Skilled and Unskilled Labor


Many baby boomers like to talk about how all they needed to pay for a college degree in the 1960s and 1970s was a side job as a manual laborer (typically in construction) or café waitress. Suffice to say that this is far from the reality we face today.

Now more than ever the gap between skilled and unskilled laborers has never been wider, with employers demanding employees with specialized skills. In turn, this has driven up the cost of higher education in the United States as aspiring professionals flock towards degrees in technology, computer science, and engineering — all of which “guarantee” job security.

But where does this leave unskilled labor? While these jobs typically only require a high school diploma, it is still possible to start a successful career in unskilled jobs, eventually increasing your skill level to make yourself more marketable to employers.

Here’s a closer look at how skilled labor and unskilled labor are different.


Skilled Labor

Skilled labor often refers to a line of work that requires technical skills or specialized training. Although it can seem that skilled labor is synonymous with white-collar work, this is not actually the case. What matters is the level of training and expertise a person has.

For example, skilled labor professions include:

  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Administrative assistants

On the other hand, highly skilled occupations include:

  • Lawyers
  • Doctors
  • Architects
  • Accounts and financial consultants

Some skilled labor positions, particularly in the tech industry, are so specialized that employers have to deal with worker shortages by offering generous compensation packages and special working arrangements.


Unskilled Labor

Unskilled labor occupations typically don’t require workers to have any kind of special training or skills. Because of this, these positions are slowly being displaced by technological innovations like computers and artificial intelligence.

For example, the job of segregating waste, which was once done manually, can be performed by waste disposal equipment.

Examples of unskilled labor jobs include:

  • Farm laborers
  • Cashiers
  • Grocery clerks
  • Cleaners and sweepers


Is There a Middle Ground?

Semi-skilled labor refers to less-complex jobs that still require a significant degree of training and expertise. However, they rarely require specialized (not to mention expensive) training. Examples of semi-skilled occupations include:

  • Custom service associates
  • Typists
  • Truck drivers

At the very least, these occupations require a high school diploma and some college or vocational training.


Need More Advice From a top Staffing Agency?

For more career tips and insights, be sure to check out our other career resources. If you need assistance in looking for a job, get in touch with the staffing specialists of Top Notch Personnel so we can connect you with our local network of employers. Call our offices to learn how our services can help you.


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