Should I Become a Plumber, HVAC Tech or Electrician?
It’s common for people who want a career in the trades to not be quite sure which of the major three they should pursue. After all, plumbing, HVAC and electrical work all share the key qualities that have likely attracted you to the trades: great work stability, working with your hands and not at a desk, the opportunity to start your own business one day, great pay, and more. So, which should you choose?
While it can be hard to plan out a whole career on the basis of which is more in-demand right now, we can’t predict the future, so that’s essentially where you need to start. Find out which of the three trades is more in demand in your own area. And remember that certain types of work within one trade may be in higher demand than the rest, and if that isn’t the type of work you want to do, you may want to reconsider.
Also, remember that in each field, there is much to do beyond typical residential work. You can get industrial work, construction work, commercial work, and more. If you’re considering these, it is important to get information about what the work is really like and the process of getting there. You may need a completely different license for commercial over residential electrical work, for example.
Then there is pay. While the prevailing notion online seems to be that electricians can make more, that doesn’t mean you will. Try to be specific about the type of work you want and then find out what the average person performing that job will really make.
Speaking of what the work is really like, it is important to know how you will feel day-in and day-out about your job. Really the best way to do that is to talk to current professionals about what the job is like, or you will end up with a stereotypical view of the trade.
For example, while electrical has the reputation of being a “smarter” trade, and you do need some level of book smarts to learn it, the work can still be monotonous. In HVAC and in plumbing, you need to learn a wider array of skills, and there are more specialties to learn. And, while electrical work is perhaps not as physical as HVAC, it is still physical, and there still is risk of injury from repetitive motions or positions.
In any trade, there is the risk of injury and death on the job. Electrical work typically carries the highest risk of actual death, as mistakes with circuits can expose you to perilous amounts of electricity. However, there are still risks of injury in HVAC and plumbing.
What about other kinds of risks? For example, many people start in the trades with the intention of learning their trade and then starting their own business. However, most new businesses do fail. Would you prefer the security of a job at a large company with great compensation? It may be easier for you to find that kind of work in one trade or the other. It all depends on your local area.
While it used to be that people would pick up one career and keep it their whole lives, most people these days need to adjust to changing economic conditions and pick up new things. Make your decision between the trades on what works best for you now and in the foreseeable future, but know that you always have the opportunity to change.