What Does a Tradesman Do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A tradesman is a specially trained worker who might work in fields such as construction or crafts. Tradesmen have more training than basic manual laborers, but they are not professional workers like doctors and attorneys. They might work independently or under the supervision of a contractor or other business owner. Employment prospects in this field are highly variable at any given time, and some work has a tendency to be seasonal.

Tradesmen like shoe cobblers have special skills.
Tradesmen like shoe cobblers have special skills.

A construction tradesman can work at trades such as roofing, plumbing or electrical wiring. Some tradespeople focus on industrial applications of their skills, and others work on homes and small commercial buildings. In addition to building, tradesmen can also work in maintenance and repair, working with systems such as heating and cooling or security. The work can be seasonable in nature because it can require being outdoors without shelter, which might not be possible during harsh winter weather, hurricanes and other adverse weather events.

In some regions, skilled craftspeople are also considered tradesmen. This can include furniture makers, weavers, potters and other people who pursue formal apprenticeships to learn a craft. A tradesman in a craft profession usually does not need a license to work, because the work does not necessarily pose a risk to health and safety if it is done incorrectly. Crafts also are not as tightly regulated or monitored as the construction trade.

This work can include designing and consulting during the development process to set out specifications for a project and develop a plan. The tradesman might work independently or supervise a crew on the project, depending on its size and complexity. When the project is complete and the client takes possession, the tradesman can offer ongoing maintenance and support. Tradesmen also provide repair services on systems that they have not installed, and some might work as inspectors or investigators for government agencies and insurance companies to evaluate systems for safety and code violations.

To become a tradesman, it usually is necessary to complete a traditional apprenticeship, sometimes paired with attendance at a trade school. During the apprenticeship, trainees complete a set number of hours of training as they develop their skills. They typically start on basic tasks to learn about the tools and foundation of the trade, and they develop more autonomy over time. At the end of an apprenticeship, it is possible for the person to apply for a license and open an independent business, if this is desired.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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