What Is Shift Work?

Shift Work | Definition, Best Jobs & Tips | Resume.com

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Shift work is a type of gainful employment that many Americans perform each day. Companies need competent, capable employees to perform shift work duties and ensure operations around the clock. In this article, learn more about shift work and the types of jobs that commonly use these scheduled periods of irregular hours. 

What is shift work?

As the name suggests, shift work is a type of work that takes place over an assigned period or shift. These shifts usually occur outside of regular hours, so sometimes the term shift work is associated with overnight shifts or early mornings. Shift work is commonly associated with the service industry, but many industries have shift work as a stipulation of the job. Both hourly and salaried employees can be asked to perform shift work. 

Why is shift work important?

Primary among the reasons why shift work is important is that some companies need to operate all the time or outside of regular business hours to meet the needs of customers and clients. People may choose to partake in shift work for several reasons like getting overtime, planning for the needs of a family, or having limited options. 

Common industries that use shift work

Here are some industries you can expect to find shift work jobs.

Hospitality, retail, and service

Service industry employees are often shift workers whose schedules match the needs of the business and coverage for critical peak service hours. Early morning or overnight shifts may be regular or seasonal to meet demands like earlier store opening times or later store closing times for the holiday season in retail.


Manufacturing jobs include shift work for floor-workers and managers who have to operate overnight to meet production goals. Warehouses often have round-the-clock workers, including laborers and security professionals, to ensure operations are satisfactory.

Emergency services and healthcare

An emergency can happen any time, so emergency workers and public servants like police officers, paramedics, and EMTs perform shift work to ensure they are around when needed. Other healthcare workers like nurses, medical assistants, nursing home attendants and more, are considered shift employees who often work overnight to provide quality medical care.

Transportation and logistics

A dispatch position in transportation and logistics is one example of a shift worker. Another example might be delivery drivers who work the night shift and operations managers.

Customer service and call center

When customer issues arise, companies want to address them right away. For this reason, business trends mandate call center employees work shifts to meet the needs of clients who call-in during early mornings, evenings, and weekends, sometimes from locations around the world. Meeting customers’ needs no matter what time it is, has become an increasingly popular philosophy among customer forward businesses that hire shift workers to staff their call centers.


When news happens overnight, there has to be a team available to cover it. Even though many reporters are on-call, media companies have shift workers who perform other operational duties to ensure that no news is missed when people are sleeping.

Top shift work jobs

Here are some of the top shift work jobs to consider. 


National Average Salary: $28.94 per hour

Role and Responsibilities: Nurses perform intake, triage, and routine medical services on patients who need medical help. Nurses perform the essential operational duties in hospitals, clinics, and medical centers. Because patients need continuous care throughout the day, nurses typically work in shifts that cover all 24 hours of the day.

Hotel Manager

National Average Salary: $24.71 per hour

Role and Responsibilities: Hotel Managers supervise teams of customer associates, write schedules, use office technology and tools of the trade, and help guests through the check-in and check-out process. These are frontline customer service professionals who display the leadership required to manage a team.

Restaurant Manager

National Average Salary: $24.12 per hour

Role and Responsibilities: Restaurant Managers oversee teams of other shift workers. They write schedules, assign server side work and ensure customer satisfaction. Usually, they are responsible for either the front of the house, where their successful performance means working directly with guests, or the back of the house, where they meet guests’ expectations for food standards.

Air Traffic Controller

National Average Salary: $22.54 per hour

Role and Responsibilities: Air Traffic Controllers have the responsibility of helping planes take off and land safely. They stay in communication with pilots during flights to ensure a smooth arrival.

Retail Manager

National Average Salary: $22.32 per hour

Role and Responsibilities: Retail Managers are skilled employees who demonstrate team leadership and sales performance. A typical Retail Manager creates schedules for other shift workers while deploying initiatives to improve morale and being accountable for sales goals.

Medical Sonographer

National Average Salary: $17.82 per hour

Role and Responsibilities: A Medical Sonographer uses sonography equipment to perform a medical examination of patients. Sometimes Sonographers work with pregnant women, and other times sonography is used as a diagnostic tool for other conditions. A Sonographer must be highly skilled in sonography equipment.


National Average Salary: $17.65 per hour

Role and Responsibilities: Paramedics are first-responders who save lives by performing emergency medical procedures on patients and transporting them to nearby hospitals when necessary. Because they must be available for emergencies, some Paramedics work 12-hour or 24-hour shifts. 

Help Desk Support

National Average Salary: $17.52 per hour

Role and Responsibilities: Help Desk Support professionals provide tech support and customer service to customers, usually over the phone. They are skilled at troubleshooting, problem-solving, making decisions, and possessing highly technical skills. Sometimes this role requires certification.

Residential Care Associate

National Average Salary: $13.19 per hour

Role and Responsibilities: Residential Care Associates provide residential care at facilities like substance abuse treatment centers and elderly care centers.

Security Guard

National Average Salary: $13.05 per hour

Role and Responsibilities: Security Guards work at facilities that need protection at all hours, like banks, warehouses, colleges and universities, and more. They often work eight-hour shifts with rotating schedules. 

How to find the best shift work jobs

If you’re someone who prefers to work untraditional hours, here are some steps you can follow to find shift work.

1. First, decide on a path

Take some time to learn more about shift work jobs and decide which is the best for your skills, experience, and interests. Because shift work is important to many different industries, there is usually a wide range of jobs and specialties to choose from.

2. Next, research the necessary education or required skills of the job

While many shift work jobs don’t have formal requirements, you should determine if your chosen path requires something more specialized, like an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a specific field. However, you could always start in an entry-level shift work job and work your way into a more competitive position once you’ve gained experience and new skills.

3. Then, choose to continue your education or earn the relevant certification

Even industries that don’t require any formal education may have on-the-job training programs that you can participate in or register for learning specific skills. You can also consider earning any relevant or required certifications on your own time that could make you a more attractive candidate for future job applications.

4. Finally, update or create your resume

Choosing the best resume format to highlight your skills, experience, and education could improve your candidacy. Decide on a chronological, functional, or combination resume, depending on what it is you would like to highlight.

If you need help writing a resume, use our data-backed resume builder.