Think only men go into trade jobs? While males continue to outnumber females in many trades, an increasing number of women are discovering the benefits of pursuing trade jobs.
A trade job, commonly defined as one that requires advanced training and skills but not a bachelor's degree, can be an excellent option for women. Since most training happens on the job, these roles don't require years of college, plus they pay well.
Women working full-time in the United States make about 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. This gender gap decreases substantially in trade professions.
For women in skilled trades, however, this figure stands at about 94 cents. While not perfect, pay certainly trends in the right direction.
Also, many trade jobs seem poised to need new workers. Baby boomers comprise much of the workforce in trades, and more of them retire each year. In addition, filling trade roles is crucial to the ever-growing health care industry and jobs necessary to repair the nation's aging infrastructure. Demand seems unlikely to wane any time soon.
Typically, the term "trade" refers to a job with duties requiring advanced training and skills gained through means other than a bachelor's degree. Ways of obtaining knowledge include on-the-job instruction, an apprenticeship, a certificate or diploma program, or an associate degree.
Thus, trades provide solid career options for those who do not want to go to college for four years.
As with any career, women thinking about entering a trade must examine their interests, skills, and aspirations to find a role that proves a good fit. The following list contains information on 10 trades that women might want to consider:
Note: All figures are per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The modern world depends on electricity. Electricians install electrical power systems in new buildings. They also repair wires, circuit breakers, and the like when existing systems experience problems.
Electricians need to read blueprints to understand how their work fits into the overall construction plan. When called to fix an outage, they rely on trouble-shooting skills. Both installers and repairers need to know how to operate a variety of tools. They also must stay up to date on state and local regulations based on the National Electrical Code.
- Median annual pay in 2019: $56,180
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 8%
- Why it made the list: Faster than average job growth in an occupation already employing 739,200 translates into an impressive 62,200 new openings over the next decade. For entrepreneurial-minded women looking for flexible hours, more self-employment opportunities exist for electricians than many other trades.
Keeping factory equipment and other industrial machinery in good condition enables companies to stay productive. People in this trade, sometimes known as maintenance machinists, diagnose and fix problems. Actions may include taking machines apart, installing new components, and adjusting and calibrating equipment for optimal performance.
Industrial machinery mechanics use various technical manuals, diagnostic equipment, and hand tools during the inspection and repair process. Work typically takes place indoors.
- Median annual pay in 2019: $53,590
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 16%
- Why it made the list: The nation's increasing reliance on automation means a bright future for those skilled in this trade. Between 2019 to 2029, the number of industrial machinery mechanics is expected to grow from 399,400 to 461,700. As a commonly unionized occupation, benefits and job security can be attractive. And with the importance to the role of a steady hand, good hand-eye coordination, and comfort working with computers, this job may appeal to women more than some other trades.
Turning wind energy into electricity involves wind turbines. Windtechs care for these large mechanical devices. They install new ones, make repairs on-site, and perform maintenance measures such as inspecting components and lubricating parts.
Work takes place outdoors, often in rural areas. Windtechs need a solid understanding of hydraulic, breaking, and electrical systems. They also should possess good physical stamina and not be afraid of heights or confined spaces.
- Median annual pay in 2019: $52,910
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 61%
- Why it made the list: The job outlook is beyond hot, and the position pays well, too. As a relatively new profession, it provides women the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an emerging field. Windtechs also take pride in knowing their work helps the environment.
PV (photovoltaic) panels convert sunlight into energy. PV installers set up these panels on rooftops, paying close attention to angle and support. Once all are in place, installers test out the system and its components. They return to the installation site as needed to perform maintenance.
PV installers travel to various outdoor locations, often as part of a team. Good math skills assist in calculating angles and measurements. Physical strength and the ability to work at heights also serve PV installers well.
- Median annual pay in 2019: $44,890
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 51%
- Why it made the list: Strong job outlook and good pay.
Buildings rely on elevators, escalators, chairlifts, and moving walkways to transport people and/or materials safely. Workers in this trade install such equipment and ensure it continues to operate successfully.
During training, aspiring elevator and escalator installers and repairers learn about blueprints, safety, electronics, hydraulics, and applied physics. They use a variety of hand tools and power tools when doing their work.
- Median annual pay in 2019: $84,990
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 7%
- Why it made the list: How many occupations can you name that command an $80,000+ salary without a college education? While the apprenticeship typically takes four years, the trainee gets paid during that time at the rate of about half of a fully-trained repairer.
A light truck is a vehicle with a capacity of fewer than 26,001 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). Drivers pick up and deliver packages and other merchandise. They commonly work in wholesale, retail, or courier/messenger services.
You need a good driving record and the ability to navigate streets to go into this trade. Stamina assists in loading and unloading the contents of the van or small truck.
- Median annual pay in 2019: $34,730
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 6%
- Why it made the list: For women with a high school diploma looking to get into a trade career quickly, light truck driving involves a month or less of on-the-job training. Plus, with more than a million workers already in the occupation, a 6% employment increase translates into a healthy 60,000+ new jobs over a decade. Some women may feel more comfortable driving light trucks than heavier ones. Nontraditional schedule options, such as early-morning delivery routes, may appeal to mothers looking for flexibility.
Personal health care devices improve lives. Techs in this trade construct, fit, and repair these objects. Dental lab techs focus on items such as dentures, crowns, and veneers. Ophthalmic lab techs make prescription eyeglasses and contacts. Medical appliance techs could work on hearing aids, leg braces, arch supports, and more, depending on their employer.
Techs work with various materials — metal, plastic, wax, and ceramics, to name a few. Besides crafting to specifications, they perform polishing, filing, adjusting, and inspecting for quality.
- Median annual pay in 2019: $37,370
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 9%
- Why it made the list: The aging of baby boomers will increase demand for devices that improve quality of life. Women looking for a trade in which their work helps others can feel good about producing such necessary health equipment. Compared with many trades, this occupation involves considerably less physical exertion and strength.
Physicians' offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and other health care facilities depend on medical assistants. They handle administrative duties such as scheduling appointments and entering patient information into computer systems. They also perform health-related tasks such as taking a patient's blood pressure and sterilizing equipment the doctor uses.
Aspiring medical assistants often take community college courses covering subjects such as anatomy, medical terminology, and the use of basic health care instruments. Compared to many other trades, medical assisting involves more interaction with customers, appealing to some women.
- Median annual pay in 2019: $34,800
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 19%
- Why it made the list: Again, credit baby boomers. Their aging is putting great demand on the health care system. Add to that the rise in chronic medical conditions at all age levels and the fact that the health insurance marketplace is helping to expand coverage. You can start to see why the BLS expects the creation of more than 139,000 new medical assistant positions over the next decade.
LPNs and LVNs provide medical care under the direction of doctors and nurses. Duties can include monitoring vital signs, bathing, dressing patients, changing bandages, and inserting catheters.
The keyword in this job title is "licensed." LPNs and LVNs must complete a state-approved educational program (about a year in length) and pass the National Council Licensure Exam.
- Median annual pay in 2019: $47,480
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 9%
- Why it made the list: Besides all the reasons previously given regarding demand for healthcare workers, women often become LPNs or LVNs to help people in need directly. The trade also serves as a good stepping stone for future career possibilities, such as continuing education and becoming a registered nurse.
Plumbers install and fit piping fixtures. They travel to homes, businesses, and factories to clean drains, maintain septic systems, and put in or repair pipes and water-related appliances.
Plumbers commonly hold a four- or five-year paid apprenticeship. They learn about safety codes and regulations, pipe system design, and tool usage during this time.
- Median annual pay in 2019: $55,160
- Projected job growth from 2019-2029: 4%
- Why it made the list: A list of the best trade jobs wouldn't seem complete without mentioning the occupation that most often comes to mind when hearing the word "trade." The pay is solid, and the work is imperative. Modest growth in this large field over the next decade translates to nearly 21,000 expected new jobs. Add to this that many current plumbers are nearing retirement age, and the U.S. infrastructure isn't getting any younger either. For women, the time could be ripe to grab a pipe!