How Does Social Security Define Skilled and Unskilled Work?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

There are several stages of analysis involved in determining whether your application for Social Security disability benefits will be approved. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will need to determine whether your condition has met the disability listing. It will also need to determine, in light of the disabling condition, you would be able to carry out the duties required by your past job. After this, the SSA will need to determine whether there is less demanding work you may be able to engage in. To do this, the SSA will look to the skill level required by your last job in order to give the names of other jobs you might still be able to do in light of your disability and at the same level of skill as your past employment.

How Does Social Security Define Skilled and Unskilled Work?

Skill, as defined by the SSA, means knowledge of a task that demands judgment attained through performing a job. In other words, skill is what you learn at your job in order to make the right judgment calls and decisions as well as using the correct practices and techniques in order to effectively get your work done. Generally, the level of skill involved in a job hinges on the length of time it takes to learn how to do the job, as well as the specific characteristics of the job. The SSA has three different categories for job skill levels:

  • Unskilled: Unskilled jobs are those that require little to no judgment in order to preform simple tasks. These jobs can usually be trained for in less than a month. Oftentimes, unskilled work requires physical strength, but this is not always the case. Engaging in unskilled work does not allow a person to acquire work skills.
  • Semi-skilled: While semi-skilled jobs require some skill, they do not involve complex job functions. Training for semi-skilled jobs usually takes around 3 to 6 months. These are jobs that often require the ability to stay alert and attentive as well as protect against risk.
  • Skilled: Skilled work can take a minimum of 6 months to train for and become proficient at. It is work that requires specific qualifications as well as exercising judgment and knowledge regarding performing tasks to create a product or knowing material required to effectively perform a service. Skilled work often involves calculations and working closely with facts and figures. It is not uncommon for skilled work to require complex critical thinking.

The SSA will render a decision on the skill level of your past job based on the description you provide. Because of this, it is very important that you accurately and completely report on your job duties and functions, as well as the responsibilities demanded of your job and the length it time it took you to learn how to do your job.

Florida Disability Attorney

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About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.