I have a confession: I agonize over professions.
Maybe it's the sheer amount of time I've spent grinding away at professions for optimal endgame buffs due to inconsequential changes in a class (epic gems at the end of Cataclysm? JC becomes LAME. Thanks, Blizz), or maybe it's the fact that I love the micro-ding for each additional profession point. It's a game of frequent small rewards... I love crafting.
But let's say you're a brand new Citizen of Azeroth, just peeking out of the racial starting area, and suddenly, there are these guys trying to teach you PROFESSIONS. What are professions? What do they do? Why is one better than another?
These are all excellent questions. Let's answer them after the jump.
There are two types of professions, CRAFTING and GATHERING. Gathering professions... Gather things (sounds crazy, I know), and crafting professions make things. Gathering professions gather things that you use to make things.
Here are some brief descriptions of each profession:
Alchemy: Alchemists make potions, flasks and elixirs. These consumables have a variety of effects. Alchemists can make special alchemist-only items, as well.
Inscription: Scribes make glyphs and certain types of scrolls. Scribes can also make their own shoulder enchantments.
Blacksmithing: Makes mail and plate armor as well as weapons; and can make keys that open lockboxes. Blacksmiths can add extra jewel sockets to their bracers and gloves.
Jewelcrafting: Jewelcrafters make trinkets, necks and rings. Jewelcrafters can prospect ore to find gems, and then cut those gems into jewels that can be socketed in equipment.
Engineering: Engineers make explosives, devices, pets and other bizarre, fun and useful things. They can add devices to their equipment such as parachutes, rocket-speed, potion injectors, and shields.
Leatherworking: Leatherworkers make leather and mail armor, some kinds of bags, cloaks, toys, and leg enchants. Leatherworkers can enhance their own wrists and legs.
Tailoring: Tailors make cloth armor and bags, as well as leg enchants for spell casters. Tailors can enchant their cloaks with special enhancements.
Enchanting: Enchanters can enchant gear, and disenchant items. Enchanters can also enchant their own rings.
Herbalism: Herbalists gather herbs and flowers. They get a heal-over-time ability and an on-use haste buff as well.
Mining: Miners gather ore and gems. They get extra stamina for their efforts.
Skinning: Skinners gather leather and hide from certain types of monsters and beasts. Skinners get a critical hit bonus.
Here are how the professions feed each other:
(Gathering / Crafting)
Herbalism / Alchemy
Herbalism / Inscription
Mining / Blacksmithing
Mining / Jewelcrafting
Mining / Engineering
Skinning / Leatherworking
Enchanting / Tailoring
Here are some quick facts about professions:
1. Professions can make you money.
2. Professions can get you better gear, faster.
3. Professions can make you more powerful.
It's all about WHAT professions you pick that determine what benefit you get out of them.
If you want to make money with your professions, it's a good idea to get two gathering professions and sell everything you gather on the Auction House. Check your server's AH to see what sells for the most gold. Generally I find skinning and enchanting to get you the most bang for your buck, but herbalism and mining are both very lucrative as well.
Certain crafting professions can make you fistfuls of gold as well. Inscription used to be the secret cash cow in Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK), but now that glyphs are permanently owned by a player and can be swapped out, the market has devalued significantly. Though any crafting profession can make you money on the AH, the Common cash cows are:
Jewelcrafting: People will always need to socket their items.
Alchemy: People will always need to buy consumables. Post your AH listings before 2000 (8pm for the US) server time on raid reset days and watch the money roll in.
Tailoring: People and their alts need bags. Casters need lag patches to enchant their pants.
Blizzard has done a good job of balancing the numerical value of professions in the endgame, but certain professions still synergize with certain classes. Keep in mind that this is bound to change. If your goal is to make yourself gear, then the following rules apply:
Keep in mind that BS makes mail at low-levels, and LW won't make mail till around 200 skill (~40 levels).
Professions can also maximize your endgame numbers. The value of a profession for a raider changes as the game evolves, but there are certain rules of thumb:
Blacksmithing + Jewelcrafting: Add sockets to your bracers and gloves, and then put custom JC gems in them. Win-Win. This is extremely expensive to level though, unless you have a dedicated gathering character with lots and lots of ore.
Enchanting + any Crafting Profession: Enchanters can add stats to their rings, and each crafting profession has an item-slot-unique buff (tailors can enchant their cloaks, leatherworkers enchant wrists/legs, etc).
Basically if you can sacrifice your gathering profession, whether because you're filthy rich or you have a gathering character, you can ensure that you have the highest possible stats for raiding.
The bottom line to all of this is that professions are FUN (to some people) and each of them has a "flavor" that helps shape your character. If you pick one that you enjoy the most, then you'll enjoy having that profession. If you're a hardcore player, or intend to be, then fun be damned, go for the two that give you the best numbers. Each class benefits differently from different stats, and these change over time as the game evolves.