Exploring The Skilled Trades

7 Trade Jobs You Didn't Know Existed

Laureston Hawley
Sr. Editor

Posted 01/14/2020

Trade jobs are simply those that require you to have a special skill. Welders, carpenters, electricians and plumbers are often the poster people for the skilled trades, but the occupations under this umbrella are actually much more diverse than you might realize.

Whatever you're interested in — and whatever you're naturally good at — chances are there's a skilled trade option that can help you line your pockets with a paycheck for doing something you really enjoy.

Check out these seven trade jobs you may not even know existed.

1. Gem Setter

If colors and shapes fascinate you or you've got a passion for all that glitters, you might consider a career in gemology. After taking trade classes, you can get certified professionally by either the Gemological Institute of America or the International Gem Society.

Those shiny (pun definitely intended) new credentials could help you land work as a lab gemologist, gemstone appraiser or a jeweler. Other job options include working in gem manufacturing and cutting, or with auction houses. According to the International Gem Society, the going pay rate for gemology workers ranges from $20,000 to $70,000 a year.

2. Elevator Mechanic

Did you ever consider who keeps things moving up and down in skyscrapers? The answer is elevator mechanics. Turns out this is a specialty, and it's not the general building handyman or super keeping things on the up-and-up with the elevator.

To become an elevator mechanic, you usually need a high school diploma and must go through an apprenticeship period. More than half the states also require you to apply for and receive a license. All the prep work could be worth it, though. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that elevator mechanics make around $79,000 a year on average.

3. Water Slide Tester

If you'd rather be the one going up and down instead of the one that keeps the up-and-down machine working, you might consider testing water slides for a living. Yes, this is a real job. But demand for water slide testers obviously isn't huge, so it can be a competitive field. It helps if you work in a waterpark to get your feet wet . . . literally.

Still don't believe this is a real thing? Check out this profile of a water slide tester at Wet'n'Wild Hawaii for proof.

4. Wind Turbine Tech

If water isn't your element, maybe you're more suited to a job involving air. The technicians that install and repair wind turbines make an average of $26 an hour (or just over $54,000 a year). And with the environment and sustainability ever-growing concerns, the market for skilled wind turbines is expected to grow by a whopping 57% through 2028.

Getting into the field requires attending technical school and going through on-the-job training that can last for months or years, so now's the time to act if this growing career option sounds right for you.

5. Instrument Repair Technician

From drum snares and hi-hats to the artistic curves of guitars and violins, someone has to keep the components of musical instruments in good working order. Instrument repair technicians might work for manufacturers handling warranty repairs or in shops where repairs, cleanings and refurbs are offered.

While you might spend a fair amount of time fixing up mishandled saxophones for the high school marching band, this career option offers the opportunity to be around music and musical instruments on a regular basis for an average pay rate of around $18 an hour. That makes it a potentially rewarding skilled trade for anyone with a love of playing music.

6. Tower Technicians

It's not an urban legend. There are jobs that pay people to climb communication towers and install or maintain the equipment at or near the top. If you're looking for a career with a little adventure or you don't mind heights, you can earn between $15 and $40 an hour (depending on experience) as a tower technician.

You'll need more than a fearless nature and powerful climbing legs, though. Communication tower techs usually start with technical school before moving into training positions within the industry.

7. Pile-Driver Operator

Like the idea of working above it all, but don't want to climb a tower to get there? Pile-driver operators work in machines that are typically mounted above the work zone. They use cranes and other equipment to hammer piles into place for the construction of structures, including bridges, retaining walls and building foundations.

This job requires up to four years of apprenticeship, which you can arrange via the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. The average pay for pile-drive operators in the nation is around $64,000 annually.

There you have it. From the delicate work of cutting gems to the powerhouse process of driving piles, the skilled trades definitely don't disappoint. If you haven't found a skilled trade opportunity to pique your interest, you simply aren't looking hard enough.