In this post: The traditional four-year college experience is not for everyone, and trade school is not a cop-out to this type of education. Here are ten trade opportunities that can be rewarding and lucrative.
Some high school grads may be a little leery of attending a trade school over college. There is currently a stigma associated with trade schools, with many thinking students only go to a trade school if they can’t hack a typical college or have a problem in an academic setting. Additionally, the old “American dream” focused more on desk jobs, so some people look down on jobs where people use their hands or work outside of traditional offices.
One survey found that 23 percent of college attendees only enrolled because they felt like it was expected of them.
This could not be further from the truth, however, and there are so many reasons why trade school could be right for your child.
The benefits of pursuing a career in a trade
With trades being in such high demand, choosing a trade could be the right choice for your teen. According to the ETI School of Trades, “The nation’s labor shortage is at an all-time high and the need for skilled trade workers is becoming urgent. Industry leaders say it’s due to the stigma around trades. American construction companies are struggling to find qualified workers for jobs that pay an average of $35,800 annually and require little traditional education.”
The cost of living and college tuition is also skyrocketing, and often, college grads end up not even using their degree (me, raising my hand). So, all of that college debt is just burning a hole in their bank account and can take years to pay off as well. Trade schools cost substantially less and can get teens into the workplace sooner, leaving them with a great sense of accomplishment and independence. Not only are these young adults earning a solid income, but most importantly, they’re doing something they love.
Trades are often great stepping stones to other careers. For example, an HVAC-certified technician can use their experience to become a general contractor or project manager, and a graphic designer can end up running a marketing department at a large company.
Finally, some trades can be extremely lucrative with the starting salaries substantially higher than traditional jobs secured post-college.
Don’t limit your child because of pre-conceived (and unjust) opinions about certain jobs. Let’s encourage the teens in our lives to live a fulfilled life and be bold by learning a trade.
10 awesome trade jobs for your teen to consider
Here’s a hefty list to get your teen started in looking at trades.
1. Skilled Labor and Building Trades (Construction/Home Repair/Builders)
Building and other skilled trades are in high demand right now. Where I live, people have to wait far too long for a contractor, electrician, plumber, and more. This is most definitely the right time for teens to get into these types of trades, both for repair and new contruction/building. The options can include everything from carpentry and masonry to painting and HVAC.
Of note, construction managers are among the most highest-paying trade jobs, with the median salary just shy of six-figures. Also called project managers and general contractors, they oversee projects from start to end. Most construction managers have an associate’s degree and on-the-job training, so starting off in a specific trade and then expanding your responsibilities can be a great career path for a passionate, hard-working young adult.
While this field can be physically challenging, the opportunities are endless. Many who retire in this field continue working by expanding their education to include building inspection or instructors.
There are a plethora of mechanical jobs your teen can choose from if they’re skilled in or passionate about this area. Automotive, aircraft, diesel, and marine mechanics are just a few options with many of these areas facing extreme shortages.
Interestingly, elevator and escalator repair mechanics have a median salary of nearly $90k. Those with basic mechanical skills can apply for apprenticeships in order to receive their licenses and become certified.
3. Culinary Arts
If your creative kid loves to be in the kitchen then culinary arts could be the place for them. Learning this trade will always be in demand and the career options are endless. Nursing homes, hospitals, schools and universities, entertainment facilities, and hotels/resorts are always looking for qualified culinary specialists, in addition to the entrepreneurial opportunities of owning your own food business. Plus, your teen can learn to express themselves in a delicious way.
Learning a specific trade in cosmetology is a great, flexible option for many young adults, and many community colleges and vocational schools offer these types of courses to high school students. The multi-billion-dollar beauty industry offers a wide range of choices, including hair stylists, estheticians, barbers, nail technicians, makeup artists, and more. Plus, a lot of the time they can make their own hours and live the life they want to live.
5. The Arts
For many who pursue trade school, getting paid to use your creativity is the biggest perk of the job. Trade schools for the arts can include everything from masonry design and furniture construction to tattoo artists and interior design. There are also a lot of trade and certificate programs for those who want to integrate a trade with tech, such as audio arts, editing, and recording 3-D arts and gaming, new media design, creative writing and copy editing, and application design.
Also, encourage your child to pursue careers that ignite their passions, such as photography, fashion, art curation, music, or writing. The Internet has provided a great opportunity for students to combine their creativity with a fulfilling career.
6. Criminal Justice
You don’t need to have a law degree to enter criminal justice. Post-high school students can pursue a career as a paralegal/legal assistant, court reporter, private investigator, law enforcement, or even homeland security. There is a shortage of qualified professionals and most training programs are only one to two years.
7. Medical/Health Sciences
The United States is facing an extreme shortage of skilled, licensed health care professionals. The combination of an aging population and the pandemic has caused a surging demand for qualified medical and health services. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), employment in healthcare occupations is projected to add more jobs than any other occupational group. They expect to see 15% growth from 2019 to 2029, much higher than the average for all occupation groups and meaning an addition of about 2.4 million jobs.
The opportunities in health services are endless and often lucrative. In fact, radiation therapists, sonographers, and dental hygenistis are among the highest paying trade jobs, but many are finding fulfilling careers as nursing assistants, medical assistants, therapists and medical technicians.
If you have a child who likes to work outside and with their hands, agriculture is a great career. Some people only think of agriculture only as it relates to farming, but there are many other opportunities, such as a crop adjuster, feed mill manager, veterinary tech, landscape architect, machine mechanic, green house manager, or food quality assurance.
9 Information Technology
The world is definitely run by technology and there will never be a shortage of these types of jobs. While some career paths require a four-year degree, there are many lucrative tech jobs that need only a certification or associate’s degree and some hands-on experience. If you are raising a techie, you may want them to investigate an IT career such as a web developer, computer programmer, or IT support specialist
Employment for IT technicians in the U.S. is projected to grow 9% between 2020 and 2030. These professionals earn a median income of $55,510. The highest-paid technicians work for telecommunications companies and make a median salary of $74,220 per year.
Some recent grads may be interested in industrial trades such as a steam engineer, cargo freight agent, ironworker, paving equipment operator, asbestos control and remediation, welder, tool and die maker, metal fabricator, and more. While these jobs can be physically straining, many find the work interesting and rewarding.
Trade schools are not the easy way out
While most trade studies take less time to complete than traditional college, many skilled labor positions often include an apprenticeship that lasts several years. That being said, a trade apprenticeship is often a paid position that leads to acquiring direct experience in their career path.
Trade jobs are often more steady and readily available than other jobs that fluctuate with the market. For someone who takes the time to gain experience and hone their craft, they can expect long-term job security.
Angela-Anagnost Repke is a writer and writing instructor dedicated to raising two empathetic children. She hopes that her graduate degrees in English and counseling help her do just that. Since the pandemic, Angela and her family have been rejuvenated by nature and moved to northern Michigan to allow the waves of Lake Michigan to calm their spirits. She has been published in Good Housekeeping, Good Morning America, Parents, Romper, and many more.