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What is an NOC Code?

Updated: February 20th, 2024

In a dynamic employment landscape characterized by evolving industries and emerging job roles, staying informed about Canada’s National Occupational Codes updates has never been more important for resident and non-resident Canadians. NOC codes are more than just numerical identifiers; they symbolize opportunity, clarity, and efficiency in Canada’s employment market.

Let's delve into the significance of NOC Codes and why they’re essential for categorizing occupations in Canada based on skill level, education, and work experience!

What is an NOC Code?

What is the NOC?

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) is a classification of occupations in Canada created for use in statistical programs. It is also used for employment-related administration, compiling in-demand or priority occupation lists in Canada, and analyzing and communicating labor market information.

Occupational information is vital for:

  • Providing labor market intelligence,
  • Making occupational projections,
  • Analyzing demand and supply dynamics,
  • Implementing employment equity programs,
  • Job training,
  • Skills development and other various programs and services.

NOC also offers a standardized framework for organizing work in a manageable, coherent, and understandable system. Employment Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Statistics Canada developed the NOC System together. Both of these organizations are responsible for discharging, administering, and using NOC information to perform the duties mentioned above.

All occupations and jobs in Canada’s labor market that offer remuneration for work done, including self-employed individuals, are classified under the NOC system.

How Does the NOC 2021 Work?

The following presents an exploration of how the 2021 NOC system structurally works:

Standard NOC 2021 Classification Structure Description
Broad categories The Broad Category (first digit) of the NOC classification system represents the occupational categorization defined by the kind of work you performed, field of study, or employment industry.
TEER categories The TEER Category (second digit) represents the occupation's necessary training, education, experience, and responsibilities of your occupation.
Major groups The Major Group (first and second digits) is represented by both the Broad occupational categorization (first digit) and TEER categorization (second digit).
Sub-major groups The Sub-major Group (third digit) represents the aggregate of several minor groups and the three-digit code used by the NOC.
Minor groups The Minor Group (fourth digit) represents the occupational domain in which your job belongs. Minor groups are an aggregate representation of several unit groups. 
Unit Groups The Unit Group (fifth digit) of the NOC classification system is the most detailed, providing information on several occupations combined within the NOC. 

NOC 2021 Broad Categories

Broad Occupational Categories are classified as the work performed in your occupational field of study required to enter that occupation's employment industry. Broad occupational categories help employers and employees in Canada link up by identifying a standard set of professions with the same educational, experience, duties, and role requirements. The NOC system has ten broad occupational categories outlined as skill types as follows:

NOC Skill Types Broad Occupational Categories
0 Management occupations
1 Business, Finance, and Administration occupations
2 Natural and Applied Sciences and Related occupations 
3 Health occupations
4 Occupations in Education, Law, and Social, Community, and Government services
5 Occupations in Art, Culture, Recreation, and Sport
6 Sales and Service occupations
7 Trades, Transport and Equipment Operators, and Related occupations
8 Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Related Production Occupations
9 Occupations in Manufacturing and Utilities

NOC Revisions: NOC 2016 vs NOC 2021 TEER

2021 NOC Revisions

Here are the updates and revisions made in the latest version, shedding light on the changes shaping Canada's job classification landscape.

Training, Education, Experience, and Responsibilities (TEER)

The major update to the prevailing NOC 2016 system is introducing the Training, Education, Experience, and Responsibilities (TEER). The TEER system takes a more holistic approach to classifying jobs in Canada’s labor market.

Whereas the NOC 2016 classified jobs based on their primary duties and responsibilities, the TEER system also considers tasks performed in a given occupation, knowledge, skills, education, experience gained, and abilities needed to perform the duties and tasks of your occupation effectively.

The TEER system has six categories for classifying occupations from 0 to 5. This has made the NOC system more dynamic and versatile for analyzing and understanding Canada’s labor market.

Learn more about the TEER system.

Converting NOC 2016 Skills Levels to NOC 2021 TEER Categories

The NOC 2016 system was structured around a four-tiered arrangement of occupational groups. This includes broad occupational categories, major, minor, and unit groups. Thus, using the example for specialist physicians/surgeons, the NOC code derived from this classification structure is a four-digit numerical code as follows:

Hierarchical Classification Digit What it Represents?
Broad Occupational Categories e.g. Health Occupations X - 3 Occupational Categorization
Major e.g. Professional occupations in health (except nursing) XX - 31 TEER categorization
Minor, e.g., Physicians, Dentists, and Veterinarians, e.g., Physicians, Dentists and Veterinarians XXX - 311  Hierarchy (within Sub-Major Group)
Unit Groups e.g. Specialist physicians (incl. Cardiac surgeon, General surgeon, Neurologist, Urologist, Anesthetist XXXX - 3111 Hierarchy (within Minor Group)

Under the revised NOC 2021 TEER system, a sub-major group was added, resulting in the following classification structure:

Hierarchical Classification Digit What it Represents?
Broad Occupational Categories e.g. Health Occupations X - 3 Occupational Categorization
Major e.g. Professional occupations in health (except nursing) XX - 31 TEER categorization
Sub-major Group e.g. Health treating and Consultation Services Professionals XXX - 311  Top-level (Sub-major group)
Minor e.g. Physicians and Veterinarians XXXX - 3110 Hierarchy (within Sub-Major Group)
Unit Groups, e.g., Specialists in surgery (incl. Cardiac surgeon, General surgeon, Neurosurgeon, Urologist) XXXXX - 31101 Hierarchy (within Minor Group)

TEER Occupational Categories

TEER occupational categories have supplanted NOC 2016 Skill levels. These updates can be outlined as follows:

NOC 2016   2021 NOC TEER Categories
Skill Levels 0 TEER 0 (Managerial Positions)
Skills Levels A TEER 1 (University degrees; Years of experience in a subject matter-related occupation in TEER 2)
Skills Levels B TEER 2 (2 or 3 years post-secondary education at an institute of technology, community college or CEGEP, apprenticeship training (2 or 3 years)
Skills Levels B TEER 3 (More than six months on-the-job-training, less than two years community college or institute of technology education, less than two years apprenticeship program training)
Skills Levels C TEER 4 (Complete Secondary School, several weeks of on-the-job-training in secondary school education, experience in a TEER-related occupation)
Skills Levels D TEER 5 (No formal education required; short work demonstration may be required)

Summary of Changes From NOC 2016 to NOC 2021

The following presents a summary of the key changes to the NOC system from 2016 to 2201.

Structural Changes

In the 2016 NOC system, "Skill level 0 – Management" included all unit groups dedicated to management occupations. Under the 2021 NOC, management is identified through the employment requirements of the TEER system rather than as an industry or field of study.

For example, under the 2016 NOC system, Engineering managers (0211) were moved to Applied sciences and related occupations (20010) unit groups based on the occupations’ employment requirements.

Unit Level Changes

Changes at the unit level include combining certain occupational classification items. Combinations consist of mergers among occupational classification items. There were nine mergers and three takeovers from the NOC 2016 to NOC 2021 system.

The following presents an example of this change:

NOC 2016 Codes Combined NOC 2021 Codes
Supervisors, Electronics and Manufacturing        9222 Supervisors, electronics and electrical products manufacturing        92021
Supervisors, Electrical Products Manufacturing        9223

Decoupling of Occupational Classification Items

21 Occupational classification items in the 2021 NOC system resulted from split-offs or breakdowns of NOC 2016 classifications. Unit groups either expired and were changed to emerging items (breakdown) or split into emerging unit groups to align occupational grouping better based on the TEER classification criteria and changing Canadian labor market dynamics. Below is an example of the change.

NOC 2016 Decoupled NOC 2021  Codes
Inspectors in public and environmental health and occupational health and safety          2263 Public and environmental health and safety professionals            21120
Occupational health and safety specialists            22232

Transfer of Occupational Classification Items

Among the changes made, there are 36 instances where part of a unit group continued, and part of it was transferred to one or more existing unit groups to better align with the TEER classification criteria and realign occupational groupings.

NOC 2016 Codes Transferred NOC 2021 Codes
Records management technicians     1253 Records management technicians    12112 (transferred from 1253)
Health information management occupations   12111

How Can I Find The NOC Code For My Job?

How Can I Find My NOC code

The following is a step-by-step guide to finding your job’s NOC code.

Step 1: Understand the NOC System

First, you must ensure you understand the National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. categorizes jobs in Canada based on skill level, type of work, and industry. It uses a 5-digit code to identify each occupation.

Step 2: Gather Information

Identify your current or past job title(s) relevant to your application. List the primary tasks and responsibilities of your job(s). Include your educational background and any relevant certifications.

Step 3: Utilize Resources to Find Your NOC Code

Conduct your 2021 NOC job search on the official Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). While on the site, search by job title keyword or browse the NOC matrix. Read the lead statement and descriptions carefully to match your duties.

Step 4: Verify Your Chosen Code

Once you have a potential NOC code, double-check its accuracy. Read the detailed description and compare it to your job duties. Ensure the TEER category (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) aligns with your experience.

What Are The Benefits of Knowing Your NOC Code?

Discover how identifying your NOC code can benefit you. This includes:

Canada Immigration Applications

The NOC code forms the backbone of the Express Entry system, used to assess eligibility for various Canadian immigration programs. Correct code ensures your application meets the required skill level and occupation type.

Job Searches in Canada

Understanding your NOC code empowers you to find job openings that match your qualifications and experience. Many job postings in Canada reference the relevant NOC code.

Learn more about how to find a job in Canada.

Career Planning in Canada

The NOC system outlines career pathways within each occupational group. It helps you visualize potential career progressions and identify training or education needed to advance.

Find out more through the best paths for millennials in Canada.

Canadian Salary Negotiation

Knowing your NOC code and median salary in Canada strengthens your position during salary negotiations. You can use data from resources like the Job Bank to support your desired compensation.

Learn the five top tips to negotiate your salary in Canada.

Educational Pursuits in Canada

NOC codes can help you identify educational programs aligned with your desired occupation and its skill requirements. This guidance streamlines your search for relevant programs.

Find out more about what you need to know about Canada’s Education system.

Explore Networking Opportunities in Canada

Many professional networking groups in Canada are organized based on NOC codes. Knowing your code allows you to join relevant groups and connect with like-minded individuals in your field.

Learn more about Canada’s Professional Immigrant Networks.

Access Government Services in Canada

Certain government programs and benefits in Canada might have NOC code requirements. Knowing yours ensures you're eligible for relevant programs and can access the support you need.

Learn more about Canadian government services via the Social Insurance Number (SIN).

Canada Labor Market Insights

NOC codes provide valuable insights into job market trends, growth prospects, and skill demands within specific occupations. This knowledge helps you make informed career decisions aligned with market needs.

Find out more via Canada’s Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).


Are NOC Codes Only Used in Canada?

The National Occupational Classification System (NOC) is specific to Canada. Other countries have their occupational classification systems with different codes.

Can an Occupation Have More Than One NOC Code?

In rare cases, yes. It usually happens due to minor variations in duties or skill levels within the same broad occupation. Double-check the detailed descriptions to ensure the code aligns perfectly with your job.

Can the TEER System Help Me Decide Which Occupation to Pursue?

Yes, the TEER system can be an invaluable tool for career planning, as it allows you to compare different occupations based on their required competencies and skill levels. You can better understand the qualifications and experience needed to succeed in your chosen field by analyzing the TEER levels of various jobs.

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