When it comes to post-secondary education, many people look toward college or university. This comes as no surprise given that a degree usually means higher chances of employability.
However, going to college can be expensive, time-consuming, and difficult for many. Enter trade schools, a valuable alternative for individuals who want to focus on specific skills and speed-to-job opportunities.
Below is our guide to the best trade school jobs you can tap into in the United States.
- Career Karma matches you with top tech bootcamps
- Get exclusive scholarships and prep courses
Do you want to learn more about how a coding bootcamp can help you learn to code? Get started by finding the right bootcamp for you along with unlocking additional information about bootcamp cost and reviews.
What is a Trade School?
A trade school is commonly referred to as a technical school, vocational school or vocational college. It’s designed as an institution that prepares students for a specific job or career.
At a traditional school, you earn a degree in a career field that promises multiple job opportunities. In contrast, trade schools train you for a particular job or occupation. These schools offer a variety of training programs and certification programs that focus on honing specialized skills.
The programs typically last two years to complete, much shorter than traditional universities. This makes it an appealing option for people looking to break into the workforce as soon as possible.
Trade School vs College
So, the question is: which is the better option? To attend a trade school or pursue college education? It’s not as simple as A or B. There are pros and cons to both, depending on what you’re looking for. To help you decide better, we’ve listed what sets trade schools apart from colleges. Why should you consider them?
Any incoming student knows that one of the biggest hurdles to higher education is the cost of attendance. Even going to a local university may cost tens of thousands of dollars. As a result, many students go into debt. Others go the distance to earn scholarships to attend a four-year university.
This is where trade schools gain an edge over universities. On average, a college degree program will cost you $127,000. By contrast, trade school programs cost $33,000, on average. Put another way, tuition costs for trade schools are only a quarter of university costs.
Length of Education
If you’re a working adult, you may not have the time to dedicate yourself to a four-year education to earn a bachelor’s degree. This makes trade schools more appealing.
As mentioned, trade schools only take up to two years to complete. Some programs even take less than a year. If you’re working a full-time job, trade schools are definitely a good alternative to university education.
Although trade schools offer associate degrees and certificates to graduates, they typically do not provide bachelor’s degrees. It’s important to consider what your employer would require before choosing a trade school over a university or college.
There are many positions where employers strongly recommend you have a bachelor’s degree. In other instances, the lack of a bachelor’s degree may limit your chances of receiving a promotion or salary increase.
That being said, some employers do not require a formal college degree. In this group are tech firms, such as Google, Apple, or IBM. In recent years, tech companies have lifted the degree requirement, favoring skills over credentials.
The Highest Paying Trade School Jobs in 2020
Traditionally, a university degree connotes higher-paying and long-lasting career. This is why families put a great premium on university or college education.
However, it’s worth pointing out that those same opportunities are actually available to trade school graduates. Many trade school jobs pay more than $50,000 per year.
Below is our guide to the highest-paying trade school programs available. These positions have favorable job outlooks and a steady projected job growth rate for the next several years.
Are you interested in launching a career in a fraction of the time and cost of a bachelor’s degree? Then it’s time you consider any of the following roles.
Boilermakers earn one of the biggest paychecks among trade school graduates. The job requires you to assemble, repair and install boilers, along with other large vessels and containers that hold liquids and gasses. As a result, it’s very physically demanding and requires lots of traveling.
Boilermakers are away from home for long periods of time. Luckily, their pay almost makes up for it. On average, boilermakers make $62,150 per year.
Police Officer and Detective
One of the fastest-growing trade job positions on this list, police officers serve the public and protect peace. As a detective, your work involves gathering and collecting evidence to solve a particular crime.
Both of these positions require specialized training at an academy. For most entry-level police positions, some form of trade school work must be completed. With a median salary of $63,380, many people consider this to be one of the best trades to learn.
Dental hygienists have one of the most successful trade school jobs out there today. A case in point, they register a median salary of $74,820 alongside a large projected growth rate. The majority of dental hygienists work part-time and earn an average of $35.97 an hour.
Their responsibilities include cleaning and examining teeth, educating patients on the prevention of oral diseases, and providing preventative care. Most dental hygiene programs last three years. After this, they are required to earn a license before practicing dental care.
Web development is one of the fastest-growing positions today. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that web development is expected to grow by 13 percent within the next 10 years.
Web developers are tasked with creating and designing websites. This applies to both the front-end and back-end of the site. They also design, program and create web applications.
While some web development positions do require a bachelor’s degree, there are others that take trade school graduates. Web developers earn a median salary of $69,430.
Air Traffic Controller
An air traffic controller holds the highest paying trade school position on this list. Tasked with ensuring the safe movement of multiple aircraft over large distances, air traffic controllers are highly valued. Little wonder then that they earn an incredible annual salary of $124,540.
At a minimum, air traffic controllers need an associate’s degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program. While the position can be obtained through a trade school, the requirements to become an air traffic controller are numerous. You must be a US citizen, pass a medical and background check, as well as take multiple required courses.
Respiratory therapists are healthcare practitioners that treat patients who have respiratory or breathing issues. They’re not doctors. However, respiratory therapists do work closely with doctors to help patients breathe normally or deal with chronic lung diseases. With the onset of the pandemic, the need for these professionals is steadily rising.
Respiratory therapists earn $61,330 a year. Jobs in the field are expected to grow by 19 percent within the next 10 years, a faster rate than the average. All states but Alaska require that therapists be licensed before practicing.
While many construction roles require a high school diploma or a GED at the very least, the higher-paying ones do require some formal education. Fortunately, you don’t have to attend a university to get one. Several trade schools offer specialized programs in the sector, such as construction management.
Do you want to be a construction manager? Try opting for trade school programs in carpentry, project management, or roofing to lay the groundwork for the career. Construction managers earn $95,260 per year.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Despite the fancy term, you may have already met a sonographer. A sonographer is usually the one who answers the question of pregnant moms: Is it a boy or a girl? In plain terms, a sonographer uses an ultrasound to analyze images and help doctors diagnose a patient.
A typical day of a sonographer consists of examining 10 patients, on average, with each consultation lasting less than an hour. Because of the speed of the process, a job as a diagnostic medical sonographer was rated as the least stressful one, according to Forbes. Another perk: their median earning is $74,320.
An associate degree or a professional certificate is sufficient for a career as an ultrasonographer. Make sure that the program you choose is accredited before enrolling.
People commonly associate having a high-paying career with a college degree, but that isn’t necessarily the case. It’s entirely possible to launch a lucrative career without dedicating several years of your life to a college education.
The above list just notes some trade school job opportunities available to you. But there are dozens of choices out there. Many of them are just as promising as the jobs that degree-holders enjoy.
Trade School Jobs FAQs
Although both focus on hands-on learning, several factors set them apart. For one, trade schools only take two years to complete. Apprenticeships, on the other hand, take three to five years. The latter is also much cheaper than the former. That being said, both paths are not entirely exclusive from one another. Certain trades require apprenticeships. These include elevator maintenance and carpentry.
It’s also worth considering roles as an HVAC technician, licensed practical nurse, medical or dental assistant, and aircraft mechanic. Generally speaking, trade schools are great routes for several skilled trade jobs in information technology, healthcare, and construction.
Technicians top the list. These include jobs as HVAC technicians, wind turbine technicians, and emergency medical technicians. One would need six months to two years at a technical school before entering any of the fields. It should be noted that these require additional job training, preferably via apprenticeships.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.