As we slowly approach launch, you've probably found yourself asking "What crew skills would be best for ME to take?" Since only one out of our three crew skills can be a crafting skill and actually make us gear, it makes sense to pick the crafting skill first and then pick the other two skills to compliment it. BioWare has made clear their intent to have crafted gear remain competitive through the endgame, so don't immediately discount weapon or armor crafting skills thinking that they will soon be obsolete. While there are six crafting skills, only four of them are really useful for Shieldtechs: Armormech, Armstech, Biochem, and Cybertech.
Before we take a look at the crew skills, I feel a brief explanation of the item modification system in TOR is needed (mostly because I found it confusing myself when I began looking at crew skills). Every weapon and piece of armor can be thought of as a single item composed of a bunch of different components, as follows:
Blaster: [color crystal] - [barrel] - [enhancement] - [mod] - [augment]
Armor: [armoring] - [enhancement] - [mod] - [augment]
Barrels determine the damage that a blaster does. Likewise, armorings determine the armor rating of an item. Color crystals change the color of the blaster bolt and can have other stats on them as well. Mods are socketables with primary stats, while enhancements are socketables with secondary stats. Augments can have a single stat, primary or secondary, on them. Not all items will have all of these slots available for socketing. For example, you may find a blaster pistol without a barrel slot. This basically means that the barrel is an integral part of that blaster and cannot be removed or upgraded. Also, augment slots are for the most part only available on critically crafted items (i.e. Armormech crafts some boots, gets a critical on his crafting roll, ends up with an augment slot on those boots) or high end gear. With this in mind we can get on to the crafting skills:
Armormech: This skill will make us heavy armor for every armor slot. Helm, chest, boots, gloves, wrists, belts, all of it! For those of us out there who care about always having the best defensive items we possibly can. Typically paired with Scavenging and Underworld Trading.
Armstech: Guns, guns, GUNS! If all you want is to have a bigger and better blaster than the next guy, this is the skill for you. You can craft powerful guns along with barrels to upgrade your existing guns even further. Good skills with this one are Scavenging and Investigation.
Biochem: The typical potion-crafting-alchemy skill. Lets you craft short duration adrenals, long duration stimpacks, healing medpacks, and implant slot items. At high levels your consumables will not go away after use. This skill has good synergy with Bioanalysis and Diplomacy.
Cybertech: A skill for the technophile within all of us. Creates earpiece slot items, mods, and armorings. Also creates grenades that can be used in order to AoE damage and CC targets. The secondaries for Cybertech are Scavenging and Slicing/Underworld Trading.
The other two crafting skills are more aimed at the Sith classes. Artifice makes lightsabers, hilts (the lightsaber equivalent of barrels), relic slot items, color crystals, and enhancements. Synthweaving makes armor itemized for force-using classes. Needless to say, these are surpassed by the other crafting skills for our purposes.
While I only list a couple crew skills to go with each crafting one, the system is actually pretty flexible. Although each crafting skill really needs its corresponding gathering skill (Scavenging or Bioanalysis) to work well, your third skill could be anything you want. You could easily take another gathering profession to get mats to sell or take Slicing or a mission skill to earn more money. The crew skills I listed here are simply the ones to pick to maximize the amount of raw materials you have for crafting.
All of these crafting skills are perfectly viable and useful for Shieldtechs. You should choose the one that you feel suits you the best because they are pretty well balanced. For me, I will be going Cybertech with Scavenging and Slicing. Why? One, my guild has no one to make mods yet; and two, I think that CC grenades could turn out to be handy for raiding. Will that advantage outweigh raw stats I'd get from another crafting skill? Only time will tell.