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Occupations in Medieval Times

By Heatherbee of RPG-D

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Guild System

For merchants and craftsman, the guild was a crucial part of life. By being accepted into a guild, and particularly as Master, a craftsman earned higher social status. The guild also provided support to its members’ families in times of need. Guilds are comparable to modern labor unions.

Apprentice – In the early teen years, an apprentice began studying under a Master for a period of 5-9 years. No wages are earned, but food and a home is provided by the Master’s family. They are not allowed to marry.

Journeyman – Working in another’s shop, very often the Master served under as Apprentice, the Journeyman earns wages. A “masterpiece”—evidence that the Journeyman is skilled in the trade—can be presented to the Guild. If it is judged well, the Journeyman becomes a Master.

Master – Only Masters are able to own their own shops and train Apprentices. It is difficult to reach this status. It requires as much charisma as skill to earn the acceptance of the other Masters.

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Legal & Judicial

Professions in the legal and judicial system present opportunities for status in society without being born into the aristocracy. Some of the gentry might hold these positions, but most in these professions will not have a title.
  • Bailiff – presides over arrests and executions
  • Chamberlain – custodian of a royal or high noble residence
  • Chancellor – secretary to a king or noble
  • Constable – head of peace-keeping law enforcement
  • Diplomat
  • Exchequer – administrator of royal funds
  • Jailer
  • Judge
Military

Within the armed forces are many classifications of professions. Soldiers have the opportunity for advancement through the lower ranks (stopping at Sergeant) if they volunteered, were drafted, or were pressed. Higher ranks are usually reserved for the aristocracy.
  • Archer
  • Aid-de-camp – assistant to a superior officer
  • Cavalry
  • Engineer – design and build war machines, such as trebuchet, catapult, and ballistae
  • Infantry
  • Mariner
  • Mercenary
  • Navigator – special class of mariner
  • Scout
  • Spy
Religious

Lower level positions are available in the religious community for any devout and pious citizens. The higher levels are almost exclusively gentry.
    Merchants & Service

    Perhaps the most diverse sector of society, merchants have the ability to interact with almost everyone. Business owners can become very wealthy and establish reputations with or without titles.
    • Apothecary – seller of herbal remedies
    • Architect
    • Baker
    • Banker
    • Blacksmith
    • Bookbinder
    • Bowyer – bow craftsman
    • Brazier – brass worker
    • Brewer
    • Carpenter
    • Cartographer – map maker
    • Chandler – candle maker, sometimes soap maker
    • Chapman – a travelling peddler
    • Clerk
    • Cobbler – shoe maker
    • Cooper – barrel maker
    • Draper – cloth merchant
    • Gardener
    • Glazier – glass worker, including windows
    • Grocer
    • Innkeeper
    • Jeweler
    • Laundress
    • Link Boy – carries lamps at night
    • Locksmith
    • Maid
    • Mason
    • Mercer – textile merchant
    • Porter – carries baggage
    • Potter
    • Tailor
    • Tanner – leather maker
    • Thatcher – roof repairs
    • Usurer – a moneylender with excessive interest rates, different from banker
    • Weaver
    Entertainment

    Although the entertainers themselves may not hold prestigious positions in society, they nevertheless have the opportunity to be in illustrious company at court if they are well liked. If not, then they are likely to perform on street corners and in taverns.
    • Bard – compose and recite epic poems
    • Illuminator – paint manuscripts
    • Musician
    • Painter
    • Player – actor
    Agriculture

    The backbone of society is its agriculture. Even before and after the feudal system, the land was owned by the crown or nobles and worked by commoners in their employ. Typically, everything living in the realm is considered property of the crown, including game.
    • Farmer
    • Fisherman
    • Forester
    • Hunter
    • Ostler – cares for horses
    Academics

    Although not open to all parts of society, academics are nevertheless an important part of society. Academics typically only come from wealthy or titled families, although the aristocracy may reserve a place for a young servant.
    • Alchemist – chemist
    • Librarian
    • Mathematician
    • Philosopher
    • Professor
    • Scholar
    • Scrivener – scribe
    • Tutor

    Of course in addition to these there are less savoury occupations, such as whoring, gambling, pirating, stealing and other occupations most nobility wouldn't find themselves wanting to partake in themselves. Mostly.

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    Sources:

    What did people do in a Medieval City?
    Medieval  Life
    Medieval Occupations
    Medieval Jobs
    Dictionary.com

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