5 Reasons a Skilled Trade Job Should Be Your Next Career Move
Graduate high school. Attend a four-year college. Get a well-paying job immediately in a career you enjoy.
This is the most common advice given to young people, but it’s not the only option. While college is a logical next step for some, others may not want to take on an average of $32,731 in student loans – especially for a career they’re not passionate about.
And some college graduates enter the workforce only to discover that the career they chose doesn't provide the salary or job satisfaction they thought it would.
But skilled trades allow you to learn as you earn, building a stable career through hands-on experience while getting paid.
What is a career in a skilled trade? There are countless industrial and construction trades for you to choose from, but some of the most popular include:
- HVAC technicians
Explore which trades fit your interests, personality and long-term goals.
How a Skilled Trade Career Can Benefit You
If you’re on the fence about whether a trade is right for you, here are five reasons construction and industrial trades are an attractive career choice.
1. Skilled trade jobs are almost always plentiful.
In recent years, demand for tradespeople has remained steady. But Robert Dietz, Ph.D. and chief economist for the National Home Builders Association, told Working Nation that though job openings in construction were higher in 2019 than before the Great Recession, there aren’t enough professionals to fill them.
Part of the problem is the aging workforce. As older tradespeople retire, the number of young people entering the workforce isn’t replacing them fast enough. Many U.S. high schools have cut shop classes and vocational training programs while disproportionately emphasizing college as the next step for students.
Though the coronavirus outbreak led to the loss of jobs across industries, we will likely see demand for trade jobs increase as the housing market continues to trend upward and construction sites open back up across the country.
2. Most skilled labor careers have excellent job security.
Even in times of economic downturns, the trades prove to be a resilient career choice. Though new construction and remodeling jobs may be put on hold, tradespeople who maintain existing buildings – like plumbers, electricians and masons – may find their work to be more stable during a recession.
3. You could earn over $52,000 each year – and even more in high paying trades.
How much you earn in your career depends on which skilled trade you choose, how much training you receive, how long you’re in the field and more. But the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2019 report found that the average annual wage for construction and extraction occupations was $52,580, and the top 75% of skilled laborer jobs made $63,940.
The same report found that the:
- Average electrician salary is $60,370 annually.
- Average wage for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters is $59,800 annually.
- Average carpenter salary is $52,820 annually.
4. You can make money as a trade apprentice while gaining hands-on experience.
For most careers in an industrial or construction trade, you can learn by becoming an apprentice – either through a formal skilled labor apprentice program or through an employer who is willing to train you.
As an apprentice, you’ll gain on-the-job trade experience while earning income. And as your skills advance, you can make more money, even as an apprentice. While traditional internships are often unpaid or only offer a small stipend, trade programs like plumbing apprenticeships are designed to provide livable wages while you learn.
After passing required exams or certifications for your trade, you may become a journeyman – someone who can work under their own journeyman license instead of the employer’s license. Finally, you can apply to become a master of your trade, which can help you start your own business if that’s something you want to do.
Though you will likely need to complete some classroom work as you progress through your career, you’ll have the advantage of gaining experience and making money along the way.
5. Trade school can be better than college from a time & money standpoint.
Not everyone who joins a trade attends a technical school or community college but doing so can give you a leg up in the skilled labor job market. After finishing high school, you can apply for a formal vocational program at a trade school in the specialization that you want.
Trade school is better than college for some because it usually only takes anywhere from a few months to two years. As college student loans can leave students low on money after graduating, a trade school can give you the expertise you need and get into the job field more quickly with less debt.
Taking the Next Step
If these reasons sound appealing to you, the next step is research. You’ll want to decide what you want your career to look like, do some research and form a plan. Connect with professionals already in the business and talk to them about their career path. Then, use all that you’ve found to charge forward with your new vocation.
- Explore the Trades: See a list of skilled trades and career paths for plumbing, electrical and HVAC, and take a quiz to see which may be right for you.
- Construction & Skilled Trade Careers Guide: View even more information on the types of trade careers you can pursue and specific trades in demand right now.
- Tradeswomen Inc: Get support from an organization dedicated to helping women succeed in the trades.
- Read first-hand why this second-generation plumber loves his plumbing career.
- Read how a former pro helps "build plumbers" as an instructor at HBI.