Trade school jobs are becoming increasingly popular. More students have started to see the value of trade school programs, as evidenced by enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse. It isn’t too hard to see why. More people are looking for alternative paths to a rewarding career that does not necessarily require a four-year college degree. Trade schools offer a variety of programs that provide hands-on training and practical job experience, preparing students for specific trades and careers. Some community colleges also offer programs for students aiming for careers in the skilled trades. A few colleges also offer associate degrees for various trades. 

Through this article, we hope to shed some light on trade school, and trade school jobs that are worth considering in 2024. 

Trade schools, also referred to as technical or vocational education, aren’t a new phenomenon. They’ve been around for a while, and are growing popular. Vocational Education in the US is defined as “organized educational programs offering a sequence of courses which are directly related to the preparation of individuals in paid or unpaid employment in current or emerging occupations requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree.”

Trade schools offer specialized programs, designed to prepare you for specific careers, usually in the following industries:

  • Agriculture
  • Business and Office
  • Communications
  • Construction
  • Cosmetology
  • Culinary Arts
  • Healthcare and Nursing
  • Legal 
  • Machinery
  • Marketing and Distribution
  • Occupational Home Economics

Trade schools focus on practical, hands-on training in skilled trades, designed to get you job-ready. Instead of a degree, you will earn a diploma or certificate after graduating from a trade school. 

Many community colleges offer programs catering to trades in fields like HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), healthcare, carpentry, engineering, and more. You could also consider getting an associate degree related to the trade you’re interested in.

To understand more about trade schools and how they differ from traditional colleges, read this related article: All You Need to Know About Trade School. 

Trade jobs are those that typically do not require a traditional college degree. Instead, they prioritize specialized training. There are a number of ways to get this training if you’re looking for a trade job. Your options include:

  • Attending trade school to get a certificate or diploma 
  • Seeking apprenticeships
  • Getting on-the-job training
  • Obtaining an associate’s degree

In some cases, trade jobs may require professional credentials or licenses. Most trade school programs prepare you for the examinations that lead to licensure. 

Skilled trades occupy many of the top spots in the US Bureau of Labor Services’ list of fastest-growing occupations. Here are some trade school jobs in various fields that you should definitely look at if you’re interested in vocational education:

Trade School Jobs in 2024

  1. Wind Turbine Technicians
  2. Dental Hygienists and Assistants
  3. HVAC Technicians
  4. Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs)
  5. Real Estate Agents
  6. Aircraft Mechanics
  7. Paralegals
  8. Cosmetologists
  9. Carpenters
  10. Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technicians
  11. Solar Photovoltaic Installers
  12. Radiation Therapists
  13. Industry Mechanics and Maintenance Workers

1. Wind Turbine Technicians

What they do:

Wind turbine technicians install, maintain, and repair wind turbines. They typically work on wind farms to ensure the efficient and safe operation of these renewable energy sources.

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school programs for wind turbine technicians cover electrical systems, hydraulics, and wind turbine technology. Hands-on training includes working with turbine components and maintenance procedures. If you’re looking to get into this booming field, trade school training can be the wind beneath your wings, helping you breeze through after graduation.

The job outlook for wind turbine technicians is incredible! Employment of wind turbine technicians is projected to grow 45 percent from 2022 to 2032, which is significantly faster than average.

For more information, go through the US Bureau of Labor Services’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook on Wind Turbine Technicians.

Related: Most In-Demand Majors for 2024

2. Dental Hygienists / Dental Assistants

What they do:

Dental hygienists and assistants play an important role in oral healthcare. They have slightly different roles, and many trade school programs can prepare you for both roles. Dental hygienists typically clean teeth, conduct oral examinations, and educate patients on proper dental care. Dental assistants assist dentists during procedures, manage patient records, and ensure the smooth operation of the dental offices they work in. 

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school training for dental hygienists and dental assistants includes coursework in dental anatomy, radiography, and oral health procedures. Practical training often involves hands-on experience in dental clinics, providing exposure to real-world scenarios. 

The BLS’ Occupational Outlook Handbooks for Dental Hygienists and Dental Assistants are a great resource for those looking for roles in dental settings.

3. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) Technicians

What they do:

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) technicians install, repair, and maintain heating and cooling systems in residential and commercial buildings.

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school programs for HVAC technicians cover topics such as electrical systems, refrigeration, and heating and cooling technology. Practical training often involves troubleshooting and repairing HVAC systems.

The O*NET Online page on HVAC Technicians, Mechanics, and Installers is a handy resource for further information on trade school jobs related to HVAC. The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook for HVAC Mechanics also provides useful details on related careers. 

4. Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs)

What they do:

Licensed Vocational Nurses provide basic nursing care under the supervision of registered nurses or physicians. They assist with patient care, administer medications, and monitor vital signs. LVNs work in various healthcare settings, ensuring the well-being of patients. Many states use the term licensed practical nurse (LPN) for the same role. The healthcare industry can always use more dedicated nurses, and many believe there is a workforce shortage in healthcare. Dedicated LPNs and LVNs are highly likely to find jobs, and trade school training can prepare them for these roles.

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school programs for LVNs/LPNs cover anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and nursing care. Clinical rotations in healthcare facilities allow students to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings, preparing them for the responsibilities of patient care. 

See BLS Data for Licensed Vocational Nurses.

5. Real Estate Agents

What they do:

Real estate agents help clients buy, sell, or rent properties. They market properties, negotiate deals, and guide clients through the real estate transaction process.

Typical trade school training involved:

Real estate agents often need a license. Licensing requirements vary by state, and aspiring agents typically need to pass a licensing exam. Trade school training helps prepare for these licensure examinations, with relevant coursework that covers real estate principles, laws, and marketing. 

For more information, go through the US Bureau of Labor Services’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook on Real Estate Agents

6. Aircraft Mechanics

What they do:

Aircraft mechanics inspect, repair, and maintain aircraft and related machinery to ensure their safety and compliance with aviation regulations. 

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school programs for aircraft mechanics cover aviation maintenance, aircraft systems, and safety regulations. Practical training often involves working with aircraft components and systems. If you’re interested in avionics mechanics, trade school programs can help you launch your career, with relevant practical experience. 

For more information, go through the US Bureau of Labor Services’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook on Aircraft and Avionics Mechanics

7. Paralegals

What they do:

Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, support lawyers by conducting legal research, organizing documents, and preparing for legal proceedings. They play a crucial role in legal teams, assisting with case management and ensuring the smooth functioning of legal processes.

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school programs for paralegals typically cover legal research, writing, and document preparation. Students may get to learn about different areas of law, legal ethics, and courtroom procedures. Internships or practical experiences may be part of the training to provide hands-on exposure to legal work.

Related: How to Become a Paralegal 

8. Cosmetologists

What they do:

Cosmetologists are beauty professionals who provide a range of personal care services. This can include hairstyling, hair coloring, skincare, and nail care. They often work in salons, spas, or may even run their own businesses.

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school programs for cosmetologists typically cover hairstyling, skincare, nail care, and salon management. Practical training involves hands-on experience with various beauty treatments and the use of styling tools and products. State licensing exams are often required for cosmetologists. Cosmetology programs can also be accredited by bodies such as the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Science (NACCAS). If you’re aiming to brush, snip, and style your way to a fabulous career in cosmetology, trade school programs can help you get started.

The O*Net Online page on Cosmetologists is a great place to start your research if you’re interested in jobs related to cosmetology. 

9. Carpenters

What they do:

Carpenters are skilled craftsmen who work with wood to construct, install, and repair structures and fixtures. They may be involved in various projects, including building frameworks, installing cabinetry, and crafting custom woodwork.

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school programs for carpentry cover interesting technical topics like carpentry techniques, blueprint reading, and construction materials. Practical training includes hands-on experience with tools and machinery, helping you develop woodworking skills. Carpentry trade school programs can help you build a sturdy foundation for your future.

If you’re interested in learning more about carpentry trade school jobs, the US Bureau of Labor Services’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook on Carpenters is a great place to start. 

10. Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technicians

What they do:

Medical sonographers use imaging equipment to create images of the body’s internal structures, assisting in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. Cardiovascular technicians specialize in imaging the heart and circulatory system.

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school programs cover anatomy, physiology, and the operation of imaging equipment. Clinical training allows students to gain practical experience in conducting diagnostic tests and working with patients.

The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook provides useful information on Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technicians

11. Solar Photovoltaic Installers

What they do:

Solar photovoltaic installers assemble, install, and maintain solar panel systems, converting sunlight into electricity.

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school programs cover solar energy technology, electrical systems, and installation techniques. Practical training includes hands-on experience in installing solar panels.

For more information, go through the US Bureau of Labor Services’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook on Solar Photovoltaic Installers.

12. Radiation Therapists

What they do:

Radiation therapists administer radiation treatments to cancer patients as prescribed by oncologists. They operate specialized machines, monitor patient reactions, and ensure accurate delivery of radiation therapy.

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school training for radiation therapists includes coursework in radiation therapy principles, anatomy, and patient care. Clinical internships provide hands-on experience in operating radiation equipment and working with patients. Trade school programs for aspiring radiation therapists often include preparation for licensure examinations in states that require them.

Some trade schools also help you earn certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). 

The BLS has useful data on Radiation Therapists, including employment and wage statistics. Worth checking out if you’re aiming for a career in this field. 

13. Industrial Mechanics and Maintenance Workers

What they do:

These professionals maintain and repair industrial machinery and equipment, ensuring proper functionality in manufacturing and production settings.

Typical trade school training involved:

Trade school programs for aspiring industrial mechanics typically cover industrial machinery mechanics, maintenance procedures, and safety protocols. Hands-on training allows students to apply their knowledge to maintain and troubleshoot machinery.

For more information, go through the US Bureau of Labor Services’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook on Industrial Mechanics and Maintenance Workers.

Quick Information on Trade Schools

trade school student learning from professor, car mechanic

How Long Does Trade School Take?

Trade school durations vary depending on the specific program and career path you choose. On average, trade school programs can be completed in 3-12 months. Some certificate programs enable you to learn a trade in as little as 3 weeks. On the other end, some trade school programs can take up to 2 years. 

How Much Does Trade School Cost?

Compared to traditional four-year colleges, trade school programs are often more affordable. The cost of trade school varies widely based on the program, location, and duration. On average, trade school tuition can range from $3000 to about $30,000. You can estimate the costs for your program of interest by referring to the official College Affordability and Transparency List

Do Trade School Jobs Pay Well?

Yes, many trade school jobs offer competitive salaries. With specialized skills in high demand, trade school graduates often find themselves in positions with attractive earning potential. 

What to Expect From Trade School Programs

While your experience can differ greatly based on the trade school you attend and the program you choose, there are a few things you could expect from this training:

More Defined Schedules:

In traditional four-year colleges, while there are sometimes fixed timetables, college students can often create their own schedules, explore clubs, audit courses, take additional classes, etc. 

Trade schools usually have slightly more defined schedules, making sure your time in class is well spent. Some trade schools offer night schedules, which are great if you’re hoping to work day jobs alongside trade school. 

Smaller Class Sizes:

Most trade schools have smaller class sizes than you’d typically see at four-year colleges. With fewer students in class, you’ll likely have many personalized learning opportunities, and get better mentorship from your professors. 

Less Theoretical, More Practical Coursework:

If you’re looking to get more theoretical knowledge than hands-on experience, then a trade school may not be the best bet. Trade programs focus on getting students job-ready. So, while they may include some theoretical coursework, the focus will largely be on developing trade skills and learning 

Trade School Application Requirements

While specific requirements may vary, trade schools generally require applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Some programs may have additional prerequisites or aptitude tests. For some programs, you may need to be at least 16 or 17 years old to apply. 

Trade schools typically have simpler admission processes than four-year colleges, but the requirements may vary by institution and state. 

Options Besides Trade School

Besides going to a dedicated vocational school, there are a few other ways to start a career in the skilled trades. 

Local community colleges often have vocational and technical programs that offer training in skilled trades. These programs are cost-effective and may provide an opportunity to earn an associate degree or a certificate in a specific trade. 

Apprenticeship programs can help you learn on the job while earning a wage. They are available in various trades, such as plumbing, carpentry, electrician, and HVAC. Check with local trade unions, industry associations, or government-sponsored apprenticeship programs for such opportunities. 

Vocational education can prove to be a fantastic starting point for your professional journey, for several reasons:

  • Trade schools often have partnerships with local businesses, providing students with opportunities for apprenticeships, internships, and job placements.
  • Trade schools offer practical, hands-on training that prepares students for real-world work experience.
  • They are often more affordable than traditional four-year colleges, with significantly lower tuition costs.

These benefits make trade schools an excellent option if you’re seeking a practical, affordable, and focused education that prepares you for a specific career path.

Though often overlooked, trade school jobs can be a great option if you’re aiming to enter the workforce soon, without having to invest in a college degree. With a growing demand for skilled tradespeople and the high-paying job opportunities available to trade school graduates, it’s no wonder that trade school enrollment is on the rise. Trade schools provide a practical, affordable, and focused education that can prepare you for specific career paths, letting you learn the trades you’re interested in. By offering hands-on training, real-world experience, and valuable connections within the field, trade schools can help bridge the gap between education and employment success. 

So if you’re looking to kickstart your career, consider trade school. The trade school jobs listed here are great options to pursue in 2024. Making the right choices can lead to a gratifying career in the skilled trades. 

How long are trade schools?

Trade school durations vary depending on the specific program and career path you choose. On average, trade school programs take about 3-12 months, though some can take just a couple of weeks, and others as long as 2 years.

Can trade schools be accredited?

Yes, they can. Many trade schools hold institutional accreditation from national organizations such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and the Council on Occupational Education (COE)