Best Trade Schools

While construction is a typical example of a trade, there are many different options as well. Consider the wide array of public service trades.

Updated February 3, 2023 · 3 Min Read is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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

“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.”

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.

Trades & Careers FAQs:

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.

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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.

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.

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Construction Management

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