Ultimate Guide to Trades Degrees and Careers

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Admission Requirements for Trades Degrees

Non-Degree Programs Non-degree students are those seeking an undergraduate certificate or licensure without a degree. Trades programs provide education for those wanting to earn credentials in a particular area of study without completing a two- or four-year degree. However, students may enroll in a non-degree program with or without a bachelor’s degree. Non-degree certificates take less time to complete than a degree, and they are more affordable as a result. Typical undergraduate certificate programs are found in industries like computer programming and information technology, construction trades, food safety and quality management, protective services like law enforcement, and precision production. Associate’s Degree For high-school graduates, community colleges and trade schools offer affordable paths to a successful career. If you want to earn a degree in a particular trade without spending years in the classroom, you may consider an associate’s degree. Associate’s degree programs may be completed in two years or less. They may be earned at a community college or a technical or trade school. The focus of most programs is to allow individuals with clearly defined career goals to complete coursework and studies in an accelerated time. Bachelor’s Degree For the most part, trades careers do not require bachelor’s degrees. Although, some individuals who have a bachelor’s degree may choose to go back to school to earn a certificate or enter a non-degree program that provides training in a particular trade. Non-degree programs typically offer two completion pathways – one each for those with and without a bachelor’s degree.

Trades Degree Cost

Degree cost varies by degree type and by institution. Since most trades degrees only take up to two years to earn, such as an associate’s degree, the cost for these degrees is dramatically less than that of a bachelor’s degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual tuition cost for an associate’s degree is about $3,570 for public institutions. Private two-year schools charge more, and their average cost is about $14,587.

Earnings Potential for Trades Careers

Since earnings vary by career, the earnings potential for all trades careers differs. Below are several trades one might pursue and their corresponding pay, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Aircraft and Aviation Mechanics BLS reports the median annual wage for aircraft and aviation mechanics is $66,440, with the lowest 10% of earners bringing in less than $40,000 and the highest 10% making over $103,000 per year. These highly skilled mechanics typically work full-time on rotating, eight-hour shifts. Overtime hours and weekend work are common in this occupation. Construction and Building Inspector Construction and building inspectors should expect to see a median annual wage of $62,860. BLS reports that the lowest 10% of inspectors earn less than $38,000, while the highest-paid 10% earn more than $101,000. Top-paying industries for this occupation include engineering services, construction, local government (excluding hospitals and education), and state government. Most construction and building inspectors work full-time during traditional business hours. Dental Assistant According to BLS, the median annual wage for dental assistants is approximately $41,200; however, the highest-paid 10% earn more than $58,000 per year. Top-paying industries for dental assistants include government, dental offices, and physician offices. While most dental assistants work full-time, some evening and weekend work might also be required. An image of dental hygienists for our Ultimate Guide to Trades Degrees and Careers Dental Hygienist BLS reports that the median annual wage for dental hygienists is $77,090. Dental hygienists work full- and part-time. They also receive benefits, such as vacation time, sick leave, and retirement contributions. Top-paying industries for this occupation include dental offices, physician offices, and the government. Electricians The median annual wage for electricians is $56,900, as reported by the BLS. The lowest 10% of electricians earn less than $34,000, while the highest-paid 10% earn more than $98,700. Electricians work full-time, and their work schedules may include evenings and weekends. Top-paying industries for this occupation include government, manufacturing, and electrical contractors or other wiring installation contractors. LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) The median annual pay for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is $48,820, according to BLS. The lowest 10% of individuals in this occupation earn an average of $35,570, while the highest 10% earn more than $65,500. Top-paying industries for LPNs include government, nursing and residential care facilities, home healthcare services, and hospitals. LPNs and LVNs work full-time, and are often required to take on additional hours on nights and weekends. Pharmacy Technician A pharmacy technician earns a median annual wage of $35,100, as reported by BLS. The lowest 10% of earners make approximately $25,400, while the highest 10% make just over $50,000 per year. Top-paying industries for this occupation include local, private, and state hospitals; pharmacies; and drug stores. Pharmacy techs typically work full-time, as well as on some evenings and weekends. Phlebotomist The average annual pay for phlebotomists, as reported by BLS, is $36,320. The highest 10% of earners in this occupation see an average of $50,740. Since most phlebotomists work in hospitals and labs, most may work nights, weekends, and holidays. Schedules coincide with the medical center’s hours. Top-paying industries for this occupation include outpatient care centers, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and physician offices. Respiratory Therapist BLS reports that the median annual pay for respiratory therapists is $62,810, with the highest 10% of earners seeing more than $89,000 per year. The top-paying industries for respiratory therapists include local, private, and state hospitals; physician offices; and nursing care and skilled nursing facilities. Most respiratory therapists work full-time, nights, and weekends. Their work schedule coincides with hours that the medical facility is open. Surgical Technologist The median annual wage for surgical technologists is approximately $49,500. BLS reports that the lowest 10% of earners in this occupation make an average wage of $34,120, while the highest paid 10% see over $73,000 per year. Top-paying industries for surgical technologists include outpatient care centers, physician offices, and hospitals.

In-demand Majors or Programs

Aviation Maintenance Aircraft mechanics or aviation maintenance jobs require education through an FFA-approved school. Some individuals in this role may earn their training while in the military, while others attend classes in community colleges or trade schools. For many roles, an associate’s degree may be required. Extensive on-the-job training is also required, but in the classroom, students develop and learn aviation flight knowledge, observational skills, and a strong ability to focus. Cardiovascular Technology A cardiovascular tech conducts cardiovascular and pulmonary tests on patients in order to provide a diagnosis. They work alongside physicians and surgeons, as well as other medical staff, in hospitals, medical centers, and specialty facilities. An associate’s degree or a certificate is required to work as a cardiovascular tech. These programs prepare students with the abilities and skills necessary to carry out the highly technical role of a cardiovascular tech. An image of a carpenter for our Ultimate Guide to Trades Degrees and Careers Carpentry A high-school diploma or its equivalent is usually required for a career in carpentry. However, community colleges and trade schools may offer non-degree courses that help prepare you for entry-level work. In carpentry programs, you will learn business and financial skills, gain critical thinking skills, and acquire relevant math skills in basic areas of algebra, geometry, and measurements. Part of the education of a carpenter is an apprenticeship, where you will be able to acquire important carpentry skills. Construction and Heavy Equipment Operation A high-school diploma and three to four years of on-the-job training coupled with technical training are required to work in certain areas of construction and heavy equipment operation. Some states also require a CDL license to drive and operate machinery. Trade programs are available for students to learn to become construction equipment operators, paving and surface equipment operators, and pile-driver operators. Culinary Arts Culinary arts programs focus on the skills needed to work in the food industry. There are several types of programs that lead to a two-year associate’s degree or certificates. These programs are ideal for students interested in becoming a restaurateur, chef, kitchen manager, or administrator in a food organization. While studying culinary arts, plan on taking courses that explore topics like food safety, hospitality, nutrition, restaurant service, and world cuisine. Dental Assisting and Hygiene Dental hygienists need an associate’s degree. Most programs take about two to three years to complete and can be earned at a community college or trade school. Programs should be accredited through CODA, which is the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Dental hygienists must also be licensed, though requirements vary by state. Written and clinical boards must be passed in order to practice as a dental hygienist. Electrician One of the highest-paying trades on our list is an electrician. To become an electrician, one must earn a high-school diploma, or its equivalent, and complete extensive training inside the classroom and out. Training requires classroom instruction and an 8,000-hour on-the-job apprenticeship. Most states require licensing for electricians before they can work unsupervised. To acquire licensing, an aspiring electrician must pass an exam that tests knowledge in building and electrical codes and electrical theory. Home Inspection To become a home inspector, one must earn a high-school diploma and complete on-the-job experience. Some home inspection programs offer classroom instruction. Classes can be taken at trade schools or community colleges. These programs provide students with administration skills needed for accurate record-keeping, training needed to safely and securely work independently while on the job, and strong teamwork abilities. Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) Licensed practical nursing is typically a non-degree award that takes about one year to complete. State-approved and accredited programs will prepare you for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). In this program, you will gain basic medical knowledge, learn how to care for patients with compassion, and acquire good listening and communication skills. Respiratory Therapy Respiratory therapists must have a high-school diploma or its equivalent and an associate’s degree. Graduates of respiratory therapy programs must pass the National Board for Respiratory Care examination, which offers two levels of certification – Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). Licensure requirements vary by state. An image of an aviation mechanic for our Ultimate Guide to Trades Degrees and Careers

Job Outlook for Trades Careers

Aviation Mechanics Aviation mechanics and avionics equipment technicians should expect a favorable job outlook over the next several years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment for these occupations is projected to grow five percent through 2029, slightly faster than the average for all occupations. The need to replace workers who retire will be the driving force behind demand. Dental Hygienists A favorable job outlook is projected through 2029 for dental hygienists, according to BLS. In fact, BLS reports that employment for this occupation is anticipated to grow six percent, slightly faster than the average for all other occupations. As the population ages and research connects overall health to oral health, the demand for dental services will rise. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists BLS reports a 12 percent employment growth for the field of cardiovascular technology, particularly for technicians and technologists. This employment growth is much higher than the average for all other occupations, and it is expected due to the healthcare needs of a growing baby-boom population. Imaging specialists will be in high demand over the next decade. Electricians Employment for electricians is expected to grow eight percent over the next several years, as construction booms in certain geographic locations. Electricians will be needed to meet the needs of homes and businesses. Licensed Practical Nurses Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses should see a favorable, nine percent job growth over the next decade. Like most healthcare services, the need for LPNs surges as the baby-boom population ages. This nursing occupation will especially be needed in residential care facilities and in-home healthcare environments. Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides A soaring 32 percent overall employment growth is expected for occupational therapy assistants and aides through 2029, according to BLS. We should expect to see the importance of occupational therapy continue, especially in the treatment of individuals with various disabilities and illnesses. This occupation offers the most significant employment growth on our list. Respiratory Therapist BLS reports a 19 percent employment growth for respiratory therapists over the next decade, which is much faster than the average growth for all other occupations. Growth in the middle-aged and elderly population will lead to increased incidence of chronic and acute respiratory problems, such as COPD and pneumonia. As a result, more respiratory therapists will be needed.

The Best Trades Careers

There are a number of possible career paths for students wanting to pursue a trade. Many trade careers do not require an earned degree, while others ask for an associate’s degree at most. Below are possible trades careers with favorable job outlooks, good job security, and solid earnings potential. Many of these jobs are recognized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as among the highest-paying and best trade school careers. Dental Hygienist A favorable job outlook and high earnings potential make dental hygiene a top industry for those seeking a trades career. Dental hygienists spend their day examining patients for signs of oral diseases. They perform dental procedures, such as the removal of tartar and plaque from teeth, they apply sealants, and they take dental x-rays. You will need an associate’s degree to work as a dental hygienist. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Another high-paying trades career with a favorable job outlook is the role of a diagnostic medical sonographer. Individuals working in this occupation spend their days operating special imaging equipment to create images and conduct tests. Formal education is needed, though many employers do not ask for a college degree. However, some states may require an associate’s degree or postsecondary certificate. Almost all employers require professional certification. An image of electrician students for our Ultimate Guide to Trades Degrees and Careers Electricians Electricians enjoy consistent employment and favorable earnings potential. In fact, the electrician job is considered one of the top trades careers for individuals with a high-school diploma and no college education. However, to be become an electrician, technical school and an apprenticeship may be required. Also, states demand licensing in order to work independently. Elevator Installer and Repairer Among the highest-paying trades careers is that of the elevator installer and repairer. The role involves fixing elevators; performing maintenance; and installing elevators, escalators, lifts, and other moving walkways. A high-school diploma or its equivalent is required to become an elevator installer. Most technicians learn through an apprenticeship. Also, to work in this role, licensing is required by most states. Another important aspect to consider for this role is that elevator installers and repairers perform duties in cramped, tight spaces. Fear of heights and tight spaces is not conducive to this occupation. IT Technician Often referred to as help-desk operators or technicians, IT techs offer computer support and advice to users and organizations. In this role, one may also perform regular maintenance to ensure networks operate efficiently. They test existing network systems and troubleshoot internet systems, LANs, and WANs. IT techs have all kinds of degree levels; however, many employers ask for a minimum of an associate’s degree or the completion of certain postsecondary classes. This role offers top earnings and a favorable job outlook, according to BLS. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) One of the most in-demand nursing careers with favorable earnings is that of a licensed practical nurse. LPNs typically have a postsecondary non-degree award. This means that instead of a degree, LPNs have completed a state-approved educational program. These programs generally take one year to complete. In addition to completion of the program, an LPN must be licensed. Many LPN programs prepare students for licensing before finishing their education. LPNs provide basic nursing care for patients. They assist registered nurses and carry out other duties, depending on the state in which they work. An LPN career is ideal for individuals interested in healthcare who do not want to spend years in nursing school. Plumber Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters spend their days installing and repairing piping systems and fixtures. While their education is mostly gained through apprenticeship, some vocational or technical trade school may be required. Depending on the state that they live in, most plumbers must be licensed to work in the role. There are over 490,000 plumber jobs in the country, and this number continues to grow at a favorable rate of four percent. In addition to a favorable job outlook, wages for this occupation are quite positive. Radiation Therapist A radiation therapist helps treat patients for cancer and other diseases by administering certain radiation treatments. They operate machines, deliver appropriate radiation therapy to localized areas of the body, and monitor patients for unusual side effects related to treatment. They work alongside an oncology team of doctors, nurses, and medical physicists. To work as a radiation therapist, you will need an associate’s degree. Some states require licensing or certification to work in this role. While requirements do vary by state, most states also ask for the passing of a national certification examination. Respiratory Therapist Respiratory therapists are responsible for treating the needs of patients who have trouble breathing. For example, patients with chronic respiratory disease require the assistance of a respiratory therapist. Patients may range in age from premature infants with underdeveloped lungs to elderly individuals with chronic disease. Respiratory therapists consult with patients and other healthcare professionals, treat patients using a number of methods, and perform diagnostic tests. Another important aspect of this job is to educate patients on how to use equipment, such as a ventilator. A favorable job outlook and high earnings potential are just some of the benefits of becoming a respiratory therapist. Web Developer A web developer creates and maintains websites. They create content, test functions and layouts, and analyze navigation for usability. To work for an organization or business as a web developer, one typically must hold an associate’s degree. However, self-employed web developers may hold a high-school diploma. Completion of relevant courses or certificates is beneficial to this role. Some of the benefits of this career are the favorable job outlook and earnings potential. In fact, BLS indicates that the web developer occupation is one of the highest-paying trades careers available. Also, employment growth for this occupation is nearly double that of the average for all other occupations. BDP Staff August 2021 Related:

This concludes our ultimate guide to trades degrees and careers.

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