Though many academic advisors will attempt to streamline all students into four year college programs after obtaining a high school diploma, skilled trades can be far more lucrative, enjoyable, and attainable for many people. Generally speaking, your chances of finding work in a skilled trade are far higher than they are with a university degree.
A skilled trade is any specialized job or occupation that primarily depends on practical knowledge of a specific skill set. Skilled trades include everything from commercial piloting to automotive mechanics and hairdressing to electrical wiring. Depending on what trade you want to explore, your educational path will differ.
There are a huge number of advantages to pursuing a degree or certificate in a skilled trade. For one thing, a vocational school is the best and quickest way to enter a specific career. Many people decide to learn a trade because it almost guarantees that they will not be without work. Also, a vocational program often allows you to learn as you work in your chosen field, rather than completing several years of education before you can begin working in your field.
Benefits of Degrees and Certifications from Trade Schools
For many people, technical or trade school is a much better option than university for several reasons. For instance, it might be the case that the work you are interested in doing is taught at a trade school. It could also be the case that you simply would like to enter the workforce sooner and leave classrooms behind you. Otherwise, you might just want to save some money and avoid taking out huge student loans.
Whatever the reason, the benefits that come with a trade school degree and diploma can be significant. A trade school generally focuses upon preparing you for a specific job or career rather than providing you with a broad education in a particular field. People who attend trade schools often have an idea of the kind of career they are looking for when they begin, which is not always the case with going to university.
Trade schools are not the same as community colleges. At community colleges, you will still be able to complete a degree in a specialized trade. However, you are also likely to take many courses in a broader area of study. These courses might include English, Math, or Sciences. In the end, you might graduate with an associate degree.
A trade school, in contrast, is focused entirely upon the trade in question.
What are the benefits of attending a trade school compared to a traditional college?
Trade schools are the best path to a successful and rewarding career for many people.
Rather than focusing on developing an academic understanding of a broad range of topics, trade schools equip you with a specific and invaluable toolkit designed for a specific occupation. For instance, someone who studied electrical work at a trade school will learn all of the things they need to know to work as an electrician. Often, trade schools also provide you with apprenticeship programs to get your career kick-started. In a skilled trade, an apprenticeship is often more important than the classroom side of your education.
Some of the many benefits of a trade school include:
- Direct experience in your trade of choice
- Narrow focus of study
- Connections with people already working
- Shorter terms of study
- Often cheaper than four year schools
- Allow you to jump right into the workforce
- High degree of job security post-graduation
How will a trade school degree give you the experience and certification you need?
An accredited trade school is regulated, which means that its curriculum meets the standards of the industry for which it is preparing you. To give out certification or a degree, a trade school must conform to certain guidelines and rules.
A trade school’s certification is based on the understanding that anyone who holds this certification has undergone the appropriate level of education, practically and theoretically, to work as an apprentice in the field in question. For their certification to hold weight with employers, a trade school must ensure that all of its graduates are adequately skilled.
Often, a trade school will set up its students with apprenticeships. An apprenticeship is both a first job and a continuation of your education. In the trades, it is understood that work experience is as important as your initial classroom education. Your new employer will not only be your boss but will also serve as a mentor to you. This experience often proves to be an invaluable resource. Not only do you get practical experience, but you also make connections that can help you get a job in the future.
The apprenticeship program is one of the huge advantages of a trade school. Breaking into a new industry can be difficult, especially if you do not come from a family of tradesmen. An apprenticeship allows you to enter the field and begin your career under the guidance of an expert.
What is the employment outlook for someone with a degree or certification from a trade school?
Deciding to attend a technical school, a trade school, or a community college instead of college can be the best move for your career. The employment outlook for someone with a degree or certification from a trade school is very high. Most of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States do not require a bachelor’s degree.
Skilled trades are always in demand. These jobs fill a particular need or want that society has. For instance, construction trades or mechanical trades keep our societies and economies running. Farmers keep food growing. Train engineers keep this food running across the country.
As many different sources have noted, technical schools can not only guarantee you employment but can also leave you with a pretty substantial paycheck. For example, you can enter all of the following careers by qualifying at a technical school. We included the median salary that you can expect to earn working in each field.
- Dental hygienist: $74,070
- Network Systems Administrator: $81,100
- Sonographer: $73,200
- Construction management: $91,370
- Line installer and repairer for power companies: $64,190
- Police officer: $62,960
- Registered nurse: $70,000
- Web developer: $67,990
Types of Trade Careers
It is a common misconception that trades are all manual labor jobs. Many of these jobs are not physically strenuous and require a lot of mental fortitude. Trades are loosely broken into three major categories. These include service, industrial, and construction trades. Often, people forget about the service trade sector, which includes everything from commercial pilots to hairstylists.
What kinds of trade careers are there?
There is no shortage of career options when looking at the trades. Some of the most common trade careers include work in fields such as:
- Building and Construction
- Industrial Work
- Service Work
To make it easier to distinguish between the different types of trades, they are often grouped into three major categories. These categories include:
- Service: Service trades include jobs such as paramedics, respiratory therapist, dental hygienists, drivers, chefs, medical assistants, mechanics, technicians, bakers, pilots, morticians, hairdressers, barbers, tailors, and shoemakers. These are professions that involve performing a skilled service, whether it’s a service provided directly to customers, for government, or commercial enterprises.
- Industrial: Industrial trades typically include jobs like millwrights, electricians, plumbers, machinists, welders, cabinet makers, engineers, and system operators. These trades usually involve industrial work and can be in warehouses, factories, industrial sites, or manufacturing facilities.
- Construction: Construction trades typically include jobs such as construction manager, carpentry, masonry, HVAC technician, plumbing, sheet metal work, boilermakers, laborers, electricians, painters, etc. These skilled trade jobs involve work on construction sites and new buildings, structures, or public works.
What are the trade careers with the highest demand?
If you want to guarantee employment or work, you will want to enter a skilled trade career that has a high demand. Generally, jobs that are in high demand are those which are closely tied to innovative sectors that drive the economy, or jobs that are always necessary. These jobs are those which society cannot live without. Such jobs include plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, and farmers.
People who specialize in an area that is in high demand and receive the proper training and certification to work in this area are well-positioned for a successful and long career. Often, they can also make quite a bit of money. Some Ironworkers and Electricians have been reported to make over $200,000 per year.
According to Indeed, some of the most in-demand skilled trades include:
- Construction Equipment Operator
- Refuse Collector
- Brick Mason
- Tractor-Trailer Driver
- Crane Operator
- Bus Driver
- Legal Assistant
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest growing occupations between 2016 and 2026 are:
- Wind turbine service technicians
- Physician assistants
- Solar photovoltaic installers
- Home health aides
- Personal care aides
- Nurse practitioners
As you likely noticed in the list above, four of these six career paths are skilled trade jobs. The two most rapidly growing sectors are skilled trade positions related to innovative technology. Like always, workers who serve to provide energy are in high demand. Workers who serve to create and produce alternative energy solutions are in even higher demand.
Most Rewarding Trade Jobs
Having a rewarding job makes all the difference in your life. It not only makes the time spent away from home more enjoyable, but it allows you to better enjoy the time you spend at home. For many people, skilled trades are far more rewarding than unskilled or so-called professional careers.
It should go without saying that it is important to have a rewarding job. If you do not like what you do, you will spend a huge amount of your life unhappy.
The good news about skilled trades is that you can generally become qualified in just a couple of years, which means that, unlike an undergraduate degree, it is not a huge inconvenience to return to school and switch career paths. It is possible to switch careers at any time. Often, it is possible to make more money by switching careers than to slowly work your way to a promotion.
If you find yourself counting down the minutes until lunch as you sit behind a desk in a cubicle, it might be time to rethink your career. Look at some career options that keep you on your feet, get you into the fresh air, and allow you to spend your days building useful things or completing important tasks.
What makes a trade job rewarding?
It is important to find rewarding work. To discover which trade jobs are rewarding, you need to figure out what you are looking for. The same trades will not be rewarding to everyone. Instead, what trades you will find rewarding will depend on your personality, wants, needs, and passions.
For example, someone who enjoys working with their hands and building things might enjoy pursuing carpentry. Someone else who excels at talking to people, getting to know a community, and cutting hair might enjoy a career as a barber or hairdresser. Neither of these careers will be rewarding for someone who simply doesn’t like the work. The most important part of finding a rewarding career is actually liking what you do every day.
That said, there are a few things to look for in a trade if you are seeking out a rewarding career path. A skilled trade has a lot of potential because working in a skilled trade means that you are very good at something – so good that people are willing to pay for you to do it.
For the most part, people find jobs that are less stressful to be more rewarding. People also generally find jobs more rewarding when they allow them to do things they like to do. Other factors that make jobs rewarding include:
- Work environment
- Pay grade
- Social benefit
- Management style
It is also possible to take a few steps to make your work more rewarding. For instance, taking an optimistic and positive attitude towards your work can go a long way. It can also help to take the time to look into the significance of your work. Think about what it is that you do and why it might be beneficial to other people.
A few other steps you can take to make your trade career more rewarding include:
- Change tasks: Break down the monotony of the day by switching between different tasks, if this is possible in your line of work.
- Collaborate with colleagues: Getting to know your co-workers can make a huge difference. If you begin working together, it is not only likely to benefit you both in terms of effectiveness but is also likely to make your time spent at work more enjoyable.
- Plan ahead: If you do not like your job, plan to find work that you do like. Your current job might be a stepping stone – something that pays the bills in the meantime. While you work, you can attempt to figure out how to start working in something that is a true calling.
How do you determine what trade you will be best at?
Once again, this will depend on the type of person you are. Different people will be better at different trades. Some people may have had an interest or a talent in a certain area their whole lives and know exactly what type of trade they want to pursue.
One of the best ways to find a trade that you are good at is to look at a variety of options and determine which ones interest you. Then, it is worth looking at community colleges and technical schools to see what offerings are available.
Many community colleges and technical schools allow you to take several courses early on in the program to figure out what you like best. These courses are often referred to as pre-apprenticeship programs. When working as an apprentice, you are already well on your way to a specialized career. As a result, it is a good idea to test the waters before you jump in.
It is also possible to start testing out different trades at home or in your garage. To do so, you can buy a few small pieces of material or equipment and try your hand at simple tasks. This can be a great way to sample different trades. As you are teaching yourself, more or less, you will quickly discover whether or not you are a natural.
Why is it important to have a rewarding job?
You spend a large portion of your waking hours at your job. In fact, between getting ready in the morning and cooking dinner after work, there is little time left for you. If you do not like your job, this can be a slog – a grueling life. There is no sense in grinding away the hours until retirement. Instead, you can set your sights on satisfying jobs.
Having a satisfying job is far better than working in a career that you do not enjoy. A lot of different factors determine whether or not a job is satisfying for you. For some people, a satisfying job is one where they can do what they love day in and day out. For other people, a satisfying job is a job that pays well. For others still, the most satisfying job is a job where they know that they are helping other people.
To find a rewarding job, you need to know a little bit about yourself. Take stock of your strengths, your weaknesses, your passions, your interests, and your values. To make your work rewarding, tailor it to your skills, interest, and schedule.
The most satisfying jobs in the world, according to Balance Careers, might surprise you. They include:
- Chief Executive Officer
- Conservation Scientist
- Human Resources Manager
- Medical and Health Services Manager
- Physical Therapists
The vast majority of the jobs listed above would not be rewarding to just anyone. Instead, they are rewarding career paths for people who have the right strengths, characteristics, attributes, and skills.
Trade Jobs with the Highest Salaries
Trades are specialized and skilled occupations that require substantial practical education and experience. Many of these trades can be very well paying.
Trades can be particularly well paying if you manage to go into business for yourself or work in an area with a strong union. A strong trade union will ensure that the worker salary in the given trade is fair and equitable when compared to the company’s profits. When you are working for yourself, you can set your salary based upon the number of jobs you can complete.
Here’s a look at some of the highest paying career paths in the skilled trades.
What are the highest-paid skilled trade jobs?
The highest paying skilled trades vary by location. This question also depends on what, exactly, you count as a skilled trade. One of the highest paying skilled trades is piloting. In 2019, the average pilot made about $175,000 per year in salary. Some pilots can make far more, still.
For many people, a pilot is not the first job to come to mind when they think of skilled trades. However, it is a skilled trade by definition. To account for the wide variance in skilled trades, we’ve broken the different kinds of trades down into a few categories to give you a better sense of the type of money you can expect to make in any of the given categories.
Some of the highest paying trades, overall, include:
- Airline pilots: As we mentioned earlier, airline pilots who fly for commercial airlines probably make the most on average out of any skilled trade.
- Heavy Duty Equipment Technician: Heavy-duty equipment technicians can make a significant amount of money. After working as an equipment tech for just four years, a technician can expect to make an average of $107,200 per year in salary. This field is in quite high demand due to the abundance of heavy-duty equipment used in large scale industrial projects.
- Steamfitter or Pipefitter: A steamfitter or pipefitter makes a decent salary after a few years. On average, the yearly salary of a steamfitter with four years of experience is about $105,600. There is also no shortage of work for these tradesmen, given the importance of pipes to resource movement, residential supply, and urban planning.
We have also put together a list of high paying trades in some more specific areas. These trades will exclude the three listed above. Some of the highest paying construction trades include:
- Construction electrician
- Sheet metal worker
- HVAC technician
- Line installers
Some of the highest paying industrial trades include:
- Elevator mechanics
- Aircraft mechanic
- Industrial electrician
- Industrial mechanic
- Industrial designers
If you want to get a sense of the best career to enter in terms of job prospects, growth, and median annual salary, look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of occupational employment projections and statistics. This list provides a detailed breakdown of the projected growth, number of jobs available, and salary expectations of occupations in the United States.
Learning a skilled trade is one of the best ways to guarantee yourself rewarding employment that is financially lucrative. If you love working with your hands, mastering a specialized task, and producing something tangible, a career in the skilled trades might just be for you.
The skilled trades encompass a wide range of careers, including construction, industrial, and service-related. They also range into areas that you might not have considered a trade, like being an airplane pilot or a nurse. Though there is no authoritative definition of the skilled trades, we can state that a skilled trade requires practical training and expertise and revolves around a dedicated task.
Skilled trades include everything from piloting to hairdressing. Sometimes, web designers and programmers are also considered skilled tradesmen. Why? Because to assume these roles, you have to learn a specific skill in a college just as an electrician, a mechanic, or a pilot learns specific skills in a trade school. In contrast, a student who studies history or biology does not have a single dedicated function.
Of all the occupations that are in high demand, skilled trades consistently top the list. According to projections, the demand for solar photovoltaic installers has grown by over 105% since 2016. The overall projected growth of occupations averaged is about 7%, which means that your chances of finding employment as a solar photovoltaic installer, to use the example, are very high over the next several years.
By now, you should have a pretty good understanding of skilled trades and the benefits of specializing. If you have a passion for a certain skill, such as woodworking, or if you simply want to jumpstart your career, a trade or technical degree might be for you. While these careers may have at one time been considered unprofessional, the special skills required can result in high salaries and a chance to take a new approach to life. By choosing the right trade, you end up with a personally rewarding career, too.