Skilled Trades

Since the dawn of civilization, skilled laborers have kept societies running and growing. Carpenters and construction workers provide the structures in which we live, while electricians and mechanics bring those structures to life. These careers, which rely on highly specified knowledge, are called "skilled trades." Getting your foot in the door may require degrees, apprenticeships, union membership, or prior experience, but once you’re in, the community is strong and supportive. If you like working with your hands and making things work, one of the many skilled trades could be the perfect career for you.

Three Reasons to Explore A Career in the Skilled Trades Industry

  1. If you're a hands-on learner, some jobs in the skilled trades require apprenticeship programs. There may be additional certification, licensing or testing requirements to demonstrate your mastery of the skills and knowledge of the trade.
  2. Salaries for jobs in the skilled trades are as varied as the number of jobs. Depending on the job, workers can earn from $14 per hour to $100,000 per year.
  3. These jobs are perfect for those that enjoy working outdoors and being physically active, are skilled at solving problems and creating solutions, and have a desire to serve their community in a very direct and tangible way.

Your Pathway to A Career in Skilled Trades

  • High School: Success in the skilled trades requires practice, patience, and knowhow. Electricians, mechanics, and construction workers often learn to be “handy” i their youth - so try fixing a broken DVD player, replacing the family car’s alternator, or painting the neighbor’s house! It could pay off!
  • Community College: Two-year degrees in carpentry, construction, TV repair, and other areas are widely available and demonstrate high levels of expertise and commitment to the craft. But don’t stop getting your hands dirty, because experience is needed to perfect your talents.
  • Four-Year School: Universities offer four-year degrees in some skilled trades. But if you pick management, business, or economics programs, you’ll get the expertise and credibility to land more comfortable jobs, like overseeing construction sites and repair shops or running entire companies.

Skilled Trades Positions

Plumbers install, maintain, and repair pipe systems that carry water, waste, steam, air, and other gases or liquids. They specialize in residential and commercial pipe installation and repairs, laying utility pipes and working with pressurized pipe systems. There are also steamfitters who work with liquids and gases under pressure, and sprinkler fitters who work on fire sprinkler systems.
Education: Vocational training and apprenticeship in plumbing
Full or Part Time: Full Time
Salary Range: $24,000 to $70,000

Mechanics inspect, diagnose, maintain, and repair machines. Mechanics specialize in many areas, including automotive, aircraft, industrial machines, small motors, or farm equipment. Mechanics have knowledge of how machines work and how to use tools and new technologies to repair them. In addition to working with machines, mechanics also interact with customers.
Education: Vocational training or Associate’s degree in mechanics
Full or Part Time: Full Time      
Salary Range: $25,000 to $55,000

Electricians install, diagnose, and repair electrical and power systems for residential, commercial, and industrial use.  They use building plans to design electrical systems and then use tools to install wires, circuit breakers, outlets, transformers, and electrical systems.  Electricians also inspect systems and equipment and perform repairs when they fail.  Electricians travel from site to site as they work.
Education: Vocational training as an electrician or an apprenticeship
Full or Part Time: Full Time      
Salary Range: $26,000 to $75,000

Top Ten Highest Paying Construction Jobs

  1. Construction Managers ($94,000)
  2. First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers ($62,220)
  3. Electricians ($51,450)
  4. Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters ($50,530)
  5. Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators ($47,240)
  6. Carpenters ($44,180)
  7. Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers ($43,650)
  8. Painters, Construction and Maintenance ($36,480)
  9. Construction Laborers ($34,040)
  10. Office Clerks, General ($28,610)

Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010)

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