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Is Precious Metals a Good Career Path in 2022?

Jenna Gleespen - May 14, 2022

is precious metals a good career path?

Many people consider precious metals to be a solid investment with great potential. But how do they fare as a profession? Is precious metals a good career path? Read along to find out if it pays to be a precious metals worker.

Let’s start with a quick look at precious metals and the industry as a whole.

What Are Precious Metals?

Precious metals are rare alloys that are highly valued due to a range of factors. Some factors that influence their price include industrial use, scarcity, historical value, and much more.

Some of the most popular precious metals include:

  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Platinum
  • Palladium

There are other precious metals, like rhenium, ruthenium, and rhodium, but the four above are staples in the industry.

While the value of precious metals can be influenced by market forces, one reason they are highly sought-after is that, as an investment, they typically weather volatility much better than other assets.

Many experts and professional investors recommend allocating some of your portfolios to precious metals.

Also, these aren’t just shiny alloys: these metals have a slew of sophisticated applications. For instance, gold is widely used in electronics, and palladium is a key component of many fuel cells.

What Is the Most Profitable Precious Metal?

Gold is the most profitable precious metals for a variety of reasons, but its potential for gradual appreciation is at the top of the list.

So if you are a jeweler or a precious metals provider dealing in gold, your goods are more likely to outpace inflationary pressures that could artificially lower the value of your product over time.

Gold is also considered to have more liquidity than other precious metals, as it’s the most actively traded of the bunch.

Now that you have a general overview of these valuable metals, let’s take a look at how the precious metals industry makes use of them.

precious metals workers work

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What Is the Precious Metals Industry?

Just as it sounds, the precious metals industry is an umbrella of products and services that leverage precious metals to turn a profit.

Most folks think of career paths like jewelers, but there are plenty of other profitable precious metals careers that take advantage of these valuable assets. Others include precious metal brokers, precious metal workers, goldsmiths, and more.

This industry is exceptionally diverse, and there are a lot of fantastic opportunities. That being said, many precious metal careers, like jewelers, don’t expect to see much growth in the next decade.

Still, precious metals remain in high demand, and this doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

What Are the Salaries for Careers in Precious Metals?

The salary of a precious metals professional varies depending on your specific job title, what type of commodity you are working with, and the number of hours you work each week.

According to Payscale.com, precious metals careers pay an average salary of $71k per year.

Many metal working careers, however, fall much shorter than this salary range. For instance, the average jeweler’s salary is around $34K to 53K. To be clear, $53K isn’t anything to scoff at, but some folks may be surprised that you don’t make more working with precious metals.

How Do You Get a Career in Precious Metals?

There are so many careers in precious metals that there isn’t an exact answer to this question. That being said, most careers in precious metals do not require a college degree. But education is still necessary.

For instance, many metal-working jobs are usually obtained through some sort of apprenticeship or trade school. Many are drawn to this career path because training is hands-on and you don’t have to take years of additional education.

Precious Metals Brokers

A precious metal broker is an industry intermediary who buys and sells rare metals for institutions or individuals. They also can help procure valuable gemstones, such as diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and more.

Metal brokers often have experience in business or finance. They will also have experience working at a metal banking institution or trading in the commodity market.

A metal broker has many responsibilities that include working with clients, trading on behalf of investors, managing risk, understanding commodities laws, etc.

You need to become an encyclopedia for all things precious metals, but it doesn’t require the same set of skills as precious metals workers.

Precious metal brokers must also maintain relationships with many stakeholders, like mints, refineries, goldsmiths, and coin dealers.

Precious Metal Workers

Precious metal workers is a catch-all term for folks who do hands-on work with precious metals.

Some precious metal jobs include:

  • Jewelers
  • Goldsmiths
  • Engravers
  • Jewelry designers
  • Restorers
  • Miners and refiners

This segment of the precious metals industry typically requires immense specialization. For instance, you have broad specializations, such as jewelers, but there are subdivisions of these roles.

Some professionals work with a dedicated precious metal. For instance, a goldsmith is a precious metal worker who deals exclusively in shaping, polishing, molding, and refining gold.

The next entries on our lists of jobs in the precious metals industry are going to focus on types of metalworkers (except designers).

precious metals jewelry career

Jewelers

Jewelers shape precious metals to create ornate products, such as rings, bracelets, earrings, and much more. A jeweler will often incorporate other rare materials into their pieces, such as diamonds, sapphires, rubies, etc.

This is a more hands-on career, which means that it will likely appeal to a smaller segment of the population. But if you’re skilled with your hands, you might want to look into taking on an apprenticeship as a jeweler.

While you do not necessarily need these skills to run your own jewelry store, it certainly helps to understand the processes involved through first-hand experience.

Goldsmiths

Many of the roles of a goldsmith intersect with jewelers, but the main distinction is that they work exclusively with gold. Jewelers, on the other hand, have a broader set of metals that they work with.

Goldsmiths are skilled craftsmen who create or repair jewelry and other popular items. They also make everyday items such as rings, necklaces, spoons, and belt buckles. While it may seem a little silly, some people pay top dollar for handcrafted buckles or spoons.

Goldsmiths perform their work with tools such as hammers and chisels to create intricate designs. While the tools may sound a bit rudimentary, goldsmithing is a very sophisticated career path that requires immense dexterity and a keen eye.

engraving ring precious metals job position

Engravers

Engravers work within a very specific niche of the metalworking industry, as they solely focus on etching designs, words, and patterns into metal.

While many jewelers can engrave, sometimes it helps to have a specialized skill set, tools, and equipment. Also, engravers don’t just work on jewelry: they provide engraving on trophies, identification plates, circuit boards, and more.

Jewelry Designers

Jewelry design is a worthwhile career path for big-picture folks who prefer to work on art at the conceptual level. They plan and design jewelry before the crafting process.

Many jewelers create their own designs, but it helps to have someone take on a dedicated role to bring a customer’s vision to life.

Jewelry designers must have a detailed understanding of the crafting process. This ensures that the designs can stand the test of time, as many precious and luxurious metals are delicate.

antique restoration precious metals careers

Antique Restorers

Antique restoration is an amazing career path for someone who wants to play a role in restoring and preserving cherished jewelry or a piece of history.

This career doesn’t exclusively work with jewelry: some of these roles also include restoring furniture, artwork, cloth, etc. But jewelry is a subdivision.

Aside from helping private individuals restore their precious metals to tip-top shape, you could also work with museums to bring artwork back to life.

Precious Metals Miners and Refiners

Precious metals miners deal in the location and extraction of precious metals. Many companies operate as miners and refiners, but this is not always the case.

This sector has a wide range of positions available, including miners, engineers, plant technicians, and more.

With a $71K average salary, these positions are among the more lucrative precious metal careers.

Investing in Precious Metals

Most folks don’t invest in precious metals as a dedicated career; rather, it is done to strengthen investment portfolios.

There are a few ways to invest in metal:

  1. Buying physical gold or precious metals
  2. Trading ETFs, mutual funds, and futures on the commodities market
  3. Invest in companies that operate in the precious metals industry

These are some solid options for someone who wants to make money from precious metals without needing to work in the industry.

Buying Physical Gold or Precious Metals

If you’re not feeling bullish on the stock market or fiat currencies, precious metals can be a great hedge against inflation. Gold, for example, can see some short-term volatility, but its price has steadily risen over the years.

The main drawback is that you need to store your own precious metals, which can be a major security risk. This is why most opt out of having a dedicated stash at home.

If you want to buy metal directly, you can look for a service, such as Acre Gold.

You can also set up a Gold IRA, with companies like Monetary Gold. You still own the gold, but they help you store it.

ETFs, Mutual, Funds, and Futures

If you would like to invest in precious metals but don’t want to own them physically, you can always turn to exchange-traded funds, mutual funds, and futures.

These allow you to own an investment tied directly to the price of gold or other precious metals without needing to store them yourself. This is probably the easiest way to invest.

The only drawbacks are that you will pay an annual fee for managing ETFs. In addition, you usually must pay commission fees when you buy or sell any of the securities mentioned above.

working with gold and precious metals on the stock market

Investing in a Precious Metals Company

Investing in a company that operates in the precious metal industry is a suitable alternative to the options we’ve already mentioned.

One of the biggest pros here is that many of these companies are not pure plays, meaning that their risks are spread between multiple precious metals.

Also, some precious metals, like rhenium, ruthenium, and rhodium, are difficult to get your hands on.

A con to this investing style is that your investment is not tied to the value of the precious metals obtained or refined from the company. If a company has bad fundamentals, shares can tank regardless of their metals’ value.

Is It Worth Investing in Precious Metals?

Investing in precious metals has a variety of benefits. Investors like them because they help to weather stock market volatility.

Putting a percentage of your portfolio in precious metals could help maintain your nest egg. That’s why a lot of folks use gold IRAs as a vehicle to invest in for retirement.

Is Precious Metals a Stable Career Path?

Precious metal is a fairly stable career path. It has been around for thousands of years, and it will probably be around for many more.

That being said, current projections for growth in the industry seem stagnant.

Also, not all metals are created equal: careers in gold and silver are much easier to jump into, as they are commonly found in jewelry.

Other precious metals, like rhodium and ruthenium, have more industrial uses that don’t translate to some of the more accessible jobs available.

working in precious metals as a career

What Is the Future of Precious Metals?

There’s no such thing as a crystal ball, but many experts believe that precious metals could continue to see a rise in value over time.

Gold and palladium have a ton of applications that could play a big role in emerging technologies. We’re always going to need microchips and fuel cells.

Growth forecasts may be a little bleak for metal workers, but there are some areas in the industry that could see growth. Mining, for example, will be vital for meeting growing demand. 

Is Precious Metals a Good Career Path?

Precious metals could be a great career path if you’re passionate about the craft. But stagnant growth prospects for a large segment of the industry could turn many people away.

Ultimately, what constitutes a good career will largely depend on what you’re looking for in a job.

If you like working with your hands, becoming a precious metals worker could provide you with a fulfilling and profitable road to retirement.

If you’re a good negotiator, then becoming a precious metals broker might be a great fit and play into your strengths.

Something to consider is that working in precious metals involves risks. Even if the underlying asset is stable, these jobs are not immune to forces like the labor market or automation.

Still, there are career growth opportunities — if you know where to look.

 

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Jenna Gleespen is a copywriter specializing in finance and investment finance. Originally from the United States, she now calls London, England home.