“The jobs that exist right now, don’t require massive debt,” says Mike Rowe. “They require a willingness to learn a skill that’s actually in demand.”

Trades BadgeRowe, the host of the popular TV show Dirty Jobs, is on a mission to change the way people think about work and about education.

In this video, he discusses the need to think about other ways—besides four-year bachelor’s degrees—of entering the workforce.

Trades & Careers represent the path that Rowe is talking about.

According to Rowe’s video, there are lots of high-quality job opportunities available. There just aren’t enough people with the right skills to fill the jobs.

“More students than ever are opting for 4-year college degrees,” the video says. “But trade jobs account for 54% of the labor market.”

For example, over the next decade, 3.5 million jobs will open up in manufacturing.

“But 2 million of those will go unfilled due to the skills gap.”

So what are you waiting for? If you are ready to start looking at schools that offer two-year associate’s degrees (one of the most common ways to enter a trade), then check out our ranking of the Best Online Community Colleges.

Want to learn more first? Then let’s dive in.

What are the Trades & Careers?

The phrase “Trades & Careers” is very general, and maybe a bit vague. What is a trade? Let’s get concrete.

Well, if you want to be concrete, anybody who’s working with concrete—like a construction worker or foreman—is working a trade. But that’s only the start of it.

Electricians and pipefitters are another example. These skilled, blue-collar workers have to complete apprenticeships. Other trades, like chemical or power plant operators, don’t need to complete apprenticeships, but do need to complete extensive on-the-job training.

Still other trades (like dental hygienists) require a two-year associate’s degree, while others (like police officers) can command higher pay if you get a four-year bachelor’s degree.

How Much Money Can You Make if You Study a Trade?

Because the different trades vary so much, it’s hard to pin down one average salary. But the statistics that Rowe shared in his video should let you know that there will be plenty of opportunity. And there already is.

Let’s take a look at a handful of trades in order to get an idea of the income you could be earning.

In the case of a bricklayer, the BLS reports that the median annual salary is $49,250. This compares favorably to the annual median pay of all masonry workers, which stands at $41,230, and the median annual pay of all construction trades workers, which is $42,310.

While construction is a typical example of a trade, there are many different options as well. Consider the wide array of public service trades. The two most prominent of these are police officers and firefighters.

According to the BLS, the annual median pay for a firefighter is $48,030. For a police officer, it’s $61,600. In addition, because of the importance of these jobs for the community and the inherent danger, many receive extra benefits.

These include hazard pay, lots of overtime pay, and good retirement packages.

Pay in the trades tends to increase the more specialized your skills are. Take, by way of example, the jobs of Chemical Plant Operators and Power Plant Operators. These specialized jobs usually only require high school diplomas or GEDs, yet they pay very well: $59,920 and $78,370, respectively.

Here are some other Trades and their annual median pay:

  •        Dental Hygienist – $72,910
  •        Electricians – $52,720
  •        Locomotive Engineer – $57,670
  •        Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians – $50,930
  •        Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters – $51,450
  •        Machinists and Tool and Die Makers – $43,160
  •        Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators – $59,400
  •        Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers – $39,390

What Kind of Trades & Careers Degrees Are Available?

With the vast array of different Trades & Careers, there are almost as many ways of getting started on this path. We’ve broken it down into four different categories.

Vocational Certificates are one option. But this option is really just a grouping of lots of different educational paths. For example, you can get a career diploma or certificate to train you in a particular profession, like plumbing.

Or you can get a career diploma or certificate in a particular skill, like the use of Microsoft Office. This wouldn’t train you for a single job, but a whole range of jobs that require clerical and computer skills.

Finally, you could study for an industry certification. In this case, you’d take a course—or courses—that would prepare you to become certified in a particular field. An example of this would be studying to become an ASE-certified diesel mechanic.

Apprenticeships are another path to entering a trade. Often times, these will work in concert with a diploma or certificate. Plumbing is an example of this.

Apprenticeships are basically long-term, structured job training programs. You work with an expert in the field for a number of years in order to learn the ins-and-outs of the trade. Then, once you finish, you can work on your own with all the expertise you’ve gained.

Associate’s Degrees are yet another path to getting into a trade. These are like studying for a Vocational Certificate, but it takes two years and requires more classes. Associate’s degrees have the additional advantage of potentially preparing you to get a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees are also available in the trades. These are not always necessary, but they can be helpful in getting ahead. For example, most police departments do not require applicants to have college degrees. If they do, however, they are more likely to move up the ladder.

A bachelor’s degree can also be helpful for entering management positions in the trades. For example, rather than just being a laborer on a construction site, you could get a bachelor’s—or even a master’s—in construction management.

This would enable you to take on more responsibilities, as well as earn more money.

What Trades & Career Degree Should You Get?

As you can see, the Trades & Careers field is hard to sum up. There’s something for almost anyone. It’s just up to you to find it.

So whether you’re looking for a Vocational Certificate in plumbing, or a Master’s Degree in Construction Management, you’ve come to the right place.

College Choice has ranked the Best Community Colleges as well as the Best Online Community Colleges. These are places where you can get a Vocational Certificate, an Associate’s Degree, and in some cases, even a Bachelor’s Degree.

We’ve also created rankings for various different types of Trades & Careers, in case you have a particular interest.

Construction Management

Looking to literally climb the management ladder? Those in construction management typically start from the bottom and work their way up…learning many key construction skills on the job. However, if you’re looking to succeed in the higher levels of the hospitality industry, formal training for management positions is essential. And most advanced programs want their students to have professional experience before applying.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Construction Managers make a generous median salary of over $85,000 per year. Of course, education and experience will only drive up your potential earnings. In fact, the highest-paid individuals in this industry made upwards of $155,000 in 2015. It’s not just education or experience that plays a factor though. Where you live can make a difference in how quickly you’re hired and what your pay will look like. U.S. News and World Report list areas in New Jersey and Virginia as the top-paying metropolitan areas for Construction Management.

College Choice has ranked the 25 Best Master’s in Construction Management for those looking to gain frontline experience with a quality degree. Some of the schools that made our list include Clemson University, Arizona State University, and Drexel University.

Electrician

Most of us know that Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity. But do you know the inner workings of installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical power systems? When the grid goes dark, do you know what to do? Electricians help everyone from home and business owners, to engineers. With opportunities to work indoors, outdoors, evenings, weekends, and more, jobs are not only flexible but plentiful as well. Most states require electricians to be licensed, so it’s important to learn the trade properly before heading to work.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians can make upwards of $50,000 per year. With our society’s dependence on electricity, there is no shortage of jobs. In fact, employment is projected to grow 9 percent over the next 8 years. However, this isn’t a job without risk. Potential on-the-job injuries include electrical shocks and burns, cuts, and falls. If you’re unafraid and determined to work a non-desk job, turn that spark of interest into a lucrative career!

College Choice has recently published a ranking of the 20 Best Schools for Electricians. From the Richard J. Daley College in Chicago, Illinois, to the University of North Georgia, these programs are perfect for aspiring electricians.

HVAC

There isn’t a day in the near future that HVAC experts won’t be needed around the world. Heating, ventilation, and AC (HVAC) is essential to any building and HVAC specialists install, maintain, and repair these systems. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind getting your hands dirty, and can see yourself leading HVAC implementations, this may be the perfect career for you!

A career in HVAC offers a plethora of opportunities. Those who start out with an HVAC certificate can earn an average salary of at least $45,000 a year. Gone on to earn an Associate’s Degree? Looking to put it to work? Now you can earn, on average, $52,000 a year. How’s that for a raise? The more education and experience you have, the more money you can potentially earn. In fact, some HVAC technicians make upwards of $75,000 a year!

Not only is the pay really good, but completing an HVAC program offers incredible job stability. Looking to get going? College Choice has recently published a ranking of the 25 Best HVAC Programs for 2017. It’s projected the need for HVAC mechanics will rise 15 percent over the next few years, so get started today!

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