What Is the Difference Between an Industry and an Occupation?

In general, an industry refers to the type of firm for which a person works. Rather than grouping firms according to the final product or service, the North American Industry Classification System categorizes firms based on production process.

However, the final product or service is usually similar for establishments within an industry. On the other hand, an occupation refers to a specific task or set of tasks performed by an individual. Consider the occupation of roustabouts, oil & gas. The Standard Occupational Classification manual defines the occupation as follows: "Assemble or repair oil field equipment using hand and power tools. Perform other tasks as needed" (Office of Management & Budget, 2000, p. 173). A single occupation may be present in a variety of industries. For example, accountants, in addition to working in accounting firms, may also work for mining companies, hospitals, state or local government, and many other industries.


Office of Management & Budget. (2000, October). Standard Occupational Classification manual. Springfield, VA: National Technical Information Service and Berman Associates.