Many people believe that you can’t get a good job without a four-year college degree.
And it’s true that graduates of bachelor’s degree programs earn more, on average, than workers with less education.
Exceptions to this rule can be found in the Trades and Careers, though. For many of these highly skilled jobs, an associate degree or other training program can lead to higher entry-level salaries than those earned by the average bachelor’s degree grad.
Ready to start? Read through our list of the Best Online Community Colleges, where you can study for a future in the Trades & Careers.
High Paying Jobs in the Trades and Careers
Industrial engineers work in industries like manufacturing, improving production processes. They draw on a varied knowledge set – including technology, human resources, operations and production costs – to help facilities run more efficiently.
If you want to get into this field, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, as well as relevant work experience. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who hold a master’s degree in business or management.
For industrial engineers, the median annual wage is around $84,310 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $129,000 per year. But for the highest wages, look at opportunities in Alaska. Industrial engineers there have the highest median wages in the United States.
Industrial Production Managers
If you want to combine technical knowledge with management responsibilities, you could have a bright future as an industrial production manager.
In this job, you’ll be responsible for managing the daily operations of a manufacturing facility or production area.
With a bachelor’s degree and some work experience, you can anticipate earning close to the median annual salary of $97,140. And if you excel in your field, you could end up on the higher end of the salary spectrum, earning more than $165,000 per year.
Fastest Growing Jobs in the Trades and Careers
Solar Photovoltaic Installer
If your ideal career involves working outdoors with cutting-edge technology, you could become a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer. In this job, you’d work with a team to install solar panels or shingles that convert sunlight to electricity.
This career is expected to grow by 105 percent by 2016, and you don’t necessarily need a degree to get started. To compete for the best salaries, though, you will need to have electrical or construction training. Some community and technical colleges offer coursework in PV installation, or you may be able to take training courses online.
A typical solar PV installer earns around $39,240 per year, but the highest-paid 10 percent earn salaries of more than $60,000, so that extra training can really pay off.
California could be the best place to work as a solar PV installer. The Golden State is experiencing a new rush of solar technology, and it leads the United States in both the overall number of jobs and the concentration of jobs in this field.
Wind Turbine Technician
The next job on the fastest growing occupation list could take you to great heights – literally!
Wind turbine technicians don’t just climb giant ladders, they also rappel down turbines to reach sections that require repair. At other times, though, their work can involve working in small, enclosed spaces.
If you would enjoy working in extreme environments, mastering complex tools and working with new technologies, you could be happy as a wind turbine technician, or windtech.
Windtechs are expected to experience a 96 percent growth in employment by 2026. And this growing profession also pays well – the median salary is $52,260, and the highest earners make around $76,000 per year.
If you want to get started in this career, you’ll need a certificate or associate degree in wind energy technology. And location is everything in this career.