Earlier this month Italy celebrated ‘La Festa dei Lavoratori’, or International Workers’ Day. Known colloquially as ‘Il Primo Maggio’, or the First of May, this is one of the most important bank holidays of the year celebrating workers’ rights, very similar to September’s Labor Day in the US.
Established in the industrialization boom of the 19th century, Il Primo Maggio is generally marked by workers’ marches and parades, open-air concerts, and political rallies...though many Italians simply pack a picnic and head to the countryside or coastline to enjoy a day off of work on one of the first balmy days of spring.
‘Lavoratore’ is a generic term for worker, but Italian has a vast variety of professional and work-related titles that are more specific. If you are ever asked “Che lavoro fai?”, or What do you do?, you would almost never reply with the vague ‘lavoratore’.
Here, we’ll take a look at a number of more descriptive terms to explain your job or profession.
General Professional Categories:
Operaio/a – Someone who does manual labor, generally in a factory or other manufacturing job.
Impiegato/a – Strictly speaking, an employee...but used to mean someone who works in an office or other professional setting who does not do manual labor.
Dirigente – A supervisor or manager, generally as a white-collar executive.
Responsabile – A supervisor or manager, generally in a manufacturing or commercial setting.
Imprenditore – An entrepreneur or business owner; also used for contractors.
Libera professionista – A freelancer.
Consulente – A consultant.
Apprendistato/a – An apprentice, trainee, or intern.
Disoccupato/a – A person who is unemployed or in ‘cassa integrazione’, a form of paid furlough.
Pensionato/a – Someone who is retired, a pensioner.
Common Jobs and Professions:
Agente di Viaggio – Travel agent
Agricoltore/Imprenditore agricolo – Farmer
Architetto – Architect
Autista – Driver
Avvocato – Lawyer
Barbiere/Parrucchiere – Barber/Hairdresser
Barista – Bartender
Cameriere/a – Waiter
Casalinga – Housewife
Commesso/a – Shop assistant
Cuoco/a – Cook
Elettricista – Electrician
Medico or Dottore/essa – Physician
Falegname – Carpenter
Farmacista – Pharmacist
Giornalista – Journalist
Idraulico – Plumber
Infermiere/a – Nurse
Insegnante or Professore/essa – Teacher or Professor
Ingegnere – Engineer
Meccanico – Mechanic
Muratore – Builder or mason
Poliziotto – Police officer
Postino/a – Postal worker
Programmatore – Programmer
Psichiatra or Psicologo/a – Psychiatrist or Psychologist
Ragioniere/a or Commercialista – Accountant
Scrittore/ice – Writer
Segretaria – Secretary
Studente/essa – Student
How to converse about work:
These are four different versions of the same questions: ‘What’s your job?’ or ‘What do you do (for a living)?’
- Che lavoro fai?
- Di cosa ti occupi?