Unskilled Labor: Definition and Examples of Jobs To Pursue

Updated June 15, 2023

While employees in all fields have unique skills, the terms "skilled labor" and "unskilled labor" help differentiate the level of specialized expertise required for a job. Unskilled labor is found in all sectors of the economy, providing essential services that make skilled labor activities possible. Understanding what unskilled labor is and the careers that comprise the unskilled labor workforce can help you determine the right path for you.

In this article, we explore what unskilled labor and semi-skilled labor jobs are and how they differ from skilled labor jobs.

Key takeaways:

  • While all employees have skills that benefit their employers, the term "unskilled labor" refers to jobs that require little specialized knowledge or experience to perform effectively.

  • Semi-skilled labor refers to jobs that require some specialized skill and experience but rarely an advanced degree or complex technical knowledge.

  • Unskilled labor positions are usually more open to entry-level candidates, while skilled labor jobs require years of training and field experience.

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What is unskilled labor?

Unskilled labor refers to positions that rarely require prior experience or specific training. These jobs also typically involve repetitive tasks. Unskilled labor exists in every industry and is crucial in helping businesses run smoothly. These jobs can have a lower barrier to entry than skilled labor jobs, as people without specialized experience can enter the field and learn through on-the-job training.

Some people consider "unskilled labor" an outdated term, as all jobs require some level of skill. While it's still a common term, it's important to consider that people working in these positions still have unique capabilities. Unskilled labor positions may be attainable for those who have a high school diploma or little professional experience, but people with a variety of educational backgrounds may work in these roles.

Related: 55 Unskilled Jobs With Higher Pay

Unskilled labor vs. skilled labor

Unskilled and skilled labor have many distinctions, such as the education they require. Here are some other differences between skilled and unskilled labor:

Skilled labor

Skill labor jobs usually require employees to possess specific skills and talents that are applicable to their industry. These positions may require years of training. Skilled labor employees usually lend their expertise to their employers. For example, a licensed financial adviser may use their in-depth understanding of financial securities to help a client develop a balanced investment portfolio.

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

Unskilled labor

Unskilled labor jobs rarely require a specific set of skills or qualifications. While salaries can vary, entry-level unskilled labor jobs often pay less than specialized positions. Unskilled labor jobs usually require about a month of training. While these team members are typically highly valuable, they usually execute management's plans rather than directly contribute to them.

What is semi-skilled labor?

Semi-skilled labor is work that requires some attention to detail and a simple skill set that rarely includes complex tasks. Many semi-skilled positions require quality inspections, monitoring, repetitive tasks and a few months of training. Some examples of semi-skilled jobs include:

  • Customer service representative

  • Bartender

  • Waiter

  • Flight attendant

  • Retail sales associate

  • Mover

  • Security guard

Read more: Semi-Skilled Labor: Definition, Benefits and How To Determine Your Job's Skill Level

6 unskilled labor jobs

Industries that employ unskilled laborers include manufacturing, food, hospitality and agriculture. Though there are more industries to consider, here are some common types of unskilled labor positions in detail. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit indeed.com/salaries.

1. Food preparation worker

National average salary: $32,295 per year

Primary duties: Food preparation workers sanitize and clean work areas for chefs, cooks or food service managers. They perform routine tasks such as preparing cold foods, peeling vegetables, slicing meat and brewing tea and coffee. 

Requirements: This job rarely requires any formal education and may take several weeks of training.

Find food preparation worker jobs

2. Stocking associate

National average salary: $36,573 per year

Primary duties: Some of the typical duties of a stocking associate include storing shipments, stocking items in a store stockroom or warehouse and returning any defective merchandise. They may also assist with loading and unloading shipments. 

Requirements: This position often requires either a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) equivalent to qualify for employment.

Find stocking associate jobs

Read more: Learn About Being a Stocker

3. Agricultural worker

National average salary: $36,708 per year

Primary duties: Agricultural workers inspect and harvest crops using farm tools and machinery or by hand. They also irrigate the soil and administer pesticide solutions to crops and spray fertilizer to encourage growth. Some agricultural workers deal with livestock herding and feeding. 

Requirements: This position rarely requires formal education or prior experience.

Find agricultural worker jobs

4. Janitorial worker

National average salary: $39,483 per year

Primary duties: A janitor is in charge of keeping a building clean and performing general facility repairs. They may work in schools, office buildings and hospitals and inspect these facilities to ensure they meet standards for cleanliness and safety.

Requirements: Janitorial jobs rarely require a high school diploma, but candidates with a high school diploma may be more attractive to employers.

Find janitor jobs

Read more: Learn About Being a Janitor

5. Hotel housekeeper

National average salary: $41,933 per year

Primary duties: Hotel housekeepers maintain the cleanliness of hotel lobbies, common areas and guest rooms. They also replenish linens, clean rugs, upholster furniture and use vacuum cleaners and carpet shampooers.

Requirements: High school diplomas are sometimes a preference for employers, but formal education is typically optional.

Find hotel housekeeper jobs

Read more: Learn About Being a Housekeeper

6. Delivery driver

National average salary: $66,198 per year

Primary duties: Delivery drivers transport orders, such as food and groceries, to customers' locations. Their duties include checking orders for accuracy, loading them securely into the vehicle, driving safely and legally to the destination and dropping off the items with the customer. Some delivery drivers specialize in a particular item, like pizza, while others work for a variety of clients through mobile apps.

Requirements: Working as a delivery driver typically only requires a valid driver's license, and high school diplomas are often optional.

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Read more: Learn About Being a Delivery Driver

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6 skilled labor jobs

Skilled labor can include specialized tradespeople and corporate jobs. Here are six common jobs that are examples of skilled labor jobs. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit indeed.com/salaries.

1. Law enforcement officer

National average salary: $47,619 per year

Primary duties: Law enforcement officers or police officers maintain order and enforce laws by preventing and detecting crimes and arresting suspects. Other duties include filing police reports, interrogating witnesses and patrolling public spaces. Officers in large cities may have different responsibilities than officers in small suburban or rural towns.

Requirements: Police departments usually require a high school diploma or associate degree. This job also requires employees to pass fitness tests before they become officers.

Find law enforcement officer jobs

Read more: Learn About Being a Police Officer (And How To Become One)

2. Electrician

National average salary: $59,962 per year

Primary duties: Electricians maintain and install power systems in factories, businesses, homes and hospitals. Electricians may work in maintenance or construction and specialize in residential, commercial, industrial, auto or other areas. Electricians read blueprints and technical diagrams, maintain wiring, identify electrical problems, install wiring, control and lighting systems and repair or replace damaged electrical wiring or equipment.

Requirements: Becoming an electrician usually requires a high school diploma, a bachelor's degree, an associate degree or a diploma from a vocational training program and completion of a four-year apprenticeship.

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Read more: Learn About Being an Electrician

3. Human resources generalist

National average salary: $62,115 per year

Primary duties: Human resources (HR) generalists manage the daily operations of an HR department in a company. They handle training and development, benefits, compensation, employee relations and recruiting. 

Requirements: This skilled position usually requires a bachelor's degree in human resources or business at a minimum. Some employers may require at least one to two years of experience in HR operations.

Find human resources generalist jobs

Read more: Learn About Being an HR Generalist

4. Registered nurse

National average salary: $93,632 per year

Primary duties: Registered nurses (RNs) treat patients with various medical conditions. Some of their responsibilities include checking vital signs, administering medication, monitoring patient recovery, consulting with other health care providers and managing medical records. 

Requirements: An associate degree or bachelor's degree is a minimum educational requirement for this position, as is a nursing license.

Find registered nurse jobs

Read more: Learn About Being a Registered Nurse (RN)

5. Attorney

National average salary: $96,884 per year

Primary duties: Attorneys advise clients and represent their legal rights in a variety of cases. Attorney's responsibilities may vary depending on the type of law they practice, with specialties including corporate law, residential law and criminal defense. 

Requirements: This professional position requires an undergraduate education, a law school degree and a passing score on the bar exam.

Find attorney jobs

Read more: What Does an Attorney Do? (Plus How To Become One)

6. Automation engineer

National average salary: $96,182 per year

Primary duties: Automation engineers are tech specialists who develop automated technology for industries like manufacturing, customer service and mining. They program controllers for automated systems, install and test automation technology and evaluate its effectiveness.

Requirements: Automation engineers usually hold at least a bachelor's degree in mechanical or electrical engineering.

Find automation engineer jobs

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