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A rigger at work on the Tennessee Valley Authority's Douglas Dam in Tennessee in the United States, in 1942.
This article is about the "skilled manual worker" meaning of the term. For other uses, see Tradesperson (disambiguation).

A tradesman, tradesperson or skilled tradesman refers to a worker that specializes in a particular trade or craft requiring skill .


In Victorian England:

The terms "skilled worker," "craftsman," "artisan," and "tradesman" were used in senses that overlap. All describe people with specialized training in the skills needed for a particular kind of work. Some of them produced goods that they sold from their own premises (e.g., bootmakers, saddlers, hatmakers, jewelers, glassblowers); others (e.g., typesetters, bookbinders, wheelwrights) were employed to do one part of the production in a business that required a variety of skilled workers. Still others were factory hands who had become experts in some complex part of the process and could command high wages and steady employment. Skilled workers in the building trades (e.g., carpenters, masons, plumbers, painters, plasterers, glaziers) were also referred to by one or another of these terms."[1]

One study of Caversham, New Zealand at the turn of the century notes that a skilled trade was considered a trade that required an apprenticeship to entry.[2] Skilled tradesmen worked either in traditional handicraft workshops or newer factories that emerged during the Industrial Revolution.[2] Traditional handicraft roles included, for example: "sail-maker, candle-maker, cooper, jappaner, lapidary and taxidermist, cannister-maker, furrier, cap-maker, dobbin-maker, french-polisher, baker, miller, brewer, confectioner, watch-maker, tinsmith, glazier, maltster, wood-turner, saddler, shipwright, scale-maker, engraver and cutler."[2]

Modern use and list of skilled trades[edit]

Tradesmen are contrasted with unskilled workers (laborers), agricultural workers, and professionals (those in the learned professions).[3] Skilled tradesmen are distinguished:

  • from unskilled workers (e.g., laborers) in that the unskilled workers "rely heavily on physical exertion" while those in the skilled trades rely on "specific knowledge, skills, and abilities."[4] Both types of work, however, are considered blue-collar.[4]
  • from professionals in that the professionals have a higher duty of care[5] and routinely make decisions "on the basis of expertise and ability in complex situations where there may be no, or little, previous history."[6]

There is no definitive list of modern skilled trades, as definitions vary, with some lists being broader than others.[7]

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:[7]

Earnings and social standing[edit]

A British study found that, after taking student loan repayments into account, a higher apprenticeship (at level 5 on the Qualifications and Credit Framework, equivalent to a foundation degree) delivered higher lifetime median earnings than a degree from a university outside the Russell Group. Despite this, polling for the report found that apprenticeships have a lower perceived value than bachelor's degrees.[8]

According to data released from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, lists the wages and expected job openings of skilled trades with educational requirements ranging from an associate degree to a high school diploma.[9]

Occupation Required education Median annual wage in May 2010
Projected job openings from 2010 to 2020
Required work experience in a related occupation
On-the-job training
Air traffic controller Associate degree $108,040 10,200 None Long-term on-the-job training
General manager or Operations manager Associate degree $94,400 410,100 1 to 5 years None.
Construction management Associate degree $83,860 120,400 More than 5 years None
Radiation therapist Associate degree $74,980 6,700 None None
Nuclear medicine technologist Associate degree $68,560 7,500 None None
Dental hygienist Associate degree $68,250 104,900 None None
Nuclear technician Associate degree $68,090 3,300 None Moderate-term on-the-job training
Registered nurse Associate degree $64,690 1,207,400 None None
Diagnostic medical sonographer Associate degree $64,380 31,700 None None
Aerospace engineering technologist Associate degree $58,080 1,700 None None
Engineering technologist Associate degree $58,020 16,800 None None
Electrical engineering technician or Electronics engineering technician Associate degree $56,040 31,800 None None
Radiologic technician Associate degree $54,340 95,100 None None
Funeral service manager, director, mortician, or undertaker Associate degree $54,330 10,700 None Apprenticeship
Respiratory therapist Associate degree $54,280 52,700 None None
Geological and petroleum technician Associate degree $54,020 7,000 None Moderate-term on-the-job training.
Electrical and electronics drafter Associate degree $53,020 7,200 None None
Occupational therapy assistant Associate degree $51,010 16,800 None None
Precision instrument and equipment repairer Associate degree $50,910 5,500 None Long-term on-the-job training
Mechanical engineering technician Associate degree $50,110 10,400 None None
First-line supervisor of firefighters and fire prevention workers Postsecondary non-degree award $68,240 33,100 1 to 5 years None
Commercial pilot Postsecondary non-degree award $67,500 19,300 None None
Electrical and electronics repairer (powerhouse, substation, and relay) Postsecondary non-degree award $65,230 6,900 None Long-term on-the-job training
Insurance appraiser (automotive) Postsecondary non-degree award $56,230 2,700 None Moderate-term on-the-job training
Telecommunications equipment installer and repairer, except line installer Postsecondary non-degree award $54,710 59,300 None Moderate-term on-the-job training
Aircraft maintenance technician Postsecondary non-degree award $53,420 45,200 None None
Railroad switch and signal repairer Postsecondary non-degree award $53,230 1,300 None Moderate-term on-the-job training
First-line supervisor of production and operating workers Postsecondary non-degree award $53,090 87,900 1 to 5 years None
Avionics technician Postsecondary non-degree award $52,320 5,800 None None
Electrical and electronics repairer (commercial and industrial equipment) Postsecondary non-degree award $51,820 17,700 None Long-term on-the-job training
Commercial diver Postsecondary non-degree award $51,360 1,300 None Moderate-term on-the-job training
Manager High school diploma $96,450 249,400 1 to 5 years None
Transportation, storage, and distribution manager High school diploma $80,210 33,700 More than 5 years None
First-line supervisor of police and detectives High school diploma $78,260 38,700 1 to 5 years Moderate-term on-the-job training
Administrative services manager (payroll and benefits) High school diploma $77,890 99,800 1 to 5 years None
Nuclear power reactor operator High school diploma $75,650 2,000 None Long-term on-the-job training
Elevator mechanic High school diploma $70,910 8,200 None Apprenticeship
Power station distributor and dispatcher High school diploma $68,900 3,600 None Long-term on-the-job training
First-line supervisor of non-retail sales workers High school diploma $68,880 123,500 More than 5 years None
Detective High school diploma $68,820 30,100 1 to 5 years Moderate-term on-the-job training
Fashion designer High school diploma $64,530 6,700 None Long-term on-the-job training
Power station operator High school diploma $63,080 14,400 None Long-term on-the-job training
Business operations specialist High school diploma $62,450 327,200 Less than 1 year Long-term on-the-job training
Media and communication equipment worker High school diploma $61,680 3,300 None Moderate-term on-the-job training
Agriculture manager High school diploma $60,750 234,500 More than 5 years None
Postmaster or mail superintendent High school diploma $60,300 4,800 1 to 5 years Moderate-term on-the-job training
Oil refinery operator High school diploma $60,040 14,400 None Long-term on-the-job training
First-line supervisor of mechanics, installers, and repairers High school diploma $59,150 164,900 1 to 5 years None
Artists and related workers High school diploma $58,840 4,800 None Long-term on-the-job training
First-line supervisor of construction workers or natural resource extraction workers High school diploma $58,680 259,700 More than 5 years None
Claims adjuster examiner, or investigator High school diploma $58,620 79,900 None Long-term on-the-job training
Lineman High school diploma $58,030 52,700 None Long-term on-the-job training
Gas plant operator High school diploma $57,200 4,500 None Long-term on-the-job training
Rapid transit driver High school diploma $56,880 2,800 None Moderate-term on-the-job training
Purchasing manager High school diploma $56,580 91,200 None Long-term on-the-job training
Loan officer High school diploma $56,490 115,200 None Moderate-term on-the-job training
First-line supervisor of corrections officers High school diploma $55,910 16,500 1 to 5 years Moderate-term on-the-job training
Chemical plant operator High school diploma $55,490 14,100 None Long-term on-the-job training
Real estate broker High school diploma $54,910 29,700 1 to 5 years None
Boilermaker High school diploma $54,640 11,800 None Apprenticeship
Transit policeman or Railroad policeman High school diploma $54,330 1,100 None Short-term on-the-job training
Agricultural purchasing agent High school diploma $54,220 3,200 None Long-term on-the-job training
Mail carrier High school diploma $53,860 103,400 None Short-term on-the-job training
Police officer High school diploma $53,540 249,400 None Moderate-term on-the-job training
Indoor postal worker High school diploma $53,100 15,500 None Short-term on-the-job training
Postal service mail sorter, processor, or processing machine operator High school diploma $53,080 7,500 None Short-term on-the-job training
First-line supervisor of transportation and material-moving machine and vehicle operators High school diploma $52,720 69,300 1 to 5 years None
Sales representative, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products High school diploma $52,440 559,900 None Moderate-term on-the-job training
Building code inspector High school diploma $52,360 48,600 More than 5 years Moderate-term on-the-job training
Fire marshal High school diploma $52,230 4,700 More than 5 years Moderate-term on-the-job training
Stationary engineer High school diploma $52,140 10,600 None Long-term on-the-job training
Plant or system operator High school diploma $51,980 3,700 None Long-term on-the-job training
Paralegal High school diploma $51,800 9,600 None Short-term on-the-job training
Property manager High school diploma $51,480 82,300 1 to 5 years None
Telecommunications line installer or repairer High school diploma $50,850 51,400 None Long-term on-the-job training
Sales representative High school diploma $50,620 270,100 None Short-term on-the-job training

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sally Mitchell, Daily Life in Victorian England (Greenwood: 1996), p. 60.
  2. ^ a b c Erik Olssen, Building the New World: Work, Politics, and Society in Caversham, 1880s-1920s (Auckland University Press, 1995), pp. 47-49.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ a b Wanda J. Campbell & Robert A. Ramos, "Blue-collar Selection in Private Sector Organizations" in Handbook of Employee Selection (eds. James L. Farr, Nancy T. Tippins: Taylor & Francis 2010), p. 741.
  5. ^ Robert D. Sprauge, "Liability for System and Data Quality" in Social, Ethical and Policy Implications of Information Technology (eds. Linda L. Brennan & Victoria Elizabeth Johnson: Idea Group: 2004), p. 194)
  6. ^ Christopher Lawless, Forensic Science: A Sociological Introduction (Routledge, 2016), p. 62.
  7. ^ 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).
  8. ^ "Levels of Success". Sutton Trust. 9 October 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  9. ^ Torpey, Elka (2012). "High wages after high school - without a bachelor's degree" (PDF). Occupational Outlook Quarterly. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 

External links[edit]