Building a certification program, Step 5: An occupational analysis
Posted on
September 24, 2018

NOTE: This is an ongoing series. To view all articles in the series, click here.

Use the DACUM model to conduct an occupational analysis.

So far in this journey we have discovered that defining certification is critical to the roll-out of a successful certification program. We have also explored the importance of setting up a plan to follow. In the last installment we discussed the first two steps of the plan where we defined the role to be certified and discussed some of the determinants for certification, in other words, a basic needs assessment.

In this installment we will look at how to conduct an occupational analysis using a process called DACUM and the steps to validate your analysis. Just as a disclaimer, I discovered DACUM in 2011 and quickly became an advocate of it while also becoming a DACUM facilitator through Eastern Kentucky University.

Occupational Analysis

Occupational analysis methods which are comprehensive and systematic are essential to ensure the relevance of an occupational course, in that graduates of the programs, will function competently in the occupation (Willett & Hermann, 1989). There are numerous ways to conduct an occupational analysis. Historically, some of the models used for an occupational analysis (as listed in Job Analysis: An Effective Management Tool) include the following:

  • The Department of Labor method
  • The Functional Job Analysis method
  • The Critical Incident Technique
  • The Job Element method
  • The Position Analysis Questionnaire
  • The Task Inventory/Comprehensive Occupational Data Analysis Program
  • The Health Services Mobility Study program method
  • The Guidelines Oriented Job Analysis method
  • The Behavioral Consistency method
  • The Factor Evaluation System method

Darin E. Hartley, in Job Analysis at the Speed of Reality (1999), expands on this list of approaches to include one-on-one interviewing, behavioral event interviews, phone interviews, surveys, work assessments, DACUM, job analysis worksheets, observations, and procedural reviews. Johnson (2010), in a DACUM comparative study of GIS technicians, includes focus groups, work records, information searches, and critical incident evaluations as methods of analyzing a job. According to Johnson, most methods of occupational analysis rely on indirect sources of data while the DACUM method relies directly on the workers themselves to describe and define their jobs (Johnson, 2010).

According to Norton, (1992), the main reason for using DACUM, as expressed by educators and trainers, is that it provides a relevant, up-to-date data source for curriculum development and for instructional programs. A data source for curriculum development that is maximally based on local business and industry input is needed to ensure that the training provided and developed is aligned with business’ expectations and requirements.

According to Norton and Moser (2008), DACUM is quick and inexpensive and beneficial from a public relations perspective. It is a way to show that educational institutions are serious about collaborating with industry in determining what duties and tasks students must be competent at performing in order to be valuable future employees. “DACUM is the best means of conducting job/occupational analysis that is available” (Norton & Moser, 2008, p. 5).

An Overview of DACUM — A way to conduct an Occupational Analysis

Use the DACUM model to conduct an occupational analysis.

Robert Adams describes DACUM as a “single-sheet skill profile that serves as both a curriculum plan and an evaluation instrument for occupational training programs. It is graphic in nature, presenting definitions of the skills of an entire occupation” (Adams, 1975, p. 24). Norton expands upon Adams’ description of DACUM by stating that this system has been “used effectively to conceptualize future jobs and to analyze portions (selected duties) of one’s occupations … DACUM also has been used widely as a basis or foundation for analyzing various industrial systems and processes” (Norton & Moser, 2008, p. 2).

They go on to say that, one of the major benefits of DACUM is the panel of experts used in the initial panel. These experts, through facilitation, reach a consensus on a role. A wider population of those in the role then validate that consensus, which helps in gaining buy-in for the profile across the occupation and the subsequent curriculum. DACUM addresses what students in an identified role should be taught (Norton & Moser, 2008), and should learn (Dennison, 1995).

A joint effort of the Experimental Projects Branch, Canada Department of Manpower and Immigration, and General Learning Corporation led to the creation of DACUM (Finch & Crunkilton, 1979). The earliest mention of DACUM comes from 1966, when DACUM was used as a new method for curriculum development at the Iowa Women’s Job Corps in Clinton, Iowa. It was adopted by Nova Scotia NewStart, Inc. in 1968 for the development of curriculum for disadvantaged adult learners (Adams, 1975), and then by Holland College in Prince Edward Island in 1969.

In 1975, Bob Norton was introduced to DACUM by the program development specialist at Holland College. In 1976, Norton facilitated his first DACUM workshop at Colorado State University, and since then has been a major advocate for DACUM as a method of occupational analysis for competency-based education (Norton & Moser, 2008). DACUM has recently expanded in scope encompassing both course and program development using a process called Systematic Curriculum and Instructional Development (SCID) (Finch & Crunkilton, 1979; Norton & Moser, 2007).

Three logical premises are the basis of DACUM according to Norton and Moser (2008):

  • Expert workers can describe and define their jobs/occupation more accurately than anyone else.
  • An effective way to define a job/occupation is to describe the tasks that expert workers perform precisely.
  • All tasks, in order to be performed correctly, demand the use of certain knowledge, skills, tools, and positive worker behaviors (pp. 1-2).

According to Norton and Moser (2008), a 2-day DACUM workshop involves between five and 12 expert workers from a role, occupation, job, or position, along with a trained facilitator. They say that the deliverable from that workshop is a detailed and graphic profile chart displaying detailed duties and tasks that comprise the role. Comprehensive lists of knowledge, skills, and traits are also identified for the role.

Norton and Moser discuss DACUM’s value saying it has been successfully used to analyze a host of occupations including those in professional, managerial, supervisory, technical, skilled and semi-skilled levels. Moreover, it is highly effective, quick and has a low cost. Based on historical experience the scholars note DACUM panels normally result in strong employee buy-in to the outcome and process. Norton and Moser indicate that the keys to a successful DACUM workshop are a trained facilitator and the panel member’s willingness to participate and communicate what they do. Other occupational analysis procedures do not have the same intrinsic benefit (O’Brien, 1989b; Willett & Hermann, 1989).

Adams (1975) summarizes the benefits of using DACUM saying, “the DACUM process lends itself quite ideally to the development of new training programs” (p. 38). O’Brien (1989b) in his study of health occupation education programs said, the “DACUM technique can be used to examine virtually any occupation, regardless of technical complexity, or level of responsibility” (p. 59).

Use the DACUM model to conduct an occupational analysis.

As Norton and Moser (2008) clearly state, the key advantages of DACUM, apart from group interaction, are group synergy when a panel is properly facilitated, and group consensus with the guidance of a trained facilitator who helps the panel evaluate each contribution until the group reaches unanimous agreement.

At the beginning of a DACUM session, ground rules should be established. These help the panel reach consensus over their time together. The ground rules articulated by the facilitator should include all panelists, who will participate equally; one person contributes at a time; suggestions should be constructive and not destructive or critical; all statements should be carefully considered; and finally, panelists should enjoy the process (Norton & Moser, 2008).

By using a DACUM chart, employer’s needs are communicated to educators and instructional designers, and educators and instructional designers can clearly communicate what they are providing back to employers (Adams, 1973). According to Adams, a DACUM chart is a representation or simulation of an employee’s ability to perform in a specific area such as an occupation. “A DACUM chart … is a graphic, single-sheet description of the kinds of competence required in an occupation” (p. 40).

Seibert and Mauser (1979) discovered some of the uses of the DACUM chart. In a study of medical assistants, notable uses of a DACUM chart were: (a) describing the field to external agencies; (b) identifying the entry-level competencies for those interested in pursuing a career; (c) establishing educational standards for practitioners in the field; (d) identifying functions categorized as advanced; (e) providing a foundation for continuing education; (f) establishing criteria for certification examinations; and (g) providing a foundation for curriculum development.

DACUM Process

“The DACUM process incorporates the use of a panel in a facilitated storyboarding process to capture the observations of high performing incumbent workers regarding the major duties and related tasks included in an occupation” (EKU Facilitation Center, 2011, p. 334). Following the Eastern Kentucky University model, a DACUM analysis that could be used for curriculum development required four panels. This model called for an initial panel with representative panel members, who are experts in the role, selected by agency staff.

Once the initial profile was developed, it was presented to a second group of experts in the role, not included in the initial panel, for comments, edits, additions and deletions, and validation. A formal leadership or management review was then conducted by a third group. The final product was then presented to a curriculum development team for feedback on the design and development capabilities. One modification I made to the EKU model to address the issue of geographic generalizability was to the four standard panels, a fifth was added to validate the profile across the five major regions of the United States.

Applying the modified EKU model to my study of health care chaplains (which eventually became the foundation for a new certification process), the five panels were as follows:

  • Panel 1 — An initial DACUM panel of health care chaplains
  • Panel 2 — A validation DACUM panel of health care chaplains
  • Panel 3 — A panel of CPE supervisors (educators) which took the place of the leadership review in the generic model
  • Panel 4 — A panel whose focus is curriculum development
  • Panel 5 — A geographically diverse validation panel of health care chaplains

The initial panel was scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday to Wednesday of the agreed-upon week. The initial panel went through the 3-day framework (NOTE: where most that I have facilitated use a 2-day framework), where they collectively developed a DACUM profile in the form of a storyboard that detailed the duties and tasks performed by health care chaplains (Figure 1, below). In addition, as the panel worked through the process they listed the requisite knowledge, skills, traits, and tools leveraged by expert health care chaplains.

Use the DACUM model to conduct an occupational analysis.
Figure 1

The agenda for the initial panel contained the following steps:

1. Introductions and Overview
2. Demographic Survey and Consent Form
3. Job Description
4. Develop Duty Band 1 (Task List)
5. Develop Duty Bands
6. List Knowledge, Skills, Traits, and Tools (KST)
7. Review Job Description
8. Review KST
9. Complete Duty Bands
10. Edit and Sequence Bands
11. Time Allocation Exercise (Actual/Future)
12. Rank Duties (Actual / Future)
13. Prioritization Coding Exercise
14. Final Review of Job Description
15. Debrief

The second set of panels to convene are validation panels. Historically the time required for a validation panel is a half-day to 1 day. According to the guidance provided to those trained under the Eastern Kentucky University DACUM facilitation model, validation of a profile occurs with any subsequent review of the data (EKU Facilitation Center, 2011). “Generally, an initial panel followed by one or two validation panels is adequate for the development of a reliable job profile” (EKU Facilitation Center, 2011, p. 230).In this study, technically three validation panels were conducted.

For this study, I convened a three-part validation. The first part was a validation panel (Panel 2). The second part was a CPE supervisors panel (Panel 3). The third part was the geographically diverse validation panel (Panel 5). The validation panel of chaplains, Panel 2, reviewed the initial panel’s profile, as well as their lists of knowledge, skills, traits, and tools.

They were asked to suggest changes, additions, and deletions. In addition, they were asked to go through the prioritization exercise for training needs and learning difficulty. The validation panel applied the same color dots using their assigned anonymous code to distinguish them from those placed by the initial panel. The agenda for the validation panel, Panel 2, contains the following steps:

1. Introductions and Overview
2. Demographic Survey and Consent Form
3. Review and Edit Knowledge, Skills, Traits, and Tools (KST)
4. Review and Edit Duty Bands
5. Rank Duties (Actual/Future)
6. Prioritization Coding Exercise
7. Final Review of Profile
8. Debrief

Steps three through six were the primary focus of the validation panel. The validation panel was scheduled from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm on the Thursday immediately following the initial panel proceedings. The CPE supervisor panel convened on the next day, Friday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Immediately following the validation panel of chaplains, a panel of CPE supervisors, who educate chaplains, met to review the final products provided by the initial panel and validation panel. A full review of the profile, lists, and prioritizations were explained. The panel was then asked whether the final products meet their expectations and needs as trainers. They were asked to identify, from their perception, the strengths and weaknesses of the profile. Finally, they were asked from their position as an educator, which components of the final products were the easiest and the most difficult to implement in a training intervention and what challenges they anticipate in implementing the profile into their training routines.

A week after meeting with the curriculum development team, I began inviting chaplains from around the U.S. to participate on Panel 5. After several emails I had 11 willing volunteers to whom I emailed the profile (Figure 2, below). After giving them two weeks to review I emailed them four questions: The panelists were given two weeks to respond and all 11 responded in a timely fashion.

Use the DACUM model to conduct an occupational analysis.
Figure 2

The final result of this process was the profile of health care chaplains that eventually became the foundation for a new certification process.

In the next installment we will explore how the data from DACUM can be used to explore how those in a role perform each task. It is task analysis time. Stay tuned.


1. Adams, R. E. (1974). Building competency models: One approach to occupational analysis. Canadian Vocational Journal, 36-42.
2. Adams, R. E. (1975). DACUM Approach to curriculum, learning and evaluation in occupational training. Yarmouth, Nova Scotia: Department of Regional Economic Expansion.
3. Adams, R. E., Hogan, R. L., & Steinke, L. J. (2015). DACUM: The Seminal Book: Wilmington, DE: Edwin & Associates, [2015].
4. Bemis, S. E., Belenky, A. H., & Soder, D. A. (1983). Job analysis: an effective management tool. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Affairs.
5. Dennison, J. D. (1995). Challenge and Opportunity: Canada’s Community Colleges at the Crossroads. Vancouver: UBC Press.
6. EKU Facilitation Center. (2011). Facilitator’s Resource Guide. Eastern Kentucky University. Training Resource Center.
7. Finch, C. R., & Crunkilton, J. R. (1999). Curriculum Development in Vocational and Technical Education: Planning, Content, and Implementation (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
8. Hartley, D. E. (1999). Job Analysis At the Speed of Reality (1st ed.). Amherst, Mass: HRD Press.
9. Johnson, J. (2010). What GIS technicians do: A synthesis of DACUM job analyses. Journal of the Urban & Regional Information Systems Association, 22(2), 31-40.
10. Norton, R. E. (1992). DACUM: A proven and powerful approach to occupational analysis.
11. Norton, R. E., & Moser, J. (2007). SCID Handbook (7th ed.). Columbus, OH: Center on Education and Training for Employment, The Ohio State University.
12. Norton, R. E., & Moser, J. (2008). DACUM Handbook (3rd ed.). Columbus, OH: Center on Education and Training for Employment, The Ohio State University.
13. O’Brien, T. P. (1989a). Applications of the DACUM occupational analysis methodology to health occupations education. Journal of Health Occupations Education, 4(2), 52-71.
14. O’Brien, T. P. (1989b). Reliability and construct validity of a DACUM occupational profile. Journal of Vocational Education Research, 14(3), 21-38.
15. Seibert, M. L., & Mauser, W. (1979). The DACUM project: an occupational analysis report… Developing a curriculum. Professional Medical Assistant, 12, 19-23.
16. Willett, J., & Hermann, G. (1989). Which occupational analysis technique: Critical incident, DACUM, and/or information search? Vocational Aspect of Education, 41(110), 79-88.

About the Author

Warren E. Wyrostek is a Solutions Oriented Educator and Leader, a Certified Trainer and Facilitator, an Experienced DACUM Enthusiast, and an innovative Certification and Assessment expert in demand. Warren holds a Doctorate in Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Currently Warren is an Adjunct at Valdosta State University and the owner of 3WsConsulting - Providing Efficient And Effective Top To Bottom Solutions To Learning Issues. Warren can be reached at

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