The Highest Paying Trade School Careers
Trade schools, also known as vocational schools, help students learn and develop specific skills that can be used directly after entering the workforce in a certain industry. This type of school differs from a college or university because it zeroes in on the skills needed to obtain and excel at a specific job.
Some of the highest-paying trade jobs are in the automotive, labor, installation, and medical fields. After completing trade school, you can earn a high salary as an automotive mechanic, carpenter, HVAC installer, occupational therapist assistant, web designer, or in one of many other roles.
Table of Contents
- 1 Automotive/Mechanics
- 2 General Labor
- 3 Installation/Repair
- 4 Medical
- 5 Other
Auto Body Repairman
As an auto body repairman, you’ll restore, replace, and refinish auto bodies and frames back to original condition. The average salary earned in this role is $41,330 because the environment can be noisy and demanding. You can generally obtain a role as an auto body repairman after completing a vocational training program.
Automotive mechanics are responsible for inspecting, maintaining, and repairing vehicles to ensure they run properly. As a mechanic, you can earn an average salary of $40,710. This job offers a high salary because it may require work in uncomfortable conditions and you’ll need to have car engine expertise. To obtain a position, you must complete trade school and on-the-job training.
Aviation Maintenance Technician
An aviation maintenance technician performs maintenance and repairs on aircraft. This role can earn you an average salary of $63,060. To become an aviation maintenance technician, you’ll need to complete a Federal Aviation Administration-approved program at a trade school and on-the-job training. This job earns a high salary because it requires focus and a thorough understanding of aircraft mechanics.
A diesel mechanic inspects and repairs buses, trucks, and other vehicles with diesel engines. These mechanics earn an average salary of $47,350 and are paid generously for their knowledge of diesel engines and components. To become a diesel mechanic, you must complete trade school in diesel engine repair and employers may also require that you earn your industry certification.
Industrial Machinery Mechanic
An industrial machinery mechanic earns an average salary of $51,630 and is responsible for maintaining, installing, and repairing industrial machinery or factory equipment. This is one of the highest-paying trade jobs because it must be performed in a dangerous environment and requires extensive mechanical knowledge. To obtain a job as an industrial machinery mechanic, you must have a high school diploma, complete on-the-job training, and finish an apprenticeship.
Marine mechanics maintain and repair boat and watercraft engines. They earn an average salary of $41,350 because they’re required to have technical knowledge of engine mechanics. The working environment can also be dangerous or uncomfortable. To become a marine mechanic, you must have a high school diploma or complete marine mechanics trade school. You’ll be required to complete on-the-job training or additional training courses once hired.
Boilermakers earn an average salary of $62,150 and must install, maintain, and repair boilers or large vats that contain liquids or gases. This job can be dangerous and physically demanding, which is why it’s one of the highest-paying trade jobs. To become a boilermaker, you must have at least a high school diploma and complete an apprenticeship program.
A brick mason uses blocks, bricks, concrete, or other stones to build structures, such as buildings. The average salary is $44,810 due to the physical demands and potentially uncomfortable environments associated with this job. To become a brick mason, you must have a high school diploma and complete on-the-job training or an apprenticeship.
A carpenter repairs, constructs, and installs the frameworks for buildings and structures made from wood or other building materials. Carpenters earn an average salary of $46,590. This role earns high pay because it requires precision and can be physically demanding. Most carpenter jobs only require you to learn as an apprentice or on-the-job after being hired.
Construction Equipment Operator
A construction equipment operator earns a median salary of $46,990 and must maneuver, drive, or control heavy machinery used in construction. This role can be stressful and must be performed in an outside work environment. To become a construction equipment operator, you must complete on-the-job training after earning your high school diploma.
A construction manager coordinates, budgets, and plans construction projects from beginning to end. This position earns an average salary of $93,370 due to its demanding nature. To become a construction manager, you may need a degree and you’ll be required to complete intensive on-the-job training.
Electricians earn a median salary of $55,190 and are responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining electrical power and control systems. Work schedules can vary and work environments can be dangerous. To become an electrician, you may need to complete trade school and an apprenticeship program. You may also need to be licensed, depending on the state you live in.
A plumber installs and repairs the pipes that deliver liquids and gases. Most plumbers work inside homes and commercial buildings. The job can require on-call work in less-than-desirable conditions, which is why it’s associated with higher pay. Depending on your location, you may need to earn a license. Trade school and an apprenticeship are usually requirements for plumbers.
Welders earn a median salary of $41,380 and use equipment to repair, join together, or cut metal parts. Welders earn high pay because they may need to work in inclement weather or on high-rise scaffolding. A high school diploma, trade school, and apprenticeship may need to be completed before becoming a welder.
Elevator installers repair, install, and maintain elevator shafts and earn an average salary of $79,780. This job earns a high salary because it requires long hours and work in an uncomfortable environment, such as small spaces or high levels. To become an elevator installer, you must learn through an apprenticeship and you may need to earn your license.
HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) installers install, repair, and maintain heating and cooling systems. HVAC installers earn an average salary of $47,610 because they may need to work in cramped and uncomfortable spaces outside of normal business hours. You may need to complete trade school and an apprenticeship before becoming an HVAC installer.
Wind Turbine Technician
A wind turbine technician maintains, installs, and repairs wind turbines and can earn an average salary of $54,370. This job is associated with a high salary because it requires technical knowledge of wind turbines and working in confined, high spaces. You must complete trade school and on-the-job training to become a wind turbine technician.
A cardiovascular technologist operates imaging equipment to conduct tests or create images. This role earns a median salary of $67,080 due to the technical knowledge it requires. To become a cardiovascular technologist, you must complete trade school and earn a certification.
Dental hygienists examine and clean teeth to help patients maintain good oral health. This position earns an average salary of $74,820 due to the extensive training it requires. To become a dental hygienist, you must complete trade school and earn a license in your state.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
A diagnostic medical sonographer earns a median salary of $67,080 and is responsible for conducting tests or creating images using special equipment. This is a high-paying role because it requires extensive machine operation skills. To become a diagnostic medical sonographer, you must complete trade school and you may need to obtain professional certification.
Licensed Nurse Practitioner (LPN)
An LPN provides basic nursing care to patients and earns an average salary of $46,240. This role offers a high salary because it requires you to complete a vocational program and earn your license to obtain the medical knowledge and skills needed.
Occupational Therapist Assistant
An occupational therapist assistant helps patients recover and improve after experiencing a traumatic health event, such as a stroke. This role earns an average salary of $57,620 because it requires compassion and patience. To become an occupational therapist assistant, you must obtain at least a high school diploma and complete on-the-job training.
Physical Therapist Assistant
Physical therapist assistants earn an average salary of $48,090 and assist licensed physical therapists with helping to improve patient physical mobility. This role is associated with a high salary because it requires you to be on your feet for long hours and set up different equipment. To become a physical therapy assistant, you must have a high school diploma and on-the-job training.
Radiologic technologists earn a median salary of $61,240 and are responsible for using equipment to complete diagnostic imaging exams on patients. The job requires technical knowledge of machine operation. In addition to completion of a trade school or associate’s degree program, a radiologic technologist may also need to earn a state certification.
Radiation therapists administer radiation treatments to treat cancer or other diseases. They earn an average annual salary of $82,330 because the job is demanding and requires technical knowledge, as well as precise execution. To become a radiation therapist, you must complete schooling and you may also be required to pass a national certification exam.
Applications Software Developer
Applications software developers can earn an average salary of $105,590. They create the software and applications that run on computers and other devices. Advanced technical and computer skills are required for this position, which fetches a high salary. To become an applications software developer, you must complete vocational schooling at a minimum and prove you have strong programming skills. You may also be required to earn certain computer program certifications.
Architectural and Civil Drafter
Architectural and civil drafters use software to create technical drawings of architectural designs and can earn an average salary of $55,550. These drafters must have extensive knowledge of computer programs and display strong math and computer skills. To become a drafter, you must attend a vocational school to earn a certificate or diploma.
A commercial diver earns an average annual salary of $54,750 and is tasked with diving underwater to perform various tasks, such as welding materials or bringing items to the surface. Diving experience is required and dangerous working conditions are prevalent. To become a commercial diver, you must complete vocational school, earn your diving certification, and complete on-the-job training.
An electronics engineer earns an average salary of $99,070. They design electronic components, software, and systems. Extensive technical knowledge, math skills, and concentration are needed for this role. To become an electronics engineer, you may be required to hold a bachelor’s degree and complete internships or on-the-job training.
Film and Video Editor
A film and video editor shoots and edits images for production. This role earns an average salary of $58,990 because it can be associated with long hours and may require experience with editing software. To become a film and video editor, you may be required to earn a bachelor’s degree or complete extensive on-the-job training.
Funeral Service Manager
A funeral service manager organizes the details of funeral services and earns an average annual salary of $57,580. This is one of the highest-paying trade school jobs because it requires long workdays, including evenings and weekends, and can be emotionally draining. To become a funeral service manager, you may need to earn a degree in funeral service or mortuary science and complete on-the-job training. You may also be required to pass a state licensing exam.
Geological and Petroleum Technician
Geological and petroleum technicians assist scientists and engineers who explore natural resources and earn an average salary of $53,300. This position requires strong scientific and analytical skills and you may work in harsh conditions in the field. You must complete vocational training and on-the-job training to become a geological and petroleum technician.
A home inspector can earn an average salary of $59,700 and is responsible for inspecting buildings to ensure they meet building codes, ordinances, and zoning regulations. This role is physically demanding and you must have extensive knowledge of building codes and construction. To become a home inspector, you must have at least a high school diploma, complete on-the-job training, and earn a certification.
A landscape designer designs outdoor spaces and can earn an average salary of $68,230. This role requires extensive knowledge of plants and shrubbery and experience with designing software. To become a landscape designer, you may need to complete an internship in addition to trade school. You may also be required to pass the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (L.A.R.E.).
A web designer can earn an average annual salary of $69,430 and is responsible for designing and developing websites. This role earns high pay because it requires advanced technical and design skills. To become a web designer, you must have experience with programming and design and you may be required to earn certain computer program certifications.
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This post was updated November 25, 2019. It was originally published November 25, 2019.