Skilled Labor: What It Is, Skilled vs. Unskilled and Types of Skilled Labor Jobs

Updated March 10, 2023

Depending on your chosen profession, you may be required to have training in a certain set of skills. Jobs in which you're required to have specialized skills are referred to as skilled labor. Once you understand what skilled labor is, you'll be able to determine whether or not this applies to your future career. In this article, we define skilled labor, the various job types and how it differs from unskilled labor.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

What is skilled labor?

Skilled labor refers to work that requires a certain amount of training or skills. This type of work is exemplified in electricians, administrative assistants, doctors, plumbers and more. Skilled labor workers are either blue-collar or white-color. These workers need to have a set of specialized skills to perform their job duties effectively.

This means they may have a degree in their related field where they were able to garner the skills and training needed to pursue their profession. Due to this additional training, workers who perform skilled labor are typically paid more and have more job responsibilities than those performing unskilled labor.

Here are three types of skills these professionals should have:

1. Foundation skills

These skills are considered fundamental as they serve as the basis and support for additional skills, training, operations and more.

2. Transferable skills

As a working professional, it's important to have skills that can be adapted to different fields and environments.

3. Technical and vocational skills

These practical skills refer to the ability to perform specific tasks.

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

Skilled vs. unskilled labor

To fully understand skilled labor, it's important to know what unskilled labor is and how it differs. Unskilled labor refers to work that doesn't require a certain set of skills or formal education. Some examples of unskilled labor include cashiers, grocery clerks and cleaners.

The main difference between these two types of work is the fact that skilled labor requires specialized training whereas unskilled labor does not. Also, because of the many technological advances in place today, there is more demand for skilled labor than unskilled labor. Due to this, many unskilled labor workers are choosing to gain specialized skills to move into skilled labor positions. Lastly, skilled labor workers tend to get paid more than unskilled labor workers because of their background, education, skills and training.

Related: Transferable Skills: Definitions and Examples

Types of skilled labor

Many jobs today require workers to have a specialized set of skills relevant to their role. Some examples include doctors, carpenters, engineers and architects. Though there are several more to consider, here are 12 types of skilled labor positions in greater detail:

1. Cook

National average salary: $12.21 per hour

Primary duties: Cooks are responsible for preparing food and managing other kitchen staff. To do this, they should have experience working with various types of food and kitchenware.

2. Administrative assistant

National average salary: $15.56 per hour

Primary duties: Administrative assistants are responsible for various office tasks. They display their various practical skills through the generation of reports, supply orders, appointment booking and more.

3. Travel agent

National average salary: $42,746 per year

Primary duties: Travel agents display their geographical skills through their planning and selling of various travel services. Travel agents are responsible for helping clients plan trips including everything from their destination, transportation and overall costs.

4. Carpenter

National average salary: $21.61 per hour

Primary duties: Carpenters are skilled in following blueprints and various building plans. They are skilled in general building techniques such as measuring and cutting. Also, they have the ability to install various fixtures and structures.

5. Law enforcement officer

National average salary: $50,316 per year

Primary duties: Law enforcement officers understand various laws to uphold and enforce them on the job. They're responsible for making arrests, responding to calls and testifying in court cases when needed. These responsibilities require them to understand the law and the proper methods for enforcing it.

6. Plumber

National average salary: $25.17 per hour

Primary duties: Plumbers are responsible for understanding blueprints and knowing how pipes and drainage systems work. They know various practical skills such as pipe installation, toilet installation and other support installation for these fixtures.

7. Electrician

National average salary: $26.12 per hour

Primary duties: Electricians are skilled in interpreting blueprints and diagrams. They install various systems such as lighting and wiring. They also know how to perform tests to ensure all electrical systems are in proper working condition.

8. Sales representative

National average salary: $54,398 per year

Primary duties: Sales representatives are responsible for negotiating contracts, meeting sales goals and creating reports. They know various things such as buyer-seller agreements and qualification questioning.

9. Truck driver

National average salary: $60,019 per year

Primary duties: Truck drivers are responsible for driving long distances to transport various goods to warehouses. They should know basic traffic laws, how to unload cargo and how to follow proper accident procedures.

10. Registered nurse

National average salary: $33.90 per hour

Primary duties: Registered nurses put their medical knowledge to use by monitoring patients and tracking any symptom changes. They're also responsible for administering medication and recording patient medical information as needed.

11. Lawyer

National average salary: $74,605 per year

Primary duties: Lawyers represent their clients in court and have the capability to help them through their various legal matters. They are skilled in common law practices and research to best assist their clients. Lawyers should have good communication skills and have solid ethics to uphold the law.

12. Physician

National average salary: $202,416 per year

Primary duties: Physicians have very specialized medical skills to perform their job. They have human health knowledge and the ability to understand medicinal practices. Physicians perform various tasks such as interpreting lab results, performing surgery, providing diagnoses and communicating with other members of the medical staff.

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