Careers in the trades span a variety of industries that are all rapidly evolving. With technology, communication, transportation and energy all changing by the day, tradespeople are some of the most smart and informed professionals in their fields. 


In fact, most of these workers are boots-on-the-ground for the very development and expansion of new technologies: from EVs to solar infrastructure, tradespeople are not only seeing the latest market trends, but they also take place in their implementation.


The trades offer an away-from-the-desk exciting and rewarding career path. There’s many reason to choose a trade career but here’s a few: 



Dollars & Sense: Earning Potential & Education Costs

Explore the education costs & job pay-offs to trade careers. 



Building a Solid Foundation: Job Security & Stability

Understand the job openings, highest growth trades and progression opportunities. 



Own Your Trade & Be Your Own Boss

The trades can be a path to building a company and truly owning your trade. 



Future of the trades

Skilled trades are progressing to keep pace with rapidly expanding new technologies. 




Skilled trades

/skild/ /trādz/


Skilled trades are careers that involve working hands-on with a particular skillset or expertise, acquired by years of specialized training and education


Here are some examples of skilled trades:

  • Auto Technician 

  • Boiler Maker

  • Carpenter 

  • Carpet Installer

  • Electrician 

  • Fabricator

  • Heavy Equipment Operator 

  • HVAC Tech

  • Iron Worker 

  • Landscaper

  • Locksmith 

  • Masonry

  • Machinist 

  • Mechanical Drafter

  • Painting 

  • Pipefitter

  • Plumber 

  • Roofer

  • Welder 



DOLLARS & SENSE: Earning Potential & Education Costs 

For more than a generation, trade school has been overlooked in favor of getting a college degree. Most individuals believed their earning potential was much better with an undergraduate degree under their belt. 



Perhaps the most important aspect a young professional should consider is how quickly this stable earning potential can happen if they choose a career in the trades. Many careers involve expensive college educations, internships, and low-paying entry-level roles.


The trades are vastly different:


  • Trade schools typically offer a shorter timeline to a ‘real’ paycheck 


  • Bachelor’s degrees are costly, with the need for large student loans, creating compounded interest while they’re being paid off


  • Vocational certificates can be earned in two years, with some only taking a year or less, followed by apprenticeships (which are paid!)


  • Most trade schools include the promise of a transition into a career immediately after completion



The cost of tuition for a reputable, accredited trade school varies by program. However, on average a vocational education costs around $33,000 total1, which is what some expect to spend on only a single year of tuition2 at a four-year undergraduate institution. 



Trade schools are also just as eligible for federal financial aid as college students, provided their chosen program is longer than fifteen weeks. Typically, shorter programs are also able to qualify for federal loans as well. A smart list of trades-specific lenders can be found here3, and for those looking for federal aid, best place to start is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form4.  


Even though late career professionals may enjoy the earning potential of their specific expertise, the value of a vocational degree is immediately obvious upon completing trade school. This is nearly unheard of in a white-collar career.




Doing the math

How do the earnings stack up over time? Use our Trades Nation calculator to plug in your numbers and figure out career earnings. 


Download the Excel Calculator 



". . .the value of a vocational degree is immediately obvious upon completing trade school."






There is a significant shortage of skilled tradespeople. In fact, the industry as a whole is expected to grow 10 percent by 20285, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, demand has been greatly outpacing the supply in the United States6, with no signs of slowing down. It’s estimated that more than 3 million skilled trades jobs will remain open by 20287.


Yearly Projected Job Openings by Trades (source US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Growth of trades occupations continues to pace the average of the entire labor force, with some professions gaining significant traction. With rapidly developing technology in completely new industries, there are major gaps in specialized careers that must be filled. 


High Growth Trade Areas

Certain industries are experiencing growth that completely outpaces the average, due to these modern demands for these specialized workers. This can mean aggressive salaries, benefits, and even more flexibility for those entering these careers.


Wind Turbine Technicians8 – 68% 

Solar Photovoltaic Installers9 – 52%  

Derrick Operators, Oil & Gas10 – 30%

Recreational Vehicle Technicians11 – 17% 

Commercial Divers12 – 17%

Woodworkers13 – 20% 



From trainee to technician and apprentice to master, each of the trades provides their own path to excellence, with increased earning potential along the way. While anyone can join the trades by beginning with a vocational school, they also get to decide the level of expertise they pursue—career progression is limited only by ambition. 
Electricians start out as students in apprenticeship programs, attaining up to one thousand hours of training in the classroom, accompanied by on-the-job experience. Most apprenticeships are paid, which immediately offsets the costs of the education itself. Licensing follows, which allows each newly minted electrician to operate in whatever avenue of expertise they choose: commercial, residential, industrial, datacom, linework, and so on.  


After a period as a journeyman, the next move is to become a master electrician. This offers increased earning potential and the ability to work independently or take on and train other apprentices. Master electricians may elect to get licensed as an electrical contractor, which will allow them to run an electrical contracting business and even hire other electricians to work for them.


Auto mechanics have a similar potential: choosing whether to be an independent mechanic or a technician working for a dealership is a personal choice that each professional gets to make. ASE Certified Master Techs are particularly appealing to dealerships that insist on stringent standards for their customers, and many manufacturers offer their own training. Mercedes Benz offers their own program14 to entice those looking for specialization in German auto proficiency.


If your goal is to own your own business, CNC machining, welding, auto body/collision, and diesel/industrial are all avenues to consider. These specific skills address needs that are typically underrepresented and create more profitable opportunities for potential business owners. Consider finding a specialized program15 for your career planning and decide what type of mastery you would like to attain.






For electricians specifically: the industry employs well over a million workers16, and a solid 8% of these individuals17 own their own small businesses. Over 20% of this electrician workforce work for a small business, own their own business, or operate on a contract basis, with the flexibility to take jobs when and where they’d like.


Whether you choose to work for an employer or for yourself, there are countless ways to earn. This means that each tradesperson gets to personally define their career in ways others never could. 




The skilled trades operate within the ever-developing world of technology, and we’re the professionals that ride the cutting edge of these markets as they roll out to the masses.


With new niche jobs in solar, battery storage, datacom, electric vehicles, alternative energy and other specialized realms, earning potential is on the rise. Opportunity continues to expand with new demands in technology, modernization and retrofitting. 


Providing value to the community and society-at-large is something every tradesperson can take pride in. Skilled tradespeople are a part of a fellowship, fueled by ambition, that takes that innate desire to work with your hands and channel it into an ongoing pursuit of excellence.  


"This means that each tradesperson gets to personally define their career in ways others never could. "



  18.  Average Income Graphic -