Top 15 Skills to Have Post SHTF

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There’s an acronym that’s been gaining popularity amongst the prepping movement, it’s TEOTWAWKI. That stands for “The end of the world as we know it.” Please don’t confuse this with “the end of the world” because that’s not what it means.

It really has nothing to do with the world ending. However, it has a lot to do with the lifestyle we’ve known coming to an end. You see, there are a number of serious catastrophes which could cause the way of life that we’ve known to come to an end.

There are many things about our current society which are dependent upon each other. We have a very complex infrastructure, providing everything from running water to internet connectivity, with prepared foods at the supermarket and gasoline for our cars falling somewhere in between.

While there is no “master control” keeping everything in balance, there is in fact an incredible amount of balance to the overall system. It wouldn’t take much to knock that balance out of whack and throw the whole system in the trash.

Actually, pretty much any disaster would through the system out of whack. Just look at what’s happened after the major hurricanes of the last several years. It took months for things to get back to normal, and that was for a regional event.

Actually, in New Orleans, they talk about things getting back to the “new normal” which is decidedly different from the “old normal.”

In the case of a nationwide event, it could be years before things got back to the “new normal.” In the case of a major epidemic or an EMP attack, that new normal may be quite different from what we are currently used to. Government planners estimate that an EMP would result in the death of 90% of Americans, mostly from starvation. In that case, there would be no returning to normal.

With these types of possibilities, it’s important to have the right sorts of skills, not only to survive, but to help rebuild society. More than anything, it will be the people who have those skills who will determine what life will be like after the disaster.


Producing food will be one of the most important skills in a post SHTF world. The big corporate farms may still be growing food, but the transportation network to get it to the grocery stores may not be operating. In that case, the food will just go to waste. The only food available in most parts of the country will be that which is locally grown.

Being able to grow an effective vegetable garden may not just be enough to keep your family alive, but may play an important part in helping to feed your community. Everyone will need to be growing food, but few will know how to. Being able to teach them gardening and help them get a start will be valuable to the community.

Animal Husbandry

This goes hand in hand with the gardening we just talked about. Raising chickens, rabbits, goats and other animals will be necessary to provide the community with animal protein.

But there will be even fewer people who will have a grasp on how to do this, than there will be for growing a vegetable garden. Like the gardener, the person who knows how to raise animals for food will pay their way in teaching others their skills.


There is wild game in pretty much any part of the country, even in highly populated areas. At the beginning, this might be the only meat that is available, once the meat in our freezers spoils. Hunting has long been part of man’s survival, only recently having been replaced by raising domestic livestock.

I need to clarify something here; there are areas of the country where people think hunting means putting out bait corn and then shooting a deer when it comes to eat.

That’s not hunting; it’s slaughter. A true hunter understands the game they are hunting and knows where to look for it. They don’t lure the animal in to a certain death; they go into the animal’s habitat and defeat it on its own ground. This is the type of hunting that will have to be done after the SHTF, as the bait corn won’t be available.

General Survival Skills

There are a wide range of general survival skills that the average prepper learns, which the rest of the people don’t know. Things that we think are simple, like starting a fire or purifying water, are much more complicated to those who aren’t familiar with them. Those skills will be valuable, not only for your own family, but for others.

Medical Skills

Medical services tend to get overloaded in the aftermath of any disaster. People get injured by the disaster itself and more get injured trying to survive.

The lack of sanitation makes it hard for people to keep healthy. Lack of dependable transportation makes it hard for people to get to hospitals and clinics. Those who know basic medical skills, can do basic diagnosis of common ailments and can treat wounds will be in great demand.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have formal training or certification in those skills. During times of crisis, things like certification are less important than competency. However, you need to make sure that you know what you are talking about and limit yourself to working in areas where you have knowledge. Otherwise, you could be responsible for someone’s death and end up paying the ultimate price for it.

Clergy & Counseling

Many people are going to have trouble dealing with the change. There will be a lot who will need some sort of counseling to help them get through and continue to be productive members of society. This will mostly be the job of the clergy, but some professional counselors would be helpful for those people who are non-religious.

The clergy will also need to be available to perform baptisms, weddings and funerals. A disaster won’t stop life from carrying on and people will still need those common services.

Building Trades

It is not uncommon for homes and businesses to become damaged during a disaster. Many people will need their homes repaired or modified so that they can live in them, without finalizing formal repairs. Being able to make those repairs could turn into a lucrative post-SHTF business, bartering your skills for food and other supplies.

Auto Mechanics

We are a mobile society. Ever since Henry Ford made the first true production car, making it possible for the average person to own one, society has changed. We expect to move around and we expect to do so in an automobile. We are unlikely to let a small thing like a nationwide catastrophe stop us.

It is likely that many cars will stop working in the case of an EMP. The electronic controls and computers may be fried. That depends a lot on where they are located in the vehicle. If they are under the hood and the hood is made of steel, they might just survive. But any electronics that are located under the dash or in cars that have fiberglass body panels, will probably be destroyed.

There will probably be a big need for mechanics who can get cars back on the road, so that people can move around. Mobility will help with trade, finding resources and rebuilding society.

Small Engine Repair

Small engines are just different enough from car engines that it is really a separate specialty. In a post-SHTF world, the ability to repair small engines will be important for keeping garden equipment, power tools and generators working.

General Electro-mechanical Repairs

With so much of the infrastructure down, it will be necessary to rebuild. That may very well mean developing simpler means of doing things, as the computers we are used to letting run everything may not be available. Being able to repair appliances, wire a telephone and a host of other simple repair tasks will be highly valuable in returning life to some semblance of normal.

Take something as simple as the telephone as an example. We are all used to carrying our cell phones and having them available to us all day long. But what happens if all those cell phones and the computers that connect them, are fried in an EMP?

It won’t be possible to rebuild the cell phone networks until the companies to build the equipment are rebuilt. So, you can pretty much forget about cell phones. That leaves the old-fashioned rotary phones, if any of them can be found. The technology in those phones is primitive enough that it won’t be affected by an EMP. So it could form the center for rebuilding a new telephone network.

Fabrication Skills

Finding parts to repair everything from cars to toasters is going to be difficult. Once local supplies of those parts are exhausted, the ability to get them from warehouses will be lost. So, if parts aren’t available locally, they’ll have to be made locally.

Skills such as machining and blacksmithing will become invaluable as part of the rebuilding program. Those who know how to do them will become highly valued, as these are rare skills; even rarer than engineering.

The biggest problem in doing any fabrication work will be that there may not be any electricity. However, both machining and blacksmithing existed before electrical power became common. Machine shops were animal powered, with animals turning a wheel, which conveyed power to an overhead shaft in the machine shop. To use that power, the machinist would attach a belt from their machine to the shaft. While machining in this manner was slower than it is with electric motors, it still worked.

Some machine shops converted to using gasoline engines, before electrical power became available. It will probably be easier to make that transition, as it will be longer before electrical power is readily available.

Infantry Skills

When society breaks down, people divide into two basic groups. The vast majority of the people are just trying to survive. A small minority turns into predators, preying on the rest to survive. It becomes necessary for the good people to be able to defend themselves from those that are bad.

While anyone can grab a gun and fight, designing and coordinating a defense is much more complicated. That requires training and experience. Those with that experience could easily find themselves in the position of being the local defensive coordinator or an officer in the local militia. Their efforts will help to keep the people in their community alive when the predators come around.


While gunsmithing probably won’t be as sought after as some of these other skills I’ve mentioned, it will be important. Many people will go around armed, to protect themselvse and their families. That means they will be much more likely to damage their guns, causing them to need repairs. Since gunsmithing is such a specialilzed area, few people have any idea what to do with a damaged gun, in order to make it usable once again.


Regardless of what happens, there will always be a need for good leaders. It will be the leaders who organize the people and pull them together to survive. Those with the ability to motivate and organize will be some of the most important people.

Leading and managing aren’t the same thing. Just because someone can manage, doesn’t mean they can lead. In fact, it probably means they can’t lead. Managers are accustomed to working with employees and always have the big stick of being able to fire them, to hold over their head. Leaders, in the way I am using the term, have to motivate the people with positive motivation, because they have no big stick to hold over them. They need to make people willing to follow them.

Good leaders are scarce, and not all of them are good people. You have to watch out for highly charismatic leaders who use their following for their own benefit, or evil people who will enslave and abuse people to get their way. The good ones will be more concerned about their followers, than they are themselves. That’s what makes them worth following.

A Final Thought

Any of these skills would make you a valuable member of a post-SHTF community. Those who have something to contribute will be looked to for help by others. You will need to quickly decide whether you are offering your services in trade and bartering for them or if everyone in your community is pulling together for the common good. Both systems will probably be in effect in different parts of the country.

The biggest thing that these skills give you is security. They make you a valuable member of society. When hard decisions have to be made, you will be seen as an asset. That gives you a place in the community. In fact, it could give you a place in any community, if you found yourself on the road when the disaster struck and you couldn’t get home.

In order to make use of your skills, you will need to have a stockpile of supplies on hand. Depending upon the disaster, there might be some supplies available in the community that you can use. However, the owners of those supplies may decide to barter them for food, which would then mean you have to have some barter goods to trade. If you are planning on depending upon your skills in a post-SHTF world, then it would be a good idea to have a selection of basic materials stockpiled, along with your food and other survival goods.

If SHTF in winter, you’re going to need a good base layer.  Check out my recommendation for the best one.

In a SHTF scenario, who do you let in? Read about who exactly you should trust and shouldn’t.

In an urban scenario, and SHTF, what do you do? Check out this article here on what exactly to do in this scenario. 

Meet the Author

'Mountain Man' John

'Mountain Man' John is a Survival and Preparedness enthusiast who loves everything outdoors. He has a passion for learning anything and everything to help sustain his and his families way of life post SHTF. He frequently shares his knowledge on a variety of topics from his hands on DIY projects, learning new skills such as hunting and trapping along with reviews on his Survival related purchases - Prepping has been in his family for generations, it's in his blood.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • James May 20, 2017, 12:51 am

    I enjoy the site, and agree that it is smart to be preparing for when the SHTF, as there are a number of ways, right now, that things could head decidedly south, in a hurry. So we’re on the same page as far as that goes.
    However, I keep seeing references to a ‘Large EMP blast”. If you are talking about such a blast occurring as a result of a large nuclear detonation, then yes, it could cause some problems- I believe that survivors would be occupied with more important issues than a lack of electricity in the aftermath, however.

    But unless I’m wrong, it SEEMS as if people are referencing a huge EMP bomb- without the nuclear blast. This is the stuff the National Enquirer feeds people. We cannot generate a large EMP without a nuclear detonation.
    Even such a detonation would do much less damage- via the EMP- than most people believe. All military vehicles and computers are hardened against just such an event, and most important civilian machinery is, as well.
    I flew the F-15C in the United States Air Force, and I flew for two major airlines, eventually retiring from Continental. An EMP was not on our list of worrisome events. Airlines worry, believe me, but all testing had been conclusive- the aircraft would have to be so close to the detonation for the EMP to be a factor that the detonation itself would destroy the plane.

    If the EMP attack being discussed is based on high altitude detonation, the EMP effects will certainly damage some components, but not nearly as many as people seem to believe. Most electronics will survive if they are not turned on, small electronics will survive because the wiring is to short to create an effective “antenna”, most cars will survive because they use short run wires and they are inside a Faraday cage- a metal body. Most planes will not fall out of the sky either. What about our electrical grid? Well…that depends on whether or not the hardening and shielding recommended was actually performed. We won’t know until it happens. I have solar, wind, and diesel generator power, so I probably won’t notice either way. 🙂

    Prepare for the worst, by all means…prepare for an EMP attack if you choose to. But I am certain that such an event is highly improbable, and will remain so for a long time- without a large nuclear detonation.