Find Your Degree
Collegevaluesonline.com is an advertising-supported site. Clicking in this box will show you programs related to your search from schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.

The Highest Paying Trade School Programs 2020

In this ranking, we profile the highest paying trade school programs and corresponding jobs of 2020.

If you’re seeking a high-paying job without spending years of your life in college, trade school may be an option. While very few jobs require only a high school diploma, even fewer on that list pay more than $30,000 per year. But with some trade school education, focus, and drive, you might be qualified for one of the highest paying trade jobs on our list.

The Highest Paying Trade School Programs Methodology

We researched some of the highest paying trade school degrees for qualified candidates. Many of the high paying trade jobs on our list require only a high school diploma and one to two years of trade or technical schooling. We found jobs that paid more than $50,000 per year with no bachelor’s degree required. Some of the jobs on our list even have favorable job outlooks for the next ten years.

Below are the results for our top 20 highest paying trade school degrees of 2020.

Ranking the Highest Paying Trade School Programs

#20 – Water Transportation Workers Degree

Median Annual Salary: $54,400

Projected Growth Rate: -2.0%
Education Required: Some trade school; on-the-job training

Making our list of highest paying trade school programs, the education required to become a water transportation worker is minimal for seamen and other entry-level mariner jobs. Ordinary seamen, wipers, and entry-level mariners receive on-the-job training for approximately six months to one year. Training length depends on ship size and the waterway the ship travels. Sailors and marine oilers receive similar training, but do not have to complete a traditional degree or receive formal education. However, some water transportation jobs require a type of trade school education, such as U.S. Coast Guard-approved training programs.

Mariners working on ships with U.S. flags must receive credentials from the Transportation Security Administration. The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) must be renewed every five years. Mariners working on ships that travel along the open ocean require the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STWC) endorsement. While regional U.S. Coast Guard offices provide training, which includes first aid and lifeboat safety, some trade schools offer additional training programs. Like the TWIC, the STWC training must be completed every five years.

Nearly all mariners must have a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC). The MMC can be applied for at the U.S. Coast Guard regional examination center. Additional training required can also be obtained by the U.S. Coast Guard or within certified training centers and trade schools. One such training program is shipboard safety.

#19 – Funeral Service Workers Degree

Median Annual Salary: $57,580

Projected Growth Rate: +4.0%
Education Required: Associate’s degree

While it may not be a popular career path, funeral service worker is one of the highest paying trade jobs on our list. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, funeral service workers should see an increase in job growth and strong earnings potential for the next several years. While the median annual wage for funeral service workers is $57,580, funeral service managers earn $79,180. This means that with training and experience, advancement and an increase in earnings potential will likely occur.

So how do you become a funeral service worker? An associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science is the standard requirement for most funeral service worker jobs. State licensing requires funeral service workers be at least 21 years old, have completed two years of trade school or community college education, have received supervised training, and passed the state licensing examination. The American Board of Funeral Service Education accredits approximately sixty funeral service programs. These are programs offered by community colleges, or trade school degrees. In addition to an associate’s degree requirement, some funeral homes prefer experience interning or working in a funeral home. Experience can be obtained as a summer job or internship.

#18 – Occupational Therapy Assistants Degree

Median Annual Salary: $57,620

Projected Growth Rate: +31.0%
Education Required: Trade school; associate’s degree; on-the-job training

The education required to become occupational therapy assistants is recognized among highest paying trade school degrees. Occupational therapists work closely with patients to help them develop, regain, and maintain skills needed for daily living. To become an occupational therapy assistant an associate’s degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program is required. Occupational therapy assistant programs are found at community colleges offering trade school degrees. As of 2017, more than 200 occupational therapy assistant programs existed at community colleges and technical schools that were accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. These 200 programs are also a part of the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Becoming an occupational therapist requires two years of study, generally full-time. Students take a number of required courses in subjects like biology, pediatric health, and psychology. While assistants need a two-year degree, occupational therapy aids need only a high school diploma or equivalent. Aids are then trained on-the-job under the supervision of more experienced aids or assistants. This training consists of one to three weeks covering a variety of topics related to occupational therapy. In addition to training, both aids and assistants must have certifications in CPR and basic life support (BLS). Certification training may be received from a trade school or community college.

#17 – Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers Degree

Median Annual Salary: $57,890

Projected Growth Rate: -1.0%
Education Required: High school diploma; some trade school

Trade jobs’ salary potential is one reason that individuals pursue trade school degrees. A top-paying trade is electrical and electronics installers and repairers. These specialty workers install and repair all kinds of electrical equipment. To become an electrical and electronics installer or repairer, one needs a high school diploma with advanced training and skills acquired from a trade school or community college. Many technical or trade schools offer basic electronics programs designed to equip students for the electronics field. Courses in these specialized programs cover AC and DC electronics, electronic device repair, and microcontrollers. It is critical that students choose a program that offers extensive hands-on training so that they gain practical experience.

While certification is not required for most electronics and electrical installer or repairer jobs, a number of organizations offer it. In fact, the Electronics Technicians Association International (ETA International) offers close to fifty certification programs at all levels of competency. Certification may be valuable to a potential employer, and you will set yourself apart from your competition. To become certified, applicants must pass a comprehensive examination that will test your competency and skill in an area of electronics. Also, most electrician jobs do require extensive on-the-job training; however, programs with hands-on requirements may satisfy some or all of the on-the-job training stipulations.

#16 – Fire Inspectors Degree

Median Annual Salary: $60,200

Projected Growth Rate: +8.0%
Education Required: On-the-job training; some trade school

Fire inspectors are one of the fastest growing trade jobs on our list with a projected growth rate of eight percent. Fire inspectors are responsible for examining buildings in order to detect potential fire hazards. They also ensure buildings meet fire codes at the federal, state, and local levels. To become a fire inspector, a high school diploma, some trade school education, and on-the-job training are required. First, fire inspectors must pass background checks, which include drug tests. They need a valid driver’s license and U.S. citizenship due to their police powers. Training requirements vary by region and state. Some jobs require the completion of classroom instruction, while others want extensive on-the-job training. Trade schools offer instruction that is valuable to becoming a fire inspector.

Classroom training takes place at a fire or police academy, though some schools, such as community colleges, may offer certification programs. Topics covered in classes vary by program, but include fire code terminology, procedures and protocols for handling hazardous and explosive materials, and fire inspection procedures. In addition to classroom training, fire inspectors receive on-the-job training. Typically, they work alongside more experienced officers that serve as mentors. The following organizations offer training programs in fire investigation: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

#15 – Railroad Worker Degree

Median Annual Salary: $61,480

Projected Growth Rate: -2.0%
Education Required: High school diploma; trade school; on-the-job training

When looking at the fastest growing trade jobs on our list, railroad workers show a slight decline in projected growth rate through 2028. This slightly lower-than-average growth rate is due to the decreasing demand for transportation of bulk commodities. This includes coal and oil, primarily. To become a railroad worker, a high school diploma or its equivalent and months of on-the-job training are required. Also, locomotive engineers must be certified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Certification involves passing a written test, skills test, and supervisor observation ensuring an engineer understands all physical aspects of routes on which the engineer will be traveling. Most of the training required takes place on the job. Most railroad companies require the completion of one to three months of training.

Companies like Amtrak offer their own type of training programs. However, smaller freight companies and regional railroads may send their potential hires to a community college or trade school for training. Again, several months of training is required to work for even the smaller companies. Yardmasters must also learn how to operate locomotives and remote technology. Similar training programs are available at community colleges and trade schools.

#14 – Boilermakers Degree

Median Annual Salary: $62,150

Projected Growth Rate: +6.0%
Education Required: High school diploma; trade school; apprenticeship

Boilermakers have one of the highest paying trade school programs on our list. Boilermakers are responsible for assembling, installing, and repairing boilers and large vessels or containers that hold gases and liquids. This is a physically demanding job and requires extensive travel. Boilermakers are away from home for extended periods of time. However, boilermakers earn an average median annual salary of $62,150. The pay also increases as the individual gains more skills.

So how does one become a boilermaker? A high school diploma or its equivalent is required at a minimum. Training is generally learned through the trade and an extensive apprenticeship program. Some trade schools offer boilermaker programs that expose individuals to hands-on training. Here students learn about installation techniques, metals, and general construction safety practices. After training, additional hands-on experience is required. Most apprenticeships last four years.
When a boilermaker finishes an apprenticeship, they become a journey worker. Journey workers performed supervised tasks under the mentorship and guidance of more experienced workers. Candidates with welding experience are often accepted into training programs more often than those without welding experience.

#13 – Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians Degree

Median Annual Salary: $63,060

Projected Growth Rate: +3.0%
Education Required: Trade school; on-the-job training

Often seen as one of the fastest growing trade jobs available, aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians require specialty training and degrees. Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft, such as planes and other aviation vehicles. These highly specialized mechanics work in hangars or on airfields. The training required to become an aircraft and avionics equipment mechanic and technician is specific. Most learn their trade at a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) school or on the job. Several FAA-approved programs exist at trade or technical schools. On-the-job training is also required. Some individuals receive their training while in the military.

Typically, aircraft mechanics enter the field after attending an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technical school. These schools or programs award a certificate of training that is recognized by the FAA. Through these FAA-approved programs, tests may be delivered and certifications awarded upon passing. To become an avionics technician, an associate’s degree is usually required. This job relies heavily on aircraft controls, systems, and instruments; thus, computer experience is needed.

As aircraft equipment mechanics and technicians gain experience, they may be eligible for advancement. Opportunities for advancement include lead mechanic jobs, lead inspectors, or shop supervisors.

#12 – Police and Detectives Degree

Median Annual Salary: $63,380

Projected Growth Rate: +5.0%
Education Required: High school diploma; trade school

Police and detective roles are among the fastest growing trade jobs on our list. As a police officer, you will serve the public in protecting lives and property. Detectives or criminal investigators gather and collect evidence relating to a possible crime. Both jobs require training and specialized education. In addition to a high school diploma or equivalent, police officers and detectives spend time at an agency’s training academy. The police academy requires a period of time learning in the classroom and completing on-the-job training. Rigorous physical and personal qualifications must be met to pass examinations and determine eligibility.

Police officers and detectives often have completed some college coursework or earned a degree. Community colleges offer programs in law enforcement and criminal justice. In some agencies and geographic locations, it is seen as an asset to have working knowledge of a foreign language. Federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) require detectives and investigators to hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or closely related discipline. But for most entry-level police work jobs, some trade school coursework and completion of the police academy training programs are all that is needed to enter a career as a police officer or detective. Many consider police officer/detective one of the best trades to learn.

#11 – Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners Degree

Median Annual Salary: $65,670

Projected Growth Rate: -4.0%
Education Required: High school diploma; trade school or some college

Claims adjusters, appraisers, and insurance examiners offer competitive trade jobs salary potential. In fact, the median annual salary for this occupation, according to BLS, is $65,670 as of May 2018. The role of the claims adjuster is to evaluate insurance claims and investigate damages to automobiles, buildings, or other structures that were insured. A high school diploma is the minimum education requirement for most entry-level jobs as a claims adjuster, appraiser, or examiner. However, some higher-level management roles require additional education, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Automotive appraisers, adjusters who evaluate property damage or bodily injury, have postsecondary education but have not earned a degree. Training for these roles may take place in a trade school or community college.

Some states require claims adjusters and examiners be licensed. Licensing requires the completion of pre-licensing education, which may take place at a trade school. At the end of the required coursework, a licensing exam must be passed. Several months of on-the-job training is often another requirement for working as a claims adjuster. This training program involves working with a senior claims adjuster that has experience estimating damage costs and injury value. A trainee does not typically evaluate claims on their own. However, once training is complete, they will receive their own caseload.

#10 – Aerospace Engineering Operations Technicians Degree

Median Annual Salary: $67,010

Projected Growth Rate: +4.0%
Education Required: Trade school; associate’s degree

Aerospace engineering operations technicians are among the fastest growing trade jobs. With only an associate’s degree or vocational-technical education (trade school) needed, this high-paying job is ideal for individuals who are interested in math, engineering, and computer technology. Most employers seek aerospace engineering operations technicians who have earned certificates or diplomas offered by trade schools. Some prefer the completion of an associate’s degree in engineering technology. Since this is a job that requires vocational education, some trade schools or community colleges offer cooperative programs with work experience built into the course requirements and curriculum. Courses taken for this highly specialized degree or diploma include aerospace engineering design, computer software development, drafting, and math.

While not a requirement of the job, certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may be beneficial to employers. Certification shows proof an aerospace engineering technician can carry out tasks required of the job, such as theoretical designs and operations of aerospace engineers. Other characteristics and qualities aerospace operations technicians need include strong communication skills, critical thinking abilities, math acumen, and mechanical skills.

#9 – Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technicians Degree

Median Annual Salary: $67,080

Projected Growth Rate: +14.0%
Education Required: Associate’s degree; trade school

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technicians rank among the jobs that require some of the highest paying trade school programs on our list. Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular techs operate imaging equipment used to conduct highly specialized tests. The test results and images are then used to diagnose medical conditions. To become a diagnostic medical sonographer, a postsecondary education is required. In fact, most employers, such as hospitals and physician offices, require a minimum of an associate’s degree or the completion of a one-year certification from a trade school or community college. Since nearly 80 percent of all sonographers work in hospitals, employers seek graduates of programs that have received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

In addition to an associate’s degree from a CAAHEP-accredited program, employers prefer to hire individuals with professional certification. Several certifications are available. Certifications may be obtained from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, or Cardiovascular Credentialing International. In addition to certification, employers also prefer candidates with basic life support training, which shows they can complete CPR. While stipulations vary by state, licensing may also be required.

#8 – Web Developers Degree

Median Annual Salary: $69,430

Projected Growth Rate: +13.0%
Education Required: High school diploma; associate’s degree; trade school

The web developer’s degree ranks as one of the highest paying trade school degrees on our list. With an average earnings potential of $69,430 and a projected job growth outlook of 13 percent, web developers are among the top jobs for individuals graduating trade schools. The typical education requirement for web developer jobs is an associate’s degree. However, some web developers have landed jobs in web development with only a high school diploma. An associate’s degree in web design or a closely related subject is the most common requirement for entry-level web development jobs. Advanced roles, such as web development management jobs, may require a bachelor’s degree in web design, computer programming, or another closely related discipline.

Some trade schools offer web development programs designed to equip students with the skills needed to work in web design and development. One- and two-year programs cover topics like computer science, HTML programming, JavaScript, programming languages, SQL, and web development. Some employers prefer candidates that have design and development experience, and would thus like to see coursework in graphic design. Other skills that make someone a qualified applicant for a web developer job include the ability to concentrate for long periods of time, detail-oriented eye, and strong customer relation skills.

#7 – Dental Hygienists Degree

Median Annual Salary: $74,820

Projected Growth Rate: +11.0%
Education Required: Associate’s degree; trade school

Competitive trade jobs salary earnings potential includes dental hygienists. The average dental hygienist earns $74,820 per year, making this one of the highest paying trade jobs out there today. Dental hygienists work in dentist offices and a majority of them work part-time, earning on average $35.97 per hour. Job duties for dental hygienists include cleaning and examining teeth, providing preventive dental care, and educating patients on oral disease and prevention. To become a dental hygienist, an associate’s degree is likely required by most employers. An associate’s degree in dental hygiene may be obtained from a community college or trade school with a dental hygiene program. Most dental hygiene programs run three years. In addition to the completion of a dental hygiene program, licensing is required by all states in the U.S.

Nearly all dental hygiene programs are found in community colleges, technical or trade schools, and universities. When seeking a dental hygiene program, it is important to look for accreditation. The Commission on Dental Accreditation, which is part of the American Dental Association (ADA), accredits over 300 programs. Within these programs, students complete clinical and lab work in areas like anatomy, gum disease prevention, and medical ethics. A strong background in math and science is required for this job. Many consider this to be one of the best trades to learn.

#6 – Nuclear Medicine Technologists Degree

Median Annual Salary: $76,820

Projected Growth Rate: +7.0%
Education Required: Associate’s degree; trade school

Recognized as one of the highest paying trade jobs, nuclear medicine technologists need only an associate’s degree or trade school to land a job. The role of a nuclear medicine technologist is to prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients for imaging purposes. Most nuclear technologists work full time in hospitals or medical facilities and have received formal education in nuclear medicine technology. This education often takes place in community colleges and technical or trade schools. Many nuclear technologists qualify for jobs by completing an associate’s degree in either nuclear medicine or a closely related field like nursing, and then completing a one-year certificate program in nuclear medicine technology.

Choosing an accredited program is important. The Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology accredits most nuclear medicine programs. Employers, especially hospitals, seek this accreditation from job candidates. Also, these accredited programs often offer licensure options for graduates. Some employers require licensing prior to or upon hiring. Certification is available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).

#5 – Nuclear Technicians Degree

Median Annual Salary: $79,140

Projected Growth Rate: -4.0%
Education Required: Associate’s degree

Nuclear technicians have one of the highest paying trade school degrees. Nuclear technicians work closely with engineers, physicists, and other nuclear research professionals helping monitor nuclear equipment and operate nuclear reactors. Currently, there is a decline in the projected growth rate over the next decade, but the salary potential remains steady. In fact, the median annual wage for nuclear technicians in May 2018 was $79,140 or $38.05 per hour.

To become a nuclear technician, an associate’s degree in nuclear science is required. Some jobs may accept equivalent experience gained from working in the military, though most jobs ask for at least a two-year degree from a community college or trade school. After securing a job as a nuclear technician, extensive on-the-job training is carried out. Most training programs range from six months to two years, depending on the responsibilities for the job. Certification may also be needed. The Nuclear Energy Institute offers certification through its Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program.

#4 – Radiation Therapists Degree

Median Annual Salary: $82,330

Projected Growth Rate: +9.0%
Education Required: Associate’s degree

Radiation therapists have one of the highest paying trade jobs available. Earning a median annual wage of $82,330, most radiation therapists work in hospitals and outpatient services and work full-time. Radiation therapy shows a favorable job growth over the next several years as advances in radiation therapy continue and the overall population ages. To land a role as a radiation therapist, an associate’s degree is usually always required. Employers, such as hospitals, look for candidates with an accredited associate’s degree in radiation therapy. Radiation therapy programs can be found in community colleges or technical and trade schools. Some candidates may qualify for jobs by completing a certificate program, which is often offered by a trade school.

Radiation therapy programs at community colleges or trade schools cover a wide array of topics associated with radiation therapy procedures. Often, the student takes courses in algebra, computer science, human anatomy, physics, and physiology. As of 2016, there were 110 accredited radiation therapy programs recognized by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

#3 – Power Plant Operators Degree

Median Annual Salary: $83,020

Projected Growth Rate: -6.0%
Education Required: High school diploma; trade school

Another of the top trade jobs salary earnings potentials listed includes power plant operators. This highly specialized career path requires a high school diploma and extensive on-the-job training. Training may take place in trade schools, technical schools, a community college, or through a combination of coursework and on-the-job experience. Nuclear power reactor operators are also required to have a license through NRC. These jobs typically require operators to work as unlicensed personnel, where they gain experience and knowledge needed to begin the licensing process. To become licensed with the NRC, candidates must meet training and skills requirements and pass both a medical and NRC licensing examination.

Due to the nature of the job, nearly all power plant operators must pass a background check and drug and alcohol screenings. A strong understanding of math and mechanical concepts is also beneficial for one of these high paying trade jobs.

#2 – Airline and Commercial Pilots Degree

Median Annual Salary: $115,670

Projected Growth Rate: +6.0%
Education Required: High school diploma; trade school

Airline and commercial pilots are listed as having the highest paying trade school degrees. Airline and commercial pilots fly airplanes, helicopters, and other aircraft. They often work variable schedules with overnight layovers in airports. Airline pilots often begin their careers as commercial pilots. To become a commercial pilot, you must hold a high school diploma or its equivalent and have obtained a pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Due to responsibilities, airline pilots typically have more education and experience than commercial pilots. In fact, some airlines require that their pilots hold a bachelor’s degree in any subject area.

The most common educational pathway to entry-level commercial pilot jobs is to complete flight training with an FAA-certified flight school that offers this type of training program. Flight schools may be part of trade or technical schools, community colleges, or four-year universities.

#1 – Air Traffic Controllers Degree

Median Annual Salary: $124,540

Projected Growth Rate: +1.0%
Education Required: Associate’s degree; trade school

Air traffic controllers hold the highest paying trade school degrees on our list. With even more responsibilities than pilots, air traffic controllers coordinate the safe movement of aircraft between distances. There are several paths to becoming an air traffic controller. In general, most air traffic controllers have graduated high school and college. Candidates for air traffic controller jobs will need an associate’s degree at minimum from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program. Another way to become an air traffic controller is to have three years of responsible work experience, four years of college, or a combination of both.

All air traffic controllers must be U.S. citizens, have passed medical and background checks, and taken the required courses at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) academy. Air traffic controllers offer the highest paying salary on our list. The median annual wage for air traffic controllers in May 2018 was $124,540. Earning a six-figure salary without spending years of your life in the college classroom is rare, but with this high paying trade job, it is a possibility.

CVO Staff
November 2019

Related:

This concludes our list of the highest paying trade school programs of 2020.

Web Analytics