Understanding SVP Ranges: What They Mean and How They’re Used

Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) ranges are an important part of classifying occupations and determining experience requirements.

But what exactly do these SVP levels mean, and how are they used in practice?

This article will explain SVP ranges in-depth, with examples of different jobs to illustrate their meaning.

What is SVP?

SVP stands for Specific Vocational Preparation.

The SVP rating system was created by the United States Department of Labor to indicate the amount of training time typically required to become proficient in a particular occupation.

SVP classifies occupations on a scale from 1 to 9 based on the amount of lapsed time needed to learn the techniques, acquire the information, and develop the skills necessary for average job performance.

This includes vocational education, apprenticeship training, in-plant training, on-the-job experience, and essential preparation in other jobs.

Higher SVP levels indicate that more preparation time is typically required to perform the occupation properly.

The scale ranges from short demonstration only (SVP 1) to over 10 years of preparation (SVP 9).

The 9 SVP Ranges

Here are the 9 different SVP ranges and what they represent:

1 – Short demonstration only

2 – Anything beyond short demo up to 1 month

3 – Over 1 month up to 3 months

4 – Over 3 months up to 6 months

5 – Over 6 months up to 1 year

6 – Over 1 year up to 2 years

7 – Over 2 years up to 4 years

8 – Over 4 years up to 10 years

9 – Over 10 years

The levels are designed to be mutually exclusive, so there is no overlap between the timeframes.

Real World SVP Examples

To understand how SVP applies in practice, let’s look at a few examples of occupations and their typical SVP levels:

  • Cashier – SVP 2. Most training occurs in 1 month or less. Workers learn how to operate the cash register, scan items, accept payment, and provide good customer service.
  • Electrician – SVP 8. Apprenticeship programs lasting 4-5 years are common. Electricians must accumulate substantial on-the-job training and pass exams to become licensed.
  • Software Developer – SVP 7. While some coding skills can be picked up quickly, most developers have a 4-year college degree plus years of work experience mastering programming languages and computer systems.
  • Medical Secretary – SVP 5. Formal education isn’t required, but 1 year of on-the-job training teaches medical terminology, health records, scheduling, and office procedures.
  • Restaurant Cook – SVP 3. Previous cooking experience helps, but cooks can be fully trained on the job in 1-3 months.

As shown, SVP provides a standardized way of classifying the typical range of preparation needed for these diverse occupations.

The higher the SVP level, the more time investment is required to gain the knowledge and abilities needed to perform the job duties well.

Using SVP in Prevailing Wage Determination

One of the main uses of SVP levels today is in determining prevailing wage rates for jobs, such as under the H-1B visa program.

The Department of Labor compares the experience requirements in the employer’s job description to the typical preparation time indicated by the occupation’s SVP level.

If the employer requires significantly more experience than the SVP timeframe, then a higher prevailing wage level is given.

This recognizes that the job is requesting an above-average level of preparation and competence.

However, if the employer’s minimum requirements exceed the typical SVP levels, the employer must provide documentation showing that the higher requirements are a business necessity for the particular job duties.

SVP levels represent generalized preparation times – if employers demand more, they need to prove business necessity.

For example, say an employer requests a prevailing wage for a cashier position but requires 3 years of experience.

Since the typical SVP for cashiers is only 1 month, this suggests the job demands greater proficiency.

So a higher wage level would be justified, if the employer can demonstrate business need for that higher experience.

On the other hand, standard SVP requirements wouldn’t boost the prevailing wage. Only employer requests exceeding the norm impact the determination.

Understanding SVP Helps Classify Jobs

In summary, SVP provides a useful scale for classifying the typical training time needed for success in an occupation.

The higher the SVP level, the more preparation and on-the-job experience required.

These classifications help employers, workers, regulators, and economists understand job skill demands.

SVP also plays a key role in prevailing wage systems by benchmarking standard preparation times.

So next time you see an SVP rating attached to a job, you’ll know it represents historically derived preparation expectations.

This quantification of occupational skill requirements remains relevant today in our ever-changing economy.

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