Four-year degrees used to be a must if you wanted a high-paying job, but not anymore – now, you can forgo the steep tuition and work toward getting a trade job instead.
But what is a trade job?
And how, exactly do you go about getting one?
In this post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about landing a trade job, along with some examples of trade jobs and how much they pay.
Let’s dive in!
What Is A Trade Job?
A trade job is any job that requires special skills and advanced training but does not require a bachelor’s degree. To qualify for a trade job, you may need to earn an associate degree, attend a vocational school, or gain the required skills through an apprenticeship or hands-on experience.
Therefore, if a normal 4-year degree isn’t really up your alley, then you may want to consider working in the trades.
Which Trade Jobs Are In High-Demand?
The demand for certain trade jobs varies across time, but there are plenty of trades that are constantly needed by consumers.
For example, people practically always need service providers like plumbers, car mechanics, and carpenters.
Also, the demand for computer- and technology-related skills is always increasing, as well as the need for professionals with phenomenal writing, communication, and organizational skills.
It’s important to not only consider which trade jobs are in high-demand, but to also think about which skills you already have and would enjoy improving upon.
The better you can get at your trade of choice, the more you will be able to make for your services.
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How Much Do Trade Jobs Pay?
Trade jobs pay different amounts depending on a few different factors. Some of these factors include:
- How much education is required to do the job
- How many years of experience you have
- The current level of demand for your specific trade
The good news is that many trade jobs pay very well.
Many of them pay salaries that are equal to or better than jobs that require a 4-year degree.
In fact, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, there are more than 30 million jobs in the United States that don’t require a bachelor’s degree and pay an average of around $55,000 per year.
That said, as with any career choice, it’s a good idea to do some research about the trade you’re interested in before you start pursuing it.
That way, you’ll be able to form a reasonable expectation for your salary before you invest too much of your time and energy toward pursuing a certain trade.
Examples of Well-Paying Trade Jobs
To give you a better idea of the types of professions that are considered trade jobs, here are a few examples that are well-paying.
As you’ll probably be able to tell, the trade job world covers a wide array of skills and experience.
So, whether you want to work with your hands, work with people, or work behind a computer, you’re likely to find at least one job that aligns with your interests.
Median Salary: $56,900*
Expected 10-Year Job Growth: 8 percent*
Electricians are responsible for planning, installing, and maintaining electrical systems and wiring.
They install circuit breakers, transformers, lighting fixtures, and more.
Electricians make the communication and lighting systems in our homes, businesses, and factories work properly.
They are the backbone of our entire society, and thus, this is a phenomenal career choice for people interested in working with their hands.
Some of the skills required to become an electrician include:
- Reading and interpreting complex diagrams and blueprints
- Complying with local and state building regulations
- Identifying electrical problems with testing instruments
- Performing inspections on circuit breakers, transformers, wires, and other electrical equipment
- Repairing and replacing light fixtures and other electrical components
Because of increased spending on construction and higher demand for new sources of energy, the demand (and pay) for quality electricians in only increasing.
On the job, electricians spend most of their time working in buildings (residential and commercial) that are under construction or outside on telecommunication and power systems.
They may spend a long period of time working on one job site, then move onto the next after a few days or even months.
It’s possible to work on your own as an electrician, or you can become part of a team at a large company.
Median Salary: $56,330*
Expected 10-Year Job Growth: 4%*
Becoming a plumber requires that you have a high level of skill and are good with your hands.
Plumbers fix, install, replace, and maintain a variety of appliances and fixtures including water and gas lines.
You never know when your sink is going to spring a leak – for this reason, plumbers often have variable hours and may have to work on nights and weekends.
Even so, the steady paycheck, job stability, and independence that come with being a plumber may be worth the tradeoff.
Some skills that are necessary to be a good plumber include:
- Effectively communicating with customers and understanding their needs
- Installing and repairing water pipes
- Reading and interpreting blueprints
- Assembling valves and fittings
- Identifying plumbing issues by testing for leaks and problems
To become a plumber, you can receive an education at a community college or trade school, or you can learn on-the-job through an apprenticeship.
Apprenticeship programs typically take between four and five years to complete, and you can find them through certain plumbing companies or associations.
Median Salary: $77,090*
Expected 10-Year Job Growth: 6%*
Everyone needs to (or at least should) go to the dentist!
For dental hygienists, that means great job security.
The role of a dental hygienist is to provide examinations, clean patients’ teeth, take X-rays, and advise about maintaining oral health.
Dental hygienists typically work on teams under the supervision of a dentist.
Their hours are very regular, and many dental hygienists work only part-time.
Therefore, it’s a great trade job option for anyone who values both flexibility and job security.
Some of a dental hygienist’s job duties include:
- Cleaning people’s teeth by removing plaque and stains from teeth surfaces
- Taking dental X-rays
- Maintaining a record of patients’ treatments
- Performing oral cancer screenings
- Teaching patients about maintaining good oral health and hygiene
If you enjoy working on people’s teeth but don’t want to go through the many years of education it takes to become a dentist, a career in dental hygiene could be a great option.
To become a dental hygienist, you must obtain an associate degree which typically takes two to three years.
Your time in school will involve classroom learning, labs, and working in a clinical setting.
You’ll also need a license from your state’s dental board to become a dental hygienist, but the specific requirements for obtaining this license vary by state.
Median Salary: $63,710*
Expected 10-Year Job Growth: 7%*
Radiology techs perform diagnostic imaging procedures like X-rays and CT scans.
They work alongside doctors in hospitals or doctor’s offices, so this is another great option for anyone who desires to work in the healthcare field.
As a radiology tech, you can specialize in imaging for a certain modality or method like bone density scans, MRI technology, or mammography.
Because of the nature of working in a medical field, work hours for radiologists may include nights, weekends, and holidays.
Some of the job responsibilities for radiology techs include:
- Preparing patients prior to imaging procedures
- Working with imaging equipment and machinery
- Developing film and helping radiologists interpret results
- Guiding and positioning patients to obtain clear images
- Reviewing and updating patient charts
There are a few different educational paths to becoming a radiology tech.
Some people earn an associate degree at a community college while others enroll in certificate programs that involve classroom learning and clinical work.
Most states require that radiology techs obtain a license or pass a certification test.
Additionally, radiology techs must also complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years and stay in good standing with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) to renew their licenses.
Median Salary: $67,290*
Expected 10-Year Job Growth: 5%*
If you’re looking for a trade job that makes a difference and involves a lot of day-to-day variety, becoming a police officer could be a good fit for you.
It’s the job of a police officer to enforce and uphold the rule of law.
Police officers enforce traffic laws, respond to emergencies, investigate crimes, protect the public, and catch criminals. They also appear in court and write up detailed reports of incidents.
The duties and responsibilities of a police officer include:
- Keeping your community safe
- Responding to emergency and non-emergency situations through dispatch
- Undergoing training to safely and responsibly use firearms
- Arresting suspected criminals
- Collecting evidence and conducting preliminary investigations
- Enforcing traffic laws
Most of a police officer’s time is spent patrolling, so if you choose to become a police officer, you’ll likely be spending a lot of time in the car or on foot.
Some students take college-level classes in criminal justice or law enforcement to prepare for their career as a police officer. However, many community colleges and universities offer programs and courses on law and civil rights.
While requirements vary by jurisdiction, most police officer candidates go through the police academy, also known as the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST).
Graduating from the police academy typically takes between four and six months.
Candidates must also pass intense psychological, academic, and physical examinations.
IT Support Specialist
Median Salary: $55,510*
Expected 10-Year Job Growth: 8%*
Are you the tech whiz who friends and family always turn to for advice when something’s wrong with their computers?
If so, you should consider starting a career as an IT support specialist.
People who work in information technology help solve people’s technological problems.
IT support specialists are vital to any business that uses technology or offers a technology product or service to customers.
The job responsibilities of an IT support specialist include:
- Performing computer diagnostics to solve problems for users
- Conducting regular maintenance on systems and software
- Staying educated and up-to-date about common hardware and software systems
- Setting up new equipment for employees
There is no set standard education requirement to become an IT support specialist.
You may be able to obtain the necessary computer skills by earning an associate degree from a community college.
In fact, some large software companies even offer their own training programs for prospective employees.
Median Salary: $53,380*
Expected 10-Year Job Growth: -4%*
Do you have an eye for design?
If so, becoming a graphic designer could be an ideal career path for you.
Graphic designers help bring businesses to life by designing logos, packaging, brochures, catalogs, websites, and marketing materials.
As a graphic designer, you could work independently as a freelancer, work on a team at a large company, or work at a marketing agency.
There are also countless opportunities to specialize in a particular type of design such as website design, book cover design, or packaging design.
The role of a graphic designer includes responsibilities like:
- Preparing client briefs and defining project scopes
- Illustrating concepts visually to reinforce a brand’s message
- Using software and technology to produce graphic art
- Planning concepts, creating mockups, and adjusting designs
- Advising and giving feedback
Becoming a graphic designer doesn’t require any specific training, although certain employers may look for candidates who have an associate degree in graphic design or a related field.
Most importantly, you should be able to demonstrate your design skills through a portfolio.
Trade jobs allows you to specialize in a certain skill that people are willing to pay for, and these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
And, contrary to what you may have believed, many trade jobs pay very well.
In even better news, if you’d like to avoid the astronomical tuition of a 4-year university, working toward a trade job could be the right move for you!
*Median salaries and job growth statistics according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics