A skilled trade career gives you a lucrative avenue to pursue as an alternative to a college education. Whether you are a teen just out of high school or are considering a career switch, going into the trades can sure pay off. The stigma of trade work is steadily falling by the wayside. What used to be viewed as a low-status, low-paying way of life is now seen as a valuable career choice that offers substantial pay, job stability, and a satisfying quality of life.
The country is currently experiencing a shortage of skilled trade workers. This is your chance to put your skills to the test or to gain a new set of skills, which will qualify you for a wide range of job opportunities. With more than 3 million skilled trade jobs needed to be filled by 2028, you have a significant chance of finding a quick job. The only question to ask is: which career do you want to pursue?
The following are some of the most in-demand trade career options currently available, which should give you some food for thought when deciding on how to plan for your future.
What Trade Jobs Are Available?
Skilled trade careers fall into five expansive categories: Transportation, Construction, Agricultural, Service, and Manufacturing and Industrial. Let’s explore some of the career options inside each category now.
A bus operator or bus driver drives a bus or motor coach. You may have a pre-set route or chartered route. Other bus operators offer private tours. In addition to safe driving, you are responsible for collecting fares and tickets, helping passengers with boarding and luggage, and following standard safety procedures. Part of your safety protocol is reporting accidents to dispatch and the necessary authorities. To qualify as a bus operator, you need a high school diploma or GED, along with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), Class B with passenger endorsement. The average salary for a bus operator is $37,000 annually.
A train operator, also referred to as a train engineer, works aboard trains. The responsibilities of this skilled trade role include working aboard trains and coordinating daily crew activities. If you are working on a freight train, you would oversee the loading and unloading of cargo at each stop. For passenger trains, you might do the same for people boarding and stepping off the train at train stations. A passenger train conductor also checks tickets, takes payments, and assists passengers as needed between stops. No matter the type of train, a conductor must follow all aspects of the train’s operations such as laws, rules, signals, and orders, as set by the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration). To become a train operator, you need a high school diploma or equivalent before passing a certification course. Some employers prefer on-the-job training and a train operator’s license. The average salary of a train operator in the US is $46,842 annually.
Aircraft Maintenance Technician
A jet aircraft mechanic is responsible for keeping an aircraft in safe working condition. Your daily activities include servicing engines as well as engine and airframe components. Jet mechanics also modify and replace parts, including wires, tires, and instruments. Because lives are at stake, you must also identify hazardous aircraft conditions and determine when an aircraft should be grounded. To qualify as an aircraft mechanic, you need a high school diploma or equivalent, along with certification from an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approved aviation maintenance technician school. The average salary for a jet mechanic is $91,336.
Auto/Motorcycle Service Technician
The role of an auto mechanic would see you fixing vehicles and replacing parts for customers. You would also be responsible for repairing mechanical components and diagnosing problems with various models of cars and trucks. Maintenance work would also be included. Auto mechanics need a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers prefer certification or an associate’s degree in automotive technology or a related field. The average salary of an auto mechanic is $48,653.
Motorcycle mechanics adjust and repair motorcycle assemblies, which include transmissions, forks, brakes, and drive chains. You might also find yourself dismantling engines and repairing or replacing defective parts. Motorcycle mechanics need a high school diploma or equivalent and certification in motorcycle mechanics. Motorcycle mechanics earn an average of $41,970 annually.
An electrician’s responsibilities include the inspection, repair, installation, and maintenance of electrical systems, equipment, and machinery. They ensure all electrical work meets the necessary safety codes and is properly inspected. Knowledge of the use of various tools and equipment is required, such as power construction equipment, power tools, measuring devices, and testing equipment. To become an electrician, you need a high school diploma or the equivalent along with an electrician's license. The average annual salary of an electrician is $52,481.
Plumbers are always needed to install and repair gas, water, and other piping systems in businesses, government buildings, schools, homes, and factories. Plumbers must be able to install plumbing fixtures like bathtubs and toilets, as well as appliances like water heaters and dishwashers. They also clean drains, clear obstructions, and repair or replace broken fixtures and pipes. To become a plumber, you need a high school diploma or equivalent. Most states have plumber licensing requirements. Some employers prefer some work experience. Plumbers earn an average annual salary of $56,330.
HVAC systems are needed to cool and heat indoor settings like homes, shopping centers, offices, schools, government buildings, and hospitality centers. As a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technician, you would be responsible for testing various types of components, units, and electrical sockets to ensure they are fit for installation in a commercial or residential setting. HVAC techs install climate control systems, refrigeration systems, and heating and air conditioning systems, as well as troubleshoot, service, and maintain those systems as needed. To become an HVAC technician, you need a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers prefer you to obtain certification from an HVAC training program. HVAC technicians earn $49,000 annually on average.
Carpenters build doors, cabinets, floors, frameworks, and other wooden fixtures used in homes and buildings. You must learn how to use woodworking machines, power tools, and hand tools, as well as fasten materials to make frameworks using wood screws, nails, glue, and dowel pins. Carpenters need a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers prefer an associate’s degree from a technical school in carpentry. The average annual salary of a carpenter is $59,866.
Agricultural Equipment Operator
This skilled trade career role requires you to work with equipment that helps to efficiently perform farm activities, such as tilling soil, planting seeds, and cultivating and harvesting crops. To become an agricultural equipment operator, you need a high school diploma or equivalent, but not always. Some employers provide on-the-job training for beginners. On average, agricultural equipment operators earn $45,337 per year.
Forest and Conservation Technician
This skilled trade career option would have you gathering data on water soil quality, insect damage to trees, diseases that affect plants and trees, and conditions that could pose a fire hazard. Other responsibilities of a forest and conservation technician include locating property lines and evaluating forested areas to determine the quality, amount, and species of standing timber. The requirements to become a forest and conservation technician include an associate’s degree in forestry technology or a related field. These skilled tradespeople earn an average salary of $32,326 annually.
Animal Husbandry and Animal Caretaker
An animal caretaker is responsible for learning all aspects of animal-focused operations. Your daily activities would include the feeding, bedding, medicating, vaccinating, breeding, and pregnancy-checking of various animals. You would also assist with on-farm duties as needed. A high school diploma or equivalent is required for animal husbandry or an animal caretaker role. Some employers prefer agricultural education with a focus on the sciences such as animal science and biology. Animal husbandry and animal caretaking pay an average salary of $25,446 annually.
Nursery and Greenhouse Manager
A nursery and greenhouse manager is responsible for overseeing the production of flowers, shrubs, trees, and plants used for landscaping. Your duties would also include applying fertilizers and pesticides to help plants grow, as well as keeping track of marketing and inventory. A nursery and greenhouse manager needs a high school diploma or equivalent. Some states have certification and licensing requirements. The average salary of a nursery and greenhouse manager is $48,752 annually.
Skilled trade chefs work in hotels, restaurants, entertainment clubs, bistros, spas, and other eateries. They are responsible for food preparation and presentation, sanitation, food safety, and menu management. Chefs also need to be knowledgeable about wines, spirits, and liquors used in cooking. Chefs typically need a high school diploma or equivalent before attending culinary school. Some employers also prefer work experience. The annual salary of a chef is $49,916 on average.
Bakers are responsible for preparing various types of baked goods, including loaves of bread, pastries, rolls, and muffins. Daily duties include the mixing of ingredients, following recipes, and baked good presentations. There are no formal educational credentials needed to become a baker, though some employers prefer a high school diploma or equivalent along with certification from a technical or culinary school. The average annual salary of a baker is $35,350.
Landscape architects are responsible for designing functional and attractive public parks, residential areas, gardens, college campuses, playgrounds, and public spaces. These skilled tradespeople also plan the locations of roads, walkways, buildings, flowers, trees, and shrubs. All states require a license to become a landscape architect. Most employers also require a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from an accredited school along with some internship experience. You must also pass the Landscape Architect Registration Examination. The average annual salary of a landscape architect is $95,000.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
A licensed practical nurse provides hands-on patient care and performs administrative tasks, which include monitoring patient vital signs, assessing a patient’s overall condition, changing bandages, inserting catheters, and providing basic patient care as needed. LPNs are required to complete a one-year training program that combines classroom work and clinical experience. Licensed practical nurses must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to obtain the licensing necessary to secure their first job. LPNs earn an average annual salary of $59,833.
Manufacturing and Industrial
A machinist is responsible for working with blueprints and CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-manufacturing) files. Daily duties include setting up a variety of mechanically and computer-controlled equipment to produce precision metal instruments, parts, and tools. Many machinists start their careers straight out of high school, with 12 to 18 months of on-the-job training or a 1 to 2-year apprenticeship. Machinists earn an average annual salary of $65,651.
Welders create and repair metal products and other goods by using intense heat to fuse metal parts together. Metals they work with include stainless steel, brass, and aluminum. Welders must be knowledgeable in the use of a variety of welding equipment and tools. The requirements to become a welder include a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers prefer post-secondary welding training, though other employers will provide on-the-job training. Welding certification is required in some states. Welders earn an average annual salary of $42,894.
Tool and Die Maker
A tool and die maker studies blueprints, sketches, and CAD/CAM files to make tools and dies. They are responsible for verifying the dimensions, shapes, sizes, and tolerances of workpieces, and must know how to operate and tear down CNC (computer numerically controlled) machine tools. Tool and die makers also file, adjust, and grind parts so they fit together, test completed tools and dies to ensure they meet specifications, and smooth and polish surfaces of tools and dies. The requirements to become a tool and die maker include a high school diploma or equivalent with most employers providing on-the-job training. Tool and die makers earn an average annual salary of $46,549.
Metal fabricators cut, prepare, shape, and weld metal using various complex hand tools and equipment, such as shears, blowtorches, gauges, power saws, and nail sets. To become a metal fabricator you need a high school diploma or equivalent. Many employers want you to have obtained at least a one-year certificate or technical diploma from a trade school or community college. The annual average salary of a metal fabricator is $32,412.
Start Your Skilled Trade Career Today
The best way to start working in one of these skilled trade careers is to apply to work with Prolink . Award-winning Prolink works with employers nationwide that need skilled tradespeople like you. We pair you with a recruiter that can notify you of suitable jobs and help you find employment fast. Get started now with our easy online application process.