The Best Trades for Women: Our List and Guide

March 11, 2024

The Nitty Gritty

  • Skilled trades are a booming industry that provides consistent work and opportunities but has been traditionally male-dominated. Change is happening, and women today can be a part of it.
  • Our Best Trades for Women List covers 10 trades: what they provide, what skills you need and their average salary.
  • Follow up the list with our top tips for female success in the trades to get started the right way!
A woman stands smiling in navy blue overalls

In recent years, the traditionally male-dominated world of the trades has seen a rise in women joining the ranks. In the UK, a recent study found that there are more than twice as many women working in the trades as there were ten years ago. That’s a neat statistic, don’t you think?

What are Trade Jobs?

Typically, trade jobs involve some form of manual labor and can be physically demanding. Being out and about in the field is common as they don’t revolve around working in an office, and they all require specialized skills.

Trades constitute plenty of job titles, even ones you might not think of as ‘trades’ right off the bat. These jobs include mechanic, plumbing, electrical, construction, nursing, and even chef (hey, we’ve all got to eat!). So while there’s no singular definition for a trade job, they almost always require some form of on-the-job training or a more specialized approach through further education and advanced learning courses.

We’ll cover each approach in our list of the best trades for women below.

Why Should Women Consider the Trades?

The demand for this type of work is always high, and being skilled in any trade is considered valuable. Therefore, there are a lot of opportunities for anyone who’ll put the work in. With more women filling up these spaces, it is slowly becoming more common to see women working in a traditionally male-dominated environment, so the best trades for women are no longer restricted to a small pool of options.

In addition, many women have commitments that leave them hesitant to attend college or accumulate student debt. One benefit of working in the trade industry is that vocational training and education are often more affordable and integrated with work. That means you can learn on the job, which is definitely more interesting than sitting at a desk from nine to five.

With a job in skilled trades, every day is different. You’re traveling around to different places and doing different types of work, and you can expand your knowledge and skill sets in the process.

The Best Trades for Women: 10 Ideas with Salaries

In this list, we’ll be covering some ideas for the best trades for women, as well as the average salary of each profession.

Most further vocational education requires a high school diploma or GED, so all of these professions will require one. When describing the pathway to becoming one of these skilled trades for women, it will assume a high school diploma or GED.

Dental Hygienist

Average Salary: $81,400

Dental hygienists are skilled professionals who primarily work alongside dentists to provide patients with oral care, cleaning, reporting, taking x-rays, and educating patients on health.

We’ve put this at the top of our best trades for women as it is a growing industry with great benefits, as well as being one of the top-paying trades currently. It’s also a position that requires good communication skills, empathy, patience, and critical thinking. Dental hygienists are supportive and work to help the patient with their ongoing care.

To become a dental hygienist, you’ll be required to complete an associate’s degree. These typically take 3 years to complete. All states need a license to practice, but requirements will vary by state.

Aircraft Mechanic

Average Salary: $70,740

Air travel has surged in popularity after the pandemic, surpassing pre-travel levels. Not just commercial travel has seen this uptick: helicopters, light planes, and private jets have higher demand and see wider use. This means jobs at all levels are in demand, including skilled aviation mechanics.

Considering mechanics as a male-dominated industry, why have we included it in the best trades for women? Because it’s about the skills needed! Aircraft mechanics need to have a meticulous eye for detail and the ability to multitask and break down a problem. It’s hands-on; you never know what you’ll get on the job.

Aircraft mechanics follow the guidelines and certifications outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). To start a career in aviation, you’ll need to complete training at an FFA-approved technician school.

The FFA has two separate certifications for both bodywork (Airframe, or ‘A’) and engine (Powerplant mechanics, or ‘P’) work, but most mechanics opt to obtain both (A&P). In total, this takes about two years.

Wind Energy Technician

Average Salary: $57,320

Wind energy technicians are professionals responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing wind turbines. Renewable energy alternatives have been making headwinds as prices for electricity continue to grow, and wind energy technicians can find plenty of work.

We’ve included this in the best trades for women, not just for the skills but the unique construction of the turbine itself! Most of the maintenance and repair for a turbine will occur in the ‘nacelle’ of the turbine: essentially, the brain that keeps everything running. This has the problem of being high up but also a small space. For larger male mechanics, there can be a real problem of not being able to fit. Women, on the other hand, will more likely be able to fit in and get to work. You’ll need a stomach for heights, but if you’re looking for a solid career with plenty of work, this can be for you.

To become a wind energy technician, you’ll need 2 years at a technical school. After that, you’ll get a year of on-the-job training from an employer.

Plumbing Technician

Average Salary: $60,090

Plumbing technicians don’t just unclog toilets; they do everything when it comes to water. While it is a hands-on skilled trade, plumbers also need a good mind for numbers and mathematics, especially for future specializations. It can take a good few years to earn a plumbing license, but that’s reflected in the salary and the opportunities available to plumbers. It’s solid work that is always in demand, so it’s a great trade for women to consider.

To become a plumbing technician, you can start with vocational training for 2 years at a trade school to kickstart your knowledge and skills before starting on-the-job training, or you also have the option of training in an apprenticeship program. All that’s left is to pass the plumber’s exam and earn your license. Most states require this license to operate officially.

Culinary Head Chef

Average Salary: $56,520

When it comes to the best trades for women, we can’t forget chefs. The culinary world might have plenty of famous male chefs and culinary icons, but everyone appreciates food. Becoming a head chef requires skills, experience, dedication, and creativity, and is a great skilled trade for women. If you have a passion for food, it’s an option for you.

Chefs often work odd hours, preparing food and running their kitchens from early in the morning to late at night. It takes physical stamina and multitasking, as well as communication and management skills.

To become a culinary head chef, the popular option is to acquire a two-year culinary degree from a relevant culinary school. Some who plan to own/run their own restaurants also have the option of pursuing a culinary bachelor’s degree. Head chefs require a minimum of five years experience working in kitchens.

Automotive Mechanic Professional

Average Salary: $46,880

Almost everyone has a vehicle, and all of those vehicles will require maintenance and repair from time to time. Automotive mechanics can cover everything from general care to work with specific engine types. It’s a skilled trade that offers opportunities depending on your skills. It’s a growing industry that can also offer the possibility of running your own business in the future.

Vocational schools and colleges offer courses in automotive mechanics, with associate degrees, certificates, and diplomas. Depending on the course, initial study can take 6 months to 2 years. Hands-on experience is also required, either through entry-level work or an apprenticeship program. Automotive manufacturers such as Honda, Ford, and Toyota offer their own certification courses as well.

Most states also require an ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification.

Carpentry Artisan

Average Salary: $51,390

This sector is another male-dominated space, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best trades for women. Appreciation for beauty and craftsmanship, a keen eye for detail, manual dexterity, problem-solving, and physical stamina are all skills women have, too.

Skilled carpenters also need a head for mathematics, so if you have that skill and want to work with your hands, a carpentry artisan position could be a great fit.

Trade colleges offer pre-apprenticeship programs, such as certificates and diplomas or associate’s degrees, depending on the level of training you want to undertake. They can range from 8 months to 2 years and lead to apprenticeships. You also have the option to directly enter an apprenticeship and work while you study.

Vocational/Practical Nursing

Average Salary: 54,620

What’s the best trades for women list without one of the most female-dominated jobs? Nursing professionals are some of the most sought-after workers in the job market, with demand for care and health only rising. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) provide medical care in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, residential care facilities, and physicians' offices.

Sometimes we forget that nursing professionals are highly comparable to the other trades on this list. Nurses are on their feet most of the day, highly skilled and adaptable, and are required to multitask and work different hours. It is tough work, but a great fit for those who want a care role.

It requires undertaking a diploma or certificate program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). This typically takes a year but can take two years if done part-time. Becoming an LPN is also a practical pathway to becoming a fully-trained nurse, and many LPNs go on to obtain their nursing degrees.

Professional Welder

Average Salary: 47,540

Welders specialize in the bonding of metals to other metals. While this might sound straightforward, welding is a highly skilled trade that requires accuracy, attention to detail, physical stamina, and care. Welders are involved in creating automobiles, shipbuilding, bridges, aircraft, and more. This is in the best trades for women as welding requires respect and understanding of risks and dangers, and women have a natural sense when it comes to risk-reduction.

Getting your start as a professional welder means either starting study in a vocational/trade school, which can take from six to eighteen months, depending on the type of course and then undertaking an apprenticeship or starting the apprenticeship right away. The American Welding Society (AWS) recognizes a variety of certifications.

HVAC System Specialist

Average Salary: $51,390

HVAC systems cover everything from air conditioning, cooling, refrigeration, heating and ventilation. Nationwide, there’s an increasing need for efficient and well-maintained climate and ventilation systems. The best trades for women are ones in growth industries, as they provide opportunities with the demand for skilled professionals.

These systems can be complex and in hard-to-reach places, so they require problem-solving skills and flexibility, literally and figuratively!

To become a HVAC system specialist, you’ll need to enroll in an apprenticeship or training program from a vocational school or community college. From there you earn a licence through proof of work and experience. The licensing requirements for HVAC technicians vary from state to state, so it’s a good idea to look at your state’s relevant laws.

Some states also require a HVAC technician to complete a Section 608 Certification, under EPA guidelines and approval for work with refrigerants.

6 Tips For Women In Trades

At the end of the day, the same tips for how to do well in the trades apply, no matter who you are. We’ll look at some of the key things you can focus on throughout your career, such as always being open to learning new skills, building strong relationships, and looking into apprenticeship programs.

Be open to adapt and learn

Let’s face it, the monotony of your everyday routine can become dull over time. What better way to jazz it up than learning something new? Working within the skilled trades requires adaptation to learning and expanding your skillset. It provides personal growth and opens up different opportunities in terms of jobs.

Learn from your colleagues and co-workers and absorb as much as you can.

Build strong relationships with both team and clients

Working within the trades out on the field includes interacting with customers and colleagues. Communication is key. Be confident building those relationships and navigating your own customer service journey. Having a good working relationship with customers becomes second nature if you’re delivering excellent customer service. You want customers to hire you again for future jobs. By strengthening the relationship, you build credibility trust, and nurture a bond between them and your business. When it comes to your own colleagues, you’ve got to work together day in and day out, so having a good rapport with them also helps keep things sailing smoothly. It’s important to be sociable and courteous with any connections you make in the industry, whether they are colleagues or customers.

Consider apprenticeship programmes

There’s always room to grow and improve your skillset. Apprenticeships offer the chance to learn on the job. The icing on the cake? Apprenticeships are paid. They expand opportunities in your existing workplace and help progress your career. Running for as little as one year or as long as five, after completing all of your learning, you’ll be qualified in a specific area or skill.

Learn to set clear boundaries

We’ve all been in that familiar situation. You’re waiting for an electrician to fix a faulty spotlight in the kitchen. Their arrival window is anywhere from 7 am - 7 pm. They arrive at 6:45 pm, determined to get the job done. Within the trades, there is always ambiguity as to when the working day ends. It’s not ideal to work later than planned, but sometimes you must. However, learn to set clear boundaries within the workplace to balance your commitments. Boundaries should be:

  • Clear and concise
  • Understood by both parties
  • Flexible but firm

You need to ensure you’ve set these boundaries with both your employer and your customers. This way, there can be no room for confusion.

Be aware of your rights

While attitudes are changing towards women in trades, there are still challenges and obstacles to overcome, including sexism, stereotypes, and a lack of mentoring. Make sure you do your research and know your rights as a worker. There are groups and people you can talk to with further guidance on knowing your rights in the workplace, supporting diversity and working to shut down stigma around women in trades. Don’t be afraid to put your health and mental health as a priority: safety first!

Focus on networking

Building lasting relationships within the workplace is great. After all, you spend much of your lifetime with the same group of people at work. And if you’re running a business, it’s important to have strong working relationships. Your staff will contribute to whether your business is a success or a failure in the long run. Networking within the industry brings in new business connections and puts your name on the map.

A Future of Industry Women

Many trades may be male-dominated, but the present doesn’t define the future of the industry. Workplaces need skilled, determined workers, men and women. The best trades for women might be male-dominated now, but change is happening. A recent survey discovered that 46% of respondents would hire a female tradesperson, and one in three women would rather hire a female tradesperson for work around the home.

This bodes well for women in the trades, especially starting and running your own small business. There’s no telling where you’ll go in the trades, but it starts with you!