You can only have two primary professions at a time. But they are not 'cast in concrete', you can discard a primary profession and replace it. And they are dirt cheap - Apprentice level training in a primary profession costs 9 in your starting area. When you are first starting, you might benefit by switching professions to meet a goal. You can use this to get a fair upgrade to your starting gear cheaply, and stock up on some low level consumables.
The downside is that every time you switch professions, you lose all of your built up skill and recipe knowledge in the one you drop. Your professions provide more capability and benefit when you keep them leveled up as you progress through the game. However, building and service professions are also costly to progress in.
One way to minimize this is to cherry pick the professions all at once; start out gathering, farm gathering a bit, then switch to crafting and make some key items, but don't invest heavily in training, then switch to what you really want. This is useful when you first leave your starting area, around level 5 or 6, where the crafting professions can produce useful gear upgrades immediately. By the time your character is in the teen levels, this strategy will no longer pay off.
- See also: Beginner's guide to professions
Choosing two primary professions
Though professions are cheap to start, your time is not. You will want to settle on two primary professions, or at least settle on not having any.
One option is to take two gathering professions, this will supply a very good income and will remove the expense associated with leveling a production craft.
- Skinning is generally the easiest, since you are often killing skinnable mobs as you level; you are essentially looting twice.
- Mining is generally the most lucrative. Mining and Herbalism both use the minimap radar.
- Although the "crafting" or "production" professions may look attractive because you can make armor and weapons as you level, newer players fail to realize that the money invested in leveling the craft and creating those items is often more than the cost to simply buy comparable equipment from the auction house. With dual-gathering not only do you avoid the cost of leveling a craft, but you have a source of income with which you can buy that equipment.
- Every player wants a mount when they hit level 20. By taking dual-gathering you increase the chances you will have the money you need the moment you hit 20.
- While Mining and Herbalism can each bring in more cash than Skinning, it's usually not a good idea to take Mining and Herbalism over Skinning and Mining/Herbalism. The reason for this is that Mining and Herbalism both rely on a tracking skill; having both means you will need to constantly switch between Find Herbs and Find Minerals.
Even though gathering pays well, at some point you will probably want to take a crafting and/or service profession just to try it. Bear in mind that by holding off until you are higher level you can gather all your own ingredients or materials, and you will not bump up against a proficiency level cap. You should be able to afford your recipes easily, as well.
"Production" professions can create potentially useful items. At level cap most production crafts have sought-after BoP items.
- Though some crafted items are very good, most are not up to the caliber of the best items that drop and can be found in the auction house.
- There is often much seller competition, and prices will then be severely deflated.
- Most common (white) item armor and weapons do not sell for a profit. Exceptions are generally the first piece that can be equipped in a slot, for example, the lowest level shoulders and helmets.
- You will need to learn what stat buffs sell, and at what levels players are willing to spend their money on them.
- If you take a profession that makes armor, take one that makes armor suited to your class. Not only is the armor wearable by your class, the buffs on the armor that you can make are geared toward your class - or at least some of the items are; leatherworking is fairly diverse, for example.
- Bags are a critical resource, so you might take tailoring just to make high level bags. If you want to do this, be aware that harvesting the fabric materials depends on your level and the level of the humanoids that you can handle, so check the materials you will need and see if the bags you want to make are within the scope of what your character can accomplish. If not, you might want to skill-up before you select this profession, otherwise, you are just wasting your profession slot before then.
- You might take a production craft just to make items to disenchant.
If you take enchanting:
- Disenchant drops and auction the enchantment materials. This helps save bag space, and the mats sell well.
- There are a few items you can make and sell directly. Do not expect these to make the bulk of your income. For caster classes the mana and wizard oils can aid leveling.
- Prior to Wrath of the Lich King, it was necessary to sell enchantment services on the trade channel. The addition of weapon and armor vellum, produced by Inscription, allows the selling of enchantments at auction.
- The demand is high for high-level enchantments, but non-enchanters are unaware of the costs and may be unwilling to adequately compensate.
- Often enchanters make their money from selling disenchanted materials on the auction, and therefore expect the player seeking an enchantment to provide the materials.
Tailoring is a good companion profession for enchanting for the production of disenchantable items.
Why not? Even if you do not want to invest the time in leveling a craft or investing money to do so, you can take two gathering skills while leveling and have some supplementary income by simply gathering the items you come across.
'Why not?' is because a profession takes time. It slows down leveling. And, you really don't need one.
Even just gathering takes time. Even selling the gathered items takes time. ... Running in to town with the good. Putting up the auctions. Re-auctioning. It all comes down to time - if you are running through the world leveling like crazy, stopping to skin, mine, return to a vendor or auction house, sell, ... it all slows you down. (See Power leveling)
You can get good enough gear just from drops and quests. You can get comparable or better gear than you can buy if you do instances with groups.
Even then, taking enchant to disenchant green items you don't want can help manage your bag space.
Professions at high levels
High level characters have a dilemma, they are both very good at their chosen professions and yet have many activities open to them that diminish the relative value of their professions.
Jewelcrafting stands out, because high level gear is socketed gear, and jewelcrafters cut and sell the jewels for sockets. Jewelers can also create BoP socketed trinkets and epic quality prismatic gems. Because prismatic gems match any color, and a jeweler can equip up to three at a given time, it's easier for jewelers to activate socket bonuses and meta gems.
Enchanting stands out, because you'll want to enchant that new gear.
Engineering stands out, because it extends the abilities of a character - for example Goblin Jumper Cables provide rez capability. Beware though, many of the best items made by engineers can only be used by engineers.
Alchemy stands out, because the product is consumable and must be replaced.
Key high level crafting has long (multi-day) cool downs, so having high level crafter alts working the cool down items can save time.
If you are high level and you are considering changing your profession(s) consider that though you presumably have a lot invested in your profession(s), you also have vastly greater resources for developing your new profession(s) and can much more easily farm materials. Many players wait until their character is a high level before even choosing a profession (see Why bother? above).