This list of high paying trade careers may be the answer to your dilemma! Why do you ask? Because not everyone is cut out for the demands of college, and neither is everybody able to afford it. But with that being said, we all want a job that pays good money.
If you believe you have what it takes to earn well without having to invest that much or spend at least four years on a college education, obtaining skills for technical and trades can lead you to the right career path.
If you’re not sure college is for you, trade schools are the answer!
In the United States, the need for people with technical trade skills is rising fast. Skilled workers obtain training through skills-based education from a vocational or trade school for less than the number of years it would take for them to attend college.
The job involves hands-on, physical work while still challenging them mentally. Fixing, building, and creating are some of the work associated with technical trades.
By pursuing technical trades via a trade school you:
- obtain the skills you need for less time and money,
- put your set of skills to the test,
- take pride in your work,
- and enjoy a good income.
Another advantage is that you get opportunities to advance in your career and enjoy work stability. Trade schools are becoming the choice of many to avoid all of the time and pressures of a four-year degree.
We’ve compiled a list of the best trade school jobs list featuring 25 in-demand, high-paying trade jobs today that are obtainable via trade school or possibly taking a few specialized courses. To come up with our list, we focused mainly on three things for each occupation:
- Job Description
- Educational or Training Requirements
We gathered our data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other sources relevant to the occupations on our list. The 25 highest paying trade jobs are listed in random order.
Are you ready to get into the workforce quickly? Do you need to earn a lucrative living to support your family? There are many reasons why someone might want to forego their stint in college earning a four year degree when you can earn a certificate or diploma to enter one of the highest paying trade jobs in half (or less) the time. Some of the highest paid trade jobs come with minimum formal training. While on the job training may be necessary, your trade school education will serve you well!
25 In-Demand High Paying Technical and Trade Careers
Licensed Practical Nurse and Licensed Vocational Nurse
Income: National average wage is $48,070. Workers in nursing and residential care facilities receive a median annual pay of 49,6200. When working in the state, local, and private hospitals, LPN and LVN salaries average $47,000. Working in offices of physicians, they receive a median pay of $46,870.
Job Description: Nursing careers, such as Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses, help registered nurses and doctors by assisting them in the operating room or in medical labs. Job duties include conducting regular visits in hospital rooms, usually with an accompanying nurse. Those with advanced certifications, like IV certifications, can also help with performing necessary medical operations.
Educational or Training Requirement: After completing a related nursing course at a trade school that takes around a year, graduates can take the NCLEX-PN exam. If they want a higher salary, they can earn additional certifications for specializations, like intravenous therapy.
Sailor and Marine Oiler
Annual Income: A Sailor or Marine Oiler‘s compensation ranges from $53,250 to upwards of $75,520, depending on experience and industry knowledge.
Job Description: Sailors and marine oilers keep an eye out for anything that can block their ship’s progress. They may also be called upon to monitor water depth, rig, or execute a range of maintenance or related jobs.
Education or Training Requirement: Interested applicants must earn a Merchant Mariner Credential and a high school or GED to work as an oiler on a ship. The credential is a type of identification that, in some countries, serves as a passport. It also validates the person’s ability to work aboard a ship. The applicant must first pass a physical examination, a background check, and a drug test to obtain one.
Occupational Therapy Assistant
Annual Income: National average pay is $61,730 per year. Workers in skilled nursing facilities get an average salary of $64,670. Working for the private office of a therapist, their average expected salary is $61,320. Those whose jobs are in state or local hospitals get the average pay of $61,570.
Job Role: Some therapists need an extra pair of hands, and Occupational Therapy Assistants fulfill that function. If the elderly patient is unable to hold their weight, assistants are trained to help.
Educational or Training Requirement: Earning an associate degree qualifies you for an Occupational Therapy Assistant job. Accredited programs take up to years to complete. However, some certifications are mandatory for most states, like essential life support (BLS) certificates.
Income: A website developer can earn up to $77,200 yearly, or $37.12 hourly. Though there is no readily accessible data on the median income of freelance website developers, some freelancers claim that they gained up to $150,000 per year. A website developer can work for a digital business or website design company; they can also manage an established business’ website.
Job Description: The responsibilities of a web developer involves creating well-designed websites. They manage the website’s technical features and layout. Some website developers make content for their websites also.
Hazardous Materials Removal Worker
Income: National median salary is $46,300. Those who work directly in waste treatment facilities and disposal can expect an average of $48,860 in annual earnings. Workers in remediation, which deal with secondary waste like industrial sludge, can expect an average of $46,080 a year.
Job Role: Factories and power plants generate products with accompanying waste, which can be quite toxic and dangerous. Similarly, mining and oil extraction businesses use chemicals that need to be safely disposed of to avoid harming the environment. Hazardous Waste Removal workers contribute to a healthier society by ensuring that these wastes are appropriately contained, stored, or recycled, as may be necessary.
Educational or Training Requirement: Most facilities require only a high school diploma. On-the-job training is the primary way to acquire the necessary skills and traits with no trade school required.
Median Pay: Highest paying trade jobs as a plumber average around $59,880. If the plumber offers its services mainly to industrial clients, they get an average of $61,640 annually. Contractors for plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning agencies earn an average of $59,730.
Job Role: Residential, industrial, and commercial properties need pipes to control temperature, water, and other liquids. Plumbers ensure the circulation of these critical liquids and gases through the installation, maintenance, and repair of pipes. Industrial clients pay a premium as their materials are typically high-risk and need more expertise than residential and commercial clients.
Educational or Training Requirement: Anyone with a high school diploma can be a plumber, but having a certificate of training for at least six months will do wonders for your employability. For most plumbers, apprenticeships provide an excellent training ground. Importantly, plumbers need to be certified by the state, and most states and employers need their plumbers to hold a driver’s license.
Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanic and Installer
Median Pay: National average income is $48,630. Those who work in wholesale businesses get $50,390 on average. Working with retailers like Home Depot and other accredited agencies earns them around $55,620. Technicians who work with a local agency earn an average of $48,140.
Job Description: Wholesale business technicians visit plants or factories that need a cooling or heating system. They help engineers install and maintain such machines. On the retail side of the business, technicians install HVAC and refrigeration in houses, offices, and businesses with temperature issues due to their location or the structural design of their building. They must be well-versed in the operation of mechanical and electrical systems.
Educational or Training Requirement: Potential HVAC technicians need to earn a certificate by attending a 6-month training course at a trade school or a two-year associate degree. Knowledge of plumbing, heating, and repairing electrical power parts helps as well, so expect a few hands-on lessons with machines.
Income: National average pay is $57,160. Working in the building equipment niche gets them a higher pay rate at $61,910. Working directly with factories for iron products pays around $48,000 yearly.
Job Description: Buildings and machines need iron and other metals that are cost-effective and durable. Products ranging from alloys, nuts, and bolts to tools and motorcycles need iron and steel. Factories hire ironworkers to ensure that the quality of the products meets the standards.
Educational or Training Requirement: A high school diploma is excellent, but some schools offer short courses, typically for six months, to make the applicant more employable.
Annual Income: National average income sits at $60,040. Working for the government pays around $63,640 while working as a wiring installer, and a contractor earns about $58,760 per year.
Job Role: Electrical wiring is not the only structure electricians install and repair. They also repair telephone lines, control systems, and even circuits of homes and businesses that need the skilled hands of electricians. Strict safety protocols must always be in place. They also perform routine maintenance.
Educational or Training Requirement: Trade jobs in this field require certifications and training for electrical systems, circuitry, and standard safety procedures. A lot of current electricians learn on the job, so apprenticeships are very common in the industry.
Income: National average pay is $48,260 per year. Non-residential building carpenters typically receive more, and the national average at $59,020. Residential carpenters earn around $47,820.
Job Description: Carpenters deal not only with wooden structures for homes and buildings; they are trained to build using other materials like fiberglass and plastic. A very hands-on job, carpentry sets a unique role in a society where homeownership and structural accuracy matter.
Educational or Training Requirement: There are technical schools that offer certifications. In this industry, actual skill is considered more valuable than certifications, but specialized skills and state licenses lead to better opportunities. Construction managers often begin their careers as carpenters and work their way up.
Funeral Service Worker
Income: Median annual pay sits at $58,900.
Job Description: Funeral services don’t only remember someone who has passed; they also provide a sense of comfort for the living. Funeral service workers go beyond the details of the funeral and burial; they also offer counsel to the bereaved family and ensure that all necessary paperwork has been accomplished. Families are not very efficient when they are in grief, so funeral service workers provide subtle yet invaluable assistance.
Educational or Training Requirement: Most employers require an associate degree in either mortuary science or funeral service. These courses usually take two years and lead to an entry-level job. There is also a Bachelor’s degree in Mortuary Science, which can translate into higher annual pay of around $73,930 for funeral service managers. With valuable experience, the funeral business can be one of the highest paid trade jobs.
Income: National average pay of a Dental Hygienist is $77,810, making it one of the highest paid trade jobs. Working for a private dentist, the average salary is $77,810. Working for a physician, the expected annual wage is $77,290. Most dental hygienists are self-employed and therefore earn higher.
Job Role: Dental hygienists function like secondary dentists, but they do not do tooth extractions or other surgical operations in dentistry.
Educational or Training Requirement: Almost all colleges offer an Associate’s Degree in Dental Hygiene. However, the course is typically longer than most. Students earn a degree as a dental hygienist in just three years.
Cardiovascular Technologist and Technician
Median Pay: National average pay is $62,020. When working for an outpatient care center, the average salary is $88,170. Those in medical and diagnostic laboratories earn the expected average annual income of $72,420.
Job Description: Specializing in getting critical information, cardiovascular technicians operate life-saving medical tools to assist physicians in diagnosing heart and blood vessel diseases. They prepare the laboratory and set up the machines and devices as they use operating imaging equipment. They mostly take charge of the laboratory.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians also assist diagnosing physicians and pharmacists by giving accurate patient information. They also assist patients who reside in their homes and are unable to visit their doctors.
Educational or Training Requirement: While there are Bachelor’s Degrees for Cardiovascular Technologists who work under the Medical Technology degree, most laboratories accept associate degree holders. These courses usually take only 1 or 2 years to finish. Some states require a license while others do not, as long as the student is supervised by an expert in the field.
Income: National average pay is $61,260. Working for a motor vehicle parts manufacturing company, they earn an average of $75,790 annually. Work in the aerospace industry manufacturing gets them $77,190 in median pay.
Job Description: Millwrights assemble and install machinery and heavy equipment for factories and ensure that all the tools are in place. Frequently, these workers coordinate with the machinery manufacturer as well as the transporter. From the sourcing of parts to installing the whole manufacturing system, millwrights are essential for any manufacturing company.
Educational or Training Requirement: There are technical courses at trade schools that take two years to finish. Some employers accept a high school graduates, but typically, they get lower pay than those who have obtained certification.
Income: National average pay is $56,230. Working for the federal government gives a higher average wage, at $69,680. Working for a state has a lower rate of $49,350. Legal assistants earn around $64,740 if they work for financial and insurance companies.
Job Description: Legal assistants are the foot soldiers in a legal setting. They gather essential information for a case, prepare research for lawyers, and maintain all the necessary motions, letters, and other legal documents submitted or for submission. With lawyers being busy, legal assistants work making client calls and speaking to witnesses and third parties to ensure smooth legal proceedings.
Educational or Training Requirement: Interestingly, legal assistants can get a job with two options. They can earn an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies or earn any bachelor’s degree and then get a paralegal certificate.
Income: Aircraft mechanics gained an average median salary of $69,470, or an hourly rate of $33.40 for an entry-level position. While experienced aircraft mechanics can earn up to $98,590 annually.
Job Role: Aircraft mechanics keep the engine and airframe of aircraft in good condition to meet the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards. Their job includes performing standard repairs and checks, maintaining inventory records, and knowing the faults with the plane’s components.
Education or Training Requirement: To become an aircraft mechanic, one should gain at least eighteen months of training from a Federal Aviation Administration accredited educational program. There are college degree programs available in training linked to aviation management and technology.
Income: An elevator technician or mechanic can gain a median annual salary of $97,860, or $47.05 hourly. Their starting salary can be around $47,370 and could go up to $130,940. The employment of elevator technicians can grow by 6% percent in 2030.
Job Description: The responsibilities of an elevator technician involve repairing, installing, and keeping the elevators, moving sidewalks, escalators, and other similar devices in proper condition. They also assemble products or production tools. Elevator technicians frequently work in tight areas in the machinery room or at the top of the elevator vent.
Education or Training Requirement: Mainly, you need to finish an apprenticeship program that takes five years to become an elevator technician or mechanic. This apprenticeship program offers a combination of schoolroom lessons and practicum.
You need to have a high school diploma or the like to start the apprenticeship program. When you pass the final test, then you can opt to take certifications to improve your learning. Also, some states preferred licensed elevator technicians.
Income: An IT technician can earn a median annual salary of up to $57,910, or $27.84 hourly. This can go up to $91,060 yearly.
Job Description: An IT technician identifies the problems or issues and keeps track of the processing system of the computer. They also install software and conduct computer software systems and equipment tests.
Other responsibilities of an IT technician include setting the computer tools, instructing clients on how to utilize the software systems, and scheduling computer maintenance.
Education or Training Requirement: A Computer Science associate degree or any other similar field can open opportunities for this type of job. Though certifications are not required, these can make you a great applicant. Getting special certification programs can help IT experts discover new learning in technology.
Annual Income: The average median salary of a Boilermaker is $64,290, or $30.91 hourly. This can be the perfect career for you if you are good with equipment, mostly welding tools, and are not bothered with a physically hard and dangerous job.
Job Role: A boilermaker creates and places boilers and other big containers that hold gases and liquids such as oil. Other duties involve cleaning and examining boilers for faults, reading blueprints, creating pieces and curving them into shapes, and welding pieces together.
Education or Training Requirement: Mainly, an individual needs to have a high school diploma or the like and should be 18 years old and above before you can take the apprenticeship training program. The apprenticeship training program takes place while on the operation. Having experiences and certifications in welding advances your opportunity of getting into apprenticeship programs.
Line Installers and Repairers
Income: The line worker’s median annual salary is $74,530 or $35.83 hourly. These jobs are expected to show a minimum change in the next decade; although there is a projected 23,300 new openings expected to become available due to the retirement of current line workers.
Job Description: The responsibilities of power line technicians include installing, repairing, and keeping electrical equipment in good condition. They work with high-voltage electric power lines and need to climb utility posts to get to them. Though they work regular hours, when there is an extensive power outage caused by storms or other sudden occurrences, extra hours are required.
Education or Training Requirement: You should have a high school diploma or equivalent to proceed in the apprenticeship training program of a line worker. Formal education can give you an advantage, but you must need a practicum.
Income: Perhaps one of the highest paid trade jobs, the construction manager‘s median annual salary is $98,890, or $47.55hourly.
Job Role: The primary responsibilities of a construction manager include making plans for site locations, controlling the budget, and administering the project’s progress. They should ensure that all projects are finished on the set deadline and manage problems on the budget should they happen.
Education or Training Requirement: An associate degree or a degree in college is needed to become a construction manager. Experiences in construction can get you an advantage also. Some large construction companies prefer those with both construction experience and a college degree in the related field of construction.
Though formal education may be the secure direction, if you manifest yourself over a significant number of years of work, you can acquire a position in the management of construction projects without formal education. A career in construction management can be very lucrative and a trade school education may be all you need to excel!
Income: A respiratory therapist’s national average annual wage is $61,830, slightly higher than the national average annual wage for all occupations. The typical salary for a respiratory therapist varies considerably based on the state in which one works.
Job Description: Respiratory therapists are used in a range of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, critical care units, neonatal intensive care units, emergency rooms, and even patients’ homes. As they engage with fragile patients who often require genuine comfort as medical treatment, respiratory therapists should be detail-oriented, patient, empathetic, and have exceptional interpersonal skills.
Education or Training Requirement: Although all respiratory therapists must complete a recognized associate degree program, certain employers prefer a bachelor’s degree. Courses on human anatomy, chemistry, physics, and pharmacology are included in the programs and supervised clinical work with patients.
Wind Turbine Technician
Income: Wind technicians earn a median annual salary of $56,260, with the majority of them working on wind farms in rural areas. This in-demand green career is expected to rise by 68% by 2030.
Job Description: Wind turbine technicians are responsible for installing, inspecting, maintaining, operating, and repair of wind turbines. Although some wind technicians work on new wind turbines, most of their time is spent in routine maintenance, solar power systems, troubleshooting, and repairing existing ones, notably, the nacelles, which house the generators.
Education or Training Requirement: The wind turbine technician needs either a certificate or associate degree in wind technology to start a career in this field of sustainability. Many employers also require a year of on-the-job training for wind technicians.
Home and Building Inspector
Income: To compensate for the dangers, house inspectors earn an average salary of $61,640 per year, with perks such as medical or health insurance, paid yearly leave, and a retirement plan available to those employed privately or by the government. Government agencies are more likely to pay than private consulting firms, engineering firms, or architectural firms.
Job Role: As a house inspector, the role is to assess the state of buildings from the outside and report any problems or violations to potential buyers. They must be familiar with quality building materials and all building codes, as local and state government mandates must be met. Construction and building inspectors focus on commercial buildings, for the most part.
Education or Training Requirement: To apply for a home inspector training course, one must have a high school diploma or a GED. After completing the course, interested applicants must pass a certification exam in the state where they live.
Rotary Drill Operator
Income: National average pay is $61,840. When working in petroleum and coal products manufacturing, the expected salary is $117,450. For those who work in Oil and Gas extraction, the average annual income is $69,120. Operating as a rotary drill operator for architectural, engineering, or other related services lets you earn an average of $47,550.
Job Role: Operators drill the earth for natural resources. With the help of petroleum engineers, they extract oil or gas. They are also essential in the construction of massive skyscrapers that involve drilling the ground for the building’s foundation.
Educational or Training Requirement: There are no hard-to-comply-with requirements. A high school diploma is enough for most employers, especially in areas with high demand but a low supply of workers. However, a commercial driver’s license is preferred, as there will be a lot of travel-related to the job.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the many reasons to choose a trade school over a four-year college degree?
Here are a few points to think about when considering a trade school for high paying trade jobs:
- Tuition is generally less at trade schools.
- Learn valuable critical thinking skills, as well as technical and interpersonal skills through vocational programs.
- Trade school completion will allow you to start work and earn money quickly.
- Trade schools require less time to earn your career diploma.
- At a trade school, you can learn technical skills you can always use or fall back on in the future, offering job security.
- Trade school jobs provide opportunities for on-the-job training.
- Start earning your career diploma when you are ready, with no strict deadlines to meet to begin.
- Trade schools often provide job placement services upon graduation.
- In a trade school program, you can learn with like-minded students interested in your passion as well.
- Often, trade programs are designed to help you boost your resume if you need additional training for a job promotion.
- On-campus or online? You choose. Most programs are available in both formats.
- Not sure what career choice is right for you? Try out a short certificate program from a trade school to find out!
Trade schools are a wonderful option to obtain the technical skills needed to be successful! Check it out!
How long does a vocational education school program take to complete?
Without a doubt, the first point to consider when thinking about going to a trade school is your interest or passion. Once chosen, your time spent in a program will depend on your career goal, as all require varying amounts of time spent.
Generally speaking, many vocational schools require students to attend classes either on-campus or online, between three to six months, or up to two years. In fact, some two-year programs result in earning an associate degree.
Will I need to work an internship or apprenticeship to graduate from a trade school program?
Depending on your chosen trade, yes, you may be required to attend an apprenticeship program to obtain the skills needed for the best paying trade jobs. Certain certificate or associate degree programs usually require it to graduate. Most likely, your local community college will offer the program you desire. Check them out first!
Can I earn just as much money learning skilled trades as I can by earning a bachelor’s degree?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average earnings for a bachelor’s degree holder are approximately $67,860 annually. On the other hand, trade school graduates earned upwards of $61,640 per year on average. As you can see, there is a $6,220 annual difference in favor of a bachelor’s degree education, which is significant to most people.
However, when considering the highest paying trade jobs, you should factor in the time spent earning your degree and the cost of your degree program. Is the difference worth it to you? Also, consider that many trade school jobs will allow you to get out into the workforce faster, and typically, there are more chances for career advancement and higher salaries in the future for vocational careers.
Are there disadvantages to attending a trade school?
We’ve discussed the many advantages of attending a technical school for the best trade job. But, is there a downside? If you decide that earning a bachelor’s degree is not for you, attending a trade school may be your only option; however, here are some additional points (perhaps you could call them disadvantages) for you to consider:
- Trade schools often offer limited financial aid opportunities, if any at all.
- Since trade schools offer accelerated programs, you may find that the workload can be fast-paced and rigorous.
- Trade school programs can often be found in local community colleges; however, if you are in a rural area, you may want to check out online distance learning options, if available. If you have a specific trade job in mind, you may need to relocate to find a technical school to suit your needs.
- If you intend to transfer your associate degree into a bachelor’s degree at a later date, you will find that some trade school credits are not transferable. Check this out before signing up if you think earning your bachelor’s degree is in your future.
- Although trade schools offer specific skills, your job search may run into a roadblock. Your success will definitely be influenced by job demand… just another point to research before signing up for a specific trade school program.
The highest paying trade jobs require the proper education, no doubt. Generally, trade schools are perfect… but not for everyone! Research each one carefully to realize the full potential of what a trade program can do for you!
- These are the highest-paying technical and trade careers with a firm vocational outlook that you can choose. Investing in technical or trade vocational school could be the best achievable advancement for your career. However, this is not the only choice to think about if you are starting your profession or thinking about changing it.
- If you are searching for the highest paying trade jobs, you must choose options that will fit your learning and interest best. Have you made your choice on what technical or trade school jobs you would consider the career options for you? Choose your desired vocational career now, research to find the best trade school programs for YOU, and start earning big! Skilled trades offer a valuable service to society.
- Highest Paying Trade Jobs: 30 Profitable Careers Without A College Degree
- Skilled Trade Jobs: 10 Most Lucrative Trade Jobs and Vocational Careers
- 10 Benefits of Attending a Technical or Trade School