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Best Jobs for Trade School Graduates

Joanna Furlong
Joanna Furlong

Finding the right career path can be challenging, whether you are a recent high school graduate or a worker who is considering going back to school. While college is a great option for those who can dedicate the time and money to a four-year education, it isn't for everyone. Attending college or university may also not be the best option for you if you want a faster path to your career and enjoy flexibility and working with your hands.

That's where trade school comes in. Trade or vocational school is a great alternative to college for those who want a fast track to their career of choice, or just want to invest less time and money into their career. On average, trade school is less expensive than a traditional college education, and trade or vocational students can make a great living wage with minimal schooling.

As with college, individuals can go back to trade or vocational schools at any time in their careers. The New York Times reported in 2018 that switching from a white-collar position to learning a trade is a growing trend. There is an increased need for workers with skills and knowledge not necessarily obtained through a college education. More and more workers throughout the United States are choosing trade and vocational school as their education, especially when it comes to occupations in fields like construction, technology and manufacturing.

Read on to see some of the top jobs attainable with just a trade or vocational school education. Many of their salaries depend on the region of the United States that the job is located in, but know that it is very possible to obtain a well-paying job without graduating from a four-year college or university.

Computer programmer

Average salary: $82,000

Computer programmers write code that allows computer software to run properly. Typically, a computer programmer will write software code after a developer or engineer tells the computer programmer what specifications or designs they want written, and also solves any problems that arise in the process.


Average salary: $54,000

It can often take four years or more of training and apprenticeship to become an electrician, but for good reason, as this job is essential to everyday life. Electricians are responsible for knowing how lighting and electrical systems operate, and they often design and maintain the electrical systems for businesses, companies and residences.

Civil engineer

Average salary: $84,000

Civil engineers are the workers behind the construction of highly important buildings and structures, such as dams, bridges and roads. They also design and maintain public works like airports and train stations. Famous structures like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Heathrow Airport were all the work of civil engineers.

Construction manager

Average salary: $91,000

A construction manager is responsible for hiring their construction team, obtaining work permits, and ensuring that their construction projects and sites run smoothly and legally. They keep their clients informed on their construction processes and also make sure everyone on their team is able to perform their jobs effectively.

Dental hygienist

Average salary: $74,000

Dental hygienists clean a patient's teeth and educate them on the best brushing, flossing and teeth hygiene practices. Typically, a dental hygienist is the dental care professional who handles the patient before the patient speaks to a dentist at their appointment.

Registered nurse

Average salary: $70,000

While many colleges and universities offer degrees in nursing, there are many two-year programs to become a registered nurse as well. Registered nurses play a vital role in healthcare, as they are responsible for monitoring patients' conditions. They are some of the most in-demand professionals in the healthcare community.

Average salary: $50,000

A paralegal or legal assistant's job is to lighten the workload of a lawyer. Their work is very administrative and requires attention to detail, but they can specialize in a variety of types of law or legal work.


Average salary: $52,000

A plumber can make a great living wage, especially if they are working with highly important customers or businesses. Plumbers can work on small bathroom and kitchen fixtures as well as large projects.

Software developer

Average salary: $101,000

A software developer is responsible for inventing and developing many of our everyday technologies, like the apps we use on our phones and computers every day. They play a big role in creating the technological processes everyone from the average Joe to the CEO relies on, from your phone's alarm clock to the computer software that helps companies run.

Heavy equipment operator

Average salary: $47,000

As the ones who drive dump trucks, cranes, asphalt pavers and other equipment, heavy equipment operators are essential to construction sites. They have to be properly trained to operate such heavy and often complicated equipment. It can often take years before they become highly skilled and efficient at their jobs.

Image Credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock
Joanna Furlong
Joanna Furlong
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Joanna Furlong is a freelance writer and content strategist based in Southern California. Her background is in digital marketing, but she’s been writing professionally for more than 10 years. She partners with startups, technology companies and small businesses across the U.S. to tell their brand stories through compelling content. And, she loves to report on the intersection where business, management and technology collide.