Collecting and Using Industry and Occupation Data

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What to Know Before Collecting Industry and Occupation Data

  1. Industry and occupation are related, but distinct variables.

Occupation is a person’s job.
Individuals in the same occupation have similar training, perform a similar set of tasks, and may have similar workplace exposures. Examples include registered nurse, janitor, cashier, auto mechanic.

Important things to remember when collecting industry and occupation data:

  1. Industry and occupation are related, but different. Collect BOTH.
  2. Collect free text descriptions; do not use drop down lists – limiting the response options also limits what we can learn.
  3. Collect detailed information. “Engineer” is okay, “Civil Engineer” is better.
  4. Each occupation and industry has a specific standardized code assigned to analyze the data.

Industry is the type of business in which a person works.
The industry is the kind of business of the employer or what the employer does. It is not the company name or the name of the employer.

Company names should not be used because they

  • may include several industries
  • may not be unique

Examples of industry include general hospital, elementary school, clothing manufacturing, restaurant.

Collect both industry AND occupation because each of these aspects of a person’s job may have its own risks or hazards.

The same occupation may be found in a variety of industries and each industry includes people employed in a variety of occupations. Just as each occupation may have its own characteristic hazards, each industry may have different situations that could put an employee at risk for different work-related conditions.

For example, a nurse who works in an elementary school and nurse who works at a hospital: same occupation, but very different potential workplace exposures.

  1. Collect industry and occupation data from survey respondents as free text descriptions, rather than having them choose from a drop-down menu or similar list of options.

Choosing from a drop-down list with limited options

  • may consist of categories that are too broad to be useful
  • limits your ability to get detailed job information
  • does not capture newly created industries or occupations
  • will not identify other jobs that could be linked to an illness, especially an illness that is emerging.
  • are less likely to be coded to standardized industry and occupation codes that can be compared to other data

This is what your occupation and industry questions may look like on your form:

Occupation
What kind of work do you do? Or what is your job title? (e.g., registered nurse, janitor, cashier, auto mechanic, etc.)
Response: _______[Description of work]____________________________________

Industry
What kind of business or industry do you work in? Or what does your employer make or do? (e.g., hospital, elementary school, clothing manufacturing, restaurant, etc.)
Response: ______[Description of kind of business]_____________________________

  1. In addition to collecting industry and occupation data, work-related information can often be found in

    Collect detailed information.

The more detailed the industry and occupation information is, the more researchers can learn about hazards and health outcomes among certain jobs and types of businesses.

Learn more about good data collection in our short training video.

  1. To analyze the industry and occupation data, free text must first be converted to standard codes, such as North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), Standard Occupational Classification System (SOC), or Census industry and occupation classification system.

The process of converting text to numeric code is known as industry and occupation coding. The industry and occupation text are most often coded electronically rather than by hand. Automated coding is more efficient and less likely to introduce random bias into coding.

NIOSH offers tools to code data electronically. Learn more.

What to Consider When Creating Your Survey

Tips for Collecting Good Data

Training Materials for Collecting Industry and Occupation Data

This section includes resources that can be used for training purposes. Examples of studies that collected industry and occupation data are also included.

NIOSH partnered with six states to collect detailed occupational exposure information from adults diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection who worked outside the home (in non-healthcare settings) during the two weeks prior to illness onset.

Data for each respondent were collected by state partners from September 2020 through June 2021 using a survey instrument created collaboratively by NIOSH and state partners. The survey instrument contained standard questions to collect industry and occupation data from each respondent. All data were protected in accordance with applicable federal and state regulations. The survey instrument can be used as a resource for collecting industry and occupation information.

Industry and Occupation: Death Certificates

Industry and Occupation: Cancer Registries

  • A Cancer Registrar’s Guide to Collecting Industry and Occupation
    The usual (longest-held) occupation and industry of workers can reveal the national cancer burden by industry and occupation. Such information can also be used to help discover jobs that may have a high risk for cancer or other diseases and for which prevention efforts can be concentrated (or targeted).
  • Collection and Use of Industry and Occupation Data for Cancer Registry Professionals
    Powerpoint presentation given at the Los Angeles Cancer Surveillance Program Annual Symposium
  • Collection of Industry and Occupation Data for Cancer Registry Professionals (Including Online Training)
    The goal of this training module is to improve both the quality and the quantity of industry and occupation information captured from hospital and clinic records in order to increase the value of using this information for public health surveillance and research with the ultimate goal of decreasing the incidence of cancers related to workplace exposures. The module contains three parts:
    • Background on the importance of collecting information on the usual (or longest-held) industry and occupation of cancer patients,
    • Guidelines for collecting industry and occupation, and
    • Examples of adequate and inadequate industry and occupation entries.
There is a test at the end. All of those who complete this activity and pass the test (70% or higher) are eligible for 1.5 CEU from NCRA.
Page last reviewed: June 29, 2022