Manual labor jobs are careers that require you to perform physical labor as the bulk of your tasks. While there are many entry-level manual labor jobs that most people can gain, there are also more technical positions that require certification or training to get started. Understanding the different types of manual labor jobs and what it takes to start a career in manual labor can help you decide what path you want to pursue.
In this article, we list 17 popular manual labor career paths, including salaries, duties, requirements and companies that offer the position.
Related: Jobs That Don't Require a Degree
What are manual labor jobs?
Manual labor jobs are positions and careers where you perform physical work. Many of these positions require training, certifications, licenses, apprenticeships and sometimes a college degree to qualify. Manual labor jobs can be rewarding careers for people who like to use their hands and perform physical labor.
There are many jobs in this field, from construction to manufacturing. Some of these manual labor jobs are better for people who do not have as much experience or education, while other positions are better for more experienced laborers who will have to perform more difficult tasks, such as working with heavy and dangerous machinery.
Manual labor career paths
Here is a list of some of the most popular manual labor jobs and career paths to help you in your job search.
National average salary: $11.32 per hour
Primary duties: A housekeeper cleans and maintains living spaces. Housekeepers may work for hotels, motels, mobile services or homeowners. Some of their primary duties include dusting, polishing, mopping, sanitizing, washing and vacuuming.
Education requirements: No education is required to be a housekeeper.
Related: 20 Part-Time Jobs That Pay Well
National average salary: $11.88 per hour
Primary duties: A custodian works to keep a business clean. Their duties may include sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, picking up trash, cleaning floors, stocking bathrooms, securing buildings, cleaning windows and sometimes performing minor building maintenance.
Education requirements: No education is required to be a custodian. However, many businesses ask for previous custodial experience, which might require you to have an entry-level custodian position before working for a larger company.
National average salary: $14.07 per hour
Primary duties: A landscape technician works as a landscaper by creating and maintaining aesthetically pleasing outdoor areas. Duties include pruning, edging, trimming, mowing, watering, fertilizing and building outdoor spaces. Some landscape technicians will also control insects and diseases by spraying pesticides and other chemicals.
Education requirements: While an entry-level landscaper only requires basic training to get started, a landscape technician might benefit from additional training and voluntary certification.
National average salary: $15.00 per hour
Primary duties: An emergency medical technician responds to calls for emergency medical assistance. They assess patients' conditions and determine courses of treatment, which may require cardiopulmonary resuscitation, wound bandaging, first-aid treatment or life support care. An EMT might also be tasked with driving an ambulance to transport patients to a hospital.
Education requirements: Becoming an EMT requires a high school diploma or GED and formal emergency training. There are multiple types of training you can receive, with a paramedic certification being the highest level of training for an EMT. To become a licensed paramedic, you must obtain an associate's degree and take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians certification exam.
National average salary: $15.23 per hour
Primary duties: A construction worker, also known as a construction laborer, is someone who works on a construction site. Duties may include building scaffolding, removing debris, unloading building materials and assisting with heavy equipment operation.
Education requirements: Entry-level construction laborers are expected to have a high school diploma or GED. They will be required to apprentice for a year or longer to secure higher-paying construction jobs.
National average salary: $16.06 per hour
Primary duties: A painter is someone who paints the interior or exterior of buildings and other surfaces. Duties may include preparing painting surfaces, washing walls, removing paint, repairing holes, mixing paints, applying paints to a variety of surfaces and managing the planning and preparation of a painting project.
Education requirements: There is no formal education required to become a painter, although many companies will require you to train or apprentice with a professional painter before securing a higher-paying painter position.
National average salary: $17.87 per hour
Primary duties: A welder is someone who welds metal in a variety of circumstances. Welders can find positions welding machinery, walls, cars, airplanes and underwater pipes. Their duties can include welding components, using specialized machinery, overseeing machines, maintaining and repairing machinery, interpreting blueprints and planning layouts.
Education requirements: A high school diploma or GED is required to become a welder, but many companies will additionally require you to attend a technical school to learn the welding trade. A certificate can help you achieve a job as a welder, and working for several years as an apprentice will give you the knowledge, experience and skills to be a welder for larger projects.
National average salary: $19.54 per hour
Primary duties: An automotive technician is a mechanic who repairs cars and trucks and provides preventative maintenance duties. Primary responsibilities may include performing inspections, running diagnostics, replacing components and fixing components. An auto technician might work on engines, steering, brakes or electrical systems.
Education requirements: While no formal education is required, many companies hire automotive technicians who have completed training or trade education. Although not required, an auto technician can receive the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification in a variety of automotive service specialties.
9. Brick mason
National average salary: $20.22 per hour
Primary duties: A brick mason is someone who lays and binds building materials such as brick, tile, glass block, terracotta, cinder block and concrete block. Duties can include binding these materials with mortar or another binding material to build or repair walls, sewers, arches and many other structures that require stone or brick.
Education requirements: A high school diploma is required to become a brick mason, and it can be beneficial to take college courses in mathematics and mechanical drawing. There are also one and two-year technical programs available that can help. A brick mason will typically spend three or four years in a paid apprenticeship to learn the brick mason trade.
National average salary: $21.38 per hour
Primary duties: A carpenter is someone who builds with wood, and they commonly work to build frames for houses. Duties may include reading blueprints, understanding building plans, installing structures, measuring and cutting wood and constructing frames, walls and floors for various buildings and housing.
Education requirements: A high school diploma or GED is required, and an associate's degree is preferred among many companies. You will need to train in a three-year or longer apprenticeship before working as a carpenter for a variety of companies and industries.
11. Personal trainer
National average salary: $21.44 per hour
Primary duties: A personal trainer is someone who physically trains someone in exercise and weightlifting. The duties of a personal trainer include assisting clients by demonstrating exercise routines, promoting fitness while minimizing injury, providing information about general fitness and managing health issues.
Education requirements: A high school diploma is required to become a personal trainer, and you might also benefit from completing a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification program and an automated external defibrillator (AED) certification program. You can choose a fitness specialty and pass a certified personal trainer exam to receive your personal trainer certificate.
National average salary: $45,524 per year
Primary duties: A firefighter's duties include driving firetrucks, putting out fires, rescuing victims from emergency situations, treating injured people, writing reports, maintaining equipment and providing fire safety education.
Education requirements: To become a firefighter, you will need to acquire a high school diploma and post-secondary education in fire science as well as complete at least four years of a firefighter apprenticeship.
National average salary: $25.29 per hour
Primary duties: A plumber is someone who works with pipes and plumbing systems. Duties might include interpreting blueprints, understanding pipe layouts on maps, installing pipes and fixtures, building or installing supports for pipelines and other equipment, testing plumbing systems, cutting pipes, performing inspections and preparing bids for clients.
Education requirements: Becoming a plumber requires a high school diploma or GED, and many states require plumbers to have a plumbing license. Some plumbers will voluntarily achieve plumbing certifications, and all plumbers will start with an apprenticeship of at least four years.
National average salary: $25.82 per hour
Primary duties: An electrician is someone who installs and maintains electrical power and systems in homes, businesses and factories. Their responsibilities may include reading blueprints, understanding technical diagrams, installing and inspecting electrical components, identifying electrical problems, repairing or replacing equipment, fixtures or wiring, following regulations and maintaining electrical equipment.
Education requirements: To become an electrician, you will need a high school diploma or GED. You will also need to attain an apprenticeship under the instruction of a licensed electrician (also called a journeyman electrician) for at least four years before you become one yourself. Journeyman electricians can decide to continue studying to become a master electrician to reach the highest level in this field.
National average salary: $26.33 per hour
Primary duties: An aircraft mechanic will inspect, maintain and fix components on an aircraft. Duties may include testing aircraft operations, identifying malfunctions, performing routine maintenance tasks, fixing technical problems and maintaining tools and equipment safely.
Education requirements: To become an aircraft mechanic, you will need to graduate from an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school or receive 18 months of practical experience with either airframes or power plants. After meeting this requirement, you must pass an oral test, a written exam and a practical test.
16. Truck driver
National average salary: $1,100 per week
Primary duties: A truck driver's duties might include driving long distances, loading or unloading cargo, reporting road incidents, maintaining contact with the dispatcher, recording deliveries and refueling and cleaning trucks.
Education requirements: To become a truck driver, you will need to obtain a commercial driver's license, attend truck driving school, have a clean driving record, be at least 21 years old, pass a drug and alcohol test and pass a physical exam.
National average salary: $85,944 per year
Primary duties: There are many types of engineers, and their primary duties typically include planning and coordinating engineering projects, conducting energy audits, complying with standard operating procedures, executing daily engineering duties, repairing and maintaining structures or other projects and safely handling engineering equipment.
Education requirements: Engineers need to have a bachelor's degree for entry-level jobs, and many companies require their engineers to obtain a graduate degree in a specialty engineering field like mechanical engineering. Your state will also require you to receive a license, which involves education, examinations and supervised work experience.