At one point or another, during the leveling process, a player will come across profession trainers. Professions allow the hunter to specialise in certain tasks, be it crafting armor or weapons, or gathering a certain type of material. Professions are divided into 2 categories: Primary and secondary. Primary professions include the 3 gathering professions (Mining, Skinning and Herbalism), as well as the 8 major crafting professions (Leatherworking, Enchanting, Jewelcrafting, Alchemy, Blacksmithing, Tailoring, Engineering and Inscription). A character may only train in 2 primary professions at any given time. The remaining professions (Fishing, Cooking, First Aid and Archaeology) are termed secondary professions and a character may train in all of them if they so choose.
Secondary professions provide no major bonus for the player and instead are simply support porfessions. They have no impact on primary professions and are often considered mere time-wasters. There is some synergy between Cooking and Fishing (Catch the fish then turn it into buff food) so it is logical to level them together. First Aid and Archaeology are completely independent.
First Aid uses cloth collected whilst questing and turns them into bandages. These bandages can than be applied to the character to regenerate health. This is a channeled cast and will apply the "recently bandaged" debuff, which means the character cannot be bandaged again for one minute. These bandages should never be dismissed as useless. They can come in extremely handy when questing on a non-self-healing class without any food, and can even be useful as a defensive cooldown to assist healers.
Fishing is exactly what the name implies - fishing. You equip a fishing rod, attach a lure, and then either cast into a pool of fish or into open water. Fishing is a gathering profession and best paired with cooking to reap a maximum benefit. Besides fish it is possible to fish up junk as well as a mount and other crafting materials, depending on where you are fishing. Note that fishing from a pool does not require any fishing level, but fishing from open water will require a zone specific level. Lures temporarily increase your skill in fishing should you find yourself needing to increase it. Although fishing is tedious to level up, there are daily quests available, to make the process more tolerable, providing rewards such as vanity pets and fishing accessories.
Cooking uses any fish you may have caught, or meat you may have collected, and allows you to turn it into buff food. Buff food is often used during raids to increase a toon’s stats, but certain buff foods provide a non-combat effect like increasing or decreasing a target's size or causing critters to follow you. Just like with fishing there are daily quest available, providing rewards such as cooking accessories and special recipes.
Archaeology is the ultimate time-sink. It provides no real buff in any situation. It requires the player to visit certain locations identified on your map (4 per continent at a time) then digging for artifact pieces (up to a maximum of 3 times per active site) and then solving these artifacts. Most of these artifacts are non-usable grey junk items which can be vendored, and can vary in vendor value up to 300g. However, after completing an artifact, the player may unlock a plan for a rare or even epic artifact. These can include mounts, vanity pets and even epic weapons and armor. All armor and weapon items are bind-on-account, and can be sent to alts. Currently there are no armor or weapon items useful for a max-level hunter. Archaeology is a great time-sink when waiting for instance queues or sitting during raids.
Primary professions - Gathering
Skinning, Mining and Herbalism are considered gathering professions. They are easiest to level up as they generally do not require any additional materials to level up (the exception is smelting which is a part of mining and even then it is possible to level up without ever smelting anything). They typically require just a tool and and a level approriate node (for herbing or mining) or skinnable mob (obviously for skinning). What makes these professions special, is the fact that as you level one of these professions, the profession provides a permanent special buff that increases as you level up.
Skinning allows a player to skin a skinnable mob (mostly beasts) once they have been killed and looted, regardless of who killed or looted the mob. All a player needs is a skinning knife. The leathers that are collected can then be sold on the Auction house or used in any of the crafting professions. As skinning is leveled up the character gains a passive buff, granting a bonus to critical strike rating. From a professions point of view Skinning is best paired with Leatherworking.
Herbalism is the collecting of herbs dotted around the world and does not require any special tools. These herbs can be sold on the Auction house or used in some crafting professions. As herbalism is leveled up, the player gains a special self-heal-over-time which increases in power. It is best to pair Herbalism with either Alchemy or Inscription.
Mining is the collecting of metals which can be obtained by mining ore nodes dotted around the landscape. A mining pick is required. In addition, miners will also gain the ability to smelt their mined ores into bars. For this they will need to be near a forge, which are normally found in Capital Cities or major outposts.
When leveling Mining, a player will gain a buff to Stamina which will increase as mining is leveled up. Mining is best paired with Blacksmithing, Jewelcrafting or Engineering.
ProTip: for a min-maxing raiding hunter it would be best not to use any of the Primary gathering professions, as the DPS increase is much greater from crafting professions.
Primary Professions - Crafting
Crafting professions are the most difficult to level up. They generally require a large amount of materials only obtained through gathering professions or the Auction House. However, crafting professions provide a considerable stat buff in one form or another, making them extremely attractive to min-max players.
Jewelcrafting allows a player to craft gems, to put into gem sockets, as well as the ability to craft neckpieces and rings. These gear-pieces, however, are really only useful at the very beginning of an expansion (unless Blizzard decides to release better Jewelcrafting designs in future raid tiers), as raid items are generally better itemised. In the current metagame Jewelcrafting is the most popular profession chosen by players. The reasons for that are a multitude. First, is the character specific bonus of being able to equip 3 special jewelcrafter-only gems (Chimera’s Eye). A Normal red socket would provide 40 of a base stat, but a Chimera’s Eye provides 67 of a base stat. So when you consider 3 sockets being used for these gems, that’s an increase of 27 per socket, therefore 3x27 =81, it is a permanent net increase of 81.
Secondly Jewelcrafting is the only crafting profession to have a daily quest associated with it. Thirdly, It is a great money-maker due to the incredible high demand for gems.
Jewelcrafting uses uncut gems and metal bars as materials. Metal bars can be procured from mining or the Auction House, gems can be prospected from stacks of ore (again through mining or the Auction house).
For hunters this is currently the second best profession to use. This is because of a Leatherworker-only wrist-enchant that increases Agility by 130. Because there is another wrist enchant that provides 50 Agility, the net gain is 80 Agility. This is on par with all the remaining professions. What makes leatherworking more attractive to hunters, is the ability to craft Armor pieces. Unlike Jewelcrafting, almost every raid tier new patterns are also introduced. Most crafted armor pieces are Bind-On-Equip and can be purchased from other players or the Auction House.
Leatherworking uses mainly leather as materials, generally procured from Skinning or the Auction House.
Blacksmithing allows a player to craft Plate Armor and Weapons. The DPS bonus provided is the ability to add a prismatic socket to both wrists and gloves. Considering these should ideally be filled with +40 Agi gems, that is a net increase of 80 Agi, again on par. From a hunters’ perspective being able to craft useable melee weapons is nice, but again only at the beginning of an expansion (the plans introduced with Firelands seem to be an exception to the norm).
Blacksmithing uses metal bars which can be obtained through Mining or the Auction house.
Enchanters create scrolls which can be applied to items to permanently increase a particular stat. The DPS bonus for the enchanter, comes in the form of a +40 ring enchant. So enchanting both rings with +40 Agility gains a net increase of 80 Agility. Enchanting is also a big money-maker, as just like jewelcrafting, whenever a new piece is obtained it will need to be enchanted. Enchanting is one of the more annoying professions to level, as materials can only be procured through the Auction house or by disenchanting old gear.
Scribes use herbs to create inks, which in turn are used to create glyphs, which boost certain class abilities, or gear items. As with previous non-armor gear crafting professions these items are often only useful at the beginning of an expansion, with the exception of the Card trinkets which can be best-in-slot for a number of raid tiers within an expansion. Scribes get there DPS bonus through a shoulder enchant which provides 130 Agility. With the rep shoulder enchant providing 50, this is again a net increase of 80 Agility.
Inscription uses primarily herbs as materials, which can be obtained through herbalism or the Auction house.
Alchemists are masters at creating flasks, elixirs and potions, as well as transmuting items into better quality items. They get their +80 Agility bonus from a passive talent called Mixology. Alchemists also get increased duration from their flasks, and increased effects from health and mana potions. Another benefit is the crafting of an Agility trinket, but this is only useful at the beginning of the expansion.
Alchemists use herbs for Flasks, elixirs and potions, and gems and metals for transmuting. Choosing a specialty mastery in either Elixirs (Flasks and Elixirs), potions or transmuting gives a chance to gain additional items when crafting them.
Engineers design all sorts of crazy gadgets, both designed to make life easier and harder, often at the same time. From a hunter’s perspective, engineers are able to craft very good head gear, ranged weapons as well as scopes, but as per usual the head gear and weapons are only good early in expansions and will generally get replaced by raid items. Secondly, engineers are able to “tinker” with their gear to add some interesting effects. The Gloves tinker Synapse springs adds 480 Agility for 10 seconds with a one minute cooldown. On the face of it this appears to be a net gain of 80 Agility, however the fact that boss-fight mechanics may force delays in popping it every cooldown means this does not have 100% uptime and makes Engineering a less than ideal profession to choose for hunters looking to get the maximum DPS. The belt tinkers (Invisibility, Speed boosts) can give the player some added survivability. These tinkers and past gadgets have made Engineering a popular PvP profession.
Engineering uses mostly metals as materials, which can be obtained through the AH and through Mining.
Funfact: Wat’s the difference between Gnomish and Goblin engineers? The Gnomish engineers will design something, and the Goblin engineers will blow it up...
Tailoring is the worst profession for hunters. The crafted gear is all cloth and intellect gear, which is of no use to a hunter. But to ensure hunters stay away from tailoring, the tailor-only leg enchants only come in Intellect form and the Swordguard Embroidery (backpiece enchant) provides 1000 Attack power for 15sec. and once again on a cooldown. The difference here is that is a chance effect meaning, the player has no control over its activation.
Tailoring uses cloth as materials which can only be obtained through killing humanoids or the Auction house.
1. Before choosing your professions, consider what the purpose of your hunter is. If it is a raiding toon you may want to go with Leatherworking and Jewelcrafting (currently the ideal combo in terms of DPS and usefulness). But if you are are a PvP player then perhaps Engineering should be considered.
2. If you are considering crafting a piece to upgrade your gear, first consider where any further upgrades may come from. For instance, you may want to craft a pair of boots for your character, but a little research may reveal that boots drop of the first boss in an instance, and is a boss your guild is capable of defeating every weak. Now you must also consider if your guild could be capable of defeating this boss in heroic, making the crafted boots even less worthwhile. Before crafting any gear always check where the best-in-slot items come from.
3. For help with leveling professions check out www.wowprofessions.com. You’ll find leveling guides on all professions here, be it gathering, crafting or secondary professions.
4. I would recommend levelling all 4 of the secondary professions. You never know when they come in handy. As in the real world home-made is always cheaper than bought.
5. Gathering professions, Enchanting and Tailoring should be leveled up as much as possible as your character levels. The same applies if you have a synergy combo such as Skinning/Leatherworking, as you should be able to procure a lot of the materials required on your won without needing the Auction house.