Skip to Content

What Is the Difference Between Skilled and Unskilled Work?

November 16, 2021 Disability

There are three main requirements for Social Security disability benefits. First, you must show that you suffer a condition that meets a disability listing. Second, you must show that your condition prevents you from performing the duties required by your current or previous job. Third, you must show that your condition also prevents you from performing the duties of any other, less demanding jobs. To determine whether you have transferable skills, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look to the skill levels of your previous jobs to identify any other jobs you could perform with your condition. Your job skill classification can have a serious impact on your disability claim, as our Baltimore Social Security lawyer explains below. 

SSA Job Skill Classifications

The SSA defines a “skill” as “knowledge of a work activity which requires the exercise of significant judgment that goes beyond the carrying out of simple job duties and is acquired through performance of an occupation which is above the unskilled level.” To determine whether an applicant is capable of transferring his or her skills to another job, it must first determine what kind of work he or she is currently engaged in. The SSA categorizes all jobs into three skill levels: 

  • Unskilled: Unskilled work requires little or no judgment and involves doing simple duties that can be learned on the job in a short period of time (30 days or less). These types of jobs often, but not always, involve primarily manual labor. A person performing unskilled work does not gain work skills. 
  • Semi-skilled: Semi-skilled work requires some skills but does not involve complex work duties and can typically be learned within three to six months. They typically require paying attention to machine processes, tending to property, and guarding against theft and loss, among others. 
  • Skilled: Skilled work requires qualifications and involves the person using judgment and knowledge to perform tasks or render services, and typically takes at least six months to learn. This type of work often involves complex critical thinking and working with facts and figures. 

When rendering a decision on your skill level, the SSA will look at your education and your job history, as well as statements you have made regarding your work, to determine whether the work you are capable of doing is skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled. 

Why Do Job Skill Classifications Matter? 

Generally, the more skilled an applicant is, the harder it will be for the applicant to obtain benefits. This is because skilled work is more transferrable to other jobs than semi-skilled or unskilled work. For example, if you are an administrative assistant (skilled), you likely have advanced computer skills, which do not require much physical exertion and can be done in a wide variety of jobs.

Contact a Baltimore Social Security Lawyer for More Information 

For more information about applying for Social Security disability benefits, including how your skill level likely will affect your claim, please contact Baltimore Social Security lawyer Emmett B. Irwin by calling 443-839-0818 or using our online contact form.