Blog 30 September 2022

25 Highest Paying Trade School Jobs in 2024

Many people are now opting for trade school programs instead of undergraduate degrees. These programs allow students to earn diplomas and certificates that provide the necessary knowledge and practical skills suited for any chosen profession.

Trade schools offer a more affordable and secure path, with specialized hands-on training. It helps make the students job-ready in a shorter time period. The duration of the course may vary, ranging from eight weeks to two years depending on the program. Upon completion, graduates can choose to become apprentices, sit for licensing exams, or go ahead and look for employment immediately.

Trade school jobs can earn individuals a good and stable living too. The trade school job that pays the most is Software Developer with an average annual wage of $132,930. A few other highest paying trades to get into this year are Air Traffic Controllers, Computer Network Architects, and Construction Managers. All these trade jobs have average annual wages above $100,000 according to the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There is a plethora of jobs to opt for and deciding upon one may be confusing. This article lists the 25 best highest paying trade school jobs to pursue this year.


25 Highest Paying Trade School Jobs to Get Into this Year

Trade School JobsAverage Annual Wage 2022
Software Developer$132,930
Air Traffic Controllers$130,840
Computer Network Architect$129,490
Construction Manager$112,790
Database Administrator$102,530
Radiation Therapist$98,340
Elevator Mechanic$93,960
Web Developer$87,580
Dental Hygienist$84,860
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer$84,410
MRI Technologist$81,530
Respiratory Therapist$74,310
Real Estate Agent$71,200
Food Service Manager$67,130
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians$65,490
Iron and Steel Workers$64,800
Legal Assistant$62,840
Wind Turbine Service Technicians$59,880
Licensed Practical Nurse$55,860
Pharmacy Technicians$40,260
May 2022 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

#1 Software Developer

Image of a closeup of a screen showing software coding

Average annual wage: $132,930

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 25.7%

This trade school job is among the ones that are expected to grow significantly in terms of employment. Along with being high in demand, it also usually quite pays well too. Moreover, you can study to be a software developer online too as quite a few programs are offering remote learning.

Being a software developer, you will be responsible for creating, writing, and improving various computer applications, operating systems, or mobile apps. This requires learning about software development principles and different programming languages like C++ or Java. You will also be taking classes in subjects such as English, mathematics, physics, and communication. Critical skills and problem-solving abilities are also a must. Good communication skills are a plus too as you will need to work closely with clients to identify their needs and deliver what they require.

#2 Air Traffic Controllers

Trade school jobs - air traffic controller

Average annual wage: $130,840

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 1.4%

Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of aircraft in and out of the airport, and monitor them to maintain safe distances between different flights. They work in control towers/control facilities, or en route centers where they can monitor and direct flight traffic.

There are several routes to becoming an air traffic controller. Candidates must first obtain their associate’s or bachelor’s degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program or some other accredited college. They should also pass the medical examination, security investigation, and pass the FAA air traffic pre-employment test. The candidate must also be a U.S. citizen, hold a high school diploma or GED, and complete training at Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Academy.

#3 Computer Network Architect

An image showing a computer network.

Average annual wage: $129,490

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 3.5%

As a network architect, you will be responsible for maintaining your organization’s computer network. The job involves designing and building data communication networks including Intranets, Wide Area Networks (WANs), and Local Area Networks (LANs). You will also have to monitor the networks, install new software and hardware, update them, analyze their performance, and implement any changes required. Providing troubleshooting assistance is also an essential part of the job.

To be successful as a computer network architect, previous experience with data communication systems and large computer networks is always a plus. These professionals can earn a good wage per hour and employment in this sector is also expected to grow and remain in high demand. This is because every organization is dependent on an efficient and safe communication network system. Therefore, this is one of the best trade school jobs to opt for in today’s digital world.

#4 Construction Manager

Trade school jobs - construction manager

Average annual wage: $112,790

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 4.5%

Construction managers oversee the progress of any construction project from start to finish. They are responsible for the planning and budgeting and all related practical management for the construction process. There are several routes to becoming a construction manager, and one of the ways is to gain a qualification in construction management from a trade school. You may also want to get a university degree in construction, but just make sure that you study at an accredited college.

The main responsibilities in this role include reviewing the deliverables and estimated costs for a construction project. You would also monitor the building progress, as well as the safety compliance of staff. Construction managers also source tools, materials, equipment, and heavy machinery for the project, and manage the staff involved too.

This is an interesting trade school job that pays quite well. If you are interested in learning about this job/career, consider getting an apprenticeship or finding a job in construction. This is a great way to learn the ropes in this field, and also gain some hands-on experience for future opportunities.

#5 Database Administrator

Image of an African American woman working with data on a computer in an office setting.

Average annual wage: $102,530

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 7.0%

Many vocational or trade schools offer various database administrator programs that cover different areas such as database design, computer networking, information security, and Structured Query Language (SQL). These professionals are required to manage, store, organize, and back up data for their organizations through specialized software. They are also required to keep up with the latest trends and technology and implement new changes required, like integrating old information into new systems.

Database administrators, or DBAs, are also responsible for the security of the stored data. They ensure easy access for customers and authorized users and help prevent any type of information loss or unauthorized access to the database.

#6  Radiation Therapist

Image of an CT scan machine used by radiation therapists

Average annual wage: $98,340

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 2.4%

A radiation therapist is usually a part of the oncology team. They work in collaboration with doctors, nurses, and other medical physicists to help provide treatment to patients suffering from serious diseases like cancer.

These professionals not only oversee radiation therapy sessions and operate the associated machinery, but also have other duties. Some of the other duties of a radiation therapist include explaining treatment plans, answering questions, managing detailed patient records, and monitoring the patient’s reaction to radiation therapy. They are required to adhere to strict safety protocols and the rules and regulations of the healthcare facility they are working in.

In order to be a radiation therapist, you are required to attain an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. You will also most likely need a license and maintain it in order to practice. It is a medical-related profession that people can opt for easily without having to go through medical school.

#7 Elevator Mechanic

Image of two elevators

Average annual wage: $93,960

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 1.5%

Elevators can be found in most commercial and official buildings and they require an elevator mechanic to run efficiently. Elevator mechanics are responsible not only for assembling and installing an elevator, but also for escalators, chairlifts, electrical walkways, electrical ramps, and various other automotive lifts.

They also help maintain the installed equipment and repair it when necessary. An elevator mechanic should also know how to read a building’s blueprint to assess the machinery and related components required for optimal functionality. These professionals usually get contract-based work and can earn a reasonable amount of annual income that is above $90,000 on average.

#8 Web Developer

Image of a computer with web design written on the screen.

Average annual wage: $87,580

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 17.0%

A web developer is amongst those highest paying trade school jobs that are expected to see one of the highest rates of growth in terms of employment. The primary responsibility of a web developer is to create websites that are functional and user-friendly. To create the websites, these developers need to at least have coding knowledge and expertise in HTML, JavaScript, CSS, SQL, and graphic design.

The websites need to be visually aesthetic and should cater to technical aspects such as SEO, traffic capacity, performance speed, etc. These websites need to work well with different devices and operating systems. To deliver the best website for a client, web developers need to be effective communicators and understand customer needs. Due to the nature of the job, many web developers are also able to work remotely.

#9 Dental Hygienist

Image of two dentists working in a dentist's clinic.

Average annual wage: $84,860

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 7.4%

Dental hygienists work alongside dentists to help with the patient’s oral hygiene. They educate patients regarding how to maintain their oral hygiene and help dentists with maintenance cleanings, identifying signs of dental problems, and administering fluoride and polish treatments. Moreover, while providing chair-side assistance to dentists, these professionals also perform various procedures independently that mostly relate to preventative dental care.

Dental hygienists also require a license and must maintain it to practice in any healthcare setting. In trade schools, they are taught about human anatomy, sealants, periodontics, dental X-rays, dental tools, and how to work them. Sometimes, depending on the U.S. state, additional expertise is provided to these healthcare professionals including training in teeth extraction and crown installation.

#10 Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Image of a diagnostic medical sonographer conducting abdominal diagnostics

Average annual wage: $84,410

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 14.3%

Another one of the highest paying trade school jobs with good projected growth in employment is diagnostic medical sonographer. Sonographers help surgeons and physicians diagnose illnesses by using imagery through sonograms and ultrasounds. They use special medical technology that generates images using high-frequency sound waves. Through the images they produce, any abnormality in the human body is identified and able to be treated effectively.

The diagnostic medical sonographer may specialize in different body areas like the abdominal cavity, blood vessels, female reproductive system, the heart, etc. In order to be one, you will need to complete a post-secondary program and pass an exam from an accredited institution.

 #11 MRI Technologist

Image of an MRI technologist operating a CT scan machine at a clinic.

Average annual wage: $81,530

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 7.7%

These professionals work at diagnostic centers and hospitals under the physician’s instructions. They are responsible for operating the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners. They are required to carefully check the doctor’s instructions on which part of the patient’s body is to be scanned. MRI technologists are also required to explain the procedure to the patients and help position them for accurate diagnostic images. Moreover, they maintain the patients’ histories and help them feel calm during the process.

MRI technologists need to have a sound knowledge of imaging techniques and cross-sectional anatomy. They need to know their equipment well so they can adjust its scanning parameters and other settings to provide the best result in every case, and in a safe way too. Attaining a government license, however, is necessary to be able to practice in most U.S. states.

#12 Respiratory Therapist

Image of a young female patient in the clinic suffering from a respiratory disease. She is coughing and the doctor is listening to the wheezing with a stethoscope.

Average annual wage: $74,310

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 12.5%

Respiratory therapists help people suffering from cardiopulmonary conditions or from breathing difficulties. Their job involves interviewing people and diagnosing what they are suffering from. They can provide therapeutic treatments for these patients independently or sometimes collaborate with other physicians to identify and deliver the best treatment plans.

These professionals are involved in measuring patients’ lung capacity, providing chest physiotherapy, administering medications, connecting patients to ventilators, providing life-support care, etc. In order to be a respiratory therapist, a minimum of an associate’s degree from a trade school is necessary. You would also need state licensing to practice the profession in your respective state.

#13 Real Estate Agent

trade school jobs - real estate agent

Average annual wage: $71,200

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 3.2%

Real estate agents help their clients purchase, sell, and rent properties. They work together with real estate brokers who can work independently and who often employ real estate agents. They do the same job as an agent and get paid on commission, they also get a cut of the agents’ commission who work for them.

It is not a very difficult process to become an agent, and you can become a real estate agent in 4 to 6 months. You will need to prepare to take the real estate pre-licensing course and licensing exams required in your state. Once you have passed these exams you can join a brokerage and start working.


#14 Boilermaker

Trade school jobs -boilermaker

Average annual wage: $69,780

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: -4.0%

Boilermakers work with steel, iron, and copper and turn these into boilers to hold hot gas or liquid. They also maintain and repair such systems. They work in the building and engineering industries and are hired to create and install complex systems in different buildings.

This career route is quite simple, and all you need to do is get a diploma at a trade school in boiler making. However, employment growth is projected to decrease in the future which makes this not the best choice for long-term employment.

#15 Food Service Manager

highest paying trade school jobs - food service manager

Average annual wage: $67,130

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 0.5%

Food service managers manage the process of serving food to customers and guests. They focus on planning menus, ensuring that safety and hygiene standards are maintained as well as managing who works in what role. Food service managers are offered employment in hotels, restaurants, hospitals, old age homes, airports, etc. Some even go with self-employment options instead.

It is relatively easy to get into this trade school career field. You can either get a degree in food science or apply for short programs in college that offer certification.

#16 Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Image of a smiling health professional holding a heart

Average annual wage: $65,490

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 3.7%

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians work in the cardiac department and deal with heart-related health problems. They have multiple job responsibilities. They are chiefly in charge of operating and monitoring advanced diagnostic equipment. They need to make sure that all the cardiology equipment is functioning efficiently.

Using the technology, these technologists help prepare patients for procedures and conduct cardiovascular tests. They may be involved in inserting stents, pacemakers, and operating defibrillators. Moreover, they have to maintain detailed patient reports, provide patient support, and keep them calm during invasive and non-invasive procedures.

These professionals are usually a part of a bigger team in that they have to work in collaboration. They collaborate with doctors, engineers, and technicians and also help in developing effective treatment plans for each patient.

#17 Electricians

Image of an electrician fixing a wall switch

Average annual wage: $65,280

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 6.4%

Like elevator mechanics, electricians also most commonly get contractual work. They need to be able to understand the blueprints to make informed decisions regarding the proper placement of circuits, wiring, breakers, and other electrical components in any building. They also help maintain the installed systems and deal with any troubleshooting. These professionals need to ensure that the systems they install are safe and adhere to the regulations at all levels – be it at a national level, state level, or local building.

It is a very technical job and requires proper training and practice. Many trade schools offer programs to equip people with the necessary knowledge and practical training required to be successful electricians.  Many electricians may be specialized in a specific area such as those that specifically work on high-voltage transmission and distribution lines. Many states, however, require electricians to be licensed to be able to practice their profession. After completing the trade school programs, most electricians need to go through a paid apprenticeship program that may be four to five years long.

#18 Plumber

Image of a plumber fixing a kitchen faucet

Average annual wage: $65,190

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 2.3%

Plumbers work in a variety of settings including both commercial and residential. They are mostly responsible for working on systems carrying water, sewage, or natural gas. They help install and maintain plumbing fixtures such as pipes, toilets, bathtubs, dishwashers, etc. To be a successful plumber, you should be able to interpret blueprints to install the systems accordingly. Having good problem-solving skills would also be beneficial for this job.

Plumbing requires proper training and many employers prefer around four years of apprenticeship period following the trade school program. Moreover, this trade school job requires a license in most states if you want to work independently.

#19 Iron and Steel Workers

Image of steel and iron rods

Average annual wage: $64,800

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 1.8%

Iron or steel workers are responsible for building up structures including buildings, roads, and bridges. They are usually hired by construction firms and are required to work with iron and steel. These workers not only construct frameworks for new projects but may be involved in the demolition, restoration, and reinforcement of existing structures. They need to be able to read blueprints too, to understand how to construct the structured plan.

As an iron or steel worker, you would be expected to work with extremely heavy equipment and at great heights. Therefore, physical fitness is a must for this particular job. There is a lot of bolting and welding involved too which is usually taught in the relevant trade school programs.

Even though the pay scale for this profession is average, you can access greater wage rates by pursuing construction projects involving civil and heavy engineering. Moreover, to have better chances of being selected for bigger projects, earning professional certifications from recognized organizations like the American Welding Society could help.

#20 Legal Assistant

Image of a professional doing paperwork

Average annual wage: $62,840

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 4.2%

Legal assistants are also called paralegals and they are mainly responsible for helping attorneys and performing administrative tasks for them. The tasks they perform mainly include documentation, filing, legal research, correspondence, client scheduling, witness interviewing, and trial preparation. Legal assistants can work in a variety of legal systems including the criminal justice system, corporate, personal injury, family, property, bankruptcy, etc. They can be a part of a law firm, corporate legal department, or even work for public agencies.

Since they are required in so many legal systems, they are in demand and employment is expected to grow too. However, many employers prefer those who have a bachelor’s in the associated field.

#21 Wind Turbine Service Technicians

Image of wind turbines in a field

Average annual wage: $59,880

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 44.9%

Wind turbine service technicians, or wind techs, is a green job that may pay a little less than other professions but employment is projected to grow considerably in the upcoming years. Various trade schools offer programs in this profession that will help you gain the required expertise. However, many employers do require the technicians to complete at least one full year of job training on-site.

The main responsibility of a wind tech includes managing a turbine’s function. These wind turbines are huge structures that turn wind energy into electricity. These technicians locate and cater to any repairs associated with the turbine tower, generator, blade brake systems, and any other major components of the big structure. They are also responsible for installing the turbines in the first place and operating them efficiently.

#22 Carpenter

Image of a carpenter at work

Average annual wage: $58,210

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 0.9%

Carpenters mainly work with wood and build wooden structures. These professionals are required in various construction areas. The type of work they do ranges from something as simple as adding fixtures and fittings to something more complicated like installing roofing structures. They may have a workshop where they create parts but then they have to go to different sites usually and finish work there.

Since they work closely with clients to deliver the product the client wants, they need to have good communication skills. Carpenters require good skills in mathematics too as they have to perform various calculations as a part of their work. They also need to be able to read the blueprints prepared by other construction professionals so that they can work to the specifications.

#23 Licensed Practical Nurse

Image of a caregiver holding hands of an aged lady on a wheelchair.

Average annual wage: $55,860

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 5.3%

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are identified as licensed vocational nurses in U.S. states. They work under physicians and registered nurses and their main role is to provide basic patient care. The care provided may involve taking care of infants, monitoring patients’ vitals, and feeding patients who can’t do so by themselves.

The demand for practical nurses is high and many job openings come by annually. This is because these professionals are needed in literally all types of healthcare settings. They not only provide patient care but also help in administering tests and educating and supporting patients. However, to practice as a licensed practical nurse, you will need to get admission to a state-approved program and get a state license by passing an exam.

#24 Pharmacy Technicians

Image of a pharmacy worker at work

Average annual wage: $40,260

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 5.6%

Pharmacy technicians work with and assist pharmacists on a daily basis and tackle various important responsibilities. They help process prescriptions, process insurance claims, maintain medical records, deal with client queries, communicate with physicians, and ensure that the patients receive the proper medication safely and on time. Stocking and labeling medications and keeping a detailed record of all of them is also a part of their job.

As a pharmacy technician, you would mainly work in hospitals, pharmacies, and health clinics. They usually deal with sensitive medical information and various substances that require specialized training. During COVID, these technicians were also responsible for facilitating corona vaccinations and providing the necessary information to patients.

#25 Cosmetologists

Image of a girl with blue eye makeup flipping her pink colored hair

Average annual wage: $38,910

Employment change from 2022 to 2032: 7.7%

Also known as a beautician, a cosmetologist works directly with clients to help them achieve their desired looks. They use their expertise to design and create hairstyles, haircuts, makeup looks, and nail designs. Moreover, they may also provide facial and other spa-related services to clients. With their knowledge, cosmetologists can recommend the best type of style or look according to the unique features of every client. This is among those trade school jobs that would be fun for people who like dressing up others.

Sometimes, beauticians and cosmetologists are also required to sell products for the place they are working for. They may also be asked to maintain the tools and equipment they use and ensure their hygiene levels. As a cosmetologist, you can not only work for salons but also work independently or be a personal beautician to a public figure. Personal beauticians also get to travel around a lot with the celebrities they are working with.

Since a cosmetologist is required to work closely with clients, they need to have good communication skills and a warm and welcoming personality. This is important to make the client feel at ease.

Trade School vs College

There are quite a few differences between the two. The first is in the completion time. Trade school programs usually take less than two years to complete; whereas, a college degree traditionally takes four. Secondly, since trade school programs are shorter, they are also considerably less expensive than college/university degrees. Thirdly, the admission process for trade schools is also much simpler.

Moreover, trade schools do not focus on general and broad education courses that develop soft skills. They only teach students job-specific courses related to the profession they opted for. Students get equipped with the technical knowledge and skills needed for the specific occupation they opt for. Colleges and universities on the contrary require students to complete courses that may be beyond their specific career paths which increases the time and cost of the 4-year degree.

Why Consider a Trade School?

Following are some good reasons to choose trade school over 4-year degree colleges.

  • Takes less time: Trade school programs can last anywhere between 8 weeks to two years. This allows the student to enter the workforce much quicker.
  • Saves money: Trade school tuition may cost around $5000 up to around 17,000 at maximum. Whereas, it can take up to $40,000 to complete a 4-year undergraduate degree depending on the major. Apart from this, there are education-related living expenses that increase the total cost of attendance. The more the years, the higher the living cost would be.
  • Good income: Some trade school professions pay quite well and are high in demand with significant growth expected in employment in the upcoming years.
  • Teaches job-specific skills: Trade schools provide hands-on training that allows students to be well-equipped with the specific technical skills and knowledge regarding the trade school job they choose to pursue.
  • Immediate employment: Many trade schools have partnered with various organizations and provide job placement for their students upon graduation. This saves the tedious effort required to find a job.


What job pays most from trade school?

Some of the best trade school jobs that pay the most include Software Developers, Air Traffic Controllers, Computer Network Architects, Construction Managers, and Database Administrators. All these jobs have average annual salaries above $100,000.

Can you earn a good living after graduating from a trade school?

Yes. Trade schools provide the necessary skills for various professions that pay well. Professions that involve more technical skills usually pay better like Software Developers and Computer Network Architects.

What is the fastest growing trade?

The trade job with the highest expected employment growth from 2022 to 2032 is Wind Turbine Service Technicians with an expected growth of 44.9%, followed by Software developers with a projected employment growth of 25.7% according to the Occupational projections and worker characteristics issued by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What's the easiest trade to learn?

Becoming a Food Service Manager is one of the easiest trades to learn. It pays an average annual wage that is above $65,000 but the projected growth in employment is not significant. Learning to be a Real Estate Agent is also relatively easier compared to other more technical trade school jobs.

Are there online trade schools?

Most trade school programs require hands-on practical training which requires you to study on-site, like welding and elevator mechanic programs. Nevertheless, there may be some trade schools that offer online courses of study for software developer programs and similar professions. This may be because such occupations may not need on-site practical training.

What is the difference between a trade school and a vocational school?

There is no difference between the two. They are two names that can be used interchangeably.

What is the difference between a trade school and a technical school?

There is not much difference between the two. Trade schools equip students with more hands-on practice which benefits the mechanical trades like engineering and welding etc. Technical schools focus on the technical skill set with a mix of theoretical knowledge and practical training that benefit careers like healthcare, math, public service, etc.