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Unskilled, Semi-Skilled and Skilled Work – What Do These Terms Mean?

Unskilled work – Unskilled occupations are the least complex types of work. Jobs are unskilled when persons can usually learn to do them in 30 days or less.

Examples of unskilled jobs are:

  • clerk/typist
  • surveillance system monitor
  • hand packer
  • circuit board assembler
  • restaurant dishwasher

Semi-skilled work – Semiskilled occupations are more complex than unskilled work and distinctly simpler than the more highly skilled types of jobs. They contain more variables and require more judgment than do unskilled occupations. Even though semiskilled occupations require more than 30 days to learn, the content of work activities in some semiskilled jobs may be little more than unskilled. Therefore, close attention must be paid to the actual complexities of the job in dealing with data, people, or objects and to the judgments required to do the work.

Examples of semi-skilled jobs are:

  • chauffer
  • room service waiter
  • carpenter
  • nurse’s aide
  • administrative assistant

Skilled work – Skilled occupations are more complex and varied than unskilled and semiskilled occupations. They require more training time and often a higher educational attainment. Abstract thinking in specialized fields may be required.

Examples of skilled jobs are

  • chemists
  • architechts
  • school band directors
  • physicians
  • attorneys
  • CEO of a business

32 thoughts on “Unskilled, Semi-Skilled and Skilled Work – What Do These Terms Mean?”

  1. Unskilled workers are workers that are replaceable. There is always someone that can do their job. Skilled workers can be irreplaceable. If you lose someone, that operation the person was handling might collapse.

  2. What would a Certified Crane Operator classification be considered as ?
    Unskilled ? Semi-skilled ? Skilled ?

    Note : For informational purposes only, A certified crane operator has to have 2000 hours of training on a crane, they must test both written and hands on tests and pass both with a score of atleast 80. A certified crane operator is licensed through the Department of Labor.

    Question 2 : Would a certified crane operator who has performed crane operator work for the past 10 years…..Would that crane operator be eligible to receive SSDI after finding out that he/she is battling Panic attacks, Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar, PTSD as well as other physical health problems ? ( I really find it difficult to believe that someone or anyone for that matter would want to work with a mentally challenged crane operator )

    Question 3 : If, and only if, that crane operator offered proof of having 3 pages of work history over the course of 8 years, none lasting over 3-4 months, would his/her work history be consistent with NOT being able to hold a job because of Mental or Physical impairments that limited their function on a job ?
    * Allow me to illustrate :
    Crane operator gets terminated due to medical problems.
    Crane operator then gets fired for arguing with superintendant.
    Crane operator gets told to get the H*LL off the jobsite.
    Crane Operator gets laid off for attitude.
    Crane Operator gets laid off due to getting hurt on the job.
    Crane operator gets laid off for filing a workers compensation claim.
    Crane operator quits because of medical condition.
    Crane operator gets laid off due to unfit to perform job functions.

    Before that :
    Unskilled laborer gets forced out the door after missing 150+ days at work due to medical reasons.
    Unskilled labor loses job because he can’t stay on the job 16 hours a day.
    Unskilled labor loses job due to getting a drink of water on a job.

    Additional Information :

    Argument on job led to wrongful termination lawsuit. Settled
    Argument on job led to wrongful termination lawsuit. Settled
    Lost job due to getting injured on job, wrongful termination lawsuit : Settled.
    Lost job due to getting injured on job, wrongful termination lawsuit :
    Company declared bankruptcy.

  3. I work for a Communications Regulator in SA as a Programme Relations Officer, International Affairs unit and I hold a BA with Education degree. When my Line Manager is out of the country on business, I act on her behalf.

    Can I be rated as semi-skilled or skilled staff member and why?

    1. A nurse would be considered a skilled occupation – see for the DOT “general nurse” classification. The DOT also describes other related jobs, such as a “child monitor” or “nurse assistant” that are semi-skilled. The DOT allows a vocational expert to classify based on the type of work actually performed. Sometimes, as an attorney, I can predict how a VE would answer, and sometimes I cannot.

  4. I worked as a Dog Groomer for 18 years and I have been diagnosed with MS. What category would a Dog Groomer be?

  5. What are the basis of such classification?
    Does experience matter in such a case?
    Can professionals be unskilled?
    Kindly help.

  6. I can’t believe you have classified typists as unskilled, but waiters and chauffers are classified as semi-skilled. What are you smoking? Almost every adult knows how to drive, so it’s not much of a stretch to doing it professionally. Anyone that’s eaten out a few times knows the basics of waiting tables and can get professional with about 30min of training. On the other hand, even though young school children now use computers daily, typing at 100+ wpm isn’t something you just fall into. Get it together.

      1. Who do we write to to change that? I ‘m an administrative assistant and I object to the assumption that my job never requires abstract thought.@jginsberg:

        1. AA, the job descriptions that Social Security uses come from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, which is a government publication last updated in the 1970’s.

  7. Many of the job classifications in the D.O.T. have not been updated for 20 years ??? Shame !!! Whoever’s fault is it .., get it right.

    1. Yes, your designation as a skilled worker arises from work you have done in the past. So and unemployed graphic designer, for example, would be considered a skilled worker even if currently unemployed.

  8. I guess some of the employers don’t know this information either. Some of the jobs under the unskilled will require you to have experience. I have applied for some that I know that someone without experience should be able to do. I don’t know why your previous work experience has anything to do with that. Still most employers will not consider you a graphic designer (or whatever title) if you don’t have RECENT experience. They are not hiring people based on their ability and capacity to do something. And that’s what the judge is considering when denying or approving claims. Seems the two counteract and then you are stuck inthe same position.

  9. I retired last year at age 62. I’m an artist and have been self employed for a number of years. I currently earn less than 12,000 per year. Currently I teach about 20 hours a month privately. This is less than the 45 hrs a month allowed by Social Security to be considered retired. However, I believe I am considered a skilled worker. Social Security states that if you work more than 15 hrs a month and less than 45 but are skilled, you are not considered retired. Does this mean I could lose my Soc. Security for the year?

  10. What level of skill would an Offset Press Operator be classified as? unskilled or semiskilled? and to your knowledge is this a classification that has become obsolete as a result of computers?

    1. Marty, according to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, an offset press operator is a light, skilled position – see Assuming that there are not many offset press machines left, a vocational witness might conclude that there are minimal transferrable skills that arise from this job. A skilled job that throws off no transferrable skills is basically treated like an unskilled job for Social Security disability purposes.

  11. Helper is ——-?

    Show me the highskilled, skilled, semiskilled and unskilled.

  12. What would somebody who has a college qualification in hospitality and catering and works within a diner be classed as

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