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20 Best Trade School Jobs That Are In Demand

A bachelor’s degree is not the only way to earn a good and stable living. Many people are now opting for trade school programs that provide the necessary knowledge and practical skills suited for any chosen profession. These trade school programs help make students job-ready in a shorter period. They offer a path that is more affordable and secure, with specialized hands-on training in high-demand trade school jobs. 

Trade schools provide programs of varying lengths that can range from eight weeks to two years. A trade school certificate would require a shorter time period to complete; whereas, an associate degree might take up to two years. Upon completion, graduates can choose to become apprentices, sit for licensing exams, or go ahead and look for employment immediately.

There is a plethora of trade school jobs to opt for and deciding upon one may be confusing. This article lists the 20 best trade school jobs to pursue that are high in demand and are expecting to see employment growth. We have also listed the average annual wage and average hourly wage along with the employment-related statistics concerning each job. The statistics provided will help students make informed choices about which career they want to opt for.

20 Best Trade School Jobs to Pursue

#1  Radiation Therapist

Image of an CT scan machine used by radiation therapists
CT scanner machine in a hospital | Image by Freepik

Average annual wage: $91,163

Average hourly wage: $44

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 6.3%

Annual occupational openings: 800

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.

#2       Computer Network Architect

An image showing a computer network.
Animated image showing a computer network | Image by Freepik

Average annual wage: $137,885

Average hourly wage: $66

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 4.3%

Annual occupational openings: 11,800

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.

#3       Database Administrator

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

Average annual wage: $88,579

Average hourly wage: $43

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 8.1%

Annual occupational openings: 7,200

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. DBAs are well paid too and can earn an annual income of $88,579 on average. This profession is going to see a growth in employment of 8.1% over the next few years which makes it a good option to take on.

#4       Web Developer

Image of a computer with web design written on the screen.
Computer with web design written on the screen | Image by Freepik

Average annual wage: $85,233

Average hourly wage: $41

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 30.3%

Annual occupational openings: 11,000

A web developer is amongst those trade school jobs that are expected to see one of the highest rates of growth in terms of employment. This is probably because of the high demand for these professionals that is expected to increase over the next couple of years.

The primary responsibility of a web developer is to create websites that are functional and user-friendly. In order to create the websites, these developers need to at least have coding knowledge and expertise in HTML, JavaScript, CSS, SQL, and graphic design too.

The websites need to be visually aesthetic and should cater to the 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.

#5       Dental Hygienist

Image of two dentists working in a dentist's clinic.
Two dentists working in a dentist’s clinic | Image by Freepik

Average annual wage: $81,156

Average hourly wage: $39

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 8.9%

Annual occupational openings: 16,300

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. It is one of the highest paying trade school jobs with significant growth expected in employment.

#6       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.
A female patient in the clinic coughing | Image by Freepik

Average annual wage: $75,260

Average hourly wage: $36

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 13.6%

Annual occupational openings: 9,400

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.

 #7       MRI Technologist

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

Average annual wage: $80,816

Average hourly wage: $39

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 7.2%

Annual occupational openings: 2,800

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.

#8       Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Image of a diagnostic medical sonographer conducting abdominal diagnostics
Diagnostic medical sonographer conducting abdominal diagnostics | Image by Freepik

Average annual wage: $83,183

Average hourly wage: $40

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 14.7%

Annual occupational openings: 6,000

Another one of the top trade school jobs is to be a 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.

#9   Elevator Mechanic

Image of two elevators
Two elevators on the outside of a building | Image by Pexels

Average annual wage: $72,879

Average hourly wage: $35

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 2.9%

Annual occupational openings: 2,100

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 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 of about $72,879 on average.

#10   Electricians

Image of an electrician fixing a wall switch
Electrician fixing a wall switch | Image by Pixabay

Average annual wage: $51,830

Average hourly wage: $25

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 7.1%

Annual occupational openings: 79,900

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 or 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.

#11   Software Developer

Image of a closeup of a screen showing software coding
closeup of a screen showing software coding | Image by Pixabay

Average annual wage: $87,121

Average hourly wage: $42

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 26.0%

Annual occupational openings: 143,400

This trade school job is among the ones that are expected to grow significantly in terms of employment. Along with being high in demand with a huge number of annual openings, it also usually 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.

#12   Wind Turbine Service Technicians

Image of wind turbines in a field
Wind turbines in a field | Image by Pixabay

Average annual wage: $40,210

Average hourly wage: $19

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 44.3%

Annual occupational openings: 1,900

Wind turbine service technicians, or wind techs, is a green job that may pay a little less than other professions but is considerably high in demand. Employment is also expected to grow significantly and increase by 44.3% from 2021 to 2031. 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.

#13   Iron and Steel Workers

Image of steel and iron rods
Steel and iron rods in a factory | Image by Pixabay

Average annual wage: $56,409

Average hourly wage: $24.19

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 4.3%

Annual occupational openings: 7,500

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.

Image of a caregiver holding hands of an aged lady on a wheelchair.
Caregiver holding hands of an aged lady on a wheelchair | Image by Pixabay

#14   Licensed Practical Nurse

Average annual wage: $50,976

Average hourly wage: $25

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 6.3%

Annual occupational openings: 58,800

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, in order 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.

#15   Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Image of a smiling health professional holding a heart
Smiling health professional holding a heart | Image by Pixabay

Average annual wage: $90,169

Average hourly wage: $43

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 4.6%

Annual occupational openings: 4,100

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians work in the cardiac department and deal with heart-related health problems. 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.

Image of a professional doing paperwork
Professional doing paperwork | Image by Pixabay

Average annual wage: $39,862

Average hourly wage: $19

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 14.1%

Annual occupational openings: 45,800

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, the demand for paralegals is also quite high and employment is expected to grow too. However, this is one of those trade school jobs that pay quite less as compared to other options on the list. Moreover, many employers prefer those that have done a bachelor’s in the associated field.

#17  Cosmetologists

Image of a girl with blue eye makeup flipping her pink colored hair
Girl with blue eye makeup flipping her pink-colored hair | Image by Pixabay

Average annual wage: $31,637

Average hourly wage: $15

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 10.9%

Annual occupational openings: 87,200

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 are able to 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 celebrity 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.

#18   Carpenter

Image of a carpenter at work
Carpenter carving wood | Image by Pexels

Average annual wage: $45,842

Average hourly wage: $22

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 2.2%

Annual occupational openings: 91,200

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.

#19   Pharmacy Technicians

Image of a pharmacy worker at work
Pharmacy worker at work | Image by Pixabay

Average annual wage: $33,501

Average hourly wage: $16

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 5.0%

Annual occupational openings: 43,500

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.

#20   Plumber

Image of a plumber fixing a kitchen faucet
Plumber fixing a kitchen faucet | Image by Pixabay

Average annual wage: $53,430

Average hourly wage: $26

Employment change from 2021 to 2031: 1.9%

Annual occupational openings: 48,600

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 is one of the trade school jobs that require plumbers to get a license in most states if they want to work independently.

FAQs

How long are trade school programs?

Trade school programs are usually about a year long. Some can be completed even earlier. In case you want to pursue an associate degree or a vocational certificate, it can take up to two years for you to complete it.

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. Some of the highest-paying trade school jobs include being a radiation therapist, computer network architect, data administrator, cardiovascular technologist, dental hygienist, software developer, and web developer.

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.   

What is the difference between trade school and college/university?

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 education courses that develop soft skills. They only teach students job-specific courses related to the profession they opted for. Colleges and universities on the contrary require students to complete courses that may be beyond their specific career paths.

Are there any scholarships offered to students undertaking trade school programs?

Yes, there are many trade school-specific scholarships offered to students by various organizations.

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