Motivation #1: Strict min/maxing of stats
- Engineering - Synapse Springs averages 80 agility, learned at 425.
- Blacksmithing - 80 agility from socket bracers/gloves, randomly learned after 400 while crafting.
- Jewelcrafting - 81 agility from Chimera's Eyes, learned at 500 with tokens from JC daily quests
- Enchanting - 80 agility from ring enchantment, learned at 475.
- Inscription - 80 agility from shoulder enchant at 500.
- Alchemy - 80 agility from increased flask effect at 510.
- Leatherworking - 80 agility from bracer lining, learned at 500.
Jewelcrafting is technically better than all the others with it's 1 point advantage, though Engineering is considered by many to be the best when used properly. Blacksmithing bonus is the quickest profession bonus to attain, followed closely by Engineering. Blacksmithing is also technically the best now that epic gems are out, but until those become reasonably affordable, it's additional bonus can be set aside for now.
- Tailoring - Swordguard Embroidery procs for 1000 AP, averaging an equivalent 61 agility as it does not stack with other cloak enchants.
- Herbalism - Lifeblood gives 480 haste, averaging an equivalent 40 agility.
- Skinning - 80 crit from Master of Anatomy, equivalent to 27 agility.
- Mining - 120 stamina from Toughness.
For a Hunter choosing professions from scratch, and for whom gold is not an issue, I recommend JC/Eng or BS/Eng if you like the toys, or the more popular BS/JC if you prefer easy to obtain passive bonuses.
Motivation #2: Making Money
There are three strategies to making money with professions: double farming, farming and crafting, or double crafting.
Doubling up on farming professions is popular for beginning gold makers, as it costs nothing to level but your own time, and everything that sells is pure profit. This is also a great choice while leveling a new character, as it's bonuses are gained incrementally as you level them. Possible combinations are:
- Herbalism/Mining - Likely the most profitable, and has the most survivability. Keep in mind that Mining supplies two markets: metal bars and ore.
- Herbalism/Skinning - Is the most DPS gain, but skinning is just not very useful without Leatherworking.
- Mining/Skinning - Again, skinning kind of sucks without Leatherworking.
Farming and crafting:
This is also a very popular combination, as one profession supplies the other.
- Skinning/Leatherworking - Leatherworking is possibly the most common choice for leather-then-mail wearing Hunters. I myself took this route, and was very satisfied with the process. This is also the least painful way to level Leatherworking. If you choose Leatherworking to supplement your character with gear, keep in mind that, while leveling, most of the gear is replaced soon after you craft it. At max level, however, this can help you gear up faster and cheaper. Leatherworking may also be a great niche market, as it is not as common.
- Herbalism/Inscription - Leveling Inscription is easy enough, but learning all the recipies takes patience. In my experience, the glyph market is often ripe for heavy undercutting. Be ready to ignore some hatemail, though.
- Herbalism/Alchemy - Alchemy can also be very profitable, and has three specializations: potion, elixir, and transmute mastery. For this reason, some players like to have extra Alchemists with different specializations, but if you have to pick only one, go with the one least prone to market flooding. The Undermine Journal is your friend here.
- Mining/Jewelcrafting - Jewelcrafting takes time to fill out recipes through dailies, and it's markets tend to be susceptible to flooding, but it can be the most profitable, especially when new content comes out.
- Mining/Engineering - Engineering is both expensive and tedious to level, and may not be very profitable, as most of it's crafted items require engineering to use. It's great variety of gadets, however, are it's principle charm, and if you are leveling in BG's or otherwise PvP often, this just might be the perfect combination of profs.
- Mining/Blacksmithing - Blacksmithing is not exactly the best profession for a Hunter in terms of crafted items, but isn't bad either. Generally speaking, Blacksmithing has a much larger market than Leatherworking.
- Tailoring/Enchanting - Tailoring can be considered a semi-gathering profession after getting Northrend Scavanging which also applies to Cataclysm. These two professions are popular to level together as tailoring supplies disenchantable items.
- Alchemy/Inscription - Since these professions are both supplied by the herb market, you can one-stop-shop the AH. Having several bank alts is almost a must for this setup
- Blacksmithing/Jewelcrafting - Often considered the standard professions to level for the bonuses. It's hidden weakness is that it's supplied by two separate markets: bars and ores. If you don't have a Mining alt or friend, these two are as disparate as Alchemy and Leatherworking.
- Engineering/Blacksmithing - While Engineering has mostly self-only benefits, pairing it with Blacksmithing simplifies matters, as both are supplied by the metal bar market.
- Engineering/other - If you like Engineering, but don't like Blacksmithing, any other profession can stand on it's own for the most part. Engineering is also good for replacing a gathering profession used to level a crafting profession. For example, I dropped Skinning for Engineering after leveling Leatherworking, and have not had any significant difficulty crafting using the AH. Only cobra scales elude me.
- Enchanting/Tailoring, Jewelcrafting, Blacksmithing, or Leatherworking - Professions that can craft greens or blues can be a strong pairing for Enchanting.
Motivation #3: Self-Sufficiency
This is simple to answer. If your group needs a Jewelcrafter, level Jewelcrafting! It might seem like a big time investment, and it can be, but being able to supply yourself and/or your group with an in-house alternative to the AH or trade chat is very gratifying. It's the primary reason I leveled Inscription and Enchanting, though in restrospect, those two don't pair so well.
In summary, most of the crafting professions are equal in terms of DPS bonus, and all can be a good source of revenue. It doesn't make a huge difference what professions you take, so long as you gain benefit. Ignore professions and you will not be performing as optimally, but more importantly, you won't be as self-sufficient. I mean, what other way is there to make gold other than dailies?