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A Brief Guide to the National Occupation Classification (NOC) System

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The National Occupation Classification (NOC) system is a categorization of occupations in Canada’s labour market. It is a Canadian government publication replaced the 1981 Canadian Classification Dictionary of Occupations. It is published concurrently in French as Classification nationale des professions. Currently, it classifies over 30,000 occupational titles into 500 unit groups, organized according to 5 skill levels and 10 skill types. The first NOC was published in 1992, with a Second Revised edition following in 2001. Further revisions were made in 2006. In 2011 the NOC was revised and underwent structural changes. There was a minor revision in 2016, and the NOC is now continually updated. It is also available online for perusal at https://noc.esdc.gc.ca/.

According to the Government of Canada’s website, jobs are grouped together by the NOC depending on both job duties and work done by the individual. The main job groups are organized according to skill level, and are as follows:

  • Skill Level 0: Management jobs, such as food service managers
  • Skill Level A: Professional jobs that generally require a university degree, such as doctor or architect
  • Skill Level B: Technical or skilled trade jobs that generally require a college diploma or apprenticeship training, such as carpenter or chef
  • Skill Level C: Intermediate jobs that generally require a high school education and/or on-the-job training, such as truck driver or food/beverage servers
  • Skill Level D: Labour jobs that may have no other educational requirement other than on-the-job training, such as fruit pickers or cleaners

An individual’s job group can determine their eligibility for certain immigration programs. Jobs in the 0, A, and B skill levels are considered skilled jobs. A job at any of these 3 skill levels is required to immigrate to Canada using the Express Entry system. The federal Express Entry system manages 3 pathways for permanent residence: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class. Some immigration programs, such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program, considers candidates with occupational skill levels 0, A, B, or C. Individuals with an occupational level of C or D may be able to come to Canada through a Provincial Nomination Program (PNP), as several have categories where any occupational skill level is eligible to apply.

There are 10 skill types, labeled 0-9, which correspond to the first digit of the four-digit code assigned by the NOC to occupations. The skill types are as follows (information from the 2011 NOC):

0. Management occupations

This skill type category contains senior management occupations and middle management occupations. These occupations are considered to be the top of the organizational hierarchy of a workplace or businesses. Decision-making that affects the organization as a whole, or departments within organizations, is undertaken by management. As such, management is characterized by high levels of responsibility, accountability, and subject matter expertise. Expertise is acquired through either formal education or extensive occupational experience. Because of this management occupations are also included within skill level A.

1. Business, finance, and administration occupations

This category contains jobs that are involve providing financial and business services, administrative and regulatory services, and clerical supervision and support services. Often, occupations at skill levels A and B are learned from educational programs specific to the profession or occupation.

2. Natural and applied sciences and related occupations

This category contains professional and technical occupations in the sciences, including physical and life sciences, engineering, architecture, and information technology. Occupations in this skill type category require post-secondary education. Progressing from an occupation in skill level B to an occupation in skill level A often depends on attaining additional education credentials.

3. Health occupations

This category includes occupations that providing health care services directly to patients as well as occupations that support professional and technical staff. Most occupations in this skill type category require post-secondary education. As in level 2, progressing from skill level B to skill level A is usually dependent on receiving additional formal education. Occupations in skill level C usually require specific training programs.

4. Occupations in education, law and social, community and government services

This skill type category includes occupations such as law, public protective services, teaching, counselling, conducting social science research, developing government policy, and administering government programs. Occupations in this skill type category usually require completion of a post-secondary program. Progression from occupations in skill level B to occupations in skill level A requires additional education credentials.

5. Occupations in art, culture, recreation, and sport

This skill type category includes professional and technical occupations related to art and culture, including the performing arts, film and video, broadcasting, journalism, writing, art/creative design, libraries, and museums. It also includes occupations in recreation and sport. This category’s occupations generally require post-secondary educational programs but can also have a range of acceptable qualifications. Some of these occupations need a candidate to possess creative talent, such as a designer or performer, or athletic ability, such as a coach or trainer. Unit groups for occupations that usually require university education, such as journalism or library science, have been classified in skill level A. Most others have been classified in skill level B, as some can be dependent on attaining different secondary and post-secondary education.

6. Sales and service occupations

This skill type category contains sales occupations, personal and security service occupations, and occupations in the tourism and hospitality industries. Occupations in skill level B of this category generally require formal post-secondary or occupation-specific training programs. Others can be contingent on formal on-the-job training other than apprenticeship. Progression from occupations in skill level C or D to those in skill level B usually require training programs.

7. Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations

This skill type category includes construction and mechanical trades, trades supervisors and contractors, and operators of transportation and heavy equipment. These occupations are found in many industrial sectors, such as the construction and transportation industries. This category includes most of the trades that utilize apprenticeship training, including all of those in the construction industry. Other occupations in this category usually require a college diploma combined with on-the-job training. There is little in the way of mobility or transferability of skills among occupations in this category due to specific requirements for most occupations.

8. Natural resources, agriculture, and related production occupations

This category contains supervisory and equipment operation occupations in the sectors of mining, oil and gas production, forestry and logging, agriculture, horticulture, and fishing. Occupations in skill level B of this category usually require completion of college or other training programs. Others make use of industry-based training and job experience.

9. Occupations in manufacturing and utilities

This category contains supervisory and production jobs in manufacturing, processing, and utilities. Occupations in this category utilize on-the-job training. Workers typically start out at entry-level positions and progress in the workplace through experience. The occupations in skill level B of this category can be specific and technical in nature and some require post-secondary training programs.

To find the NOC code for a specific occupation or job, it is possible to enter a job title in the search engine located on the website for the NOC. It also allows you to search by code. It is imperative that when applying for immigration, the NOC code is accurate to a candidate’s job experience, and that the main duties listed reflect the main duties of the job in question. If not, another occupation code may be more accurate.

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