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O*NET in Action:  NIH

O*NET Resources ~ A Piece of the Action

NIH Career Finder, Powered by O*NET Information, Focuses on Careers in Health and Medical Sciences

" "Students like using the Career Finder, which is driven by O*NET data, to match their personal interests to career possibilities."
~ Debra Knorr, Office of Science Education, National Institutes of Health

LifeWorks is an interactive career development Web site operated by the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Office of Science Education. Driven by O*NET data, the LifeWorks search engine, or Career Finder, offers an array of information on more than 100 health and medical science careers. The Web site is designed for middle and high school students, parents, mentors, teachers, and guidance/career counselors.

The Need
Many students have heard about expanding job opportunities in the health and medical sciences, but they lack information about the diverse range of occupations and their educational requirements. The NIH Office of Science Education (OSE) wanted to provide an authoritative source of information, venturing beyond the traditional doctor/nursing roles to focus on the full spectrum of health and medical science careers.

OSE staff wanted a user-friendly career exploration tool that could match personal interests with careers and differentiate jobs within a category by required education levels. OSE turned to the Internet for delivering the information nationwide. For much of the information itself, it turned to the O*NET system.

O*NET Role
To power its virtual Career Finder, NIH tapped the comprehensive O*NET database. As a first step, students scan a list of O*NET Job Families and select the ones that most interest them. Next they identify the kinds of jobs that suit their interests, using the O*NET interest categories. Third, they select skills they have or want to acquire.

The Career Finder then generates a customized list of health-related careers, with brief descriptions, that match the student's selections. By clicking on a title, students can view job-specific information at-a-glance on the summary page. If they like, they can get in-depth details about the occupation, including employment outlook, salary, suggested high school courses, related careers and more.

Site visitors can also browse for information on 100+ career descriptions by title, education required, interest area, or median salary. The site complements its factual career data by highlighting true stories of successful people. They illustrate the variety of real-life career pathways, from the carefully planned to the unpredictable.

Key Results
In April 2003, LifeWorks was a brand new addition to the NIH Web site, and new features were still being added. However, during development, OSE conducted usability tests with targeted end users. Results, as well as early feedback from teachers and students, are exciting.

Teachers and counselors indicate that LifeWorks will provide a much-needed and previously unavailable resource about the health and medical sciences field. It will give users multiple pathways to reach career information and at varying depths, depending on their needs.

Students liked using the Career Finder to match their personal interests to career possibilities. They liked the way their customized list displayed careers by the level of education required and the array of choices the list conveyed. OSE learned that just by browsing the site, students were able to get a better sense of the wide variety of careers that exist within the health and medical sciences.

Staff say the O*NET data used to develop LifeWorks is already helping OSE to increase:

  • awareness of health and medical science career opportunities and the range of options at different education levels
  • awareness of careers, training, and research opportunities at the NIH
  • outreach to and participation of diverse populations

NIH plans an official launch of the site, probably in the fall of 2003, in time for the beginning of the next school year.

Debra Knorr, Team Leader, Program Planning, Implementation, & Evaluation Office of Science Education
National Institutes of Health
Telephone: 301-402-2828