10 Types of Trade Jobs and How To Choose One

Updated June 30, 2023

If you're curious about specialized jobs you can pursue without attending a four-year undergraduate program, pursuing a trade could lead to a fulfilling career. Trade jobs can offer you the opportunity to improve people's lives, earn a comfortable salary and develop in-demand skills. Learning more about the various career paths in the trades might connect you with one that suits you. In this article, we share some benefits of working in a trade job, list 10 types of trade jobs and offer suggestions to help you choose a path.

Benefits of working in a trade job

A trade job is a career that requires specialized skills, typically gained through vocational school or apprenticeships. While any position that relies on advanced skills and has educational requirements other than a bachelor's degree can qualify as a trade job, many of these positions occur outside of an office environment. Many professionals choose to work in the trades for a diverse set of reasons. Here are some benefits of working in a trade job:

Job security

Many trades are integral to everyday life, like plumbing, auto repair, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and maintenance. While business needs can change in some industries as market trends fluctuate, it's likely that professionals providing essential services stay in demand. Trade jobs like solar installers, makeup artists, wood model makers and wind turbine service technicians are all among the US Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) list of the fastest-growing careers over the current decade.

Many trade jobs are less competitive than other fields, which means it could be easier to find a position in your chosen trade. While specifics can depend on the location, industry and employer, it's possible to start growing your career in the traders sooner and advance quickly. Vocational schools typically also provide graduates with the essential skills and practical experience to make them competitive candidates, which can contribute to a fruitful career.

Manageable training requirements

There's a low barrier to entry to the trades compared to other careers that might require between four and ten years of schooling and multiple degrees. Training programs for most trade jobs take less than two years to complete, and you can finish many in as little as six months. Trade schools typically charge students much less for tuition than colleges and universities charge for bachelor's degree programs. Tradespeople can also start working full-time in their field two or three years sooner than those attending a four-year institution, which can lead to financial gains.

Flexible hours

Many trades offer a more flexible schedule than you might find with an office job. Many tradespeople work nights, early mornings, weekends, and some professionals might alternate between long days and several days off. Tradespeople also frequently are self-employed contractors, meaning it can be possible to make your own schedule. If you want a schedule that varies from the traditional 9-to-5 hours, a trade job might be right for you.

High earning potential

Many trades offer you the opportunity to earn a high income. Salaries can vary depending on your experience level and location, but the specialized skills tradespeople possess can make them valuable to employers. Many people associate bachelor's degrees with high earning potential, but there are lucrative careers paths that you can pursue without a four-year degree. Many trade careers also offer opportunities to earn overtime pay, bonuses and benefits.

Opportunities for enjoyable work

Trade jobs span many industries, and there are options for people with unique interests and skills. If you enjoy using tools and solving problems, you might enjoy a career as a mechanic or locksmith, while creative people with a background in art and design could find fulfillment as tattoo artists or cosmetologists. Working in a discipline you like and excel at can bring personal satisfaction. Many people also find it rewarding to complete tasks with visible results, which most trades offer.

Possibility of physical activity

While work environments can differ, many trade jobs are physically active. If you'd rather be on your feet than sitting at a desk all day, you might appreciate the nature of manual labor. There are many trade jobs that allow you to spend time outdoors and strengthen your motor skills. Getting exercise at work can make it easier to stay healthy, as exercise can reduce your risk of disease, reduce stress and increase energy levels.

10 types of trade jobs

Here are 10 different careers you could consider if you want to work a trade job. For the most up-to-date Indeed salaries, please click on the links provided:

1. Welder

National average salary: $48,336 per year

Primary duties: A welder is a construction or manufacturing professional who uses heat to fuse metal objects together. These professionals typically examine objects and surfaces to determine if they're safe for welding, interpret plans and blueprints from engineers and use tools to join metals. They practice meticulous safety measures to protect themselves and maintain their equipment while controlling temperatures.

Read more: Learn About Being a Welder

2. Video editor

National average salary: $52,622 per year

Primary duties: Video editors are creative professionals who use computer programs to arrange video footage to create entertaining or informative content for films, television shows, social media or marketing initiatives. They typically review footage, select appropriate clips, sync audio, add music or sounds, color grade the video and create graphics or visual effects. Video editors might also implement feedback from clients or directors and create multiple cuts of a video for different purposes.

3. Mortician

National average salary: $53,938 per year

Primary duties: A mortician arranges and executes funerals honoring the life of the recently deceased. Their key responsibility is typically embalming the body and readying it to be seen. Many morticians also communicate with the family and loved ones to learn their wishes for the events, document the death and file legal paperwork and coordinate the logistics for burial or cremation services. Morticians sometimes also work with living people to help them plan their funerals in advance.

Read more: Learn About Being a Mortician

4. Electrician

National average salary: $56,667 per year

Primary duties: An electrician is a construction professional who plans, installs and repairs electrical equipment. They visit clients in commercial and residential settings, examine their buildings and create blueprints to determine how to lay their wiring for lighting, power, telephone systems, televisions and internet, typically considering factors like safety and energy efficiency. Electricians also respond to client concerns, identify the cause of issues and perform repairs.

Read more: Learn About Being an Electrician

5. Plumber

National average salary: $59,334 per year

Primary duties: A plumber is responsible for the installation and maintenance of water supply systems in buildings. These professionals may set up and repair devices like pipes, sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs and water heaters. Aside from installing and fixing these fixtures, key duties for a plumber may include obtaining necessary permits, advising customers on how to limit service interruptions, reviewing equipment to ensure compliance with regulations and performing regular upkeep on clients' systems.

Read more: Learn About Being a Plumber

6. Hairstylist

National average salary: $59,987 per year

Primary duties: A hairstylist is a cosmetology professional who performs hair services in a salon. These professionals typically give their clients haircuts, styling services, partial or full coloring and deep conditioning treatments. Their responsibilities can also include using and recommending high-quality hair care products and styling tools, advising clients on proper hair hygiene and researching popular hairstyles. These professionals sometimes work for salons, but many others run their own businesses, which can involve tasks like advertising their services on social media, conversing with clients to build fruitful relationships

Read more: Learn About Being a Hairstylist

7. Home inspector

National average salary: $60,588 per year

Primary duties: A home inspector is a real estate professional who visits and examines homes for structural imperfections or safety risks. They might perform these inspections on behalf of buyers planning on purchasing a home, sellers preparing to list their home or owners who want to learn about their home's quality and value. Home inspectors are responsible for tasks like checking the electrical wiring, plumbing, foundation, HVAC systems and structural integrity and advising clients on how to repair any issues.

8. Chef

National average salary: $61,214 per year

Primary duties: A chef is responsible for food preparation and kitchen leadership at a restaurant, catering company or private business. These professionals perform key duties like developing and testing recipes, sourcing ingredients from suppliers, supervising kitchen staff, cooking meals for customers and implementing food safety measures per federal guidelines. Some chefs also select the menu and help grow the restaurant's reputation and client base with public appearances, interviews and cookbooks.

Read more: Learn About Being a Chef

9. Auto mechanic

National average salary: $68,943 per year

Primary duties: An auto mechanic is a specialized professional who fixes cars. Their primary responsibilities are running diagnostic tests to identify mechanical issues, replacing faulty parts, replacing oil and coolants in cars, maintaining tires and cleaning tools. They typically also perform administrative tasks like keeping maintenance records and billing customers, and they may also offer advice to customers about how to protect their cars.

Read more: Learn About Being an Auto Mechanic

10. Tattoo artist

National average salary: $90,225 per year

Primary duties: A tattoo artist applies images and words to clients' bodies using ink and needles. These professionals consult with clients to determine their goals and budget, create sketches of their designs for clients to approve, draw designs permanently on clients' bodies, sterilize needles and other equipment between appointments and advise clients on aftercare. These professionals might also post their work online to gain new clients and schedule appointments for consultations and tattoos.

Tips for choosing a trade job

Below are some tips that could help you choose a trade job that matches your needs:

Consider the educational requirements

Each career has unique training opportunities, and many trade jobs require specific licenses or certifications to practice in your state or operate necessary equipment. Other trade jobs require no formal training and allow new professionals to learn the important skills through an apprenticeship. Before you commit to a career, it can be beneficial to review the educational requirements and understand the timeline for training.

Reflect on your skills

There are trades across many industries, and thinking about what you're good at can help you find a career where you thrive. If you're creative, you might consider pursuing a job that allows you to use art skills, like working as a manicurist or painter. Individuals who are athletic and strong might excel at trades that require exertion and manual labor. People with critical thinking skills could find success in trades that require troubleshooting, like mechanic roles.

Define your preferred work environment

Trade jobs can allow you work in unique environments, so reflecting on your ideal workplace might help narrow your options. If you prefer working independently, you may like a path that affords you privacy, like being a metalworker or sanitation worker. Extroverts might prefer a career where they're surrounded by people and can hold conversations while working. Working as a hairstylist, bus driver or in a health care trade could offer the interaction you crave.

Research your options

Learning more about the careers that interest you may guide your search. You may be able to shadow tradespeople working in fields you're interested in to discover what a day in the job is like. Career quizzes can offer insights on your capabilities and interests, too. You might be able to find reputable career quizzes online or through your school.

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