Explore Careers

Is a Career in the Trades Right For You?

Written by Guest Contributor

There’s a lot of emphases today placed on pursuing careers in white-collar or more academic fields. Yet, these fields aren’t particularly rewarding for everyone. Indeed, you may already find yourself feeling a little stuck and disheartened in an office job. The good news is that whether you’re already working or about to leave school, there are alternative options available to you.

A career in the trades can provide you with more hands-on, enriching, and potentially lucrative prospects. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say this isn’t a path that suits everyone. So, let’s look at some considerations in deciding whether a career in the trades is right for you.

Consider Your Motives

One of your first considerations should be your reasons for making the change from an office job. Having clarity on this can help determine whether the needs and priorities you have are likely to be met by a switch to the trades. It can also help to inform the specific career direction you want to move in, as the trades are varied.

If income is one of your primary motives for the switch, it’s important to look at which positions meet your salary thresholds. However, you should be aware that even within professions there can be a range of influencers of salary. For instance, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) technicians can see average base pay ranging from $41,095 to $50,022 just depending on the state they operate in. One of the key reasons for this is the cost of living in a particular state. Therefore, simply moving to a different state because it exceeds your salary requirements doesn’t mean you’re going to enjoy more disposable income. Keep these types of issues in mind when determining whether a trade salary is right for you.

Another common motive for a switch to the trades is the quality of work-life balance. Many offices and traditionally academic jobs often involve a lot of stress and overtime. However, this doesn’t mean the trades are devoid of challenges. For instance, a career as a welder or machinist may see you regularly traveling away from home for long periods. It’s important to explore some of the common lifestyle elements and talk to people already in your target trade to understand the pros and cons better.

Explore the Career Paths

A career can span the course of decades. The last thing you want to do is to be stuck in an unfulfilling and directionless position for that time. Indeed, this may be one of the reasons you’re considering a move away from corporate environments. While the trades can offer a range of varied career options, it’s important to look at whether the potential paths available to you are in-line with your ideals.

This should include reviewing paths to progression in different fields. It’s worth considering that there is a current skilled trades labor shortage with many businesses hungry for new workers.  One of the potential upsides of this for you is skilled and committed tradespeople may find they can rise through the ranks more swiftly and have varied opportunities. However, it’s worth really digging in to discover the steps you need to take and where you can branch off into other areas of expertise. For instance, an electrician could start as an apprentice, take a journeyman position in commercial wiring, and branch off to become a master technician with a side gig in teaching.

Another aspect to examine is the potential to progress through certain trade niches. One example of a key rising niche is the installation and repair of eco-friendly home systems. More homeowners are looking to make an impact on the environment by using smart lighting and thermostats. As such, there is greater demand for trades professionals specializing in energy-efficient processes, solar panel installation, and geothermal heating. While you may start out here working for other businesses, this is an expanding field you could develop into a lucrative business of your own.

Examine Your Skill Set

All roles in the trades are skilled roles. While most of them won’t require you to go to university, you do need to be committed to developing professional abilities. It’s important to review whether you have the skill sets to meaningfully contribute and if you have any interest in developing these.

From a technical standpoint, few employers will expect you to have expertise from your first day. In fact, you’ll often find trade employers are keen to support their workers’ learning. Many businesses are proactive in subsidizing certifications and providing mentorships with more experienced staff. However, it’s important to look at the types of technical skills your target trades would require and whether you feel you might have an aptitude for these. For instance, plumbing, one of the current fastest-growing job fields, requires the application of math and systems diagnostics.

Nevertheless, it’s not just the technical skill requirements you need to consider. There are also soft skills tradespeople need to be effective in their roles. A trade in which you’re collaborating with others on projects requires solid communication and teamwork skills. Most trades careers need you to have or develop problem-solving abilities. These are traits you can and should start to build at the earliest possible opportunity. If you find there are soft skills that don’t mesh with your interests or aptitude, the particular trade position may not be right for you. The good news is there is a wide range of roles available, each with different skills needed.


A career in the skilled trades can make for a varied and rich career, but it’s not right for everyone. It’s important to take the time to examine whether your motives for leaving your current career can be met by a trade role. You should also review various career paths to determine what meets your interests. While you’ll be taught many essential skills on the job, you should establish whether the required abilities are within your wheelhouse and interests. However, if you find the move could be right for you, you’ll find there are plenty of opportunities available to explore.

About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity and marketing strategies.

About the author

Guest Contributor