If you’ve determined that a traditional 4+ year college isn’t for you that doesn’t mean you have to flip burgers or be a cashier for the rest of your life. In fact, there are a ton of different high paying career options you can take without a four year degree.
All of the trade jobs listed below pay at least $18 per hour, on average. And the best part is that you won’t have to shell out $20k per year in college costs to land one of these jobs.
Plus, for many of these jobs, this is the average. Many people, over time, start earning well over that amount. Plus, in most trade jobs, there are a lot of opportunities for side gigs and other ways to earn income – overtime, extra work, and more.
Electrician – $20.71/hour
Electricians troubleshoot electrical problems, install new systems and repair old electrical systems in residential and commercial properties.
To become a licensed electrician you’ll need 2-4 years (depending on your state) of on the job experience supervised by a licensed electrician. While a high school diploma is the minimum education needed, obtaining an associates degree or certificate that can be earned at a vocational school will help you land an apprenticeship.
Aircraft Mechanic – $24.54/hour
Aircraft mechanics can do a variety of different jobs. Everything from working on aircrafts to fixing power plant mechanics fall under this umbrella.
To become an aircraft mechanic you’ll need 18 to 30 months of experience working with power plants or airframes. (If you can’t obtain that experience you’ll need to attend an FAA approved school.) After those requirements are met you’ll need to pass an oral, written and practical exam.
HVAC Technician – $19.87/hour
HVAC technicians work on and install heating, cooling, ventilation systems, and refrigeration units.
To become an HVAC tech you’ll need to take a training program at a vocational school, enroll in an apprenticeship program or receive an associate’s degree. Depending on your state you might need to apply for a license. In addition you’ll need to obtain a license from the EPA so that you can handle refrigerants.
There are other more specific certifications you can acquire if you choose to do so.
Medical Lab Technician – $18.47/hour
Medical lab techs work under experienced supervisors to run various lab tests.
To become a medical lab tech, you’ll need a certificate from a vocational school or an associate’s degree in medical laboratory sciences.
Heavy Equipment Operator – 18.37/hour
Heavy equipment operators run machines like forklifts, bulldozers and cranes. They’re also generally expected to perform other duties such as following blueprints and determining appropriate loads for their machinery.
To become a heavy equipment operator you may need to receive certification for specific pieces of machinery. Other than that you can enroll in an apprenticeship or receive on the job training.
Bricklayer – $24.36/hour
As you would guess, bricklayers work with bricks to make walls, fireplaces and decorative finishes.
There is no education required to become a bricklayer. You can receive on the job training or enroll in an apprenticeship program.
Dental Hygienist – $32.57/hour
Dental hygienists perform teeth cleanings and oral inspections. While not the most glamorous job, it does pay quite well.
To become a dental hygienist you’ll need to obtain an associates’ degree in dental hygiene and pass a written and board exam from the American Dental Association.
Plumber – $20.10/hour
Plumbers do a variety tasks such as fixing waste disposal systems and fixing or repairing water supply lines.
To become a plumber you’ll need to take classes at a vocational school or community college. After that you can enroll in an apprenticeship program. You’ll then need to pass state exams to become licensed.
Physical Therapy Assistant – $24.63/hour
Physical therapy assistants help patients with rehabilitation exercise, monitor progress and operate medical equipment.
To become a physical therapy assistant you’ll need to obtain an associate agree and pass a state administered exam.
Factoring in the Costs
A huge benefit of trade jobs is that you can walk away with a decent career in a shorter amount of time and forgo huge amounts of student loan debt. In certain industries, a high school diploma or on the job training is all that is needed.
If you’re wondering how the schooling costs compare to a traditional four year college here’s the breakdown: According to the National Center for Education Statistics the 2013-2014 tuition, room and board for a four year public university was $18,110. The average for a two year college was $9,282. That’s a savings of tens of thousands of dollars.
The average cost of a vocational school varies greatly from state to state but still comes in at a much lower rate than a traditional four year college and most programs are completed in six months to two years. (You can see average costs of vocational programs for different states here.)
Maybe Trade School Is The Way To Go After All…..
Trades jobs can offer a faster track to work, lower education costs and an enjoyable and well-paying career.
Remember, the hourly pay listed for these jobs is average. Depending on your skill level, location and opportunities your pay could go in either direction. All of these jobs also provide plenty of room for growth and licensing and certification requirements will vary by state.
If you’ve determined that four years of college just isn’t right for you explore your options. A trade job might be right for you.
Would you ever consider a trades job?