The term occupation encompasses all kinds of work—short-and long-term, unskilled, skilled, and professional. At the bottom of the occupational status scale are marginal workers whose discontinuous work histories or unstable work patterns may be caused by various physical, behavioral, or cognitive disabilities. Somewhat higher up the status scale are the blue-collar workers in occupations demanding greater physical than intellectual skills, but who hold jobs ranging from simple, unskilled labor up through highly complex skills. Even higher up the occupational scale in terms of status, if not pay, are white-collar and pink-collar occupations held by people who work in offices rather than in factories or outdoors. The term pink-collar designates fairly low-paying jobs such as clerical work, bank teller, and receptionist that are usually held by women (Cavanaugh, 1997). At the top of the occupational status scale are executives and professionals, who are usually thought of as having careers rather than occupations. These more prestigious occupations generally require a substantial amount of education and experience. Career-oriented people tend to remain in a specific occupational field and, if they perform satisfactorily, advance over time to higher levels of responsibility, authority, and financial compensation.

The U.S. Department of Commerce groups occupations into a dozen or so categories, each containing a number of subcategories. As indicated in Figure 10-4, the greatest number of year-round, full-time workers are in the category designated as "Administrative support, including clerical." The greatest number of part-time and temporary workers, on the other hand, are in the "Service worker" category. Other categories containing large numbers of

Professional specialty

Executive, administrators & managenal

Technical & related support

Precision production, craft & repair

Administrative support including clerical


Transportation and material moving

Machine operators assemblers & inspector

Handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers & laborer!

Service worker:

Farming, forestry &fishing

10 8 6 4 2 FullTime(Millions)

4 6 8 PartTime (Millions)

Figure 10-4 Number of full-time and part-time workers in 12 occupational groups.

(Based on data from U.S. Bureau of the Census, September 1996.)

10 8 6 4 2 FullTime(Millions)

4 6 8 PartTime (Millions)

Figure 10-4 Number of full-time and part-time workers in 12 occupational groups.

(Based on data from U.S. Bureau of the Census, September 1996.)

workers are "Professional specialty," "Executive, administrator, and managerial," and "Sales."

The number of workers in a particular occupational category is not necessarily a good indicator of the level of education, training, or remuneration associated with the occupations contained in that category. However, education, training, and experience are positively related to financial compensation. For example, consider the 12 occupations associated with the highest median weekly earnings, as shown in Figure 10-5. It should not come as a great surprise that physicians, lawyers, engineers, and airplane pilots are among the highest-paid occupations. However, these occupations also require a great deal of education and training, and, in some cases, involve a certain amount of risk.

Although most occupations with high salaries also have high status or prestige in the eyes of the general public, the demand for individuals who are trained in specific professional and nonprofessional occupations is greatly influenced by conditions in the national and world markets. During the past two decades, in particular, the globalization of production has been accompanied by extensive changes in the number and kinds of jobs that are avail-

Physicians < I^HM^^^I^^^^^^^MIH^^^^^^^^^HIIIIIH Lawyers - ^^HI^^^H^^HI^^^^^^HIB^B^^^III^^^B

Chemical engineers -


Airplane pilots and navigators

Electrical and electronic engineers

Mechanical engineers

Managers, marketing, advertising, and public relations

Purchasing managers

Computer systems analysts & scientists

Teachers, college and university

Industrial engineers

Administrators, education & related fields

0 200 400 600 800 1,000 1,200

Median Weekly Earnings (Dollars)

Figure 10-5 Median weekly earnings in dollars of the 12 occupations with the highest incomes. (Based on data from U.S. Bureau of the Census, September 1996.)

able to workers and in the skills associated with those jobs. In particular, individuals who are trained in computers and other technical skills have been increasingly in demand. Because the specific skills that are needed can change quickly, workers who wish to continue being in demand must be trained in a variety of skills and remain up-to-date in their knowledge of technology. Those workers, young and old alike, who are unable or unwilling to be retrained are faced with a not-so-bright future in the job market. As a rough estimate, a typical American man can expect to work slightly less than 40 years on the average and a typical American woman slightly less than 30 years, but these numbers can shift dramatically downward when workers' skills become outmoded.

In addition to the demand, the supply of workers and trainees in a particular profession or skilled occupation can change. For example, although physicians enjoy the top position on the occupational ladder—both in status and earnings, the supply of medical students has declined substantially in recent years. The reasons for the decline in medical school applications include overregulation, excessive overhead and malpractice insurance costs, and preset fee schedules (Reskin & Roos, 1990).

My Occupational History

Once upon a time there was a televi-sionprogram called "What'sMy Line?" on which the panelists had to determine the guest's occupation by asking a series of questions to be answered "yes" or "no." It was interesting to watch them zero-in on a specific occupation by beginning with very general job categories and proceeding deductively to more specific ones. I sometimes think that the reasoning process employedby the panelists on this show had a lot in common with my occupational history.

I began my work experience, in a very global way, as a kind of jack of all trades and master of none. Even before my eighteenth birthday, I had been a newspaper boy, a grocery clerk, a delivery boy, a tobacco picker, a stock boy, a dishwasher, a waiter, arailroad-carunloader, asodajerk, a cook, a floor sweeper, a lawn mower, and an occasional preacher! I took out an ad in the local newspaper proclaiming my interest in making money by doing anything that was legal and moral. To my great surprise I received numerous responses involving a variety of jobs. As a result of my initiative, I ended up working at many vocations in many locations. I picked citrus fruit and rounded up cows in Florida, delivered papers and packages inGeorgia,picked cotton and peaches in South Carolina, harvested and strung tobacco in Connecticut, waited on tables and washed dishes in Pennsylvania, and repaired houses and automobiles in New York. I never became an expert in any of those things, but I did save some money for my college expenses. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and when it ran out I enlisted in the Marine Corps. Under the tutelage of the marine drill instructors, I became fairly competent in performing many other tasks: I could duck-walk with buckets ofsand,

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