Primary professions and secondary professions
Two classes of professions exist: primary professions and secondary professions. You can have only up to two primary professions at any time (but are not required to take any). You can have any number of the secondary professions, and they do not count against your two primary professions limit. You can drop primary professions, freeing up the profession slot, but you lose the knowledge and experience within the profession; if you take it again later, you will start over from scratch. Secondary professions cannot be dropped, and there would be little point in doing so.
Categories of professions
Professions fall into one of three categories: "Gathering" professions gather or harvest items from resources throughout the game world to supply ingredient materials ('mats') for crafting professions. Occasionally, these harvested items will be directly useful. The gathered materials can be sold in the auction house, unless binding on pickup prevents it.
"Production" professions make items from other ingredient items (herbs, bars, meats, etc.) Blizzard calls these "production professions". Most folks in game call them crafting or building. Most of the items produced will be directly useful, but some will be ingredients for further crafting. The products can be sold in the auction house, unless binding on pickup prevents it.
- The first recipes you get are useful for gearing up low level characters (assuming a higher level character is not helping to support you). Some contend that as soon as you start running instances, the drops will usually be better than most crafted items from the same level, but this is not always the case. Quite often crafted items will provide comparable stats or utility benefits that are quite useful for characters of all levels.
- High end crafting, including specializations, can be extremely useful and lucrative, especially from patterns that come from end game faction grinding or drop in high level instances (some of which Bind on Pickup). There are also several quests which require crafted items for completion.
"Service" professions provide a service, such as buffing items. These will generally change the properties of an existing item without changing the in-game identity of the item. Characters that want to make money with a service profession will usually have to actively solicit customers. There is some overlap, where a profession of one type will have some functions that are of another type.
Mining - Mine ore, minerals, various gems and stone from protruding veins or deposits. Requires a Mining Pick. The smelting sub-profession uses a Forge to smelt the ore into bars of metal (Smelting works like a crafting profession.)
Herbalism - Harvest herbs from the ground and some dead mobs.
Skinning - Skin skinnable corpses for hides, leather, and scales. Requires a Skinning Knife.
Crafting Professions or Production
Blacksmithing - Smith various metal weapons as well as mail and plate armor and other useful trade goods like keys, shield-spikes and weapon chains to prevent disarming. Blacksmiths can also make items from stone to temporarily buff weapons. Blacksmiths can also socket one-handed weapons, bracers, and gloves.
In addition to the BoP weapons available to Blacksmiths, there will also be a few more options for making some money, the Eternal Belt Buckle being one of them. Blacksmithing is definitely a strong possibility for my choice.
Engineering - Engineer mechanical devices, trinkets, guns, ammunition, goggles, and explosives, such as grenades, explosive sheeps, mechanical pets. Pretty much, being a Engineer gives you all sorts of unconventional and sometimes useful abilities. Usually these items are crafted with metal, minerals, and stone. Most engineering products can only be used by engineers. While not as profitable as the other professions, Engineering is often taken to be one of them most entertaining ones. Engineers can specialize as Goblin or Gnomish engineers.
Inscription - Create glyphs that modify existing spells and abilities for all classes. Also creates buff scrolls which were previously only looted items and some offhand books and trinkets which often provides different spells. A scribe can also create vellums for storing enchantments performed by Enchanters in, scrolls which can teleport the scribe around in the world (usually a tad randomly) and Darkmoon Cards. Inscription comes with the ability to mill herbs to create pigments, needed to craft inks. Inscription has no specialisation within the profession.
Enchanting - Extract magical dusts, essences and shards for use to enchant various attributes, powers, and properties to all sorts of equipable items. Enchanters can also make a few low-level wands, as well as oils that can be applied to weapons providing a temporary buff. All Enchanters make their own magical rods which they need in order to cast enchantments. The disenchanting ability available to all enchanters could be considered the "gathering component" to enchanting.
Jewelcrafting - Craft rings, necklaces, BoP trinkets, jeweled headpieces and all kinds of powerful gems giving all kinds of attributes to be placed in special armor or weapons. No matter what class you are, being a Jewelcrafter is always useful as powerful BoP-gems can improve any stat and attributes you need. The extra ability of Prospecting comes with this craft, which allows you to prospect minerals from raw ore (that has been mined but not smelted), thus supplying you with the raw / uncut gems you need.
Alchemy - Mix potions, elixirs, flasks, oils and other alchemical substances (usually liquid) using herbs and other reagents. The concoctions you create can temporarily ward against any kind of magic and power any attribute. Most recipes require various types of vials. High level alchemists can also transmute essences and metals into other essences and metals. Alchemists can specialize as a Master of Potions, Master of Elixirs, or a Master of Transmutation.
Tailoring - Sew all sorts of cloth goods, including cloth armor and many kinds of bags. Also weave raw cloth items such as linen cloth into bolts of that type of cloth. Other crafted goods are nets to slow enemies with, flying carpets to ride on, and magical threads which empowers items they are attached onto. Usually requires various types of thread to make finished items.
Leatherworking - Work leathers and hides using such items as thread and salts into goods such as leather armor and armor kits. Leatherworkers can also make very low level cloth capes and, after level 40, sets of mail armor. Other things they can craft are different bags, drums giving various buffs and abilities, and riding crops.
Archaeology (Gathering) - Gathering - Unearth valuable artifacts and earn unique rewards. These artifacts may include companion pets, mounts, poweful weapons and armor, toys or other useful items as well as grey quality "junk" that can be vendored for gold.[This is a profession for Cataclysm only!]
Cooking (Crafting) - Cook ingredients to create food that can also provide temporary buffs. The buffs can increase nearly every stat, and some give you unusual passive abilities. In order to cook, you must usually create a campfire. Completing certain cooking quests give cooking awards which unlock new recipes and even a Chef's hat which increases cooking speed.
First Aid (Crafting and Service) - Create bandages and poison-cleansing anti-venoms and apply them. Considered a must-have-profession for all classes who are not able to heal themselves via magic or the like. Bandages can be used on targeted players of the same faction that are within range of the caster.
Fishing(Gathering) - Fish from lakes, rivers, and oceans (and more) using a Fishing Pole. The items you fish up can be anything from gray junk to epic treasures and even a couple of raid bosses. Many fish can be eaten raw, but Cooking them usually enhances their restorative powers or duration of buffs provided.
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