Forget College: Top 8 Highest Paying Trade School Jobs

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Aug 21, 2018

Aug 21, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

If you're like everyone else, you're dreaming of a career that will leave you fulfilled and happily challenged (and with a roof over your head). These days, most people will tell you that you need a four-year degree to get there.

But given that the average four-year degree costs $127,000 and nearly 70% of students take out loans to help pay for school, it's just not worth paying for a degree you don't want or aren't prepared to complete.

The good news is that vocational school can help you find a great job without five-figure debt. Here, we're breaking down 10 of the best trade school jobs that you should be investigating.

1. Mechanic

There are five people you always need on speed dial:

  1. A dentist
  2. A hair stylist
  3. A lawyer
  4. A plumber
  5. A mechanic

Auto mechanics are responsible for repairing cars, trucks, vans, and other vehicles. They quite literally keep our lives in motion.

There are all kinds of different work a mechanic might do, from preventative maintenance to repairs. And since so many cars nowadays rely on technology, many mechanics are also taught how to repair technology.

You also have a variety of workplace options, from working in a shop or dealership to working in a company that provides repair services. There are even mechanics who work specifically on police cars and ambulances.

Plus, if you get other specializations (like working on large trucks, for example), you'll have even more work opportunities.

2. Dental Hygienist

Remember our earlier list? Technically, there's someone we didn't mention who's just as important as the dentist: the dental hygienist.

Dental hygienists are responsible for cleaning a patient's teeth and checking for any signs of oral health issues ranging from gingivitis to oral cancer. They provide supervised and independent clinical tasks, but they focus primarily on preventative dental care and patient education.

That said, they are a senior-level role in the dental field and can even open their own dental practice.

Even better news? Despite the fact that it's a senior role, you only need an associate's degree and licensing to become a hygienist.

3. Welder

Welding is one of those jobs you probably don't think of that much because most people consider it a basic blue-collar job.

In fact, welding has long been considered a great job, and the pay is pretty decent--entry-level welders earn an average of $24,490 per year, while senior welders earn an average of $55,240.

That said, you can earn more depending on where you work. Electrical companies, gas companies, and, oddly enough, sports stadiums pay nicely. You can also specialize in lucrative, high-demand areas like welding for offshore drilling rigs.

4. HVAC Technician

You probably only think about HVAC technicians when your AC breaks down in the dead of July. But HVAC technicians do more than you might realize.

These technicians are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing heating, cooling, and refrigeration systems. Most technicians specialize in a certain area, like air conditioning.

There are a lot of benefits to becoming an HVAC technician. For one thing, there's the job security. Like many trade jobs, HVAC repair is difficult to outsource, and the truth is, heating and air conditioning systems aren't going to stop breaking down any time soon.

There's also a lot of room for advancement. You can acquire more skills over time that you can transfer over to customer service, sales, or marketing.

5. Carpenter

Carpentry is one of the classic jobs that come to mind when someone says the words, "vocational school." It's also one of the oldest professions out there, and the profession gets some prestige from the fact that a certain key figure in the Bible was a member of the trade.

Well, that and the fact that carpentry is highly skilled work. Carpenters are responsible for cutting, shaping, and installing building materials during structural construction. It sounds simple enough, until you factor in all the blueprints, windows and doors, measuring, and general construction.

It's also a diverse career, which makes it rewarding. On Monday, you're installing insulation in an office; on Tuesday, you're remodeling someone's kitchen.

6. Radiation Therapist

Do you want to help people? Do you want to earn good money? Do you not want to work a doctor's insane hours?

Become a radiation therapist.

Radiation therapists work with oncologists to help administer radiation. They also help explain treatment plans to a patient, calibrate and operate the radiation machine, monitor the patient during treatment, and ensure the patient doesn't harm themselves due to improper radiation exposure.

7. Electrician

Electricians are one of the most vital members of the skilled labor workforce.

Think about how many things in the modern world rely on electricity to function. Electricians are the ones who make sure that those things can run.

Electricians are responsible for enabling electricity in anything from residential homes to airplanes. They can also specialize in a variety of areas.

In general, their duties include:

  • Planning the layout and installation of various electrical systems
  • Repairing and maintaining electrical infrastructures
  • Inspecting electrical systems
  • Handling high-voltage wiring safely
  • Connecting high-voltage wires to various components in a system

You can become an electrician with a combination of formal training and apprenticeship, but keep in mind that you'll need to understand electricity and how electrical systems work to become an electrician, so you need to be able to hold your own in the sciences.

8. Plumber

To refer back to our classic list of people everyone needs on speed dial, a plumber is an essential skilled laborer that enables our modern society to function efficiently (and cleanly).

Plumbers deal with pipes, valves, drains, and fixtures in buildings that are responsible for water distribution and waste removal. This is a vital job to keep people healthy because, without plumbers, we wouldn't be able to access fresh water easily and would risk disease from sewage.

Find the Best Trade School Jobs

Now that you know some of the best trade school jobs on the market, are you ready to start your next career?

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