Information about Occupational Wage Data


Wage survey methodology

The National Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey is conducted semi-annually as part of a joint federal-state effort to gather occupational and wage data from employers. Establishments of all sizes, across all industries, and across all sectors of the economy are included. The purpose of the survey is to develop estimates of total wage and salary employment by occupation, wage range, and type of industry.

The sample of establishments surveyed is randomly selected and stratified by industry and employment size. This sampling method, combined with a process of "weighting" responses based on the number of similar establishments within a particular geographic area, ensures that all responses are equally important to the survey results. Generally, larger establishments represent only themselves in the estimating process and smaller establishments represent themselves and a number of similar firms.

Data collection is accomplished by the states using a structured and standardized survey form provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Survey forms are mailed to employers during May and November of the survey year. Follow-up contacts to non-responding companies are made by mail, personal visit, and telephone and generally continue for a number of months after the initial survey form was mailed out.

The survey form asks for statistical information about the occupations and wage ranges of the employees working at a particular location for a specific time period. Explanatory information is included on the survey form to help employers determine where establishment jobs fit within the occupations specified on the survey forms and how to calculate hourly or annual wages.

The OEWS occupational classification structure is based on the U.S. Department of Commerce's Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. The SOC structure provides a unique code, title, and definition for each SOC occupation.

State occupational estimates are published each year by the individual states. National occupational estimates are published each year by BLS.


Wage definition of terms

Average Wage

The average wage reflects a "weighted mean". The hourly wage rate of each employee in a specific occupation has been summed and then divided by the number of employees. The weighted mean is probably the most commonly used single figure for average occupational wages in an area. However, it is not typically used as unusually high or low wages can inflate or deflate the average wage.


A unique code number is used in the OEWS survey to identify the occupation and its relationship to other occupations in the survey. The occupational codes used in the OEWS survey are based on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system.

Inexperienced Wage

The wage for new workers entering the occupation. Because they lack experience and/or skilled training, new workers are not offered, or paid, the "median wage" for an occupation. The estimated "inexperienced wage" is an indicator of what the new, inexperienced worker might expect from the employer. It reflects the wage estimates of the bottom third of the wages of the workers in the scope of the survey for the occupation.

Median Wage

The wage of the absolute middle worker in the occupation. For example, if there were 100 workers in the occupation and we ranked the wages from low to high, the median would be the wage of the 50th worker. Thus, one-half of the workers earned wages below the median and one-half of the workers earned wages above the median.
Middle Range This term is used to describe the range of wages paid to the middle 50 percent of the workers in the specific occupation. It means that one-fourth of the employees are earning below the low end of the middle range and one-fourth of the employees are earning more than the high end of the middle range. For example, if there were 1,000 workers in the occupation and we ranked the workers by their wages, the middle range would be the wage of the 250th worker through the wage of the 750th worker. This range provides the user with information regarding the variance of pay within an occupation and a better idea of what the typical employee is earning in that occupation.
Occupation For this publication, an occupation refers to a collective description of a number of individual jobs performed, with minor variations, in many establishments. Each occupation included in the OEWS survey is defined so that a respondent or user can determine what type of workers the occupation is intended to include. These occupations and descriptions are based on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. See Occupational Descriptions  for a listing of occupations, their definitions and unique code.