Jobs can be classified by the knowledge, skills, training and education needed to perform them and the type of employer. The type of labor you perform typically reflects what you have invested in money and time to become qualified for it. The characteristics and qualifications of the type of job will likely determine your job security and compensation.
Where Qualifications Are Minimal
Generally, unskilled or low-skilled jobs require no more than a high school diploma and little or no prior work experience. The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research reports that nearly a quarter of employers surveyed did not have educational requirements and four out of 10 employers did not require prior work experience for low-skilled jobs. If you seek a low-skilled job, you need basic math, communication and problem-solving skills. Examples of these positions include cashiers, housekeepers, janitors, restaurant wait staff and packers; you will find many low-skilled jobs in retail and service sectors such as hotels and restaurants.
The Skilled Trades
The skilled labor market touches many industries, though most skilled labor is found in manufacturing and construction. Skilled trades within manufacturing and construction include boilermaker, electrician, plumber, machinist, welder and carpenter. Positions outside this sector include pilots, dental assistants, automotive repair technicians and cosmetologists. Depending on the trade, you typically need a degree or certificate from a technical school or significant on-the-job training as an apprentice. According to Michigan's Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, skilled laborers earned a median hourly wage of $21 compared to a $16 median hourly wage across all occupations. Your state may require a license to engage in certain skilled trades.
The Professional Force
The professional labor market includes occupations such as accountants, attorneys, dentists, teachers, physicians, financial analysts, engineers, computer scientists, musicians and artists. In a professional job, you apply advanced knowledge to various facts and circumstances and exercise judgment and discretion. To land a professional job, you must have at least a bachelor's degree and, depending on the profession, a degree from a professional school or post-graduate program and a license to practice. Professionals typically receive a salary rather than an hourly wage. Federal laws requiring the payment of a minimum wage and overtime do not apply to many professional employees.
Represented by Unions
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time workers in unions earned a median pay of $950 per week in 2013, versus $750 for their nonunion counterparts. Collective bargaining partly accounts for the earnings difference. These contracts also protect union employees from being fired except for reasons such as serious misconduct; most nonunion workers can be fired at will so long as the firing does not violate equal employment laws. In most union shops, employees who have worked the longest are the last to be laid off. Historically, union membership has been high among skilled trades. According to the BLS, 35.3 percent of government employees, including teachers, police officers and firefighters, belonged to unions in 2013, while only 6.7 percent of private sector employees were unionized.
- W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research: Low-Skilled Jobs -- The Reality Behind the Popular Perceptions; Nan L. Maxwell
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Electricians -- How to Become One
- State of Michigan: Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives -- Employment and Occupations in the Skilled Trades in Michigan
- Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training: Labor Market Information: NAICS -- Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
- U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division: Fact Sheet #17D: Exemption for Professional Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics: News Release -- Union Members
- Bankrate: Career -- The Pros and Cons of Union Jobs
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Unskilled Labor
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Employers in the Low-Wage/Low-Skill Labor Market; Paul Osterman
- Photo Credit ColorBlind Images/Blend Images/Getty Images
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