Defining Skilled Technical Work

29 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2015

See all articles by Jonathan T. Rothwell

Jonathan T. Rothwell

Gallup; George Washington University Institute of Public Policy; Brookings Institution

Date Written: September 1, 2015


This paper proposes a new definition of skilled technical workers, variously known as middle-skilled, craft workers or trade workers. Here, occupations are classified as skilled technical workers if workers in these groups exhibit high levels of knowledge in at least one technical domain and modal employment requirement is less than a bachelor's degree. This definition is compared to others in the literature that use middle wage or educational classifications. Relative to those classifications, occupations meeting the skilled technical definition requirements are more likely to be paid a wage premium, exhibit high levels of technical skill, and require more experience and on-the-job training. The analysis concludes that including skill in broad occupational classifications is important in accurately assessing occupational differences generally and enhances the understanding of the technical labor force specifically.

Keywords: skills, technical workers, middle-skilled, STEM

JEL Classification: J21, J24

Suggested Citation

Rothwell, Jonathan T., Defining Skilled Technical Work (September 1, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan T. Rothwell (Contact Author)

Gallup ( email )

901 F St NW
Washington, DC 20004
United States

George Washington University Institute of Public Policy ( email )

2121 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

Brookings Institution ( email )

1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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