Searching for a New Career in 2019? Consider the Skilled Trades

welder vs hvac technician vs electrician

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The New Year can be a great time to make positive changes in your life. Considering that the average person spends more than 90,000 hours in their lifetime at work, starting a new job or switching careers is one of the biggest changes you could make.[1]

And with the nation facing a skilled trades shortage, there are likely to be plenty of jobs for welders, electricians and HVAC technicians with the right qualifications in the coming years.

See what these careers could hold in store for you in 2019 and beyond.

Career Satisfaction Factors

How do you choose a career that’s likely to make you happy? Determining what qualities are important to you and doing some research is a good place to start.

Here’s what workers in a recent U.S. News and World Report poll said makes for a “great job”:

Have You Considered a Career in the Skilled Trades?

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  • Flexible work schedule
  • Varied responsibilities
  • Helping people
  • Opportunities for career advancement[2]

Other important factors:

  • Job growth
  • Outsourcing potential
  • Pay
  • Training requirements

Let’s see how the skilled trades jobs below stack up.

3 Promising Skilled Trades Careers to Consider in 2019



Welders fuse the strong metal joints that support our country’s buildings, bridges and highways. They also have a hand in the manufacture of more than half of the products made in America.[3]

Flexible Work Schedule

The majority of welders, 61 percent, work in the manufacturing industry. Factories often operate around the clock, so welders might choose from day, evening or weekend shifts.

Self-employed welders, about 5 percent of the workforce, enjoy even greater flexibility.[4] When you work for yourself or own your own business, you set your hours.

Varied Responsibilities

A welder’s daily responsibilities depend on the field he or she works in. While welders in the manufacturing sector may work on the same projects every week, traveling welders likely get a lot of variety in their tasks.

Each day is probably somewhat different for an underwater welder plying the trade on the ocean floor or a road tech traversing the nation’s vast network of highways to fuse metal.

Helping People

Welders may not work directly with the public, but the products they manufacture and structures they build are essential to everyday life. These include life-saving medical devices, ambulances and even hospitals.

Opportunities for Career Advancement

There are plenty of welding career opportunities for advancement as welders gain more experience, training and certifications. Areas of the field they can branch out to include inspection, education, engineering, project management, robotics and sales.

Job Growth

The American Welding Society predicts there will be a shortage of 200,000 skilled welding professionals by 2020.[5] But the need for skilled workers in manufacturing, the top employer of welders, is expected to be even greater: 3.5 million jobs will need to be filled in the next decade, and there won’t be enough qualified workers for 2 million of them.[6]

Outsourcing Potential

Constructing a bridge or skyscraper is onsite work that can’t be outsourced. Manufacturing jobs can and have been outsourced, but in recent years, rising labor and shipping costs in other countries have driven many companies to bring welding jobs back to the U.S.

Training Requirements

These days, many employers would rather hire applicants with postsecondary training. The good news is that a welding program can be completed in as little as seven months.



Every time you flip on the light switch, plug in the coffee maker or turn on the T.V. to watch the morning news, you have an electrician to thank. These tradesmen and women install, maintain and repair electrical power, control, communications and lighting systems in factories, homes and businesses.[7]

Flexible Work Schedule

Most electricians kept a full-time schedule in 2016, but shifts varied with customers’ needs: some worked evenings, many clocked in from 9 to 5 on the weekdays and others made service calls on the weekends. Some flexibility exists in this profession.

Perhaps the electricians who enjoyed the greatest flexibility were the 8 percent who worked for themselves.[8]

Varied Responsibilities

Installation, maintenance and repair jobs can take electricians to different worksites throughout the day or week. It’s active work with plenty of variety.

Helping People

Electricians play a big role in our lives by keeping the electricity for our homes and businesses up and running. Many electricians also work with the public during service calls and get to see the direct impact of their work on people’s lives.[9]

Opportunities for Career Advancement

There are opportunities for electricians to move up the career ladder: they can be promoted from service technicians to field managers and then to operations or distribution managers.

After gaining enough experience and passing the appropriate tests, electricians who want to own their own business can work their way up from a journeyman to a master electrician and then to an electrical contractor.

Job Growth

Job growth for electricians through 2026 should be about as fast as average for all occupations, predicts the BLS.

But many contractors report difficulty filling positions for qualified electricians. From 2010 to present, skilled trades have held the number 1 position in job vacancies. Companies simply can’t find enough electricians, welders and plumbers to get the job done.[10]

Outsourcing Potential

It’s unlikely a worker in India could wire a home in Houston, Texas, so the threat of outsourcing can be low for electricians.[11]

Training Requirements

Electricians need a range of skills, from mechanics and mathematics to critical thinking and customer service.

Many individuals learn the technical skills needed to become an electrician in a training program before going on to an apprenticeship for 4 to 5 years. In most states, electricians must pass a test and be licensed before they can start working in the field on their own.[12]

HVAC Technician

hvac technician

Life just wouldn’t be as cool—literally—without HVAC technicians. These tradespeople keep the A/C blasting in the summer and the furnace roaring in the winter.

As the acronym in their name suggests, they install, maintain and repair heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems that control the air quality and temperature in homes, buildings and factories.[13]

Flexible Work Schedule

During the peak cooling and heating seasons, HVAC services are often needed around the clock. This means technicians may have the choice of day, evening or weekend shifts.

The 9 percent of HVAC techs who are self-employed likely enjoy such flexibility year-round.[14]

Varied Responsibilities

There’s never a dull moment for an HVAC technician. These professionals can travel from one job site to the next repairing an array of different types of equipment.

Helping People

If your heater has ever gone out in the dead of winter, then you can appreciate what valuable services HVAC technicians provide. As with electricians, techs work directly with the public and get to see the smiles on customers’ faces when their homes are restored to comfortable temperatures.[15]

Since the job can be heavy in customer service, HVAC technicians should be personable and patient.

Opportunities for Career Advancement

The industry holds chances for techs to move laterally or vertically. They can focus on a specific area—for example green energy—energy efficiency or indoor air quality. Techs can also work their way up to management positions.

Of course, owning an HVAC service company can also be a goal.

Job Growth

The BLS expects the HVAC industry to add jobs at a rate that is much faster than average, which means there should be openings in the coming years for applicants with the right skills.

Technicians will be needed to install systems in new buildings and retrofit, upgrade or replace equipment in older structures. Maintenance will also keep HVAC technicians busy.[16]

Outsourcing Potential

Installation, repair and maintenance is on-site work and can’t be outsourced. This means HVAC techs typically enjoy a higher level of job security.

Training Requirements

With the equipment becoming ever more complex, many employers would rather hire on applicants with postsecondary training. HVAC training programs in Jacksonville or Houston can be completed in as little as 7 months. After that, technicians who want to work with refrigerants must obtain EPA certification.

Seizing Opportunities in the Skilled Trades

If you want to change careers in the New Year, there are some promising opportunities in the skilled trades. And the ones mentioned here aren’t your only options. There’s also a need for pipefitters and solar panel installers.

Additional Sources

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