How to Get Into The Trades: Step-by-Step Guide

Natasha Serafimovska

Career Coach, Professional Resume Writer, Freelance Writer

Getting a trade job can be a great career move if you like variety and prefer to learn on the job instead of in an academic setting. A trade job can offer security and be a lucrative career path as the demand for skilled trade workers continues to grow.

Skilled trades are always in demand. A PeopleReady Skilled Trade analysis has found that the skilled trades have seen massive growth in the past year despite the economic turmoil and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. Not to mention, many command competitive salaries higher than jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree. 

So, if you’ve just finished high school or are considering a career change, you may wonder how to get into the trades. Here, we cover 

  • some trade jobs you can look into
  • what qualifications and training are necessary, and 
  • how you can go about landing your first job. 

What is a Trade Job?

A trade job is any skilled or technical job that involves manual work. These jobs typically don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Trades jobs can include professions such as construction worker, welder, hairdresser, or chef. You may notice that all these jobs require specialized knowledge, which you learn on the job or through an apprenticeship.

Some trades, like construction and healthcare, require mandatory minimum qualifications to meet health and safety requirements. These requirements and the time necessary to obtain them vary by industry and trade.

What is the Qualification Required?

Many trade jobs don’t require experience and will allow you to learn on the job. For instance, if you want to be a chef, you can attend culinary school. On the other hand, you can start by obtaining a supporting role in a kitchen and specialize from there.

Though there are multiple options, obtaining a qualification in your desired line of work can

  • improve your employability
  • help you negotiate a better salary and 
  • increase your chances of promotion. 

At the very least, you must have graduated from high school or obtained a GED equivalent. 

The Range of Trade Jobs

If you’re just starting, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer choice of trade jobs available. That’s why it’s always good to consider the type of work that interests you most.

Are you passionate about designing or building things? Do you like variable working hours or prefer a set schedule? Do you prefer to work outdoors or in an indoor setting?

Luckily, trade jobs are numerous and vary by industry. Here are some of the most popular ones.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that construction jobs will grow by 4% between 2021 and 2031, so there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Not only that, but in 2021 the median wage for this industry was 5% higher than the average for all other occupations ($48,210 vs. $45,760).

Here are some of the most popular trade jobs in construction:

  • Construction workers
  • Plumbers
  • Boilermakers
  • Plumbers
  • Ironworkers
  • Electricians
  • Painter
  • Masonry Workers


Trade jobs in transportation involve the movement of people or goods from one place to another. Experts expect the industry to grow by 6% between 2021 and 2031. Though there is a good selection of jobs, the median salary is slightly lower than the national average – $36,860.

Some of the jobs in transportation include:

  • Truck driver
  • Taxi driver
  • Field sales reps
  • Flight attendant
  • Railroad workers
  • Water transportation workers

Installation, Maintenance and Repair

Trade jobs in this industry focus on maintaining different equipment, machinery, and infrastructure. The sector is expected to grow by 5% in the next ten years. Moreover, the average median salary is about 5% higher than the national average of $47,940.

Installation, maintenance, and repair is an excellent industry if you like working with equipment and you understand how machinery works. Here are some of the available jobs you can choose from:

  • Aircraft or avionics mechanic or technician;
  • Auto Mechanic
  • Diesel service mechanic
  • Repair worker
  • Heavy vehicle technician
  • Line installer and repairer
  • Medical equipment repairer
  • Wind turbine technician

Culinary and Hospitality

Experts believe the food and hospitality industry will see 11% growth in the next ten years, which is one of the fastest growth rates in the trade industries. Luckily, high growth rates present plenty of opportunities for people who want to test their creativity in the kitchen or excel in the services sector. 

One thing to bear in mind here is that, with $28,400 being the median salary, jobs in this industry are relatively low-paid compared to other trade jobs. It’s not impossible to make good money here, but you may need to work extra hard to reach your desired level. 

Here are some of the jobs available:

  • Bartender
  • Waiter
  • Barista
  • Concierge
  • Cook and chef
  • Food preparation worker
  • Butcher
  • Pastry chef
  • Baker


With a 13% projected growth between 2021 and 2031, healthcare is booming with opportunities for anyone interested in people’s health and well-being. The best part is that you don’t even need a medical degree.

Generally, healthcare is a lucrative line of work. However, those in supporting roles can expect a median salary of $29,880, which falls 35% lower than the national average. That said, healthcare jobs tend to be pretty stable and offer other employment benefits.

Some of the trade jobs available in this sector are:

  • Dental hygienist 
  • Licensed nurse
  • Massage therapist
  • Medical assistant
  • Medical transcriptionist
  • Nutritionist 

Trade Jobs in High-Demand

If you want to increase your chances of success, then you must pursue a trade that is in high demand. Some trade jobs, like plumbers and construction workers, will always be in demand. We’ll never stop building and renovating the home and office spaces. Nonetheless, there are still other options to consider. Here are a few you need to look at:

  • Home health and personal care aide – as we face an aging population, the need for personal carers is skyrocketing. In fact, in 2021 there were more than 3.5 million jobs available. These jobs are expected to grow by 25% in the next ten years.
  • Cook – the more our economies and population are growing, the higher the need for cooks. There are currently over 2.5 million jobs available only in the U.S., and the profession is expected to grow by 16% by 2031. The trade job has a relatively low threshold for entry as training isn’t required, so it’s perfect for someone who wants to learn on the job.
  • Hand laborers and material movers – with almost 6.5 million jobs available, hand laborers are in high demand. 
  • Waiter and waitress – waitressing is an evergreen profession. Businesses will always need them. There are almost 2 million waitressing jobs in the U.S., which are estimated to grow by 10% in the coming period.

The Best Paying Trade Jobs

Just because a job doesn’t require a university degree doesn’t mean it can’t pay well. In fact, many lucrative trade jobs only require a little training and work.

Here are a few of them:

Trades That Are Easier to Get Into

The demand for some trades is booming, so if you want easy access to a trade job, here are a few you should consider:

  • Wind turbine technician – with the increased focus on sustainable energy, these jobs are expected to grow 44% over the next decade, so there’s plenty of opportunity to find employment.
  • Medical assistant – the pandemic has highlighted how vital healthcare professionals are for society’s well-being. The demand for medical assistants will grow by 16% in the coming years, so it’s an excellent option for getting started in the trades.
  • Vehicle driver – despite the leaps in automated driving, we’re still far from having fully functional self-driving vehicles. The demand for drivers will grow by 12%. Additionally, the threshold for entry is relatively low since you only need to have a driving license in the correct category.

How to Get Into the Trades?

There are several steps you need to observe before you can get a trade job. How much upfront training and experience you need depends on the job itself, but these are the four general steps you need to take to make sure you’re well-prepared and qualified for the jobs you’re considering:

Finish High School

Completing high school or getting the GED equivalent is a must for almost every trade. You may get a job without it, but career advancement will be difficult. High school is also essential if your profession requires an apprenticeship. Access to apprenticeships hinges on your grades, so paying attention to your grades is necessary.

Complete an Apprenticeship

Many trade jobs will require technical training, like apprenticeships or trade schools. Apprenticeships usually offer on-the-job training combined with some classroom work. It is a great way to learn and earn money simultaneously. Most people find apprenticeships through industry-specific trade unions. So, researching which unions cover your specific trade will help you find relevant work.

Apprentices usually earn a lower wage than a trained tradesperson. You may need to stay in that role for 4 or 5 years before you’re fully qualified.

Take Necessary Training and Certifications

Some trades don’t require much training. However, getting an associate degree or a trade-specific certification helps improve your chances of getting a well-paid job. You can either attend a trade school or go to a community college.

Investing in training upfront is a great idea, even if it is not a prerequisite for getting a job. Early training and certification can help you negotiate better pay and move up the ladder later in your career.

Obtain Required Licenses

Some trade jobs require additional licenses, especially if you must work with dangerous objects, operate complicated machinery, or expose yourself to health risks. For example, asbestos workers in New York must attend training and renew their certifications yearly. Maintaining their certification is how they remain compliant with the latest standards and procedures in the industry. 

Other trade jobs requiring licenses include HVAC mechanics, construction contractors, and hazardous material removal workers. 

Final Thoughts

A trade job can be the perfect fit if you don’t like to sit at an office desk all day long and instead enjoy working with your hands. But remember, trade jobs are just as competitive as any other job. So, be sure to invest time to obtain the proper amount of education and experience.

If you already know what industry you’d like to enter, research the programs, unions, and employers you need to approach. When the time to apply comes, make sure your resume, clothes, and interviewing skills reflect you in the best possible light. 

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