6 In-Demand Skilled Trade Jobs And How To Get 'Em

skilled labor jobsBy Dawn Papandrea

Ever glance at a home or car repair bill and think to yourself, "I'm in the wrong line of work!"? If so, it's with good reason. Skilled tradespeople who can build, repair or maintain equipment that most lay people cannot do on their own can rake in the big bucks, especially if they build their talents up enough to take the entrepreneurial small business route. What's more is that despite the high unemployment rate, skilled workers are hard to come by and therefore always in high demand.

Here's what it takes to break into six sought-after skilled trades:

1. Plumber

The training: Aspiring plumbers learn how to dismantle a kitchen sink and clear drainpipes -- among way more complicated plumbing skills -- during apprenticeships and/or technical school or community college programs. Apprenticeship programs are generally the preferred training, as they offer an opportunity to work alongside seasoned plumbing professionals. They are usually offered jointly by union locals and affiliated companies and/or sponsored by organizations like the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada, among other groups.

The career path: Expect an apprenticeship to last about four to five years, during which time you'll be paid around 50 percent of the wage rate paid to experienced workers, with increases as you go. Classroom instruction will also be incorporated into your training period, teaching skills like mathematics, applied physics and chemistry, local plumbing codes and regulations, safety, etc.

Licensing 411: Most states require plumbers to be licensed. Though requirements vary, workers will have to demonstrate their knowledge on an exam, and have some experience under their belts, usually about two to five years.

Employment opportunities: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects for plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters and steamfitters is expected to grow 16 percent between 2008 and 2018.

-- Find plumber jobs

2. Electrician

The training: Light up your career by becoming an electrician. Training usually begins via an apprenticeship program (which offers pay for on-the-job training, and can last up to four years), in conjunction with classroom instruction. Local unions of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and local chapters of the National Electrical Contractors Association are among organizations that sponsor apprenticeship programs.

The career path: Each year of apprenticeship training includes a minimum of 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. Apprentices usually earn between 30 and 50 percent of the rate paid to fully trained electricians, with wages gradually increasing. Beyond the hands-on skills learned, students will need to master topics like electrical theory, blueprint reading, electrical code requirements, and safety regulations, among others. Specialized training is also available in areas like soldering, fire alarm systems, and cranes and elevators. A number of vocational-technical schools offer electrician training. In some cases, students who complete such programs may be hired at a higher level than those who do not have formal classroom training.

Licensing 411: If you want to be an electrician, you'll need to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but they almost always include having to pass an examination in electrical theory, the National Electrical Code, and local electric and building codes. If you plan to do electrical work for the public, you'll most likely need an additional license.

Employment opportunities: Electrical work will always be needed, which is why employment of electricians is expected to increase about 12 percent between 2008 and 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

-- Find electrician jobs

3. Auto Mechanic

The training: Because of the complexities of automotive technology, formal training is more important than ever. For many, that training begins during high school, or at a technical school that specializes in automotives. Post-secondary automotive technician training programs are naturally more intense, and can take from six months to a year to complete. There's also the option to pursue a community college program, which awards a certificate or an associate degree.

The career path: As with many skilled labor positions, you'll likely start your career by working under more experienced automotive technicians, either in private businesses, or at automobile dealerships. Some automobile manufacturers and franchised dealers sponsor two-year associate degree programs in which students alternate their weeks between full-time classes and full-time work in the service departments.

Licensing 411: While there isn't a specific state licensing exam, ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification has practically become a requirement for finding work as a mechanic. There are eight types of certifications, each of which focus on a specializations such as engine repair or brake systems. Each certification requires at least two years of experience and a passing grade on an examination. To attain the ASE Master Automobile Technician certification, technicians must pass all eight exams.

Employment opportunities: While the numbers indicate only a 5 percent projected increase in job opportunities through 2018 (because of the struggling auto market), automotive techs can set themselves apart and speed past the job competition by earning certifications.

-- Find auto mechanic jobs

4. Construction Manager

The training: For those interested in building a construction manager job from the ground up, start by researching construction management programs available at many two-year colleges; you can also pursue training via construction industry associations. Over 100 colleges and universities also have programs in construction engineering, construction science, and other related fields that lead to a four-year degree, if you choose to go that route. Keep this in mind: With the ever-growing complexities of building codes, safety regulations, and other practical matters, a bachelor's degree may open up more employment opportunities.

The career path: According to the BLS, approximately 61 percent of construction managers were self-employed as of 2008, as owners of general or specialty construction firms. Those who were salaried were employed by specialty trade contractor businesses, non-residential building construction firms, and residential building construction firms.

Licensing 411: One way to set yourself apart is by pursuing a certification from either the American Institute of Constructors or the Construction Management Association of America. Although certification is not technically a requirement to work, it is a valuable credential indicating knowledge and experience.

Employment opportunities: Construction managers can expect a healthy 17 percent increase in job opportunities during the 2008-2018 decade, making it a good field to enter in the next few years.

-- Find construction manager jobs


The training: A good portion of HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration) mechanics and installers receive the bulk of their training at technical and trade schools, or at junior and community colleges that offer HVAC programs. Most training lasts between six months and two years to complete.

The career path: To be considered experienced enough to work unsupervised, technicians generally need between six months to two years of field experience. Often, training is done through apprenticeships, which can take anywhere from three to five years to complete, but the training is paid.

Licensing 411: HVAC mechanics and installers are usually required to have licenses, depending on the states and locality. Requirements vary, but an exam is usually part of the process. In addition, technicians who purchase or work with refrigerants must be certified in their proper handling.

Employment opportunities: Good news for prospective HVAC workers: Job prospects are expected to increase 28 percent during the 2008-18 decade.

-- Find HVAC jobs

6. Aviation Maintenance

The training: To fly high in an aviation maintenance technician career, the best starting point is to attend one of the 170 Aviation Maintenance Technician schools certified by the FAA. Doing so will mean that you'll have to complete 1,900 class hours, over the course of one to two years. Some students also choose to pursue two-year or four-year degrees in avionics, aviation technology, or aviation maintenance management.

The career path: Most airline mechanics and service technicians work at major airports near large cities, while civilian mechanics may work for the U.S. Armed Forces at military bases and locations.

Licensing 411: Being an FAA-certified mechanic is a must if you wish to work in this field. For starters, most airlines will only hire mechanics that have FAA certification. Mechanics who choose to apply for an airframe or power plant certificate will need to work for at least 18 months first; for a combined A&P certificate, 30 months of experience is required. Mechanics also must take at least 16 hours of training every two years to keep their certificates current.

Employment opportunities: Employment is expected to increase by 7 percent during the 2008-2018 period, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

-- Find aviation maintenance jobs

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Next: Are You Smart Enough To Be A Plumber?

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All of those careers sound boring as hell.

October 22 2014 at 4:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Ray Holder

Oi Dawn! I enjoyed the comprehensive piece you’ve written about the jobs that are in demand and how to get ‘em. It really is something that most people aren’t aware of! I believe it is the widespread negative notion about trade schools that is to blame. I read an article which I believe will support your views, since it emphasizes on the pros of vocational training. Here it is - http://eraseblackboard.com/career-opportunities-via-trade-schools/

October 20 2014 at 1:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mudassar Ahmad

The 24 hour long plumbing jobs definitely have a great potential for employment. But you cannot trust them very much since the emergency situations are caused very little. http://expressplumbing.com.au

December 24 2013 at 10:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Is there a course that gives an overall training in various fields of construction such as plumbing, hvac, electrical, alternative energy intallations, ect?

November 06 2012 at 9:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Devin's comment
Zishan Qureshi

Yes, International Vocational Qualification in Construction Industry Code IVQ-6161 offered by City & Guilds up to different levels.

October 31 2014 at 1:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am a journeyman meat cutter, have been for 8 years. I have a growing family. I need to learn a trade that offers side work opportunities. I've been thinking becoming an electrician. Being that I have a full time job I keep thinking about how I'll have the time to make it through the apprentice program. I would like to know if anybody could offer some insight on my situation.

November 29 2011 at 10:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Daniel's comment
Kevin J Cecchini

Yes Daniel, simply find out your local electrical union hall and go from there. An easy skill trade to delve into is masonry, there is not as much education, it is all hands on, except for the safety trainning. But, electrical is much easier on the body, much more work, but, there are many seeking this job and therefore it is a tight field. goodluck Daniel. I am a bricklayer of 13 years and I am working on earning my bachelors in construcation management , because my body is wearing out at the age of 38. I feel somedays as if I am 70, some days I feel my age, and I want to get out and into management.

November 13 2013 at 5:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kevin J Cecchini's comment
Andre McKinley

That was very helpful information.

February 18 2015 at 3:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

I will get slammmed over this post,but woman are not capable of performing most skilled trade jobs,not even lesbians.I've worked with a couple in my field and they just do not have the stamina or the same train of thinking a man does.Ever see a woman ripping a transmission out of a 1998 4wd pickup truck in a shop day in and day out?
Another hot money maker right now is an independant cable installer for Dish.

October 05 2011 at 9:37 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to springerdx's comment

This article appears to be really outdated. 4 of the jobs are tied to the construction industry which crashed several years ago.

October 04 2011 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to tz1030's comment

the construction industry has not crashed. construction is booming in aviation. shipbuilding. bridge building, public transit building. amusement park rtide builders. new school buildings, new hospitals and additions to hospital and the list goes on. all these sites needs skilled journeyman workers

October 06 2011 at 12:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kevin J Cecchini

oh but, the industry is coming back. died because there are not enough people in skilled trades, well not exactly, but there are many jobs available for welders, skilled welders. also there is much work in restoration, my company had 90 million dollars in revenue last year, 80 the year before and 90 again this year.

November 13 2013 at 5:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

another BS story since i have been an electrician for 30 uyears and i can hardly find work or any work for more then gas money

October 04 2011 at 2:43 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to kips's comment

Gee everyone keeps talking about Union people not working... Perhaps that is the problem as those who are non-union seem to be working either for themselves or a company.

And yes I am a non-union contractor and my guys are all working. You cannot be union and bid alot of the work out there. The labor costs are too high at 38 to 60 dollars an hour. A small business cannot make it paying those wages. Oh and by the way my guys do get paid a "living wage" just not a union wage which runs up the costs to taxpayers.

October 04 2011 at 2:25 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Dawn's comment

Yes it is seasonal work in some areas of the country but what most people don't understand is with this big "college" push there are too many people who don't belong in college taking courses from schools who are dumbing down degrees. Jersey Shore classes anyone??
There will always be a need for skilled workers in construction and home repairs. Who is going to fix all the college educated peoples tolites when they don't work?? High School freshman need to be tested for aptitude and put on a path to either college or skilled trades and that is what they pursue for their lifes work.

October 04 2011 at 2:20 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dawn's comment

Unfortunately that type of testing and sending on career paths is what the socialists do. We can't be a free society and tell people what work path they need to pursue. We can however lead them in the right direction. The right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness would be null and void if we were to take dictate to people what career path they must follow. As a 50 year old "college" student who is trying to better his life I take offense to your comment about the colleges dumbing down America. I challenge you to take courses the way I am. I am doing it online and MUST do my own research in order to maintain the 4.0 g.p.a. that I have. Don't blame the colleges for the failure of the American educational system. Blame first of all the elementary school system and the "No Child Left Behind" way of doing things. In this type of system, the GIFTED children are left behind. I know this first hand. I have a child in 3rd grade that has the ability to work at a minimum of an 8th grade level. The school system doesn't have the ability to work with him because they are too busy with the children who's parents are either too busy chasing the almighty dollar or are too lazy to help them with their homework. It's a sad state we live in educationally and if we aren't careful, America is heading to 3rd world status in a quick way. There are universities out there that just push people through but the people who work in human resources can usually tell the difference between those who know what they're doing and those who don't. This is where the aptitude tests should be administered. Entry level during the hiring process. If they can't solve a problem at the entry level, chances are they are bad candidate for being hired. If they can't present a decent resume, they probably aren't worth hiring as well. And definitely look at their cover letter. If it has any kind of errors in it, they don't have an eye for detail and probably won't when working for you either. COMMON SENSE. This country lacks it and when they finally start using it we will all be far better off.

October 04 2011 at 2:51 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to tomnoel1961's comment

I don't disagree with what you are saying but tell me why Jersey Shore classes are offered at multiple colleges?? What the heck will that help?? I agree that the kids that are gifted need to be separated from those who are not just like I think those with mental handicaps need to go back to special schools instead of pulling down the rest of the class.
I am glad you are trying to better yourself in going for a degree but there are alot of people in college who will do nothing with a degree because they don't have the mental skills to use it. Why waste the money on it?? They have pulled all the shop classes out of schools and that is going to help the decline of our country. The govt thinks a college education is going to be the big push for this country but when no one can go to the bathroom indoors because the sewers don't work and the indoor plumbing is shot then the crying will begin about how all these highly educated people need help. That is my point in all this. There are those who should go to college and those who shouldn't.

October 04 2011 at 3:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
jim carter

Why do they call it common sense when it is so very uncommon?

October 04 2011 at 7:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

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