The 10 Highest-Paying Trade School Jobs


Updated May 23, 2023 · 5 Min Read is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Trade jobs require specialized, practical skills that can lead to challenging but high-paying work.

Traditional colleges and universities offer excellent career pathways for many students, but they may not suit everyone. For some, trade schools provide a more sensible route to the profession of their choice. Compared to a four-year bachelor's degree, trade schools typically cost less, take less time, and feature more practical training.

Trade schools offer the most direct pathway for many careers, especially those that require professional certifications and apprenticeships. For example, professions like carpentry and masonry often require students to complete trade school job training that combines theoretical and practical education.

Continue reading to learn about high-paying trade jobs and what it takes to acquire them.


We ranked the best trade school jobs for 2020 using a combination of salary and projected job growth rate data from PayScale and Projections Central.

Elevator Mechanic

Elevator mechanics install and repair elevators and other mechanical lifts and walkways. These professionals work with hydraulics, electrical networks, and computerized systems. They need to know how to read blueprints and work safely with mechanical components. Elevator mechanics typically work with building equipment contractors, though they may also work with independent elevator owners.

An elevator mechanic typically needs a high school diploma or its equivalent and then must complete a trade school apprenticeship and licensure program. These programs usually include four years of trade school job training during which students complete theoretical and on-the-job training. Candidates need mechanical, troubleshooting, and physical skills.

Median Annual Salary (2020)


Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)


Median Salary: $80,800

Construction Manager

Construction managersoversee construction projects, including managing the budgeting, design, and building processes. They coordinate individual workers and whole departments to ensure cohesion. These managers may also need to work with design and construction teams to make changes and adjustments to projects depending on costs, supplies, and client needs.

Many construction managers have bachelor's degrees and construction experience, but some professionals attend trade schools, take entry level construction jobs, and work up to management positions. The length of training required varies for each job, but many candidates need experience beyond the typical four years of university or trade school. In addition to mechanical, technical, and construction abilities, construction managers may need leadership, business, and decision-making skills.

Median Annual Salary (2020)


Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)


Median Salary: $76,900

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists support patients suffering from cancer and other illnesses by administering radiation treatments. These professionals work with an array of equipment, so they need to understand how to operate and calibrate each device to ensure safety. In addition to working with patients, radiation therapists work alongside other medical professionals, such as oncologists, physicians, and nurses.

These professionals often have an associate degree in radiation therapy, though some employers offer on-the-job training. Some states or employers may require bachelor's degrees, licensure, or certification, such as from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Successful candidates often possess interpersonal and technical skills.

Median Annual Salary (2020)


Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)


Median Salary: $73,100


Millwrights oversee the installation, dismantling, and repair of machinery on construction sites or in factories. They may also need to take apart large machines for diagnosis, repair, storage, or transportation. This requires in-depth knowledge of the machinery and equipment, along with proficiency with hand and measurement tools.

Most millwrights need to complete a four-year apprenticeship program after completing high school or its equivalent. Some professionals pursue associate degrees in industrial maintenance, along with on-the-job training afterward. In most trade school job programs, a millwright completes over 100 hours of technical instruction and close to 2,000 hours of practical training. Successful candidates usually boast mechanical and troubleshooting skills.

Median Annual Salary (2020)


Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)


Median Salary: $66,700

Electrical Powerline Technician

Electrical powerline technicians install, repair, and dismantle electrical power systems in buildings, cities, and towns. Technicians must maintain the integrity of large power grids while working quickly and safely. Because these professionals work in dangerous settings, they need extensive knowledge of entire electrical systems and relevant safety protocols.

Electrical powerline technicians need a minimum of a high school diploma or its equivalent, plus significant on-the-job training. Candidates may also pursue a two- to three-year apprenticeship, an associate degree, or a one-year certification with practical training. In addition to trade school job training, candidates can acquire professional certification. Successful technicians typically possess mechanical, technical, and troubleshooting skills.

Median Annual Salary (2020)


Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)


Median Salary: $65,000

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers write the code for computer programs and applications. They work with developers and engineers to develop, test, and manipulate code to ensure it functions correctly. Programmers may specialize in one programming language or focus on more comprehensive systems.

While most computer programmers have bachelor's degrees in computer science or related fields, some professionals take alternative paths, such as associate degrees, coding bootcamps, or computer programming certificates. After completing a four-year bachelor's degree or two-year trade school job training, a computer programmer often needs to regularly update their skills with continuing education programs. They also need analytical, troubleshooting, and technical skills.

Median Annual Salary (2020)


Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)


Median Salary: $63,350


Boilermakers oversee the installation and operation of large vessels and containers, such as boilers and vats. This includes the assembly and disassembly, maintenance, repair, and quality assurance of the vessels. These professionals also need to follow safety protocols for different boilers and work environments, ensuring they use the proper heat-resistant and pollution abatement materials when needed.

A boilermaker typically needs a high school diploma or its equivalent and must complete an apprenticeship or a trade school training program, which can take four years. Some employers or states may require licensure or certification, such as those from the National Center for Construction Education and Research. To succeed in the field, professionals need mechanical and technical skills. They should also be comfortable working at heights and in confined spaces

Median Annual Salary (2020)


Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)


Median Salary: $61,670

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers operate special imaging equipment to provide physicians and surgeons with in-depth information about patient medical conditions. They use advanced equipment to create images of internal organs, often in specialized areas, such as abdomens, breasts, and the heart. Some professionals specialize in patient types, such as pediatrics or obstetrics.

Sonographers can pursue bachelor's or associate degrees. Most employers prefer candidates with at least one professional certification, though some look for professionals with trade school job training and multiple certifications. Some states may also require licensure. For success, diagnostic medical sonographers need technical and interpersonal skills, good hand-eye coordination, and a detail-oriented mindset.

Median Annual Salary (2020)


Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)


Median Salary: $60,500

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists provide periodontal therapy for patients, which includes looking for signs of oral disease, providing preventative care, and educating patients on how to maintain their oral health. These professionals use different tools to take oral images, remove plaque, polish teeth, and apply sealants. In some states, dental hygienists may also provide patients with restorative dental services.

A dental hygienist typically needs an associate degree and state licensure. While candidates may pursue bachelor's and master's degrees for teaching or research positions, most enroll in trade school job training that lasts three years and includes theoretical and practical education in a clinical setting. Skills that come in handy include interpersonal, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Median Annual Salary (2020)


Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)


Median Salary: $59,550

Cardiovascular Technologist

Cardiovascular technologists support physicians in diagnosing and treating heart conditions and diseases by imaging and testing patients' hearts and other chest organs. They use various tools and technologies to monitor patients or prepare them for medical procedures, which requires in-depth anatomy and medical terminology knowledge and a familiarity with different types of medical equipment.

A cardiovascular technologist typically needs to complete an associate degree or a one-year certification program. Some employers look for graduates with bachelor's degrees, but most seek professionals with trade school job training and professional certification. Technologists need interpersonal, technical skills, and good hand-eye coordination.

Median Annual Salary (2020)


Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)


Median Salary: $58,530

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Trade School?

Trade school offers students the technical skills and training necessary to pursue specific vocations, like plumbing or auto mechanics. Graduates typically receive a diploma or certification, which indicates they possess the necessary training for the field.

What Kind of Jobs Can You Get With Trade School?

A professional with a trade school diploma or certificate can pursue careers like plumber, electrician, and welder. Trade school jobs usually require substantial practical training, often gained through years of practice and apprenticeships.

Are Trade Jobs Worth It?

Trade school jobs offer both stability and financial rewards. The highly skilled nature of these careers often leads to strong wages, as outlined in the list below. Many tradespeople also provide essential services, which means the demand and workforce sizes remain relatively consistent.

What Skilled Trades Are in the Highest Demand?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some of the most in-demand and fastest-growing careers include skilled trades, like solar photovoltaic installers, wind turbine technicians, and occupational therapy assistants.

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