The job market is constantly in flux… and as our world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, some vocations offer more opportunity than others. A case in point: The skilled trades. There is more demand than ever before for skilled trade jobs, meaning plenty of promise for those who enjoy working with their hands and who are willing to seek specialized training.
And, there are some skilled trade jobs that have especially promising job outlooks. In this article, we’ll consider the latest labor statistics to determine the trade jobs with the rosiest forecasts. We hope this information is helpful as you seek your own trade job opportunity.
What is a Skilled Trade Job?
Before we take a deep dive into the labor stats, it may be helpful to clarify exactly what it is we’re talking about. What are skilled trade jobs, anyway?
Basically, skilled trade jobs are pursued by employees who receive training in a specific skill set in order to achieve a desired position; or, in some cases, they are jobs that can be pursued with specialized on the job training.
In some cases, skilled trade workers complete college classes, attend vocational school, or simply obtain a certificate certifying that they have the skills needed for their chosen position. The training or schooling necessary to obtain trade jobs can last anywhere from three months to four years.
Generally when we think about a skilled trade profession, we tend to think about jobs that are very physical or hands-on in nature; for example, working as a plumber, working with electrical systems, etc. As you’ll see in the following list, this is a good rule of thumb, but it isn’t ironclad.
Measuring Demand for the Best Trade Jobs
Now that we’ve clarified what we mean when we talk about trade jobs, let’s consider a different question: What’s the best way to measure demand for a trade job?
For our list, we’re simply using information provided by organizations like the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS compiles data about the outlook for different professions and job titles, and what they’ve found is that demand for skilled trade vocations is going to keep growing. Over the next 10 years, virtually all skilled trade professions are going to see their demand either increase, or remain roughly the same as it is now.
But of course, the prospects for some skilled trade jobs will grow faster than others; some are projected to grow by a rate of 30 percent, while others are closer to five percent.
With all of that said, let’s dive into the best trade jobs currently available, purely on the basis of demand and overall job outlook.
High Demand Trade Service Roles
If you’ve received trade school education in welding, then you’re well-positioned to find meaningful work. Currently, the labor market for welders is extremely promising, and there is no sign that the demand will taper off anytime soon. So what do welders do exactly? Their primary duties include working with metal and metal components, typically to build or repair different pieces of equipment.
2) HVAC Technicians
Everyone wants to enjoy a comfortable temperature in their home or their place of business… and in order to do so, it’s crucial to have a fully functional HVAC unit. Unsurprisingly, then, there is ample demand for trade service professionals who are adept at installing, diagnosing, and repairing these systems. The role of the HVAC tech may also involve emergency maintenance and routine cleanings, which help extend the lifespan of a particular unit.
The world will always need plumbers. Toilets clog, faucets leak, and hot water heaters break down. If you’ve received the trade school education and on the job training required to obtain a plumbing license, and if you have a passion for fixing things on behalf of home- and business owners, then this is definitely a vocation to consider. The labor market currently looks very positive for those who are skilled in assessing, repairing, or installing pipes and plumbing fixtures… and again, that seems unlikely to change anytime soon.
In addition to working with plumbing systems or air conditioning systems, you could also pursue a career working with electrical systems. The primary duties of an electrician involve repairing or installing electrical systems in homes and businesses; success in this position requires careful knowledge of safety regulations, as well as familiarity with different kinds of power tools. This is definitely a vocation to consider if you’re looking for long-term job security.
Another skilled trade profession that comes with a promising job outlook? Custodial work. Custodians and janitors are tasked with cleaning buildings or event spaces, with the ultimate goals of keeping things looking pristine while also ensuring the proper level of sanitation. Specific duties can range from sweeping and mopping to emptying garbage to keeping the bathrooms stocked with the needed paper supplies. Best of all, you can often get a custodian job with just a few weeks of on the job training; some custodial positions do not even require you to have a high school diploma.
6) Garbage Collectors
There is also a very promising job market for garbage collectors; basically, those who travel through cities or towns to collect and transport refuse or recyclables. The primary responsibility of the garbage collector is simply to follow a designated route in order to collect waste as efficiently as possible. Sometimes, this means using a truck with a lift on it, while in other cases the garbage collector must manually pick up the waste and toss it into their truck.
7) Bus Drivers
If you’d like to operate a large vehicle but don’t necessarily want to work with refuse, why not consider training to become a bus driver? These professionals are tasked with safely transporting passengers to and fro, typically following a predetermined route. Additionally, bus drivers may need to learn how to make minor repairs to their vehicles. The job description also entails keeping the bus clean, ensuring a welcoming environment for all passengers.
8) Brick Masons
The most recent labor stats also show plenty of opportunity for brick masons. These skilled workers use bricks to build or repair different structures. To succeed in this role, you need to know how to read a blueprint, how to use a range of tools, and how to take careful measurements. This is a great skilled trade position for anyone who loves working with their hands, or for anyone who wants to get into construction and command a decent median salary.
9) Crane Operators
Have you ever dreamed of operating large construction vehicles? If so, then why not consider seeking the training to become a crane operator? These professionals use cranes to move bulk items, pallets, or oversized pieces of equipment. To do this job well, you have to be well-schooled in driving large vehicles smoothly across all kinds of terrain. Naturally, an intimate knowledge of safety regulations is also crucial.
The primary duties of the carpenter include the use of manual labor, along with proficiency with different power tools, to build the structures of homes and businesses. You’ll need a wide variety of skills to succeed in this role, including cutting, measuring, shaping, and reading blueprints. If you obtain those skills and get some on the job training (or attend a trade school), you’ll find a very robust job market.
11) Diesel Technicians
The BLS also shows that there is ample opportunity for those who work as diesel technicians. What does this position entail, exactly? Basically, diesel technicians are tasked with repairing and maintaining vehicles that are powered by diesel, which might involve inspecting vehicles, checking fuel levels, and even replacing engines as needed. Diesel technicians must be comfortable working with large machinery, but also feel confident in a machine shop setting.
12) Home Inspectors
Another position to consider? Home inspection. Home inspectors visit homes not only to ensure that building codes are being upheld, but also to help home buyers assess a property for problems or issues, ensuring they know exactly what they are buying. Home inspectors play a crucial role in the real estate process, which means that seeking employment in this field is a good way to get job security.
Still another skilled profession with a great job outlook? Boilermaking. The basic role of the boilermaker is to create the massive boilers that are used to hold liquids and gasses, including oil and different types of fuel. To do well in this occupation, you’ll need to be a competent welder, and you’ll also need to develop the necessary expertise with many other specialized tools and devices. This can be demanding work, but it does come with a robust job outlook as well as a decent median salary level.
14) Aircraft Mechanics
The basic role of the aircraft mechanic is to inspect and repair planes, ensuring they can be operated safely and smoothly. This is a high-stakes position that demands intimate knowledge of all aspects of a plane, from the engine to the landing gear. To do well in this role, you’ll need to know all the latest safety regulations as outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration.
15) Landscape Designers
The final position on our list is landscape designer. The professionals who work in this role are tasked with maintaining outdoor spaces, as well as designing and creating the landscape features for homes, businesses, and even schools. Some landscape designers are allowed to be creative, developing their own plans, while others are given blueprints to follow. Either way, it can be rewarding work, especially for those who enjoy working with their hands and spending plenty of time in the outdoors.
Finding Work in the Skilled Trades
There are plenty of reasons to seek employment in one of these jobs. Maybe you like being hands-on. Maybe you’re looking for a job that will pay well and offer real stability, and not require you to have any degrees beyond a high school diploma or trade school certificate.
Regardless of your rationale, there are tons of great job openings in the skilled trades, including jobs that offer highly competitive median salary ranges. Start with the 15 positions we’ve listed here, but keep in mind that this list really just scratches the surface.