One of the first questions I remember asking when I first started playing WoW is, “Wtf is a Herbalism?” Yes, on my first character, I stumbled upon profession trainers in utter confusion, clicked learn and stumbled off, later changing to something else, and even later changing back again.. eventually settling on Mining and Jewelcrafting, purely because I wanted a character with those professions (Jewelcrafting was new and shiny at this point). These days, you may (or may not) know me to have way too many alts, but each one has different professions which compliment each other and enable me to make a decent earning from them, which is the great thing about professions. However, that is beside the point of this post. The questions I really want to answer are: What are professions? How do I choose which ones are best for me? Where do I start? Should I bother with First Aid/Cooking/Fishing?
Professions are basically a way to craft and gather. There are 3 gathering professions: Mining, Herbalism, Skinning. These are probably the easiest to level because all they take is a bit of time and commitment. However, they are best suited when paired with one of the crafting professions: Jewelcrafting, Blacksmithing, Engineering, Alchemy, Inscription, Leatherworking. There are 2 crafting professions which are the exception to the rule and don’t benefit from being paired with a gathering profession: Enchanting, Tailoring. These do suit each other quite well, though Tailoring is definitely best fitted for caster classes.
There are also secondary professions, which you can pick up alongside 2 of the professions listed above. These secondary professions are: First Aid, Cooking, Fishing. You should pick up and level First Aid as you level, you’ll pick up the cloth needed from mobs and instances. Bandages are awesome, especially for classes without healing abilities, or those moments when you’re at low health with zero mana. The higher level your bandages are, the more they heal you, so it is important to keep levelling your First Aid as you level. Cooking and Fishing are great professions to level together, they’re very useful, but not a necessity. Cooking allows you to cook food at a high level which gives you a certain buff, whether it’s extra spell power, attack power, a feast for the entire raid, it is very useful for raiding. This food is BoE so you can buy it from the Auction House if you don’t want to level Cooking. Fishing allows you to fish the reagents needed to make the food. If you’re interesting in achievements, you will want to level both of these as they help you to get a range of achievements, which can give you a title (Salty for Fishing, Chef for Cooking).
The best way to choose which professions to take is to firstly decide how much gold you mind spending. I’ve recently levelled Enchanting and Blacksmithing on my Death Knight and that was quite expensive. If I’d levelled Blacksmithing and Mining, the ores I mined would have made levelling Blacksmithing a little bit cheaper. Secondly, to consider that at end game, each profession gives a certain buff, so you may want to think about taking a profession with a good buff to your class. For example, Jewelcrafting is good for all classes as it gives 3 Jewelcrafting only gems with that stats you choose specific to your class, significantly higher than they would be on a normal gem. On the other hand, Enchanting gives you the ability to enchant your rings, which you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.
If you’re looking for the easiest and cheapest way to level your professions, using a guide, I suggest you check out WoW Professions. They have some excellent profession guides.