Traditional college programs emphasize critical thinking and abstract ideas. In contrast, vocational (or trade) programs focus on training participants on the technical skills necessary for certain jobs. If you're thinking of attending a vocational or trade school after high school graduation, you may already have an idea about what type of training you'd like to pursue. If you're not sure—and you're certain that a four-year college degree isn't something that you want to earn—there are plenty of options. You could learn how to become a hair and makeup specialist, a phlebotomist, or a refrigeration specialist; the options are endless! We've done some research, though. The following vocations have more open positions than candidates to fill them, and are only expected to continue growing.
Carpenter: Between installing floors, building cabinets, overseeing home renovation projects, and other tasks, carpenters take part in a variety of jobs. Plan to commit three to four years to schooling and training, although the training portion is typically a paid apprenticeship. Once training is completed, enjoy an average annual salary of nearly $50,000.
Chef: Learn cooking techniques, plating, knife skills, menu design, and more. Programs are located all over the country, ranging in length from seven months to four years, and cost between $17,000 and $47,000. If you like food and have your eyes set on working in a Michelin-starred restaurant, the training is worth it.
Construction Worker: Construction managers earned an average of over $100,000 in 2017; top earners can earn nearly $160,000. Top earners are typically those who seek out additional schooling and certificates. However, as a whole, the construction industry is in need of workers, and typically provides on-the-job training to promising employees.
Dental Hygienist: The role of dental hygienist is above that of dental assistant, and can be acquired in levels ranging from an associate’s degree up to a master’s degree. Most programs last two- to four-years, and then graduates must pass a certification exam in order to practice. Although it requires a bit of training, the median salary is nearly $75,000.
Electrician: Those in this field can also make a reliable living, though the hours may be demanding. The median salary of over $54,000 makes this field one of the most lucrative for individuals without four-year degrees. Electrician apprentices make between 30 and 50% of an electrician’s salary.
Elevator Installation and Repair Mechanic: Earn a median salary of nearly $80,000 by inspecting, maintaining, and repairing elevators and other similar machines. Note that this career may require you to be on-call on weekends or holidays to repair equipment as needed. This career path requires a four-year apprenticeship, with a specific number of hours required to become proficient in the field.
HVAC Technician: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technician training schools are available across the country. This field involves installing heating and air conditioning systems and ductwork, maintaining existing systems, testing the performance of systems, and using carbon monoxide detectors. Training requires between six months and two years to complete, and can cost up to $35,000 depending on the program.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): LPNs work directly with physicians, performing duties that include collecting lab samples, giving injections, and gathering patient information. Programs typically take one to two years to complete, and involve a mixture of classroom training and hands-on experience. Additionally, candidates must complete a licensure exam at the end of their schooling. The cost is dependent upon the program and whether you choose a degree program or a certificate program.
Massage Therapist: Earning a certificate in massage therapy will cost $6,000 to $10,000, depending on the program you choose and the state you will be licensed in. Some schools factor in the cost of a massage table, but not all do, so consider that in making your decision. You’ll have to take an exam before getting your license, but once you have it, you can work in hotels, spas, or standalone massage parlors.
Plumber: Plumbing is a reliable trade that makes good money, but it can be demanding, both physically and in terms of the hours you may have to work. Many plumbers are on call on weekends. The average salary is about $54,000 annually, depending on your certifications and whether you work commercially, residentially, or industrially.
Welder: The average annual salary for a welder is nearly $41,000 and additional certifications can net you up to $48,000 annually. A welder specializes in joining metals, especially brass, stainless steel, steel, and aluminum. Welders can work in shipyards, manufacturing, building construction, the automotive industry, and crafting.
Which vocations do you think make the cut?