What is general labor? Learn the basics of the job

Find out what general labor includes and what skills a general laborer should have.

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Considering a career as a general laborer? Maybe you’ve heard about how in-demand this job could be, or you might want to work at those big manufacturers and construction firms. While this can be a promising career, it’s important that you start by knowing the basics of general labor and see if it aligns with your skill set and interests.

In this guide, we’ll tackle what general labor is, what a general laborer is expected to do, and how you can start a career in this field.

What is general labor?

female general laborer

General labor covers a variety of tasks, from shoveling soil to cleaning up, and even working with special machinery like forklifts and paper mills. It’s physical, hands-on work that usually requires or includes on-the-job training.

What a general laborer does will depend heavily on the industry and workplace they’re in. You may be assigned as a custodian who cleans and secures an office or warehouse, or you could be tasked to monitor a production line in a warehouse. General laborers can also be trained to work as a pool technician or handyperson.

What you do as a general laborer may also depend on your existing skills, training, and licenses. If you’re already a licensed plumber, for example, an employer may assign you plumbing tasks.

As you can see, general labor is a very big, “general” category! What counts as general labor can vary depending on where you’re applying as a worker.

What skills and qualifications should a general laborer have?

general laborer working in a warehouse

General laborers are usually not required to have a certain level of education, though a high school diploma or its equivalent is highly encouraged since this is a requirement for most formal apprenticeships.

Employers in the US may ask to see a high school diploma or GED certificate, and will typically provide on-the-job training.

Below are what most employers look for in a general laborer:

  • Good health
  • Strength and stamina
  • Communication skills
  • Good work ethic
  • Team player attitude
  • Fluency in English and Spanish

You can start with some of the basic handyman skills, then get further training to specializs in a particular job. Since a laborer's duties can also involve specialized equipment, it’s beneficial to look into the following:

  • Relevant technical skills
  • Trade apprenticeships
  • Safety training
  • Certifications (e.g. National Association of Safety Professionals, Certified Construction Manager)
  • State licenses for operating equipment
  • Experience with relevant tools or machinery

What are the different types of work that a general laborer can do?

general laborer smoothing concrete on roadside repair project

A general laborer’s job duties can include the following:

  • Working as a handyman, carpenter, or plumber
  • Working with hand tools and power tools like solders and drills
  • Working with building materials
  • Labelling and packing products for shipping
  • Organizing goods and inspecting inventory
  • Cleaning and securing buildings
  • Unloading cargo from ships or planes
  • Fertilizing plants, picking crops, and feeding animals
  • Inspecting products in a production line
  • Maintaining a well-run workplace (e.g. warehouse, construction site, or factory)
  • Leading a crew of installation or repair technicians
  • Maintaining the grounds of a building (as a landscape artist, pool technician, or gardener)

Other general labor examples include stacking, sorting, and counting items in a bakery; setting up scaffolding; or cleaning shipping containers.

Are general laborers in demand in the US?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, General Laborer jobs will grow by up to 13% by 2024, particularly for the construction, manufacturing, and warehouse industries. Hand laborers, construction workers, and material movers will be particularly in demand.

How can I start working as a general laborer?

general laborers working as a team in the warehouse

To start, you’ll need to have the basic skills and qualifications mentioned above. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the types of general labor duties mentioned in the job opening you’re interested in. Also, make sure to brush up on any technical skills you’ll need, and prepare the necessary documents that prove your qualifications.

It’s also worthwhile to mention that general labor can be physically taxing. You can expect long hours of standing, lifting, twisting, and pushing. Keep yourself in good shape, so you can get the most out of each job opportunity!

Start working as a general laborer with Airtasker!

Think you’re up to a career as a general laborer? Then it’s time to take the next step!

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