Changes to the National Occupational Classification

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Statistics Canada work collaboratively to complete National Occupational Classification (NOC) updates and revisions. Historically, the departments undertook content updates every five years and structural revisions every ten years.

To establish the frequency of updates and revisions, the departments strive to reconcile the need to keep the classification up-to-date with the ability to reflect occupational changes over time, while minimizing disruption to statistical coding and time series analysis. As part of continuous improvement, ESDC and Statistics Canada agreed to update the NOC on a more frequent basis following the publication of the 2016 version of the NOC.

You can find a summary of all the changes that took place since 2001 below:

NOC 2021 updates

Summary of changes

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2021 major revision updates the structural framework of the classification, rendering it more consistent, accurate, and flexible. To this effect, the first major change is the replacement of skill levels with the Training, Education, Experience and Responsibilities (TEER) categories. This new terminology is more precise, as the NOC assesses not the level of skills but the level of training, of formal education, of experience required to gain entry into each occupation, and the responsibilities associated to it.

The second major change revolves around the number of TEER categories. In the new NOC structure, there are six TEER categories, up from the current four skill levels. In the 2016 version of the NOC, “skill level” B contains the most occupations of all skill levels (about 1/3 of all unit groups) and its employment requirements are relatively wide. This change ensures clearer distinctions between the employment requirements associated with each TEER category, leading to a more consistent and homogeneous classification. The new TEER categories are defined as follows:

TEER 0 Management occupations.
  • Completion of a university degree (bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate); or
  • Several years of experience in a specific occupation from TEER category 2 (when applicable).
  • Completion of a post-secondary education program of two to three years at community college, institute of technology or CÉGEP; or
  • Completion of an apprenticeship training program of two to five years; or
  • Occupations with supervisory or significant safety (police officers and firefighters) responsibilities; or
  • Several years of experience in a specific occupation from TEER category 3 (when applicable).
  • Completion of a post-secondary education program of less than two years at community college, institute of technology or CÉGEP; or
  • Apprenticeship training of less than two years; or
  • More than six months of on-the-job training, training courses or specific work experience with some secondary school education; or
  • Several years of experience in a specific occupation from TEER category 4 (when applicable).
  • Completion of secondary school; or
  • Several weeks of on-the-job training with some secondary school education; or
  • Several years of experience in a specific occupation from TEER category 5 (when applicable).
TEER 5 Short work demonstration and no formal educational requirements.

The third major change is the structural move from a four-tiered to a five-tiered classification system. NOC codes will change from the traditional 4-digit format to a new 5-digit format. This new codification system is more flexible than the previous system and allows for the incorporation of many new unit groups in the future, as needed. It also ensures consistency in the numbering system. The new 5-digit NOC code is defined as follows:

  • The first digit represents the broad occupational category;
  • The second digit represents the TEER category;
  • The first two digits together represent the major group;
  • The first three digits represent the sub-major group;
  • The first four digits represent the minor group; and finally
  • The full five digits represent the unit group or the occupation itself.

In addition to these major modifications to the structure of the classification, the new NOC 2021 led to a number of changes to the occupations themselves. These changes to the occupations aim at keeping the classification up to date with the evolution of the labour market. New unit groups were created for emerging occupations such as Data scientists and Cybersecurity specialists. Moreover, some occupations were deemed statistically sufficient to be granted their own unit group, such as Financial advisors and Police investigators, and the three distinct unit groups created for Software developers and programmers. Finally, some sectors sustained significant renewal, notably the information technology sector, the health and agriculture sectors, as well as the postal services and the military occupations.

The new NOC 2021 contains 516 occupations, up from the 500 unit groups included in the NOC 2016. Of those 516 unit groups, 400 have a one-to-one correspondence with a unit group from the NOC 2016. This means that, with the exception of the change in the NOC code, these are exactly the same occupations as they were in the previous version of the classification. The table below details how the 516 unit groups from NOC 2021 were built:

Unit groups with a one-to-one correspondence from NOC 2016 400 unit groups
New unit groups created from an existing unit group that was split 67 unit groups
Existing unit groups to which part of another unit group was added 44 unit groups
New unit groups created from two unit groups merging together 5 unit groups
Total 516 unit groups

Finally, many unit groups have seen their list of associated job titles, main duties, and employment requirements reviewed in detail to ensure that they are reflective of those currently observed in the occupations.

Please view the NOC concordance tables for more details regarding all the changes made to the NOC.

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