Dictionary of Occupational Titles

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles, or DOT, is a comprehensive listing of job titles with accompanying job descriptions, available in a paper format, published by the U.S. Department of Labor. Since its inception in 1939, the DOT has served as an invaluable resource for human resource practitioners in developing job analyses and job descriptions. The latest and final version of the DOT was published in 1991; the more flexible Occupational Information Network (O*NET) online system is intended to replace the DOT.


In response to the Great Depression, the DOT was first published in 1939 to serve as a resource for business and government to link labor supply with industry needs and thus stimulate the flagging economy. Since that time, the DOT has grown to more than 10,000 entries in its latest (fourth) edition, published in 1991. In recent years, however, there has been a growing recognition that the DOT suffers from a number of drawbacks. First, it cannot be updated quickly in response to changes taking place in today’s work organizations. Moreover, its primary focus is on tasks, with relatively little attention paid to what characteristics a worker needs to perform those tasks, and it lacks a common set of descriptors to allow for making comparisons across jobs. Finally, the DOT is not easily accessible because of its paper format. For this reason, the DOT is being replaced by the online O*NET system.

Description of DOT Subheadings

Although a range of approaches have been used to develop the DOT listings, the process has typically involved job analysts from the Department of Labor using functional job analysis. Specifically, analysts interview and observe workers and subsequently develop job task descriptions and provide job ratings.

Each DOT listing contains seven components. First, the nine-digit occupational code number provides a unique code for each job, classifying the job in terms of occupational category (e.g., professional, technical, or managerial; clerical and sales) and worker functions in terms of data, people, and things. The occupational title gives the title of the job in question. The industry designation indicates the industry within which the job functions. The alternate title provides additional names that can be used for the job in question. The body of the listing contains a lead statement, which gives a broad description of the job and the activities it comprises; the task element statements, which provide a more specific description of the tasks that make up the job; and the list of may items, which includes tasks that may or may not be part of this job in different work organizations. The undefined related titles are a listing of alternate titles that may be used in different contexts. Finally, the definition trailer designates, via a code, the interest areas involved in the job and the work group and subgroup to which the job belongs; the strength required to do the job; the education needed to do the job; vocational training required; and date of last update.

Use of the DOT in Job Analysis

The DOT listings are useful for getting a quick thumbnail look at what a job typically involves. In addition, the listings can form an excellent basis for conducting job analyses to be used for selection, training, performance appraisals, and job classification. However, the DOT listings do not provide sufficient detail to serve as job analyses in themselves; their format is too generic and not adapted to specific jobs within individual organizations. Moreover, many of the DOT job analyses are based on the analysis of three or fewer jobs. However, the DOT is best considered a starting point for a job analysis, or one of many sources of job analysis information. It can serve as an invaluable resource for human resource professionals, vocational guidance counselors, curriculum developers, and researchers in academic and organizational contexts.


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  2. Gatewood, R. D., & Feild, H. S. (2001). Human resource selection (5th ed.). Orlando, FL: Harcourt.
  3. Peterson, N. G., Mumford, M. D., Borman, W. C., Jeanneret, P. R., Fleishman, E. A., Levin, K. Y., et al. (2001). Understanding work using the occupational information network (O*NET): Implications for practice and research. Personnel Psychology, 54, 451-492.

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