General Laborer: Job Description, Duties & Requirements

Jan 08, 2021

General laborers do not require any formal education. Learn what a general laborer is, what general laborers do and what general laborer skills are required to see if this is the right career for you.

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What Is General Labor?

You might be wondering, what is a laborer? General labor jobs include unspecialized jobs that involve construction, landscaping or moving materials. A laborer job description includes tasks that require little skill and can be learned quickly; other tasks require considerable experience or training. General laborers are often required to work outside in all kinds of weather or in buildings without heating or air conditioning. Some tasks are dangerous, including removing lead, asbestos, or chemicals.

General Labor Job Description

General laborers can work at building, highway, and heavy construction sites. There is no minimal educational requirement to be a general laborer, but specialized training can help laborers advance.

Required Education None; apprenticeships may require high school diploma or equivalent
Experience None; on-the-job training typically provided; specialized training can increase job opportunities
Key Skills Physical strength, hand-eye coordination, and endurance; concentration, computer, estimating, and communication skills; ability to use necessary tools and machines; 18 year of age or older for apprenticeships; bilingual in Spanish an English a plus
Job Outlook (2019-2029) 5% growth*
Average Annual Salary (2019) $36,860 (for construction laborers)*

*Source: BLS

General Labor Duties

The job duties of a general labor may include cleaning and preparing a job site, loading and delivering materials, and using a variety of tools and machines such as blowtorches, forklifts, levels, lifts, power drills, grinders, saws, pressure washers, and water spraying equipment. Laborers set up and take down ladders, scaffolding, and other temporary structures. They help carpenters, masons, and other specialized contractors.

At road construction sites, general laborers may control traffic. They set up markers, cones and barricades, and may flag vehicles to control the flow of traffic.

General Labor Skills & Qualifications

General construction laborers must have physical strength, hand-eye coordination, and endurance. Laborers must also be able to concentrate on their tasks. The ability to understand and communicate information is also essential. Some tools and machines are computerized, requiring technical knowledge to use. Computer skills, estimating skills, and the ability to communicate in both English and Spanish can help general laborers advance in their profession.

There are no minimum educational requirements to be a general laborer, but laborers who have specialized skills have the best opportunities. Those who serve a formal apprenticeship must generally be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or its equivalent. An informal apprenticeship, consisting of on-the-job training and learning from more experienced contractors, is a common way for general laborers to learn their job.

High school classes in general shop, welding, mechanical drawing, blueprint reading, physics, and mathematics are helpful. Professional organizations such as the National Center for Construction Education and Research can help laborers find accredited training programs, such as those in maritime, construction, or maintenance field.

Laborers who help remove lead, asbestos and other hazardous materials need specialized safety training and certification.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the predictions of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), construction laborer jobs will increase about 5% from 2019-2029, which is faster than average. As of May 2019, construction laborers earned an average yearly salary of $36,860, per BLS reports.

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