Understanding National Occupational Classification Coding System

One of the features of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) is its system of codes. You will see this throughout the Ontario Skills Passport, Career Navigator and Working in Canada tools. Each major group, minor group and unit group has its own unique code.

A two-digit code is assigned at the major group level. A third digit is added at the minor group level and a fourth digit is added at the unit group level. For example:

Major Group 31 – Professional Occupations in Health
Minor Group 314 – Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment
Unit Group 3142 – Physiotherapists

The first two digits of each code convey meaning with respect to the group's skill type and skill level category. For all non-management occupations, the first digit of each code (i.e. 3 as noted above) identifies the skill type category.

Similarly, for all non-management occupations, the second digit (i.e. 1 as noted above) identifies one of the four skill level categories (i.e. A,B,C or D). For management occupations, the first two digits also convey meaning. The first digit is always 0 to convey management, while the second digit conveys the skill type category where the management occupation is found.

The following charts summarize and illustrate the meanings embedded in the coding system.

When the first digit is the skill type category is:

Business, Finance and Administration Occupations 1
Natural and Applied Sciences and Related Occupations 2
Health Occupations 3
Occupations in Social Science, Education, Government Service and Religion 4
Occupations in Art, Culture, Recreation and Sport 5
Sales and Service Occupations 6
Trades, Transport and Equipment Operators and Related Occupations 7
Occupations Unique to Primary Industry 8
Occupations Unique to Processing, Manufacturing and Utilities 9

When the second digit is the skill level category is:

Skill Level A (Professional Occupations) 1
Skill Level B (Technical, Paraprofessional and Skilled Occupations) 2 or 3
Skill Level C (Intermediate Occupations) 4 or 5
Skill Level D (Labouring and Elemental Occupations) 6

Examples of Codes and their Meaning

The first digit indicates skill type category 9
Occupations Unique to Processing, Manufacturing and Utilities
The second digit indicates skill level category B

The first digit indicates skill type category 6
Sales and Service Occupations
The second digit indicates skill level category C

The first digit 0 always indicates a management occupation
The second digit indicates skill type category B
Natural and Applied Sciences and Related Occupations

Major Groups
Intermediate Sales and Service Occupations

Minor Groups

At the three-digit level, the major groups are further divided into 140 minor groups. For example, major group 64, Intermediate Sales and Service occupations, includes eight minor groups:

  • 641   Sales Representatives, Wholesale Trade
  • 642   Retail Salespersons and Sales Clerks
  • 643   Occupations in Travel and Accommodation
  • 644   Tour and Recreational Guides and Casino Occupations
  • 645   Occupations in Food and Beverage Service
  • 646   Other Occupations in Protective Services
  • 647   Childcare and Home Support Workers
  • 648   Other Occupations in Personal Service

By now you have probably realized that each digit of the NOC code helps to further specify an occupation. At the minor group level, you can pinpoint a domain in which an occupation is carried out. However, we need to go one step further to identify an actual occupational group.

Unit Groups

At the four-digit level, the system is expanded into 520 occupational groups identified as unit groups. Unit groups represent further specificity within an occupational domain. To continue with the same example from above, minor group 643, Occupations in Travel and Accommodation, is further divided into five unit groups:

  • 6431   Travel Counsellors
  • 6432   Pursers and Flight Attendants
  • 6433   Airline Sales and Service Agents
  • 6434   Ticket Agents, Cargo Service Representatives and Related Clerks (Except Airline)
  • 6435   Hotel Front Desk Clerks

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Adapted with references: National Occupational Classification (NOC) system, HRSDC Ontario Skills Passport