Card Nicknames: The apprenticeship card, the education card, the talent card, the craftsmanship card, the skill card.
Short meaning: The Three of Pentacles card usually indicates an education, training, development of new skills, or creative pursuits. The subject may be learning a new trade, going to school, studying the arts, or simply learning something new. In combination with other cards, the Three of Pentacles could mean that the experience indicated by the other card was a learning experience or part of an education, for example a poverty card combined with the Three of Pentacles in a person's past could mean that past difficulties were meant to provide a life lesson, or provide skills and knowledge needed to succeed later. The card can also mean a person who is already accomplished, known or even honored for skill or talent.
Full meaning: The Three of Pentacles generally relates to training, apprenticeship, education, talent, and the skilled trades. Although some sources place this card among those representing a craftsman who is already accomplished, with a few card meanings mentioning awards, all would agree that the card is related to vocations and employment, whether focused on the training and learning phase, or output and production.
Minor Arcana cards of the Tarot are said to be governed by the Major Arcana according to number. For example, in this case, the card is a three and so the card from the Major Arcana influencing its meaning would be card 3 of the Major Arcana, the Empress. Some authors flip meanings for the 3 and 8 of pentacles, saying that this is the craftsman card and eight is the apprentice. (Of the 4 suits, Pentacles seems to have the least consistency in card meanings from book to book.) However, because one of the most common meanings of the Empress card is pregnancy, and Eights correspond to the Stregth card (card 8 of the Major Arcana),it would seem this card would more logically represent someone at the beginning, being nurtured, whereas Strength would tend to imply someone who is more established. Thus the student or apprenticeship meaning seems like a better divination intention. However, the Empress also means fertility and abundance, and therefore some may feel that this card indicates someone in a productive period.
According to Hansson (see Sources), the Three of Pentacles can mean many things related to skill and training, including "Skilled labor or craft. Specialized training ensures future success. Enjoyable employment. Apprenticeship. Talent. Architecturally inclined. Creating designs for building. Study. Working diligently. Self-improvement. Refining and sharpening skills. Confidence develops through pride in work." (p. 177)
Steventon's "Spiral Tarot" deck lists divinatory meaning for this card as "Success in return for persistent and dedicated labor. Prize or award." (p. 16) Barrett mentions "Laying good foundations; financial opportunity; employment or influence." (p. 95)
Blair's key words for this card are "Internship, new career, building skills" (Blair, p. 236).
Alexander describes "You are acquiring marketable skills, preparing yourself for action in the world. Perhaps you're a recent graduate or have gone back to school to upgrade your skills or change your career. You are enterprising and may be interested in commerce, or a specific trade or business. You can anticipate a rise in prestige and earnings. This card can also indicate a payback period when you demonstrate your abilities and begin to reap the rewards of your efforts. Or you could receive money that's owed to you." (p. 129)