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This article is about the "skilled manual worker" meaning of the term. For other uses, see Tradesperson (disambiguation).
Carpenter at work with a brace in Tennessee, June 1942

A tradesman is a skilled manual worker in a particular trade or craft not in the liberal arts, "learned professions" or agriculture.[1]


Economically and socially, a tradesman's status is considered between a laborer and a professional, with a high degree of both practical and theoretical knowledge of his trade. In cultures where professional careers are highly prized, there can be a shortage of skilled manual workers, leading to lucrative niche markets in the trades.

The training of a trade in European cultures has been a formal tradition for many centuries. A tradesman typically begins as an apprentice, working for and learning from a Master, and after a number of years is released from his master's service as a journeyman. After a journeyman has proven himself to his trade's guild (most guilds are now known by different names), he may settle down as a master and work for himself, eventually taking on his own apprentices.

Since the 20th century, this process has been changed in many ways. A tradesman still begins as an apprentice, but the apprenticeship is carried out partly through working for a tradesman and partly through an accredited trade school for a definite period of time (usually around 4 years), after which he is fully qualified. Starting one's own business is purely a financial matter, rather than being dependent on status. Few trades still make a distinction between a qualified tradesman and a master.

While in some countries a recognised qualification is mandatory for an individual to register as a tradesman or builder, in others it is not the case. In the absence of a regulator in these markets a number of private companies have been set up to screen contractors and ensure that they are suitable for the their advertised services. Many trade occupations in the UK are loosely called engineers; some examples: an aircraft riveter may be called an aeronautical engineer, an automotive car mechanic may be called an automobile engineer or a TV satellite dish installer may be called a satellite engineer, an electrician may be called an electrical engineer.

A Jack of all trades is a colloquial term for someone who holds some degree of skill/qualification in more than one trade, but has not made a continuous career of any one. In many cases, a trade has been largely eliminated by social or technological change, and skilled workers have found employment in similar trades (e.g. typesetters have become mostly obsolete due to electronic printing).

List of skilled trades[edit]

There is no standard list of types of trade, as definitions vary, with some lists being broader than others.[2]

A June 2013 report by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, however, generated the following list of trades (divided into industrial, construction, and service skilled trades), along with their Standard Occupational Classification System code:[2]

  • Skilled industrial trades
  • Skilled construction trades
  • Skilled service trades
    • 29‐2021 Dental hygienists
    • 29‐2041 Emergency medical technicians and paramedics
    • 29‐2057 Ophthalmic medical technicians
    • 31‐9091 Dental assistants
    • 31‐9092 Medical assistants
    • 31‐9094 Medical transcriptionists
    • 31‐9097 Phlebotomists
    • 35‐1011 Chefs and head cooks
    • 39‐4031 Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors
    • 39‐5012 Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists
    • 39‐5092 Manicurists and pedicurists
    • 43‐6012 Legal secretaries
    • 43‐6013 Medical secretaries
    • 49‐3021 Automotive Body and related repairers
    • 49‐3023 Automotive service technicians and mechanics
    • 49‐3031 Bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists
    • 49‐3041 Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians
    • 51‐3011 Bakers
    • 51‐6041 Shoe and leather workers and repairers
    • 51‐9071 Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers
    • 51‐9081 Dental laboratory technicians
    • 51‐9082 Medical appliance technicians
    • 53‐2012 Commercial pilots

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whitney, William D., ed.. "Trade." Def, 7. The Century Dictionary: An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language vol. 8. New York. The Century Co. 1895. 6,415. Print.
  2. ^ a b Employment and Occupations in the Skilled Trades in Michigan, Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget, Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives (June 2013).

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of tradesman at Wiktionary