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How To Get Into The Skilled Trades

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated December 17th, 2023

Are you looking for a career that is interesting, challenging, and pays well?

Are you considering some alternatives to college?

If so, you may want to consider one of the many trade careers out there. These are careers that involve using your hands and your mind to create or repair things and often do not require more than a high school diploma or GED.

Although attending technical schools for some careers is recommended to improve your skills and opportunities!

There are many different types of skilled trades, including plumbing, carpentry, culinary arts, welding, and electrical work to name just a few. In this article, we will offer some advice on how you can get into the skilled trades and some jobs you can consider!

Whether you are just entering the job market or looking for a new fulfilling career, we hope you will find this article helpful.

how to get into skilled trades

What is the best path for becoming a tradesman?

There are many different ways to become a skilled trade professional. You can attend community college and get an associate degree, attend vocational schools, or go right into some on-the-job training.

Which path you take is going to depend on the career you are focusing on. Each career might have very different requirements.

Below are a few of the options to help you meet your trade job career goals.

Learn & Practice On Your Own

One great way to learn some skilled trade techniques is by doing projects at home. There are many different types of skilled trades, so it’s important to find one that interests you.

For example, if you want to be a plumber, you can try fixing a leaky faucet or replacing a shower head on your own by watching YouTube videos.

If you’re interested in being a carpenter, you can build a simple birdhouse or bookcase. These are just a few examples; there are many different projects that you can do depending on the trade that interests you.

Not only will practicing at home help you improve your skills, but it will also give you a better understanding of what the job involves. This is especially important if you’re thinking about becoming a tradesperson yourself and not sure which one appeals to you the most.

Doing these small projects can lead you into a career path you love and then you can look into more formal education.

Trade Schools

It’s no secret that trade schools are a great post-secondary education opportunity. But what many people don’t know is that trade schools can also improve your career path. This can mean better salaries and future growth opportunities.

Trade schools offer programs in everything from welding to cosmetology. This means that you can find a program that perfectly matches your interests and career goals. And unlike traditional four-year universities, trade schools typically only take two years to complete.

This means that you can start working in your chosen field sooner.

But the benefits of trade school don’t stop there. Trade schools also offer smaller class sizes and more hands-on learning opportunities than traditional universities.

This means that you’ll be able to learn more in a shorter amount of time. And since trade schools are focused on teaching specific trades, you’ll be able to get started in your career right away. Learn more about how to get into trade school and what the typical entry requirements are.

Work As An Apprentice

Becoming an apprentice is a great way to learn a trade, and it can help improve your chances of having a more successful career in your field of choice. Some careers might require an apprenticeship, for example, an HVAC apprenticeship is a typical step to a fulfilling career.

One of the best things about becoming an apprentice is that you get to learn from the best.

You’ll be working with experienced professionals who can teach you everything you need to know about the trade career you want to learn about. Not only will this help you learn faster, but it will also set you up for success once you finish your apprenticeship.

Another great thing about apprenticeships is that they can lead to great careers.

Many apprentices eventually become master tradespeople, and they often earn a good salary and enjoy good job security. If you’re looking for a great career, becoming an apprentice is a great way to go.

An apprenticeship also allows you to develop relationships with experienced professionals in your field. These relationships can be very beneficial when it comes time to find a job. Most trade jobs are said to be found through the relationships that people have, so the more you network the better!

If you are interested in becoming an apprentice, there are many programs available throughout the United States. To find a program near you, visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s website at Local trade unions are also a resource for finding paid apprenticeships.

Complete On-the-Job Training

On-the-job training is an important aspect of any trade career.

It can help you learn new techniques, improve your skills, and grow your knowledge base. While in an apprenticeship you will work under a more skilled tradesperson, in on-the-job training you will work in part on your own, and sometimes with a mentor.

In many cases, on-the-job training is provided by your employer.

This means that you can learn while you’re working, and get hands-on experience with the tools and techniques of your trade. If you’re lucky, your employer may also provide tuition reimbursement for related training courses.

There are also many off-the-job training options available for tradespeople. Community colleges and other post-secondary institutions often offer trade programs that include on-the-job training components.

These programs can provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to start a successful career in the trades while still attending a vocational school.

Acquire Recommended Licenses & Certifications

There are many different trades in the United States that require licenses or certifications in order to do the job.

For example, many people do not know that you need a license to become a barber or cosmetologist. To get your license, you need to complete a state-approved training program and pass an examination.

There are also many jobs in the construction industry that require licenses or certifications, like contractors and electricians.

In order to get a license or certification, you typically need to complete training programs and pass examinations. The requirements for getting a license or certification vary from state to state, so it is important to check with your state licensing board to find out what the requirements are.

Licenses and certifications can help you stand out from the competition and may increase your chances of getting a job. They can also help you earn a higher salary. So if you are interested in a career that requires a license or certification, be sure to research the requirements and make sure you are prepared before you apply for jobs in that field.

Many careers offer a “journeyman” level as well which can bring a much bigger salary. Journeymen will typically have their own license to do work on their own and not have to work under another master tradesman anymore.

Popular Skilled Trade Sectors

1 | Automotive

Skilled trade jobs are some of the most important and in-demand positions in the automotive industry. Here are some of the most popular skilled trade jobs in this sector and what you can expect from them in terms of pay and job outlook.

An automotive mechanic is responsible for diagnosing and repairing problems with cars and trucks. They may work on a variety of systems, including engines, transmissions, and brakes. Automotive mechanics typically earn an average national salary of approximately $40,000 per year. The job outlook for this profession is good, with employment projected to grow by 6 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Auto body repair technicians restore damaged vehicles to their pre-accident condition. They may work on all parts of the vehicle, including the frame, body, and interior. Auto body repair technicians typically earn around $37,000 per year. The job outlook for this profession is good, with employment projected to grow by 7 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Auto parts specialists work in auto parts stores and are responsible for helping customers find the right parts for their vehicles. They must be knowledgeable about a wide range of car parts and be able to answer customer questions. Auto parts specialists typically earn around $27,000 per year. The job outlook for this profession is good, with employment projected to grow by 5 percent from 2016 to 2026.

2 | Construction

There are so many great skilled trade jobs in the construction industry.

Some of these include electricians, carpenters, and welders. The salaries for these jobs can vary depending on the level of experience and skills that a worker has.

For example, electricians can make anywhere from $33,000 to $66,000 per year. Carpenter salaries can range from $31,000 to $61,000 annually. And welders can make between $30,000 and $60,000 per year.

But in all of these jobs, there are people earning well into the six figures and have amazing benefits too.

The job outlook for construction workers is very good with The Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 11 percent growth in jobs through 2026. This is faster than the average for all occupations.

3 | Healthcare

The healthcare industry is a rapidly growing sector of the economy that offers a wide range of skilled trade jobs with high salaries and excellent job outlooks. Some of the most interesting skilled trade healthcare jobs include medical lab technicians, radiation therapists, and respiratory therapists.

These jobs typically require associate’s degrees or certification from professional organizations. Medical lab technicians earn an average annual salary of roughly $50,000 per year, radiation therapists earn an average salary of $70,000 per year, and respiratory therapists earn an average salary of $60,000 per year.

All three of these jobs have excellent job outlooks, with employment growth rates that are much higher than the national average.

4 | Industrial

Skilled trade jobs in the industrial sector can be some of the most lucrative positions in the workforce. Here are some of the highest-paying skilled trade jobs in this field:

  • Pipefitters: These professionals install and maintain pipelines and other piping systems used in factories, power plants, and other industrial settings. They typically earn a median salary of $53,000 per year.
  • Industrial electricians: These workers install and maintain electrical systems used in factories and other industrial settings. They typically earn a median salary of $54,000 per year.
  • Millwrights: These professionals install, maintain, and repair machinery in factories and other industrial settings. They typically earn a median salary of $55,000 per year.
  • Boilermakers: These workers construct and repair large boilers used in factories and other industrial settings. They typically earn a median salary of $56,000 per year.
  • Instrument technicians: These workers maintain and repair instruments used in factories and other industrial settings. They typically earn a median salary of $57,000 per year.

The pay for skilled trade workers in the industrial sector is often very good, but it is important to note that these jobs can also be very dangerous.

Workers in this field often face risks from hazardous materials, heavy equipment, and high temperatures. It is important to weigh the risks against the potential rewards before deciding whether or not to pursue a career in industrial skilled trades.

5 | Mechanical

Skilled trade jobs are a vital part of the mechanical industry. Here are some of the most common skilled trade jobs in this sector, along with their pay and job outlook:

  • Tool and die maker: This is a skilled trade job that involves designing, manufacturing, and repairing tools and dies. Tool and die makers typically earn around $50,000 a year. The job outlook for this profession is good, with employment projected to grow by 7 percent from 2016 to 2026.
  • Welder: Welders use heat and pressure to join metal parts together. They typically earn around $40,000 a year. The job outlook for welders is excellent, with employment projected to grow by 6 percent from 2016 to 2026.
  • HVAC technician: HVAC technicians install, maintain, and repair heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. They typically earn around $50,000 a year. The job outlook for HVAC technicians is good, with employment projected to grow by 12 percent from 2016 to 2026.
  • Machinist: Machinists create precision parts and tools from metal and other materials. They typically earn $42,000 per year, and their job outlook is good.

Final Thoughts

We cannot recommend the trade career path enough. Stable jobs, growth, good wages, and unique opportunities round out some of the best reasons to consider trade career sectors. Of course, there are some downsides too like dealing with weather, injuries, and the toll some jobs can take on the body.

But, with good care and work-life balance, you can find trade work to be a really good way to build a stable life.

One more thing to think about!

Attending a trade or vocational school will cost several thousand dollars depending on the program you attend and if you will reside on or off campus. If this is a little scary, you can feel good knowing there are plenty of financial aid opportunities or you can also take private loans as well.

Most trade jobs will pay for themselves in just a few years, and it is a whole lot cheaper than going for a four-year college degree. Check out our trade school vs college article to get some insight into the differences between these two options.

Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.