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Skilled Trades

One of the most important decisions students make with their future is deciding what degree they want to pursue.

In the past, students were encouraged to receive at least a two-year degree. This was considered to be an excellent way to stand out among the competition and show employers you had the necessary training. In recent years, though, having a degree is no longer considered as impressive due to how common they have become. Students may end up graduating with minimal job opportunities and a pile of student debt.

Students who are interested in working after graduating and do not want to be saddled with student debt may consider learning a skilled trade instead of attending a traditional university. Some examples of common skilled trades include mechanics, electricians, plumbers and carpenters. Each one of these careers not only has a generous starting salary but are consistently in high demand. They are careers with room for advancement without spending years working for a new degree.

Skilled trades can be hard work, but employees might consider the benefits worth the effort. Many skilled trades teach practical skills useful in every day life. While many skilled trades are available to choose from, some of the most common options are listed below.

Plumbing Careers

Whether you live in a small town or a sprawling city, there is always a need for plumbers. Plumbers handle anything from treating burst pipes to preventing flooding to making minor repairs on household appliances that use water.

In addition to understanding piping systems, plumbers must know how to read blueprints for both professional and residential buildings. Another important skill for plumbers is understanding state building codes. If you violate one of these building codes on the job, you are not only held responsible, but your client or the state may be able to pursue legal action depending on the severity of the violation.

Several educational requirements are required if you want to become a plumber. These include:

  • Having at least a high school diploma or an equivalent certification.
  • An understanding of computer systems.
  • Ability to perform math on the job.

All these skills are necessary to get a plumbing license regardless of the state in which you choose to work. Additionally, plumbers must be insured. While it does not directly relate to plumbing, having a clean criminal record is important for plumbers. If you have too many convictions, it could be difficult to get insurance for your business. If you are not outright rejected, you are more likely to have high insurance rates.

To learn the skills necessary to become a plumber, enroll in any technical plumbing course. These classes are typically held at a trade school, but depending on your state, you may be able to take one of these classes from a community college instead.

Trade school courses are typically shorter and held more frequently than community college classes, which is something to keep in mind if you want to start working right away.

Before you own your own plumbing company, you must work as an apprentice or junior plumber. An apprenticeship is different than an internship. Apprentices are paid employees, while interns are not always paid and are often considered temporary employees at best.

How long you must work as an apprentice or junior plumber before you are certified largely depends on the state. In most states, you need around 2000 hours to become a journeyman plumber. Most journeymen plumbers then work for another two years before advancing to master plumbers. Advancing to a master plumber requires completing a written and practical examination.

Electrician Careers

Over the last few years, many students have opted to attend an electrician trade skill. Many devices depend on electricity, which means electricians are usually in high demand. Multiple electrician fields exist, including:

  • Residential and inside wireman.
  • Telecommunication technician.
  • Outside lineman.

Depending on your career choice, you either work in residential or commercial districts. Typically, new electricians start as a residential wireman. These wiremen are responsible for installing new wiring and making electrical repairs throughout residential homes. After working as a residential wireman, electricians typically branch off into a more advanced career, but this is not required.

Like plumbers, electricians must attend either a trade school or a course at a community college to become certified. Some of the skills electricians must master include electrical theory, drafting and learning the national electrical code. Most electricians graduate and work as an apprentice for four years. Depending on where you live, electricians must renew their license every few years. This involves taking a written test followed by a practical exam in some states.

Carpentry Careers

Numerous carpenter jobs may be available. Some carpenters focus on smaller projects, such as creating furniture. Other carpenters take on larger projects, either for residents or commercial businesses. Some carpenters prefer to work by hand while others specialize in working with specific woodworking equipment.

Many carpenters in the United States are self-employed. These self-employed carpenters often work with other carpenters in the state and frequently accept apprentices.

If you do not want to work as an apprentice, you can take courses through a trade skill to learn the basics of carpentry. Carpentry trade courses often take longer than other trade schools, with some lasting two years. In some states, carpenters need additional certification depending on where they want to work.

HVAC Technician

HVAC technicians commonly work in commercial buildings. Their job focuses on installing, repairing and making changes to heating and cooling units, which includes ventilation systems. All HVAC technicians must be licensed before working.

Instead of attending a trade school, you may be able to work as an apprentice to satisfy the certification requirements. How long you must apprentice varies depending on the state, but it is typically between three to five years.

One of the benefits of working as an apprentice is receiving hands on training. Trade schools offer some practical lessons, but it is often difficult to perform typical HVAC jobs in a school setting.

Marine Mechanic Careers

Marine mechanics typically require the most training out of all the skilled trades. Marine mechanics work on different aquatic vehicles, ranging from small fishing boats to luxury yachts. Marine mechanics work directly with clients, so customer service is just as important as technical mastery.

Some aspiring marine mechanics might struggle to get apprenticeships and rely on certification courses instead. Typically, certification courses for marine mechanics are short, with some only lasting a few weeks. The type of vehicles you wish to work on often dictates what classes are necessary.