The Lightcast Occupation Taxonomy

Unlocking career pathway insights, richer skills analysis, and more

Published on Dec 13, 2022

Written by Remie Verougstraete & Tim Hatton

To cut through billions of data points on skills, occupations, and job titles, you need a methodology that’s both accessible and precise, allowing for detailed analysis and easy comparison.

In the Lightcast Analyst, Developer, and Talent Analyst platforms, we’ve launched a classification system to meet those needs: the Lightcast Occupation Taxonomy (LOT). Capturing the comprehensive scope of the workforce, it includes specialized occupations that unlock new insight into the skills that drive career mobility and wage growth in today’s economy.

Here’s what you need to know.

What makes the Lightcast Occupation Taxonomy different?

The Lightcast Occupation Taxonomy (formerly the “Global Occupation Taxonomy”) is a proprietary classification system composed of four different levels (Career Area, Occupation Group, Occupation, and Specialized Occupation). This taxonomy has a 1:1 relationship between levels, meaning each specialized occupation maps to one and only one occupation, and so on up the hierarchy—no occupation group appears in more than career area. You don’t have to worry about duplicate or overlapping data when analyzing job postings for more than one occupation.

The level of precision in the LOT is designed to be as precise as it is useful. It goes into greater detail than O*NET and SOC without going too far into the weeds of raw job titles. The LOT is updated annually— infrequent enough to make it stable and useful for comparisons over time, but frequent enough to capture new, emerging roles as they formalize in the economy.

Lightcast Occupation Taxonomy example for IT, breaking down the four levels

What are the key benefits of the LOT?

The LOT introduces two key benefits for educators, businesses, and community leaders:

  1. The taxonomy makes labor market research easier, faster, and more robust by organizing jobs into up-to-date specialized occupations that strike a balance between detailed precision and helpful aggregation.

  2. It also enables new insight into career progression and how specific skills unlock higher wages and seniority within an occupation. You can read more the new Career Pathways tool in Analyst here, including its ability to show how workers move between different industries using overlapping skills.

Pyramid illustration of the four levels of specificity

What’s special about specialized occupations?

Specialized Occupations represent clusters of job titles and skills that have coalesced into recognizable roles in the labor market. Because they are based on real-time data from postings and profiles, specialized occupations are ideal for capturing emerging jobs like those surrounding data science, blockchain technology, and hybrid roles that blur the lines between traditional occupation categories. 

Depending on the country you’re in and the industry you’re analyzing, government taxonomies are often too broad, but sometimes too narrow, to provide useful categories for market research. By contrast, specialized occupations are curated and designed to provide a “just right” level of categorization that perfectly balances aggregation and precision.

To keep pace with the rapidly evolving world of work, these occupations (and the LOT overall) are also reviewed and updated on an annual basis, making them far more current than government taxonomies that are updated “approximately every decade.”

Altogether, specialized occupations simplify the task of tracking and analyzing real-world job roles in a fast-changing market. They are created and maintained based on three key factors:

  • Congruence with government occupation taxonomies (e.g. checking to see if major national and international taxonomies such as O*NET-SOC or ISCO include occupations that we’re missing)

  • Lightcast taxonomists’ review of academic literature and analysis of job postings and profiles data

  • Input from subject matter experts and client partners who provide additional experience and real-world perspective

Illustration showing how several job titles can be summarized as "android developer/engineer"

Career Pathways and skill insights

The LOT enables us to better analyze the connections and relationships between skills, job titles, and occupations. For example, we will now be able to parse out which skills are necessary, defining, and distinguishing for a particular specialized occupation:

  • Necessary skills – These are specialized skills required for a job but also relevant across other similar jobs. An employee needs these skills as building blocks to perform the more complex Defining Skills. If you think of a job as a house, these skills are the foundation.

  • Defining skills – These skills represent the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of the job. An employee needs these skills to qualify for and perform successfully in this occupation. In our house analogy, these skills are sort of like the walls that define the unique shape and structure of the building.

  • Distinguishing skills – These are the advanced skills that are called for occasionally. An employee with these skills is likely more specialized and able to differentiate themselves from others in the same role. Sort of like the skill equivalent of an ornate wrought iron fence, marble driveway, or some other feature that sets your house apart from others on the street.

The LOT also allows us to pinpoint skills that are associated with a wage increase or career advancement in a given occupation. This insight is critical for researchers and decision makers across education, government and the private sector — anyone who is looking to uncover and activate pathways to prosperity for students, jobseekers, and employees.

How do I start using the Lightcast Occupation Taxonomy?

The Lightcast Occupation Taxonomy is currently available as a filter in all Job Postings reports across Lightcast platforms.

Note: Depending on the report, you may need to select the “Show Advanced Options” button in order to access the LOT filter field.

screenshot of the Job Posting Analytics feature in Analyst, with red arrows highlighting the relevant sections

The Analyst platform (and all our tools) are constantly expanding their depth and adding new features. If you haven’t already, you can sign up here to receive our newsletter, including major product announcements as they become available.

If you’re a current Lightcast customer, please feel free to contact your dedicated account representative with any questions or to learn more about using this taxonomy in your day-to-day work.

If you’re not a current Lightcast client and would like to learn more about our data, including the new taxonomy, please reach out below. We’d love to connect.

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