The Trades and Careers are known for offering non-traditional paths to good jobs.

In addition to college degrees, apprenticeships and diplomas from career schools can help you get your dream job! Ready to find your dream job? Get a degree from one of the Best Online Community Colleges.

Want a broad survey of the Trades & Careers? Take a look at our Trades & Careers homepage.


For many aspiring tradespeople, apprenticeships are a good alternative to college degree programs.

Apprentices in trades like masonry, carpentry, plumbing, and welding take courses in their trade while working under the supervision of a skilled professional. That means they are able to earn money and get on-the-job experience right away.

Some apprenticeship programs also include the option to get an associate degree while you are in training, giving you more opportunities for advancement and higher earning potential.

Certificates and Diplomas

If you want to enroll in a focused program that will get you into the workforce quickly, a certificate or diploma might be a good choice. Many of these programs will have you applying for your first job in a year or less!

For some careers, like cosmetology, a diploma program can prepare you for your state licensure exam and an entry-level job. Or in a field like culinary arts, a certificate or diploma program can expand upon previous on-the-job training.

Certificates and diplomas are also good options if you already have a degree, and are looking to learn new skills or make a career change. For example, if you have construction or electrical experience, you could enroll in a solar photovoltaic installation certificate program.

Associate Degrees

Associate degrees in the Careers and Trades combine hands-on and classroom instruction in your field with general education courses.

These two-year degree programs are typically designed to make graduates as employable as possible. For that reason, an associate degree’s general education component usually focuses on proficiencies that employers want, like communications and business skills.

Many associate degree programs will also emphasize hands-on experience over time spent sitting in a classroom. You’ll likely spend most of your time practicing the skills you’ll need in your first job.

Bachelor’s Degrees

In most fields, more education corresponds to higher salaries. The Trades and Careers are no different – for some of the highest paying jobs, employers prefer to hire candidates with bachelor’s degrees.

A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years to complete, and you’ll take a blend of courses in your field and general education. If you need to work while you pursue your degree, you could also have the option of night classes or an online degree program.

In the Trades and Careers, bachelor’s degrees are helpful if you want a job that requires advanced knowledge, like careers that involve complex engineering principles.

You could also choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree if you want to move into a management role. A program that incorporates business management along with technical education could be the best choice for you.

Master’s Degrees

For most jobs in the Trades and Careers, the entry requirements are just two years – or even less – of education after high school. But as you progress in your career and build on your education, you might decide that you need a master’s degree to reach your professional goals.

A master’s degree program in business or management, could help you advance into a management role. Or if you decide to pivot from your trade into a related industry like engineering or computer science, you might be able to get a master’s in your desired field.

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