Top 15 Highest-Paying Trade School Jobs

power pole and power lines against a cloudy sky. Students got to trade school to lean how to be a lineman

Trade school jobs are growing rapidly. For the past couple of years, skilled trade jobs are among the hardest to fill. This is partly because of the pandemic and the current state of the economy, but also because there is a shortage as older workers are retiring. As a result, there are many industries actively recruiting trade school graduates.

Skilled trade jobs are the backbone of our country. We rely heavily on them, from the healthcare industry to construction to automotive to computer repair and technology. The employment opportunities for those in trade schools have never been better. If it’s the right academic path for you, now is the perfect time to get a trade school degree.

What Is A Trade School

Trade schools are sometimes referred to as vocational schools, technical schools, vocational colleges, or career schools. They teach students technical skills to prepare them for a specific occupation. Typically, a trade school is entirely focused on the industry students are preparing to work in. They provide hands-on training and a learning environment that mimics the trade the student is studying. This is very different when you compare it to a university.

Not all trade schools offer the same type of education. Some offer certificates, diplomas, and degrees. Depending on your area of study, the length of time it will take you to graduate will vary.

What Are The Requirements For A Trade School

Students typically need to have a high school diploma or a GED to attend trade school. However, be sure to check the requirements for the trade school you want to attend as some do say that a high school diploma or GED is “preferred” which means it’s not necessary. Most trade schools require a student to be a minimum of 16 years old. They will require students to take some sort of placement test.

You will likely be required to fill out an application for the school and program you have chosen. The application will ask basic questions like name, address, previous education, employment, and any financial aid needs.

Trade schools DO NOT require SAT or ACT tests.

Why Are Trade Schools Popular

There are a handful of reasons why trade schools are popular. One of the biggest benefits is the cost of a trade school is significantly less than a 4-year university. Trade school is often shorter than a traditional college. You can learn a trade in approximately 8 months to 24 months. In many cases, jobs in certain trades pay more than jobs that require a 4-year degree.

What are the Advantages of a Trade School?

There are many advantages to choosing a trade school.

  • Time: Trade school is a much shorter program than a 4-year education.
  • Money: Trade schools are also typically less expensive. In addition, financial aid is available for those who qualify.
  • A high GPA isn’t necessary: GPA is a big factor when applying to many universities and colleges. Most trade schools don’t look at your high school GPA.
  • No General Education Classes: Trade schools don’t have general education classes because they provide training in specific trade skills. This could be a decision-maker for you. I have a lot of students reach out to me expressing how frustrated they are with having to take General Education (Gen Ed) classes when they don’t apply to their major. They feel like it wastes their time. I get their frustration. But colleges like student’s to be well-rounded so they make them take additional classes to accomplish this.
  • Enter the workforce faster: Because you can get through many trade schools faster than a traditional college, you can enter the workforce sooner than other students who attend 4-year colleges.

The Highest-Paying Trade Jobs

All statistics and information for this article came from the U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics (BLS). If you want more information on any of the jobs below, you will be able to find it there. I do believe the salaries are on the lower side as many of the below jobs have hiring bonuses, overtime, and excellent benefits, all of which boost the yearly salary.

There are many great trade jobs. These 15 are currently in demand and have great pay too.

one hundred dollar bills folded into the shape of a house to show the highest paying trade school jobs

1. Radiologic and MRI Technologists (Salary $61,980)

Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers, perform x-rays and other diagnostic imaging examinations on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.


  • Adjust and maintain imaging equipment
  • Follow precise orders from physicians on what areas of the body to image
  • Prepare patients for procedures, including taking a medical history and shielding exposed areas that do not need to be imaged
  • Position the patient and the equipment in order to get the correct image
  • Operate the computerized equipment to take the images
  • Work with physicians to evaluate the images and determine whether additional images need to be taken
  • Keep detailed patient records

2. Electricians (Salary $60,040)

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.


  • Read blueprints or technical diagrams
  • Install and maintain wiring, control, and lighting systems
  • Inspect electrical components, such as transformers and circuit breakers
  • Identify electrical problems using a variety of testing devices
  • Repair or replace wiring, equipment, or fixtures using hand tools and power tools
  • Follow state and local building regulations based on the National Electrical Code
  • Direct and train workers to install, maintain, or repair electrical wiring or equipment

3. Respiratory Therapist (Salary $61,830)

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, because of conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to older adults whose lungs are diseased.


  • Interview and examine patients with breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders
  • Consult with physicians about patients’ conditions and develop treatment plans
  • Perform diagnostic tests
  • Treat patients using a variety of methods
  • Monitor and record patients’ progress
  • Teach patients how to take medications and use equipment

4. Construction Manager (Salary $98,890)

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish.


  • Prepare cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables
  • Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to other professionals
  • Collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction specialists
  • Select subcontractors and schedule and coordinate their activities
  • Monitor projects and report progress and budget matters to the construction firm and clients
  • Respond to work delays, emergencies, and other problems with the project
  • Ensure that the project complies with legal requirements, such as building and safety codes

5. Heavy Equipment Mechanic (Salary $48,290)

Construction equipment operators drive, maneuver, or control the heavy machinery used to construct roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures.


  • Clean and maintain equipment, making basic repairs as necessary
  • Report malfunctioning equipment to supervisors
  • Move levers, push pedals, or turn valves to drive and maneuver equipment
  • Coordinate machine actions with crew members using hand or audio signals

6. IT Support Specialist (Salary $57,910)

Computer support specialists assist computer users and organizations. These specialists either maintain computer networks or provide technical help directly to computer users.


  • Test and evaluate existing network systems
  • Perform regular maintenance to ensure that networks operate correctly
  • Troubleshoot local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Internet systems

7. Aircraft Mechanic (Salary $65,550)

Aircraft mechanics repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft.


  • Diagnose mechanical or electrical problems
  • Repair wings, brakes, electrical systems, and other aircraft components
  • Replace defective parts, using hand tools or power tools
  • Examine replacement aircraft parts for defects
  • Read maintenance manuals to identify repair procedures
  • Test aircraft parts with gauges and other diagnostic equipment
  • Inspect completed work to ensure that it meets performance standards
  • Keep records of maintenance and repair work

8. Electric Lineman (Salary $74,530)

Line installers install or repair electrical power systems and telecommunications cables, including fiber optics.


  • Install, maintain, or repair the power lines that move electricity
  • Identify defective devices, voltage regulators, transformers, and switches
  • Inspect and test power lines and auxiliary equipment
  • String power lines between poles, towers, and buildings
  • Climb poles and transmission towers and use truck-mounted buckets to get to equipment
  • Operate power equipment when installing and repairing poles, towers, and lines
  • Drive work vehicles to job sites
  • Follow safety standards and procedures

9. Radiation Therapist (Salary $82,790)

Radiation therapists administer doses of radiation to patients who have cancer or other serious diseases.


  • Explain treatment plans to the patient and answer questions about treatment
  • Protect the patients and themselves from improper exposure to radiation
  • Determine the location of tumors to ensure the correct positioning of patients for administering each treatment
  • Calibrate and operate the machine to treat the patient with radiation
  • Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the treatment
  • Keep detailed records of treatment

10. Web Developer (Salary $78,300)

Web developers create and maintain websites. They are also responsible for the site’s technical aspects, such as its performance and capacity, which are measures of a website’s speed and how much traffic the site can handle. In addition, web developers may create content for the site. Digital designers develop, create, and test website or interface layout, functions, and navigation for usability. They are responsible for the look and functionality of the website or interface.


  • Meet with clients or management to discuss the needs, design, and functionality of a website or interface
  • Create and test applications, interfaces, and navigation menus for a website
  • Write code for the website, using programming languages such as HTML or XML
  • Work with other team members to determine what information the site will contain
  • Work with graphics and other designers to determine the website’s layout
  • Integrate graphics, audio, and video into the website
  • Monitor website traffic
  • Create prototypes and mockups of websites or applications
  • Design and develop graphics

11. Dental Hygienists (Salary $77,810)


  • Remove tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth
  • Apply sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth
  • Take and develop dental x rays
  • Assess patients’ oral health and report findings to dentists
  • Document patient care and treatment plans
  • Educate patients about oral hygiene techniques, such as how to brush and floss correctly

12. HVAC Technician (Salary $48,630)

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers—often called HVACR technicians—work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the temperature and air quality in buildings.


  • Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers typically do the following:
  • Install, clean, and maintain HVACR systems
  • Install electrical components and wiring
  • Inspect and test HVACR systems and components
  • Discuss system malfunctions with customers
  • Repair or replace worn or defective parts
  • Recommend maintenance to improve system performance

13. Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters (Salary $59,980)

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair piping fixtures and systems.


  • Prepare cost estimates for clients
  • Read blueprints and follow state and local building codes
  • Determine the materials and equipment needed for a job
  • Install pipes and fixtures
  • Inspect and test installed pipe systems and pipelines
  • Troubleshoot malfunctioning systems
  • Maintain and repair plumbing systems

14. Diesel Mechanics (Salary $48,310)

Diesel service technicians and mechanics (also known as diesel technicians) inspect, repair, or overhaul buses and trucks, or maintain and repair any type of diesel engine.


  • Consult with customers,  read work orders, and determine the work required
  • Plan work procedures, using technical charts and manuals
  • Inspect brake systems, steering mechanisms, transmissions, engines, and other parts of vehicles
  • Follow checklists to ensure that all critical parts are examined
  • Read and interpret diagnostic test results to identify mechanical problems
  • Repair or replace malfunctioning components, parts, and other mechanical or electrical equipment
  • Perform basic care and maintenance, including changing oil, checking fluid levels, and rotating tires
  • Test-drive vehicles to ensure that they run smoothly

15. Automotive Mechanics (Salary $51,425)

Automotive service technicians and mechanics, often called service technicians or service techs, inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks.


  • Identify problems, often by using computerized diagnostic equipment
  • Plan work procedures, using charts, technical manuals, and experience
  • Test parts and systems to ensure that they work properly
  • Follow checklists to ensure that all critical parts are examined
  • Perform basic care and maintenance, including changing oil, checking fluid levels, and rotating tires
  • Repair or replace worn parts, such as brake pads, wheel bearings, and sensors
  • Perform repairs to manufacturer and customer specifications
  • Explain automotive problems and repairs to clients

Mike Rowe Works Foundation

You know, Mike Rowe, the former star of Dirty Jobs and current host of Somebody’s Gotta Do It. He is a huge advocate for trade schools and vocational training. In 2008 he launched an amazing nonprofit foundation, mikeroweWORKS. I highly recommend you visit his website as there’s a wealth of information. Not only does he give out scholarships for trade schools, but he also has a list of trade jobs. Sign up for job alerts so you can see what jobs are in demand.

mikerowworks Foundation for trade schools and vocational school logo


I can’t end this article without mentioning accreditation as it’s very important. Reputable trade schools hold accreditation from the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). The ACCSC has a directory of accreted schools. Be sure to confirm the trade school you want to attend is accredited.

Accredited schools must meet specific standards for educating students. To receive accreditation, schools must go through a thorough review from an independent accrediting agency. Accredited schools will regularly have to repeat the process in order to maintain their accredited status.

Accreditation benefits students in several ways. Only students who attend accredited schools can qualify for federal financial aid and many scholarships. When you graduate potential employers may want graduates who earned their certificate or degree from an ACCSE school. Additionally, most colleges and universities only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited trade schools.

If you’re ready to get started on a trade school degree knowing How Students Can Create The Motivation For Success will be an excellent guide.


Sensei Side Note:

Completing a trade school program doesn’t mean you can’t obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree later on. I think getting your trade school degree will prepare you to pursue other degrees if that’s what you want. Don’t think it has to be either college or trade schoolit can be both!