Career in Skilled Trades and Salary

Skilled trades cover a wide variety of potential careers. These are typically considered "hands on" jobs, which require a very specific skill set in order to provide a service to customers and clients. Skilled trades include the construction worker who builds a home, the HVAC technician who services an air conditioner, or the plumber who makes a bathroom remodel a reality -- among many more.

Day-to-day work in skilled trades

The day-to-day work of those in the skilled trades depends on the particular career, but there are a few similarities among all professions under the skilled trades umbrella. In most cases, the work requires physical or hands-on labor, and often involves working directly with customers or clients. Some jobs might have set hours, but some might offer extended or emergency hours, as well as varying shifts.

Moving into a skilled trades career sometimes requires a certificate or associate degree, certification or licensing, and often demands several years of apprenticeship before someone is considered to be proficient in their chosen field. The length of time to become proficient depends upon the particular trade.

Those in skilled trades work in a variety of environments. Chemical technicians might work in a well-lit manufacturing or research setting, while HVAC technicians might go from one site to another, working on air conditioning units or furnaces in tight quarters. Specialized skills might also lead to a particular work environment; for instance, welders who are trained to work underwater might find jobs with government contractors who take on military contracts, and thus find themselves working on submarines.

Job outlook for skilled trades

According to Forbes, many states are expected to face a shortage of skilled labor workers in the coming years, which may bode well for those who plan to enter the skilled trades. Below is the job outlook, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), for various jobs in the skilled trades:

  • Electrician: Electricians are expected to see job growth of 20 percent from 2012 to 2022. Many will find work in emerging technologies, such as solar and wind power. Those who work in factories will see stable employment, and those with a wide variety of skills should see good job prospects.
  • Carpenter: New home construction and remodeling is expected to drive the 24 percent job growth from 2012 to 2022 in this field. Job openings depend greatly upon the geographical area.
  • HVAC Mechanic or Installer: Job growth of 21 percent is expected from 2012 to 2022, due in part to the growth in residential and commercial building construction. Those with formal training and a familiarity with computers and electronics are expected to see the best opportunities.

Salary expectations for skilled trades careers

Those in skilled trades careers can see their pay rise with experience, training and certification. Below is a list of skilled trades national mean annual wages for 2013, as reported by the BLS:

  • Carpenter: $44,980
  • Plumber: $52,390
  • Roofer: $38,790
  • Brickmason: $50,700
  • Welder: $39,110

Keep in mind that these are national averages; annual income could be affected by seasonal work, geographic location, and education or apprenticeship level, among other factors. Those interested in skilled trades may wish to explore all of their options at a vocational, trade or technical school.


"America's Skilled Trades Dilemma: Shortages Loom As Most-In-Demand Group Of Workers Ages," Joshua Wright, Forbes, March 7, 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/emsi/2013/03/07/americas-skilled-trades-dilemma-shortages-loom-as-most-in-demand-group-of-workers-ages/

Carpenters, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/carpenters.htm#tab-1

Electricians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm#tab-1

Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm#tab-1

"Industries to Watch: Skilled Trades," Anthony Balderrama, Aol Jobs, January 27, 2011, http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/01/27/industries-skilled-trades/

National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

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