There is a drastic labor shortage in construction right now, and other skilled trades and vocational careers, like electricians and welders, are right at the edge of experiencing the same problem. In the summer of 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 7.8 million Americans were unemployed. The very same month, they reported that there were 5.8 million available construction jobs. While not every unemployed American could physically work in construction, those numbers put things in a staggering perspective. There are less skilled workers than there are skilled jobs. Some of the best trade jobs have a high demand for vocational school graduates and typically offer a rewarding salary. In this piece we name the best trade school jobs based on the average salary of each of the vocational careers.
Attending Vocational School
In order to work in a skilled trade, you would attend a vocational school. Sometimes they can be referred to as career schools, trade schools, or technical schools. In the past, high schools offered vocational career courses as electives, and in many cases, students would opt to go to a vocational school rather than traditional high school. However, since the 1990’s, there has been a steady decline in vocational career programs at the high school level, while an increased emphasis is being put on academics. The result of this is that now, many young people see vocational programs in a negative light when they used to be a completely acceptable alternative. The stigma surrounding these trade jobs can make young people feel like they’re not for ‘intelligent people,’ or that they won’t make any money. Neither of these things are true!
There are several problems that are caused by this attitude towards trade jobs. The most significant problem is that there are millions of people who need jobs, but the millions of employers need skilled workers. Fewer people are being trained for these skilled trades, and fewer people see it as a viable option in today’s society. If trade schools were held to the same standards as more traditional institutions of higher education more people would likely recognize the value and seize the opportunity. The second problem is that vocational school programs used to provide a productive alternative to students who did not perform well in a typical high school setting. Students who are at-risk because of socioeconomic or behavioral factors are no longer presented with a trade school alternative that would lead to gainful employment. Instead, millions of students are dropping out each year. That rate is thankfully declining, but so are college enrollment rates.
Benefits of Vocational School
Vocational school or trade school is a productive alternative. It is an excellent option for those at-risk students, but it also provides everyone with the opportunity to learn vital skills in a fast and affordable way so that they can get a job. Skilled trades such as construction, carpentry, commercial diving, and more have been growing steadily for nearly 20 years. Skilled trades are very secure jobs, the education required is very affordable, and there are plenty of programs available. Once a person enters their chosen vocational field or trade, many employers provide ample opportunity for advancement and even have tuition reimbursement programs in place for those who want even more advancement.
In society, we will always build, there will inevitably be things that need to be repaired and engines in cars will always need service. These trades are reliable vocational school options for those who don’t want to go down the traditional higher-education route. In this article, we’re going to tell you about the best trade school jobs; specifically, the highest paying skilled trades that you can learn at a trade school or vocational school.
In this article, we have ranked the highest paying skilled trades as the best trade school jobs. A skilled trade is generally a vocational path that requires labor, but the labor required goes beyond that of an entry-level position or simple construction job. They take less time to learn and the trade school programs only include courses that are directly relevant to the jobs you will be doing every day.
Data for this article was collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Education Statistics, the National Education Association, and from the websites of the trade school programs that are mentioned.
Each job or trade has been ranked as one of the best trade school jobs solely based upon the average projected annual salary and scored from the lowest to highest pay rate. In most skilled trade jobs, employees are paid by the hour rather than with a set salary. For that reason, actual pay rates may differ somewhat.
The trade schools that are mentioned in the article have not been ranked in any way; however, each school that is mentioned in the article features the cheapest trade school program available for students to prepare for that job.
Here are the Top 30 Highest Paying Trade School Jobs and Vocational School Careers:
30. Automotive Mechanic
Automotive mechanics are responsible for the maintenance and repair of cars, trucks, vans, and other vehicles. There are a lot of different aspects of working on cars, including basic maintenance, preventative maintenance, and of course, repairs. The technology involved in the manufacturing of cars is regularly advancing, so electronic technology is also being taught alongside the mechanical skill at a lot of institutions. Mechanics generally work in a shop, but there are other opportunities. You could choose to work at a dealership, as a teacher, or for a company that provides mobile mechanic service. Part of your day to day life would include changing tires, changing oil, diagnosing engine problems, and obviously analyzing customer complaints and making repairs. The job outlook for the most basic level of being an auto mechanic is slightly lower than average at 5%.
The most affordable option for you if you’d like to do this for a living is the Automotive Student Service Educational Training Program at New Mexico Junior College. It takes two years to complete. NMJC has also partnered with Ford Motor Company and local Ford and Lincoln-Mercury Dealerships so that students can receive real hands-on training in an authentic work environment.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $7,046 Projected Salary: $37,850
Welding is one trade that has been traditionally regarded as a good job, and it is! Welding is a sculptural process used to join metals and thermoplastics via fusion. There are eight main methods of welding that use a variety of energy sources like gas flame, lasers, or even ultrasound. Welders have to undergo highly-specified training because precision and safety are imperative when performing the job. Welders can work in construction, or in the manufacturing industry. You would need to be able to read and interpret blueprints accurately, monitor equipment and the work environment to maintain safety and efficacy. There is specialized machinery you would need to learn to use and adequately maintenance as needed. Your day to day life could include tasks like disassembling and disposing of large metal objects like a ship or a car, welding pipes used for residential or commercial purposes or assessing a structure to determine the best way to use welding to make necessary repairs or changes. You could also work welding glass or plastic, depending on your training and chosen position. The projected growth for welding is 4%, but that doesn’t include other jobs that welders could be doing. Pipefitters have a projected growth of 12%, and Structural Iron and Steel Workers have a projected growth of 22%.
Hill College has the most affordable welding program in the US. Courses would prepare students with courses in metallurgy, industrial safety, and the principles of fabrication. The Hill College Welding Program comprises three certificate programs and an Associate of Applied Science in Welding Technology. Students can choose their best fit based on the job they’d like to acquire.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $8,545 Projected Salary: $38,150
28. Marine Mechanic
To become a marine mechanic, you would have to complete a trade program in marine technology. Marine mechanics usually work at docks, marinas, and seaports. There are also specialized marine mechanic shops in cities that are near bodies of water, and there are mobile mechanic opportunities as well, which is akin to roadside assistance but for boats. There are also jobs in other fields, because cruise lines, state parks, and even amusement parks will have boats that need to be maintenanced and repaired. Your responsibilities would include tasks such as inspecting and testing equipment, replacing parts like spark plugs or propellers, diagnosing problems with boats, and drafting reports on the work required or performed. Educational programs include courses like Marine Fuel Systems, Systems Rigging, Troubleshooting, Analysis, and Preventative Maintenance. All of these would prepare you to service and repair every component on a watercraft regardless of its size. The job outlook is a little bit above average at 9%.
The Associate of Applied Science in Marine Technology at State Fair Community College covers a little bit of everything, including Marine Shop Business Practices. Their program is strategically designed to keep you on the cutting edge of the field. They also offer continuing education programs as well, which can bolster your salary.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $10,978 Projected Salary: $38,280
Masonry is the process of building a structure from individual units. In simpler terms, this is a job where you would be building things from brick, structural tile, glass, cinder block, and more. This process is used in the construction of walls, in homes, bridges, and sewers. Stonemasonry is one of the earliest means of construction. People in this position are often called brickmasons and block masons. Your responsibilities as a mason would include interpreting blueprints to make calculations about the necessary materials for a project, making refractory mixtures, measuring distance and marking reference points and guidelines, and of course, fastening or fusing brick, breaking or cutting bricks to size, and applying mortar to the work surface. Masons can work for many different types of construction companies, with residential construction being the most common. Things like experience and specialization play a role in determining salary. The highest paid masons make over $70,000 a year. This career is growing at a rate of 15%.
The Construction Management program at Ivy Tech Community College is the most affordable program that would prepare you to work as a bricklayer. Courses include Survey and Measurement, Statics and Strength of Materials, and several other subjects that would prepare you for this job. From there, the International Masonry Institute is also a great resource.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $8,096 Projected Salary: $39,640
26. Auto Body Repairman
An auto body technician is a car mechanic that specializes in the cosmetic repair of a vehicle. This is called bodywork or bodywork repair. Auto body technicians primarily specialize in one of two areas, which are customization and enhancement, or in cosmetic collision repair. This job requires a lot of attention to detail and technical skill. There is a very broad range of tools and methods that are used to complete the tasks related to this job. Bodyworkers are also more likely to deal with customers face to face than other automotive industry workers, so customer service skills are also advantageous. Responsibilities that come along with this job include minor welding, removing and replacing damaged parts, fixing dents and scratches, painting vehicles, creating or analyzing damage reports and cost estimates, and even working with upholstery. You might work in a shop, at a dealership or rental agency, or directly at the customer’s homes with a company like Safelite. The current rate of growth for this job is 9%.
The Collision Repair Technology program at Holmes Community College is the cheapest option, and it is made up of several hands-on and industry-relevant courses. You’ll learn about Structural Analysis, Mechanical & Electrical Components, and Refinishing. The course ends in an Associate of Applied Science or an Advanced Technical Certificate. Holmes Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and has five campuses in Mississippi.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $9,570 Projected Salary: $39,880
25. Advanced Tractor Trailer Driver
These tradesmen are most commonly known as truckers, and they drive tractor-trailers, which are colloquially referred to as eighteen wheelers, or semis. This is one of the most solid professions in the United States. Industries of all different types need truck drivers. The main responsibility associated with this career is driving, which seems like a given, but the average trucker working full-time will drive about 3,000 miles a week. There is also a lot of responsibility that comes along with driving such a large vehicle. You will need to monitor the road diligently and pay attention to weather and traffic. There may be times where you are transporting hazardous materials, or witness an accident and you need to be aware of the protocol that goes along with those things. Drivers are needed to get groceries, clothing, electronics, medication, cars, and more from their point of manufacture to the distributors. Maintaining the truck and keeping detailed logs of your work are also part of the job. You can work as part of a trucking company, as an independent contractor for other companies, or entirely for yourself. Projected growth in this profession is slightly below average at 5%.
The Tractor Trailer Driver Training Program that is offered by Champlain Valley Educational Services is the most affordable CDL program available. In an extra effort to lower costs, the textbook is even optional and financial aid is available.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $4,410 Projected Salary: $40,260
Carpentry is one of the most common images that come to mind when people think of a vocational degree program. There are a lot of entry-level positions that don’t require any training, but having the proper education and credentials opens up a lot more work opportunities, and can boost your pay rate. Carpenters cut, shape, and install building materials during structural construction, usually. Your responsibilities would include following blueprints, installing things like windows and molding, measuring and cutting materials, general construction and repairs, and more. It is a diverse career, and you may find yourself installing insulation in an office building one week, and remodeling a residential kitchen the next. Carpenters are hired by many different companies; the most skilled carpenters can make more than $35 an hour. The current growth rate is 6%.
Central Georgia Technical College has a Carpentry Technology Diploma that prepares students for commercial and residential opportunities. The state job placement rate reports that 100% of diploma recipients were employed in a career relevant to their education. If you’re a Georgia resident, you can save $4,000 on the tuition for this 63-week program.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $7,920 Projected Salary: $42,090
23. Construction Equipment Operator
Construction equipment operators are also called heavy equipment operators. There is highly specialized training required to do this job because you will be controlling bulldozers, excavators, cranes, and more. Your responsibilities would vary depending on the type of equipment you were responsible and what company you worked for. You could be responsible for leveling an area to prepare it for construction, using a grader to plow snow off the roads in your city, or paving roads with an asphalt spreader. The proper education and certification for this position can lead to high-paying and important jobs creating bridges and airports, working on pipelines, and working in the mining industry. The projected job growth for construction equipment operators is 10%, but that excludes some of the more specific occupations in which the trade would also be useful. The projections are higher when accounting for them.
Turtle Mountain Community College is home to the most affordable vocational program that will prepare you for this job. They have a Building Construction Technology Program that covers construction from every angle in order to adequately prepare students to have fulfilling professional lives. Students may also choose to complete this program with an added emphasis on Entrepreneurship if they would like to own their own business.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $9,024 Projected Salary: $43,810
22. Licensed Practical Nurse
Licensed practical nurses are better known as LPNs, and they are growing at a rate of 16%. Many students dream of working in the medical field but either don’t want to or have limitations when it comes to the extensive schooling that is traditionally associated with a medical career. There are many job opportunities associated with being an LPN. You could be a school nurse, work in a hospital or doctor’s office, or even for a company providing basic care and consultation to your fellow employees. There is also a freelancing opportunity in this job, as many LPN’s are hired as caretakers for family members that require extra or more experienced care. If you worked in home health, you could be tasked with helping your patient get dressed, eat, and move around. You could be responsible for creating a light exercise program or wound care. In a more traditional setting like a hospital, you would work alongside RNs and doctors to plan and manage patient care, administer medication, and keeping track of charts.
Most LPNs end up working in nursing homes. Courses that will be part of the education you receive include Maternal Nursing, General Psychology, and so on. The Northern Oklahoma College’s Division of Nursing has a Practical Nursing Eligibility Certificate Program that has the lowest cost out of all other LPN programs.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $10,575 Projected Salary: $44,090
21. Diesel Technician/Mechanic
Diesel service technicians are generally in high demand because a lot of the vehicles and equipment that make our society function smoothly run on diesel engines. Diesel engines are regarded as the most efficient and durable engines, and more vehicles are relying on them as time goes on. Because of the special components, these mechanics have to go through a different training program than the people who just want to work on regular engines. This specialized route will include courses on the diagnostic and troubleshooting process, the fundamentals of diesel technology, and interpreting technical manuals. This degree can lead to a job in manufacturing, working for the government, in a traditional shop, and some car dealerships that sell diesel engine vehicles. The career outlook is 12%.
At Southwest Mississippi Community College you can take a Diesel Technology Program that is congruent with the standards set forth by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. In the most recent academic year, 100% of students completed the program in the allotted timeframe, and 50% of them were employed within the first year.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $7,050 Projected Salary: $44,520
20. HVAC Technician
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. HVAC technicians are the people responsible for the installation, maintenance, and repair of refrigeration systems, central heating and air, furnaces, humidifiers, and other equipment that is centered around providing thermal comfort and improving air quality. Most HVAC technicians work for a company and will go out on a variety of jobs throughout the day. Jobs would include repairing residential air conditioning systems, servicing refrigerators at a restaurant, installing the ventilation system in a newly constructed office building, and more. It would be your responsibility to diagnose problems and come up with the necessary solutions, to adequately manage your time and keep documentation on your activities, and maintain the tools and continuing knowledge necessary to keep up with the industry. The projection for growth in the field of HVAC is 14% which is double the average.
South Georgia Technical College has an affordable Professional Licensure Program in HVAC testing. It is an accelerated course that will lay the initial foundation for a long and fulfilling career.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $7,780 Projected Salary: $45,110
19. Heavy Equipment Mechanic
Heavy equipment refers to a variety of vehicles and equipment like asphalt spreaders, cranes, forklifts, and other similar equipment. As a mechanic for this type of equipment, you will be primarily responsible for upkeep and maintenance, and of course, you’ll be responsible for making repairs if anything should break down. You could work in a shop, at a company that leases or manufactures this kind of equipment, or for a construction company. You will need to understand how to effectively use equipment specific to the job such as hydraulic jacks and emission analyzers. You would install and replace air filters, rigorously investigate equipment to make sure that it adheres to the industry safety standards, and you would need to be able to create reports based on the work that you’ve done or additional service required. This profession is growing at a rate of 7%.
At South Georgia Technical College, they know that understanding electricity, hydraulics, fuel systems, air conditioning, and powertrains is something you’ll need to do in order to create success in this job – which is why they’re all included in the Heavy Equipment Dealers Service Technology Associate degree program. Students will use a curriculum created by the largest manufacturer of heavy equipment, Caterpillar. The curriculum even includes some welding and an internship with Caterpillar.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $7,780 Projected Salary: $47,120
18. Industrial Machinery Mechanic
Industrial machinery mechanic is more of an umbrella term in this case because the definition of industrial machinery is so broad. Food processing, mining, and manufacturing are all industrial processes that rely on industrial machinery. Packaging, paper mills, water wheels, assembly lines, and even agricultural equipment all fall under the definition of industrial machinery. Because of that, there are hundreds of different career paths that the proper education can qualify you for. At the most basic level, you will be responsible for installing and repairing machinery; making sure all part are aligned, fully-functional, cleaned, and lubricated; test, troubleshoot, and calibrate machinery as well as; understand technical manuals so that you can learn how to use and service particular machines. This is typically shift work, and it is full-time. Other names for these types of workers are millwrights and maintenance machinists. It is growing at a rate of 16%.
The program that Augusta Technical College offers in this field culminates in a Systems Technology Associates Degree in Applied Technology. It is affordable and comprehensive, graduates of this program will be career-ready to step in and begin working as an industrial electrician or industrial systems technician. It also lays the foundation for them to progress into management positions in the future.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $5,408 Projected Salary: $48,410
17. Legal Assistant
Legal assistants are also known as legal secretaries or paralegals. They function as administrative support to lawyers. As a legal assistant, you would be responsible for maintaining case files and putting that information into a case management system. Keep up with important dates and deadlines, helping with scheduling, and preparing care materials are all things that you would need to do. As a legal assistant, you will also be the person in charge of keeping clients informed about their particular case. You would also be the one filing discovery requests, preparing subpoenas and summons, keeping evidence organized, and preparing exhibits for trial. While this is one of the least physically demanding jobs on this list, there is still a lot that you would be doing day to day. Most legal assistants work for a law firm, but some may work in other places. This profession is on the rise; the projection shows it increasing 8%.
There is no one set degree associated with becoming a legal assistant, but those who wish to do the job still need to have some form of education along with a strong grasp of the law and legal procedures. Downey Adult School offers a career training program that would prepare you to excel in the workforce. It is one of the few cheap trade school online programs.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $2,999 Projected Salary: $49,500
16. Civil Engineering Technician
Civil engineering is a term that gets used all the time, but not many people are aware of what a civil engineer actually does. They design and build things like roads, airports, dams, bridges, and water or sewage systems in their communities. As a technician, you would work underneath a civil engineer and would help in the planning and design process. Your responsibilities would include things like developing plans for a project, testing materials like concrete and soil, estimating costs and creating invoices, and making project reports. You would need to be able to read blueprints, check over the work of the construction crew at various points to make sure that the project was progressing the way that it needed to, and you might also have to survey the land the structure would be built upon. The work schedule is fairly 9-to-5, and you would likely spend some time in an office and the field each week. The rate of growth for this job is 5%. The outlook for it is pretty solid, though, because people will always need bridges and roads to be built and improved.
This job sometimes requires an associate degree, but it isn’t mandatory for a lot of positions. One certification that you can get that will qualify you for a position like this is a Professional Certificate in Construction Project Management because you will be learning a lot of skills that are vital to civil engineering work. The most affordable program is at San Diego State University, and can be completed online regardless of where you live.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $308 per module. Projected Salary: $49,980
15. Wind Energy Technician
A wind turbine converts kinetic energy from the wind into electricity. Because this is a completely renewable energy source that has been proven reliable, it is expected that this industry will take off. As a wind energy technician, you would be working on wind turbines during construction, providing maintenance, and doing repairs to them as necessary. You would be working with hazardous chemicals and heavy machinery, so it would be imperative that you learned the safety standards and adhered to them as strictly as possible. You would also have to clean the surrounding area of the wind turbines, and may even end up needing to service the equipment used to work on the actual turbines. You would be responsible for the associated electronic equipment and programming equipment used in the digital aspect of the turbine, and the physical or structural components as well. This has the highest projection out of any career on this list, and possibly out of all the careers measured by the BLS, with a growth rate of 108%.
In order to secure a career as a wind energy technician, a very specialized education is needed. Ecotech Institute is specifically The College for Renewable Energy and Management, so they have a keen awareness of all the different skills you’ll need in order to do this job effectively, and they currently offer the cheapest Wind Energy Technician program in the US.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $16,215 Projected Salary: $50,000
14. Commercial Diver
Commercial diving is a diverse field. Divers are hired for many different types of companies and are employed to do a variety of different tasks. Some of these could be exploration, welding, retrieval, construction, or maintenance. The most common type of commercial diver is an offshore diver that works in the oil and gas industry. As an offshore diver, you would be responsible for building and maintaining oil platforms. This job includes a lot of travel and time spent on a ship. The second most common is an onshore diver, and they tend to get to go home at the end of the day. As an onshore diver, you would help survey underwater in rivers and lakes, and could also be employed by a construction company to work on dams and bridges. There are also opportunities to work as a media diver, in journalism, and as a HAZMAT diver. HAZMAT divers recover corpses, work on pipelines, do the welding inside sewer systems, and repair pumping equipment at landfills. The projected growth is only 4%; however, there are a number of different types of opportunity for someone skilled in this trade.
The CDA Technical Institute is the only accredited commercial diving school in the southeastern United States and offers the most comprehensive program to its students. It’s also the most rigorous, only taking about six months to complete. They offer an underwater welding program that is more affordable than any other such program in the nation.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $23,500 Projected Salary: $50,470
Plumbing is another trade that has a lot of opportunities attached to it. Many different types of businesses hire plumbers to do construction or maintenance, and of course, there are a lot of residential plumbing businesses in the country as well. As a plumber, you would likely work a more typical schedule. You would need to know how to read blueprints, install pipes, fixtures, and other structural components, and you would also need to understand how to troubleshoot and service them as well. If you were working in a construction setting, you would be responsible for measuring the space and determining the materials needed and installing pipes and fixtures (like sinks or toilets) in a way that was compliant with the codes in place. If you worked in a more traditional setting, you would travel to a number of jobs each day, determine the problem with the equipment, and make the necessary repairs. As a plumber, you will also need a working knowledge of HVAC systems so that you can install and service water heaters. The projected growth for plumbers is currently 12%, which is almost double the normal rate.
Stratford Career Institute has a fully-online and self-paced program that includes classes in Hydraulics and Pneumatics, Plumbing Codes, Septic Systems, and more. There is even a course in their Plumbing Training Course that will teach you about starting your own plumbing business if that is a goal that you had in mind.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $689 Projected Salary: $50,620
12. Architectural Drafter
As an architectural drafter, you could work for a few different types of company. Primarily, these drafters work in building construction, but there are also opportunities in machinery manufacturing, and an industrial setting. Architectural drafters interpret drawings and reports from designers and use digital software to create blueprints for those designs. You may also be responsible for creating instruction manuals. As an architectural designer, your tasks could include preparing engineering drawings, preparing building blueprints, creating topographic maps, and detailing the layouts for electrical wiring and equipment. After creating these drawings, you would also need to determine the materials needed, the amount of certain fasteners or wires a person would need, and you would need to outline the procedures of putting it all together. It is very likely that you would be used as a consultant throughout projects so that construction workers understood each step of the blueprint you provided. In an industrial setting, there are times that you would program the design directly into a computer that was manufacturing the item. Strong math skills are an important part of this career, as is an exceptional eye for detail. The growth rate is currently a little discouraging, with the BLS reporting a 3% decline. This accounts for all drafters, from aeronautical drafters, to pipeline drafters. The greatest growth is expected for mechanical drafters.
Metropolitan Community College currently offers a certificate program in the latest and most widely used Architectural Documentation Software that is geared towards absolute beginners and can be completed by itself or as a prerequisite to an associate degree program in the field.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $4,005 Projected Salary: $51,640
Electricians can work in hundreds of different careers because electricity is used in almost everything that we do. There are opportunities in construction, installation, maintenance, and repair. There are two main types of electrician, which are inside and residential Inside electricians work on the motors and other machinery at a business or factory. They also work in the construction of the factories, doing the wiring and other electrical work. Residential electricians work in the construction of houses and fixing any problems that a resident may have, such as replacing faulty equipment. Regardless of the path that appeals the most to you, you would be responsible for having a working knowledge of the city codes and safety protocols, you would need to be able to interpret blueprints, and inspect or troubleshoot equipment to determine what needed to be done to repair it. The projected growth for electricians is double the national average at 14%.
Altierus Career College has an Electrician Career Training Program that prepares students for work in any aspect of this field. Students learn the National Electric Code that every building must adhere to and key skills such as trade mathematics and blueprint interpretation.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $10,921 Projected Salary: $51,880
10. CNC Manufacturer
CNC Manufacturing is also sometimes called CNC Machining. What it is, is a type of manufacturing that uses computers to control the manufacturing equipment. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. Specific programs are created for each machine, and then the computer controls every aspect of what a machine does. There are several aspects of this job that a tradesman could do, such as the programming itself, or operating the machine afterward. All CNC manufacturing uses what is called G-Code. In this job, you would need to be able to understand G-Code, and how to interpret blueprints fully. You would need to understand certain qualities of materials in order to program the right speed, velocity, pressure, etc. and then you would need to understand how to adjust these settings accordingly. You would also have to load a feed mechanism on a regular basis, and enter instructions into the computers as they changed. This job is projected to grow at 17% or more.
Shoreline Community College has an in-depth and nationally accredited CNC Machinist Program that prepares students to work in the programming and operation of computerized mills, lathes, grinders, drill-presses, laser-cutters, water-jets, and routers.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $6,030 Projected Salary: $54,200
9. Home Inspector
Home inspectors can find work in construction, real estate, banking, and insurance. There are also opportunities for people with the correct certifications to work as independent contractors in this field. Home inspectors are used to make sure that a building is up to code, or to determine the value, safety, condition, or extent of damage to a building. Their expertise is used by banks and real estate agencies to make sure that a certain price for a home is fair and to determine the amount of mortgage loans. In construction, inspectors are used to ensure that a building adheres to the national or state level codes and regulations for safety. Insurance companies may employ inspectors to look at damage and assess costs alongside an insurance adjustor. Your responsibilities as an inspector would vary based on which of these specific areas you chose to work in, but you would be universally required to have a strong attention to detail and a working knowledge of the codes that applied to where you were working. You would also be responsible for writing up reports on your findings, and may even need to make presentations. The growth rate for home inspectors from the BLS is 8%.
Stratford Career Institute offers a Home Inspector Career Training Program that provides students with the fundamental knowledge they need to do this job. It covers the appraisal process and an extensive amount of preparatory knowledge that covers every aspect of the inspection process. After completing this program, students will need to seek state licensure before they can start working, which may have additional educational requirements.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $549 Projected Salary: $57,340
8. Aviation Maintenance Technician/Mechanic
An aviation maintenance technician is better known just as an aircraft mechanic. Aircraft mechanics are responsible for the maintenance and repair of aircraft such as commercial airplanes, helicopters, private jets, and cargo planes. You would be responsible for measuring the wear on certain components of the aircraft to see if it needed to be replaced or project when it would need to be replaced. You would be responsible for diagnosing problems based on what the aircraft was doing or not doing, and then you’d be responsible for making the necessary repairs based on the diagnosis. You would also be responsible for understanding the electrical components of an airplane. There are jobs for people skilled in this trade at repair shops or services, and at airports. Some of the skills required include strong problem-solving skills, and the ability to read and interpret blueprints, technical manuals, and other resources. As an aircraft mechanic, you would also have to keep your tools and equipment in working order and stay up to date on industry standards. The growth rate for this job right now is just 1%.
Portland Community College’s Aviation Maintenance Technology Program is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and leads to the required certifications to work as an aircraft mechanic. It’s the most affordable in the country.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $10,318 Projected Salary: $58,390
A boiler is much like a furnace, and they are used in a lot of different jobs like at a dry-cleaner, and at power plants. Boilers are used in commercial and domestic water heating, sanitation, and power generation. They are also part of what’s called a steam engine, which is what is used at power plants and can also be used on trains. Boilermakers today make steel fabrications from plates and tubes, and the name comes from boilers, but trained craftsmen could also work on bridges, or in the construction of mining equipment. As a boilermaker, you could be responsible for assembling large vessels, or producing parts including stacks, uptakes, and chutes, in order to make necessary changes to pressure vessels, heat exchangers, and piping to premises, using heavy-metalworking machines such as brakes, rolls, and drill presses. There are many different opportunities in this line of work, and it is a very demanding job. The growth rate is currently 9%.
Boilermakers are trained through paid apprenticeship programs. You would receive classroom instruction alongside hands-on work experience to prepare you for a long-term career as a boilermaker. There isn’t a tuition cost because it’s not a traditional “schooling” program, but an apprenticeship. One of the most popular ways to learn the trade is through the Boilermakers National Apprenticeship Program.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: Not applicable. Projected Salary: $60,120
6. Conservation/Environmental Sciences
Conservationists and environmental science workers usually work in forestry, but there are a variety of other options that would be available to you. State parks and certain city or state government agencies hire people who are certified in this area. Conservation technicians could also work in a museum, or for a private conservation organization. Some responsibilities for a technician working with a government agency would be to monitor forestry activities to make sure that they were adhering to the laws, negotiating land-use contracts, and monitoring cleared lands to make sure that they would be viable for use in the future. Scheduled burnings, forest cleanup, and water testing are all things that you may be part of in this position. If you were working for a museum, you could be responsible for labeling objects, collecting objects from a certain area, or creating reports on certain items detailing condition and restoration efforts. The growth rate for this job is equal to the current average of 7%.
Stratford Career Institute’s Conservation and Environmental Science program is geared towards those who would like to work for a public or private conservation organization and covers topics like pollution, renewable energy, and how ecosystems work. It can be completed online and is the cheapest vocational program in this area of study.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $689 Projected Salary: $60,220
5. Electronic Engineering
Electronics engineers work in the design and develop electronic equipment, some of the equipment you could work on in this position includes broadcast and communications systems, like an MP3 player, GPS, or a smartwatch. You would be responsible for maintenance on the equipment, and coming up with testing procedures for different things. You might also investigate systems and recommend modifications to the design, or component repairs. Another side of this job is working in computer hardware, building circuit boards and repairing different hardware components. Because of the variety, you could work for the government, for some computer companies, or for companies that manufacture cellphones or electronic instruments used by surveyors and more. The job growth for electronic engineering as a whole is sitting at 0%, but there are opportunities that may not be measured in that percentage.
Houston Community College has an Electrical Training Program in which students learn the basics of wiring and the electrical components of industrial equipment.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $980 Projected Salary: $61,130
4. Garden and Landscaping Designer
Landscaping designers or gardeners can work for a landscaping company, the city, a housing development, and so much more. There are also independent contracting opportunities for those that are good at the job and have strong entrepreneurial skills. Landscaping architects tend to hire in designers to assist them with larger projects. You could be responsible for helping to plan city parks, medians that divide the roadways through your city, and also beautifying schools or government buildings. If you worked in a more residential area, you might be responsible for helping to design irrigation systems, suggesting certain plant types or grass types, and helping with installation. Some skills that are important to this job include creativity, an eye for detail, and the ability to sketch your design. You would also need to be able to draft reports and interpret blueprints. The current growth rate is 5%.
Ashworth Community College teaches students the fundamental design techniques and hands-on practical tasks that they will need to be proficient in to excel at this career. Included in the tuition rate of their Landscape Design Program are the required textbooks and some drawing supplies. You can take the entire program online.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $699 Projected Salary: $63,810
3. Solar Energy Technology
Tradesmen employed in the field of solar energy technology are usually called solar technicians. Solar technicians may be residential installers of solar panels, and they could work on a solar farm or for a construction company that builds solar-powered structures. Solar technicians need strong math skills, the ability to read and interpret blueprints, and a working knowledge of the national and state codes or regulations. In this position, you would be responsible for installing the solar panels and ensuring that they were weatherproof and properly connected to the electrical system of the building; you would also be responsible for diagnosing problems, and repairing them, as well as maintaining the panels to prevent the need for future repairs. You would also need to continue to stay up to date with solar technology so that you could do your job with the utmost efficacy. The growth rate in the solar energy technology field at this level is 24%.
Ecotech Institute has partnered with Brightwood College to create a Solar PV Associate Training Program that adheres to the standards in place from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. This program is self-paced online and will allow students that fail the certification exam to retake it for free.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $595 Projected Salary: $67,000
2. Energy Management
Energy managers are also sometimes called energy auditors. They evaluate energy use at homes, businesses, and more. They may also assess the water systems in some instances. With that information, they create plans to reduce energy use, increase efficiency, and keep costs low. Energy auditors need to analyze energy use and interpret the data that they collect in order to come up with practical and cost-effective solutions. Some energy auditors work with environmental agencies to certify sustainable buildings, they can be hired by a company to help them remodel their facilities to be more energy-efficient, and they can sometimes work for the utility companies in a city as an advisor to the residents on how to maximize the efficiency in their homes. You would be responsible for traveling to the job site and conducting a variety of inspections on the appliances, HVAC, the wiring, and so on. After inspecting every aspect of the electrical system at the site, you would come up with a strategy and write a project plan for your client to follow. Most energy auditors work in offices, and for government agencies. The projected growth of this job is not currently calculated or reported by the BLS.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $1,150 Projected Salary: $74,000
1. Contractor/Construction Manager
Construction managers are also called general contractors, and they are the critical role in all construction projects whether they are federal, commercial, or residential. Construction managers work alongside architects and engineers to make sure that everyone is on the same page about the upcoming project and to make sure that everything is being estimated with precision so that the project can be completed quickly. As a contractor, you would be responsible for analyzing blueprints to make cost and time estimates, planning a timeline for a construction project, hiring construction workers to complete the project, and monitoring their progress throughout construction. You would be responsible for gathering all the necessary permits, and ensuring that everything was being built to the standards of your clients, as well as in compliance with all applicable codes and regulations. Your main responsibility is to determine what resources are needed for a building project and then allocate them appropriately so that the work can get done regardless of whether it is a skyscraper or someone’s kitchen cabinets. The current growth rate for this job is 5%.
The Stratford Career Institute has a program that is designed to prepare students to do this job. The Contractor Construction Management Program is incredibly comprehensive, covering on-the-job management skills, pricing, measuring, and more. It is designed to get students career-ready.
Estimated Cost of Attendance: $789 Projected Salary: $87,400