QoD: What category of worker has doubled since the 1980s: Manufacturing, Service, or Knowledge?

May 05, 2019
Career, Question of the Day, Research, Chart of the Week

Answer: Knowledge

Examples of various types of workers: 

  • Routine cognitive workers = bookkeepers, filing clerks, bank tellers
  • Routine manual workers = assembly line workers or workers in warehouse
  • Nonroutine manual workers =  service occupations


  • In your own words, what is a knowledge worker?
  • What are examples of the types of jobs that a knowledge worker has? 
  • How do you prepare to become a knowledge worker?
  • Which job types tend to be most affected by a recession? Why? 

Here's the ready-to-go slides for this Question of the Day that you can use in your classroom.

Behind the numbers (from Wall Street Journal):

As recently as the mid-1980s, you could categorize American workers into roughly three equal-sized groups of about 30 million people each. About 31 million people had nonroutine cognitive jobs, what is often called “knowledge work,” consisting of varied intellectual tasks such as professional, managerial or technical occupations. Just under 30 million people had jobs that consisted primarily of routine manual work—on assembly lines or in warehouses, doing physical tasks day after day. About 30 million people had jobs consisting of routine office work—bookkeepers, filing clerks,  bank tellers and so on—work that doesn’t involve much physical activity but is highly routine and doesn’t necessarily require high levels of knowledge. A fourth, smaller group, did nonroutine manual tasks, such as many service occupations.


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About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.