Top 15 Highest Paying Trade Jobs

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 25, 2020

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Growing up, many of us have heard the age-old saying that the only way you can have a high-paying job is by going to school and earning a four-year degree. However, that is not the case.

It is a common misconception that the only income a person can receive working in a trade job is minuscule compared to a job that requires higher education. There are many trade jobs in which a person can even earn a six-figure salary over time. In truth, trade jobs can get you the life you want – a life where you can make an honest living, full of opportunities.

If you are looking for a faster way to enter the job market and still get a high paying salary, then a trade job might be the right choice for you. Keep reading to learn more about what a trade job is and the top 15 highest paying positions.

What Is A Trade Job And How Is It Different From A Job That Requires A Degree?

A trade job is a job that requires a specialized form of training beyond high school.

Unlike with a bachelor’s degree, vocational training prepares a person to begin their careers in a shorter amount of time. This is because a four-year degree requires students to complete a certain number of general courses before they can specialize in anything. These courses usually take place during the first and second years of their college education. Once these courses are complete, you can take the course that coincides with your major.

Another difference between the two is the cost. Earning a degree takes time and a significant amount of money. The amount a person will need to invest in their college education can easily surpass six digits. At the same time, the average cost for a vocational school or trade school is between $3,000 to $15,000.

Keep in mind that many trade jobs are considered to be very hands-on. Some might involve using physical strength and the use of power tools. Another thing you have to remember is that some of these jobs also come with risks.

Top 15 Vocational Jobs in 2020

  1. First-Line Supervisors of Firefighting and Prevention Workers. The level of education required to become a Fire Chief will depend mostly on the location. To become a Fire Chief, many departments might ask you to have previous experience as an emergency medical technician. You must also have a prior background as a Fire Captian.

    The average salary for this position can range between $60,000 to $165,000, depending on the level of experience you have and your years in the field. Most places require you to have at least ten years of experience before being considered to be a Fire Chief.

    According to our Zippia Careers website, Alaska, Rhode Island, and Massachuttes are some of the highest paying states for Fire Chiefs.

  2. Commercial Diver. A Commercial Diver is a person that inspects and procure items at the bottom of a large body of water. To become a commercial diver, you will need a high school diploma or your GED. You will also be required to pass the diving physical exam and be a good swimmer.

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    Surprisingly enough, commercial divers are not required to have a scuba diving license. An entry-level commercial diver can make up to $50,500. However, as you progress in this field, you can earn as much as $136,000.

  3. Plumber. When thinking about trade jobs, one of the first professional that comes to mind is a plumber. A plumber is a person that is responsible for the maintenance, repairs, and installation of both gas and water systems.

    To become a plumber, you will need to have a high school diploma or equivalent. You will also need to get certified by a trade or vocational institution. Many entry-level plumbers will work alongside a licensed professional as an apprentice. This apprenticeship is required in order to become a certified plumber.

    The average salary for this position can range between $67,000 to $97,000, depending on the level of experience you have and your years in the field.

  4. Construction Managers. A Construction Manager is a person in charge of managing and supervising general contractors and laborers on job sites. Some of the most common places to work as a Construction Manager are telecommunications, roads, and construction sites. They are responsible for overseeing the area and making sure that all the deadlines are complete.

    According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, many construction managers work from an office. However, most can be found out in the field in a construction site. Keep in mind that there is always a potential risk working on site.

    The average salary for this position can range between $60,000 to $120,000, depending on the level of experience you have and your years in the field.

  5. Network Architect. A Network Architect is a person that designs and maintains networking systems for companies and organizations. They are responsible for creating a structure capable of running for the foreseeable future. Many can begin their journey by earning an IT Certification. This will put them ahead.

    Though many companies look for someone with a degree, they are willing to overlook it if you have the proper certifications and experience. The average salary for this position can range between $80,000 to $180,000, depending on the level of experience you have and your years in the field.

  6. First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives. To become a Police Chief or Detective, many departments might ask you to have previous experience as police. You must also have a prior background as a Police Captian and Sargent.

    The average salary for this position can range between $40,000 to $110,000, depending on the level of experience you have and your years in the field. Most places require you to have at least ten years of experience before being considered to be a Police Chief.

  7. Lighting Technicians and Media and Communication Equipment Workers. This is a person that works in media. They are in charge of setting up and controlling the lighting for any form of video platform.

    To become a Lighting Technicians, you will need to have a high school diploma or equivalent. You will also need to go to a trades school and earn a Certified Apprentice Lighting Technician certification. The average salary for this position can range between $30,000 to $116,000.

  8. Commercial Pilot. If you are interested in becoming a Commercial Pilot, you need to understand that this is not the same as an Airline Pilot. Commercial Pilots are the people that fly cargo planes, flight instructors, and more.

    To become a Commercial Pilot, you will need to met specific requirements. These requirements include but are not limited to being at least 18 years old, be fluent in written and verbal English, and log at least 250 hours towards your commercial piloting license. You will also need to complete an aviation medical certificate and pass the FAA written exam. The average salary for this position can range between $78,000 to $130,000.

  9. Air Traffic Controller. An Air Traffic Controller is in charge of monitoring and directing aircrafts both on the ground and in the sky. They are the people that control the runways and let the pilots know when it is safe to take off and land. An Air Traffic Controller also reports critical information to the pilots and reports the weather condition.

    To become a commercial diver, you will need an associate degree and at least three years of work experience. The average salary for this position can range between $80,000 to $122,900.

  10. Elevator Mechanic. An Elevator Mechanic is responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing elevators, escalators, and walkways. To become an elevator mechanic, you will need a high school diploma or your GED and complete at least five apprenticeship years.

    The average salary for this position can range between $40,000 to $170,000, depending on the level of experience you have and your years in the field.

  11. Radiation Therapist. Radiation therapists work alongside oncologists to treat cancer patients. They are responsible for letting the patients know how the process works and ensuring that they are only exposed to radiation in the proper area.

    This career path takes approximately two to four years to complete the training program. The average salary for this position can range between $83,000 to $115,000 a year.

  12. Dental Hygienist. A Dental Hygienist is a licensed dental professional responsible for removing tartar, plaque, and stains from people’s teeth. They are also in charge of completing a preliminary exam before the dentist sees the patients.

    To become a dental hygienist, a person will need to earn an associate degree and a dental board license. The average salary for this position can range between $60,000 to $100,000 a year.

  13. Landscape Architect. If you love gardening and interior design, this is the field that marries both. A landscape architect is a person that is responsible for creating beautiful landscapes, gardens, playgrounds, and more.

    Like plumbers, landscape architects will need to complete an apprenticeship before they can be completely certified. The average salary for this position can range between $58,000 to $113,000 a year.

  14. Corporate Executive Chef. A Corporate Executive Chef is responsible for every dish that comes out of the kitchen. Keep in mind that becoming a chef is no easy task. This position is full of stress and high expectations.

    If you are interested in becoming a chef, you will need a high school diploma or a GED and receive the proper training in a vocational school or earn an associate’s degree. The average salary for this position can range between $55,000 to $96,000 a year.

  15. Respiratory Therapist. A Respiratory Therapist is responsible for caring for patients who have trouble breathing. They are also in charge of interviewing and examine patients with breathing disorders.

    To become a respiratory therapist, you will need to earn an associate’s degree and become licensed and certified by the National Board for Respiratory Care. The average salary for this position can range between $50,000 to $80,000 a year.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that finding a trade job is an excellent alternative for starting your career. As you can see, simply because a person does not earn a four-year degree, it does not mean that they won’t have the opportunity to gain a high-paying job. As long as you are willing to put in the work, you will get far in life.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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