Highest-paying trade school jobs to consider in 2021

SOURCE: Tolga Akmen / AFP
Many people who have graduated from a trade school are making just as much money, if not more, than those with a college degree.

By U2B Staff 

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Today’s economic climate is highly competitive — almost four million newly-minted graduates are finishing college each year. The competition is encouraging many to look for alternative routes to land a lucrative career. For some, trade school can be a viable choice.

Trade schools will provide you with hands-on training — or industry-specific training — in a particular area, and can help students land a job upon completion. It can be ideal for those who prefer hands-on work, rather than a nine to five desk job.

Very few jobs that only require a high school diploma earn more than 35,000 US dollars per year, and these occupations are declining. For those who aren’t interested in attending a four-year college or university, trade school can be a good alternative. 

The key difference between a university education and a trade school education are time and cost. In the first few years of college or university, students work on getting general classes out of the way. However, in trade school, the courses offered are designed to teach students skills related to a specific career path.


Many have the misconception that trade school doesn’t leave its graduates with a bright future ahead, as echoed by American TV host Mike Rowe, the blue-collar philosopher and former star of television series “Dirty Jobs”. In commenting about the biggest myths surrounding trade school jobs, his answer was: “…The biggest misconception is lousy pay.” 

Conversely, trade school graduates are equipped with specialised skills that employers look for. Some may even earn more than white-collar workers.

Many of the highest paying trade jobs come with salaries near or way above the US household median income of US$61,937. Rack up enough experience and some trade specialisations will give you the opportunity to walk home with a six-figure annual income. According to Bloomberg, specialised jobs including aircraft mechanics and heavy- equipment technicians can surpass US$100,000.

If your interest is piqued, here are some of the highest paying trade jobs to consider in 2021 – each of which is backed by a solid occupational outlook:

Air Traffic Controller

An air traffic controller job is one of the highest-paying jobs that doesn’t always require a four-year degree. These professionals are responsible for coordinating the movement of air traffic, guiding pilots during takeoff and landing and monitoring the planes as they travel through the skies. 

Average pay: US$122,990 annually

Construction Manager

If you’re interested in planning, coordinating, budgeting, and supervising construction projects, this could be the job for you. These leaders spend most of their time working out of a field office at a construction site, where they monitor and make daily decisions on construction activities. They are required to meet deadlines and respond to emergencies.

Average pay: US$95,260 annually

Radiation Therapist

These medical professionals administer radiation to cancer patients. They are part of an interdisciplinary team of oncologists, medical physicists and oncology nurses who work together to plan and administer treatment while monitoring the condition of patients.

Average pay: US$85,560 annually 

Elevator Mechanic 

An elevator mechanic is someone who is trained to install, assemble, maintain, replace and repair elevators. They are also equipped with the skills to handle an arsenal of other machines, such as escalators, chairlifts, dumbwaiters, moving walkways, and other similar equipment.

Average pay: US$84,990 annually


Margin Department Supervisor

A margin department supervisor oversees the operations of the margin department. They are also responsible for approving or denying credit to clients as they monitor account activity. These professionals also ensure compliance with relevant government regulations.

Average pay: US$76,721 annually

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists routinely rank among the most satisfied workers. For those interested in oral hygiene, a career in the field can go a long way. Dental hygienists assist dentists in developing a treatment plan for their patients. The job could entail cleaning patients’ teeth, removing plaque and taking X-rays. 

Average Pay: US$76,200 annually

Web Developer 

If you are looking to build a career as a web developer, you might want to look into getting a bachelor’s degree at some point. In the mean time, some employers will accept work experience or an associate degree in lieu of a four-year degree, depending on your role. If you love writing, testing, and debugging software, this is the job for you. 

Average pay: US$73,760 annually