How to Get Your NOC Code - Updated for 2019

If you are trying to work in Canada, either temporarily or permanently, you have likely come accross the term National Occupation Classification (or NOC).

 

What is the National Occupation Classification maintained by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)?

The National Occupation Classification is a system that classifies jobs throughout Canada, by the following filters:

  • type of field the job is in,
  • the type of education the job requires, and
  • what type of skills may be required to do the job.

Canada's skilled-worker immigration programs, as well as provincial nominee programs (PNPs), rely on the NOC classification system to help determine what jobs need filling by temporary or permanent immigrants. The NOC enables Canadian immigration authorities, using Express Entry (the online portal for skilled workers who wish to apply for a work permit), to determine where the skill-shortages are, and which workers will succeed in Canada and best improve the Canadian economy. This includes provincial immigration authorities who rely on NOC codes to help run their provincial nominee programs as they select applicants from abroad.

That means that knowing how to navigate the NOC is a key for any foreign worker looking to migrate to Canada on either a permanent or a temporary basis.

The NOC was created to replace the Canadian Classification and Dictionary of Occupations (CCDO), an outdated list of occupations published in 1981. The NOC is updated after every census, with other research conducted in between censuses. This means that, unlike the CCDO which was intended as a permanent list of jobs in Canada, but which no longer reflected the changing nature of Canada and the global economy, the NOC is always up-to-date with even the newest job titles. The latest base year for the NOC is 2016 and a structural update, or revision as it is called, will occur in 2021. But once again, the NOC is continually being updated to reflect the latest economic and social trends in Canada’s labour market.

The NOC is absolutely gigantic: there are 500 "occupational groups" with many job titles within each of these groups. One of the reasons you likely haven't heard much about the NOC is that it is rather tricky database to navigate around, especially if you are unfamiliar with the NOC site. Usually, immigration consultants and lawyers will not even mention the NOC, they will just discuss Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) with you.

While the NOC is used by all sorts of professionals outside of immigration as well, we will focus on its importance for Canadian temporary and permanent residents and their employers.

 

 

Why Do I Need to Know About the NOC?

Workers

If you are coming to Canada to work, of if you are already in Canada working as a temporary resident, you or your employer will either need to know about the NOC or you will have to hire an immigration professional that knows about the NOC. The NOC is used by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to figure out which occupations exist in Canada’s labour market, and then sort them by what skill levels these jobs need. ESDC can then see what employee shortages there are at any given time.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the government department in charge of immigration, depends on ESDC's opinion of the job situation in Canada to determine which jobs to choose for Canadian immigration programs' selection criteria. The NOC is used in part to help determine what a federal skilled worker is, or a federal skilled trades-person, and even what should qualify as Canadian experience for the CEC. The NOC code gives the government a job title and allows them to figure out whether or not this job is needed in Canada. If it is then ESDC will produce a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and this is in turn used to apply for work permits in Canada.

Unfortunately, IRCC often publicizes which jobs are still available for the annual quotas for its immigration streams by the NOC code itself, and not by the job title. So if you are submitting an application to Express Entry and uploading your profile, you should know the NOC code to help understand what opportunities exist in Canada for your particular occupation.

The provinces usually rely on NOC terms and codes in their descriptions about their Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) as well. Knowing nothing about the NOC can make researching these programs confusing. 

 

Employers

If you have a position that nobody in Canada is able to fill - or you want to keep on a temporary foreign worker and help him or her become a permanent citizen - you will need the NOC Code and its accompanying job title in order to make the case to Citizenship and Immigration Canada and ESDC that you need to hire a foreign worker. You will normally have to submit an LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) in support of your worker's application and the NOC job title is necessary for the LMIA. Not knowing how to navigate the NOC will mean lots of wasted time putting together your LMIA application and also may mean the possibility of using the wrong code which could derail your LMIA.

 

How Does the NOC Relate to an Application to Work in Canada?

NOC Codes are required for all work-related immigration streams in Canada which require Labour Market Opinions (LMIAs) to support them. The list of occupations that do not require LMIAs is very short; most occupations do.

 

Federal Programs:

NOC codes are required for:

NOC codes help IRCC determines which jobs will be available for the 3 immigration programs that operate through the Express Entry portal:

  • Federal Skilled Workers Program
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program
  • Canadian Experience Class.

The NOC codes are what IRCC uses to judge whether or not they view your particular occupation as valuable enough to Canada to allow you to apply for permanent residence.

Work permits require Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) as IRCC will issue temporary work permits only when there is a clear need for more people to work in that profession in Canada.

 

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs):

NOC codes are sometimes needed for LMIAs to add additional support during Provincial Nomination for the following streams:

Learn more about PNPs

NOC codes and titles are used by the provinces and territories in communicating with IRCC and ESDC to get the immigrants they need. IRCC has the final say on all immigration applications, including all PNP applications, and so the PNPs make use of NOC information from ESDC to show IRCC what types of occupations they need most. This use of the NOC for PNPs extends across most programs, as the PNPs exist so that the provinces can target certain groups of immigrants that the federal government may not view as important to the Canadian economy as a whole. For example, BC has a healthcare worker program within its PNP program because the province’s healthcare system needs a range of healthcare professionals. Other provinces may have different occupations that they focus on in their PNPs.

Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs), on the other hand, are not normally a requirement for the actual application process. They are sometimes submitted in support of applications or are applied for during the process of actually hiring the candidate in the first place.

Once you have a NOC code, you or your employer or your representative can apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA), if necessary, which is ESDC's way of indicating that a job exists that you can fill. (Some occupations are exempt from the requirement of a LMIA, but most are not.)

 

What is a NOC Code?

The codes published as part of the National Occupation Classification are four-digit codes that indicate information about the nature of the job. Each code comes with a description of the occupation, but the code indicates certain information about that occupation not included in the job description. It is therefore important to know how to “read” an NOC code.

 

How Do I Read a NOC Code?

Skill Types

The first digit of the NOC Code indicates the skill type. ESDC has divided all occupations in Canada into 10 different skill types:

NOC Digit Skill Type
0 Management occupations: legislators; senior management occupations; middle and other management occupations
1 Business, finance and administration occupations: occupations that deal with providing financial and business services as well as administrative and regulatory services
2 Natural and applied sciences and related occupations: professional and technical occupations in the sciences including engineering, physical & life sciences, architecture, and information technology 
3 Health occupations: occupations that provide healthcare directly to patients and occupations that provide support to professional & technical healthcare staff
4 Occupations in education, law and social, community and government services: occupations concerned with teaching, law, social & community services, social sciences, and occupations in public administration
5 Occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport: professional & technical occupations related to art & culture like: performing arts; film and video; broadcasting; journalism, writing, creative design, libraries, museums as well as occupations in recreation & sports
6 Sales and service occupations: sales occupations; personal & customer service occupations including hospitality & tourism
7 Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations: construction & mechanical trades; trades supervisors; contractors & operators of transportation & heavy equipment; as well as most of the apprenticeable trades
8 Natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations: supervisory & equipment operation occupations in resource-based sectors like: mining; oil & gas; forestry & logging; agriculture; horticulture; fishing; hunting & trapping
9 Occupations in manufacturing and utilities: supervisory & production occupations in manufacturing, processing, and utilities

This information is taken from the NOC guide.

Management occupations are classified separately than all other 'skill types'. It doesn't matter what skill area a management occupation is in, it is still classified as "0" in the codes.

 

Skill Levels

The NOC is also divided into skill levels, represented by both a letter and a number. If you are trying to come to Canada, or you are already here working, you have no doubt come across something like "NOC A" or "NOC D"; this indicates the skill level of the required job. The letter codes are also translated into the second number of each NOC code:

NOC Skill Level Explanation Code Type of Education or Training Canadian Immigration Programs
A Occupations which usually require a university education. 0 or 1 University degree at the Bachelor's, Master's or Doctorate level.
B Occupations which usually require college or vocational education or apprenticeship training.
(Note: In Canada, college is distinct from university. College usually implies more technical and practical training whereas university implies more theoretical training. The line is blurring all the time, however.)
2 or 3 2-3 years of post-secondary education at a community college, institute of technology or CGEP OR
2-5 years of apprenticeship training OR
3-4 years of secondary school and more than 2 years of on-the-job training, specialized training courses or specific work experience.
(This includes occupations with 'supervisory responsibilities' and occupations with 'significant' health and safety responsibilities, such as firefighters, police officers and registered nursing assistants.)
C Occupations which usually require secondary school (High School) and / or occupation-specific training. 4 or 5 Some secondary school education, with up to 2 years on-the-job training, training courses or specific work experience.
D Occupations which require little-to-no previous education or training and training is provided on the job. 6 or 7 Short work demonstration or on-the-job training AND / OR
No formal education requirements.

This information is taken from the NOC guide.

 

Major Occupation Groups

The first 2 digits of the NOC code represents the "Major Group" of the occupation. ESDC has divided all professions in Canada into 40 categories or 'major groups.' These groups include the skill type code from above a second number which indicates the skill level.

Management Occupations Canadian Immigration Programs
00 Senior management occupations Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker
01-05 Specialized middle management occupations Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker
06 Middle management occupations in retail and wholesale trade and customer services Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker
07-09 Middle management occupations in trades, transportation, production and utilities Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker
Business, Finance and Administration Occupations
11 Professional occupations in business and finance Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker
12 Administrative and financial supervisors and administrative occupations Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
13 Finance, insurance and related business administrative occupations Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
14 Office support occupations Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
15 Distribution, tracking and scheduling co-ordination occupations Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
Natural and Applied Science Related Occupations
21 Professional occupations in natural and applied sciences Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker
22 Technical occupations related to natural and applied sciences Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
Health Occupations
30 Professional occupations in nursing Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker
31 Professional occupations in health (except Nursing) Worker Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker
32 Technical occupations in health Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
34 Assisting occupations in support of health services Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
Occupations in Education, Law and Social, Community and Government Services
40 Professional occupations in education services Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker
41 Professional occupations in law and social, community and government services Worker Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker
42 Para-professional occupations in legal, social, community and education services Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
43 Occupations in front-line public protection services Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
44 Care providers and educational, legal and public protection support occupations Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
Occupations in Art, Culture, Recreation and Sport
51 Professional occupations in art and culture Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker
52 Technical occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
Sales and Service Occupations
62 Retail sales supervisors and specialized sales occupations Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
63 Service supervisors and specialized service occupations Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
64 Sales representatives and salespersons – wholesale and retail trade Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
65 Service representatives and other customer and personal services occupations Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
66 Sales and support occupations Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
67 Service support and other service occupations not elsewhere classified Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
Trades, Transport and Equipment Operators and Related Occupations
72 Industrial, electrical and construction trades Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
73 Maintenance and equipment operation trades Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
74 Other installers, repairers and servicers and material handlers Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
75 Transport and heavy equipment operation and related maintenance occupations Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
76 Trades helpers, construction labourers and related occupations Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
Natural Resources, Agriculture and Related Production Occupations
82 Supervisors and technical occupations in natural resources, agriculture and related production Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
84 Workers in natural resources, agriculture and related production Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
86 Harvesting, landscaping and natural resources labourers Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
Occupations in Manufacturing and Utilities
92 Processing, manufacturing and utilities supervisors and central control operators Work Permit; Federal Skilled Worker; PNP Skilled Worker; Federal Skilled Trades; CEC
94 Processing and manufacturing machine operators and related production workers Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
95 Assemblers in manufacturing Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker
96 Labourers in processing, manufacturing and utilities Work Permit; PNP Semi-Skilled Worker

This information is taken from the NOC Guide.

The rules for defining the second digit do not apply to the management occupations, which is why the second digit for those occupations goes up to 9, not 7. I know, it's confusing but think of it this way:

  • The 1st digit represents the Skill Type for an occupation.
  • The 2nd digit represents the Skill Level for an occupation, or the type & duration of training required.
  • Any Skill Type (the 1st digit) can have several Major Groups (the 1st and 2nd digits) within that Skill Type. For example, the Skill Type Health Occupations (1st digit = 3) includes 4 Major Groups: 30 (professional occupations in nursing); 31 (professional occupations in health {except nursing}); 32 (technical occupations in health); and 34 (assisting occupations in support of health services).

 

Minor and Unit Groups

Then, occupations are divided into 140 Minor Groups, which we will not list here. This category is represented by the 3rd digit. Minor Groups identify the domain that an occupation is carried out in.

The final division is called a Unit Group, which is represented by the 4th digit. There are 500 Unit Groups which include numerous job titles. The Unit Group gives further specificity about what kind of areas an occupation is involved. There may be more than 1 occupation in any Unit Group, however. So, as you can see, the NOC is indeed a gigantic data base.

 

Example

Let's take the occupation 'Insurance Agents and Brokers', code 6231. The code breaks down as follows:

  • 6 is the skill type code for sales and service occupations;
  • 2 is a skill level code for some post-secondary education (below an actual university degree);
  • 3 is the code that indicates it is the third minor group within the profession, below sales supervisors and specialists in the field;
  • 1 is the code for the occupation's unit group, one of three in the 623 minor group (the others are 6232 - Real estate agents and salespersons and 6233 - Financial sales representatives).

That's one of the hundreds of codes.

If you are applying on your own for a skilled worker visa through Express Entry, or through a Provincial Nominee Program, you or your employer will likely need your NOC code to get a labour market opinion.  You can discover your NOC code, or the NOC code of the person you intend to hire on ESDC’s Website by going to http://noc.esdc.gc.ca/English/NOC/QuickSearch.aspx?ver=16&val65=* Below is a guide to how you can find your NOC using the search page.

 

Get a NOC Code

If you are applying on your own for a skilled worker visa through Express Entry, or through a Provincial Nominee Program, you or your employer will likely need your NOC code to get a labour market opinion.  You can discover your NOC code, or the NOC code of the person you intend to hire on ESDC’s Website by going to http://noc.esdc.gc.ca/English/NOC/QuickSearch.aspx?ver=16&val65=* Below is a guide to how you can find your NOC using the search page.

 

Choose how you want to search

NOC Search Tool

The NOC can be searched by 

Index of Titles: a list of job titles widely used within Canada with their matching codes.

Structure: searching by structure lets you follow the way the codes are laid out, and browse that way.

Descriptions: this search method allows you to make use of keywords contained with the descriptions of each occupation.

Complex Search: this is basically an advanced search feature for users with a very specific idea of what they are looking for.

 

Using the Index of Titles

Searching the Index of Titles

You can

  • browse the Index of Titles alphabetically;
  • search by keyword, which is similar to searching by description but only searches job titles;
  • search by NOC Code, which is not useful if you don't know the NOC code in the first place;
  • search by Skill Type and Skill level, which is similar to searching by structure.

 

Browsing the Index of Titles alphabetically

If you are pretty sure of the English language job title(s) appropriate to your experience this is a good place to start. Go here and use the drop-down menu and choose the option: alphabetical.  You can browse by letter and, once on the page, you can search the page for your job and find the corresponding NOC Code.

You can also do this by pressing CTRL and F at the same time and then typing into the field that appears the term you are searching for. If you can't find it, try using a synonym of the term you are looking for.

 

Searching the Index of Titles by keyword

If you don't want to browse alphabetically you can search the job titles by keyword by choosing keyword from the drop-down menu at the above link.

Just type in the keyword and see the results. For example, if you type in “financial planner” you get 3 job titles under NOC Unit Group 1114:

  • financial planner
  • financial planner – personal finances
  • personal financial planner.

To then get more information, type in the 4-digit NOC code (1114) into the Quick Search field and you will get detailed information on the Unit Group Other financial officers including: example job titles; main duties for a selection of occupations from the Unit Group; and Employment Requirements which is key for seeing if you are qualified to perform that job in Canada.

This tool is useful if you are pretty sure you know what your title would be in Canada or if you are looking for variations on a job title. If you are not sure about the job title, it is less useful.

 

Searching the Index of Titles by NOC Code

This is a search function that is intended for people who have a NOC code but who want the description. To use this search function, choose the option NOC code from the drop-down menu.

It is likely only useful to you after you have your NOC code and if you need to verify the description of the occupation, or the exact wording of the job title. This search method is not normally used by the general public.

 

Searching the Index of Titles by Skill Type and Skill Level

 

This is useful if you really aren't sure what your job title is called in Canada. You must pick the skill type based on the ESDC's classification listed above.

You must then do the same for the skill level.

This search produces very large results so you should use CTRL + F to make your life easier.

Though this does let you search job titles when you do not know what job title you are looking for, it may be time-consuming to search for your title. For example, I am Canadian-born and on the first try I failed to pick the right skill type or skill level when looking for my own job title.

 

Searching by "Structure"

Search the NOC by Structure

Much like searching the Index of Titles by skill level and skill type, searching by structure involves choosing a skill level and skill type, only the results are different. This method produces minor and unit groups:

Searching the NOC by Structure

By clicking on the Unit Group, you are given detailed information about that group and opportunity to see a full list of job titles.

Use CTRL-F to search list of Job Titles.

As with searching the Index of Titles by this method, it involves a lot of guesswork. Again, my first guess proved wrong when looking for my own job title.

 

Searching by description

Searching the NOC by description

An easier method might be searching the NOC by the words located in job descriptions: the search returns unit groups and you have to browse among them to see what fits your work experience.

Unfortunately, it was very difficult to find my job title here either. Clicking on the unit group gives you the same unit group description page as in the Structure search (see above). Again, you have the option to browse job titles.

For example, by choosing electrician in the field at the top of the page and then clicking on And in the Group Operator section, clicking on Like in the Search Precision section, and clicking on Group Title in the Select a section you wish to search section, you get 3 Unit Groups: 7241 (Electricians – except industrial & power systems); 7242 (Industrial electricians); and 7243 (Power system electricians). You also get 104 different electrician-related occupations which you can view here.

 

Complex Search

Complex search of the NOC

Complex Search is the last choice on the drop-down menu and is similar to using the Descriptions keyword only you are presented with more options.

 

This is all very confusing. Fortunately, IRCC has added a new NOC search feature that is considerably easier to use.

 

Use My NOC Code

Your prospective or current Canadian employer needs the NOC code to complete an application for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). An LMIA is a statement from ESDC about the suitability of hiring a foreign worker to perform this particular job in Canada. If the company you will be working for is large enough, they may have an HR department that might even have experience in applying for LMIAs, but if not, you will need to provide the job title associated with the NOC code to your employer so the employer can file the application and hopefully you can work in Canada or continue working in Canada.

Knowing about the NOC is also useful when researching coming to Canada or staying in Canada. Both IRCC and the provinces use NOC codes and classifications to describe jobs and skill levels. They use the jargon of the NOC more often than they use common language, and it helps knowing about the NOC.

To learn more about LMIAs, see our work permit page.

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