of animals; and the provision of travel, personal care and hygiene services.

7. Sales and Customer Service Occupations

This major group covers occupations whose tasks require the knowledge and experience necessary to sell goods and services, accept payment in respect of sales, replenish stocks of goods in stores, provide information to potential clients and additional services to customers after the point of sale. The main tasks involve a knowledge of sales techniques, a degree of knowledge regarding the product or service being sold, familiarity with cash and credit handling procedures and a certain amount of record keeping associated with those tasks.

8. Process, Plant and Machine Operatives

This major group covers occupations whose main tasks require the knowledge and experience necessary to operate and monitor industrial plant and equipment; to assemble products from component parts according to strict rules and procedures and to subject assembled parts to routine tests; and to drive and assist in the operation of various transport vehicles and other mobile machinery.

9. Elementary Occupations

This major group covers occupations which require the knowledge and experience necessary to perform mostly routine tasks, often involving the use of simple hand-held tools and, in some cases, requiring a degree of physical effort.

Some example SOC codes

Each of the above codes is then broken down into finer and finer categories, until all 26,000 recognised job titles are covered; the degree of accuracy used depends on the release of the SOC manual and the complexity of application being used. For example, the latest release of the Labour Market System, the software used by UK jobcentres, uses 353 different categories.

Some of the more common jobs and their titles are:

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