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High-Paying Trade Jobs: Debunking Myths and Exploring Opportunities

High-Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a Four-Year DegreeMost people are conditioned to believe that a four-year degree is the only way to land a high-paying job. However, that’s not entirely true.

There are several trade jobs that don’t require a four-year degree yet can guarantee an excellent salary, job stability, and career growth. Contrary to popular belief, a college degree doesn’t guarantee job security, not to mention the massive student loan debt that comes with it.

This article will debunk some misconceptions about trade jobs, list some of the top vocational jobs in 2021, and highlight the differences between trade jobs and jobs that require degrees. We’ll also shift focus to a specific trade job, the Fire Chief, outline the education and experience requirements for the role, and identify the highest paying states for Fire Chiefs.

Misconceptions about Trade Jobs

The biggest misconception about trade jobs is that they’re low paying and have zero job security. This myth is far from the truth.

Most trade jobs offer a satisfying salary and great job security. For instance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians ranges from $52k to $63k per year.

The job outlook for electricians is projected to grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Welders, heavy equipment operators, and Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanics are also projected to have faster than average job growth in the next decade.

The fact is that trade jobs offer great pay, job stability, and provide a pathway for career advancement.

Top 15 Vocational Jobs in 2021

1. Electrician – Median Salary: $56,000; Job Outlook: 8%


Wind Turbine Technician – Median Salary: $56,230; Job Outlook: 61%

3. HVAC Technician – Median Salary: $48,730; Job Outlook: 4%


Heavy Equipment Operator – Median Salary: $48,160; Job Outlook: 8%

5. Plumbing – Median Salary: $55,160; Job Outlook: 4%


Carpentry – Median Salary: $49,520; Job Outlook: 8%

7. Welding – Median Salary: $42,490; Job Outlook: 3%


Machinist – Median Salary: $44,420; Job Outlook: 3%

9. Dental Hygienist – Median Salary: $77,090; Job Outlook: 6%


Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurse – Median Salary: $48,820; Job Outlook: 9%

11. Construction and Building Inspector – Median Salary: $62,840; Job Outlook: 8%


Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician – Median Salary: $53,120; Job Outlook: 7%

13. Computer Support Specialist – Median Salary: $52,270; Job Outlook: 8%


Firefighter – Median Salary: $50,850; Job Outlook: 6%

15. Physical Therapist Assistant – Median Salary: $58,790; Job Outlook: 29%

What Is A Trade Job And How Is It Different From A Job That Requires A Degree?

Trade jobs, also known as vocational jobs, are careers that require some form of vocational training. Unlike a traditional four-year degree, vocational training is hands-on and teaches specific skill sets required for a particular occupation.

Vocational training typically takes two years or less to complete and costs significantly less than a traditional four-year degree in terms of tuition and time. Trade jobs usually appeal to people who enjoy working with their hands and want to skip the theoretical aspect of education.

In contrast, a job that requires a four-year degree means that the occupation typically requires a Bachelor’s degree or higher. However, some careers like Doctors and Lawyers require years of additional education and training beyond an undergraduate degree.

Trade Jobs offer several benefits, including:

1. Shorter training period


Lower cost of education

3. Provides hands-on job experience right from the beginning


Offers an excellent salary and job security

5. Opportunities for career advancement and professional growth

First-Line Supervisors of Firefighting and Prevention Workers

The Fire Chief is the highest position in a fire department and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of fire protection, including fire suppression, emergency medical aid, and fire prevention activities. The educational requirements for the position vary from state to state but typically include a high school diploma, a minimum of ten years of experience as a firefighter, and completed courses in fire science, emergency medical technician, and Fire Captain or Fire Marshal.

In some cases, a Bachelor’s degree in Fire Science or Public Administration may also be required. The median pay for Fire Chiefs is $74,820, with the highest-paid Fire Chiefs making over $120,000 a year.

States with High Salary for Fire Chiefs

The salary for Fire Chiefs varies significantly by location. According to BLS, Georgetown in the District of Columbia is the highest paying metropolitan area for Fire Chiefs, with a median salary of $112,000.

Other top-paying states for Fire Chiefs include California, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington. The role of a Fire Chief is crucial to the well-being of the community and is an excellent example of a high-paying trade job that requires vocational training rather than a four-year degree.


In conclusion, vocational jobs offer a competitive salary, excellent job security, and opportunities for career growth. They are an excellent option for anyone who wants a hands-on job experience and doesn’t want to commit to a four-year degree.

As we’ve seen, the Fire Chief job is one of the highest-paying vocational jobs, and it requires a minimum of ten years of experience and vocational training. The benefits of pursuing vocational training are undeniable, and it’s essential to consider alternatives to the traditional four-year degree.

The world is constantly evolving, and the job market is becoming more competitive. Embracing vocational jobs can give you a unique advantage that may set you up for success in the future.

Commercial Diver

Requirements to Become a Commercial Diver

Becoming a commercial diver is an exciting career choice that requires specialized training and certification. Commercial divers are tasked with various underwater projects, including repairing ships, inspecting underwater structures, and building bridges and underwater tunnels.

To become a commercial diver, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent and be in good physical condition. Some employers also require candidates to pass a physical exam before being hired.

Once you meet these requirements, you’ll need to obtain a scuba diving certification from a reputable diving school. Most commercial diving programs offer hands-on training, which covers topics such as underwater welding, cutting, and rigging, and dive safety procedures.

The certification process typically takes anywhere from six months to two years to complete, depending on the program’s duration, type, and intensity. Before graduating, you’ll need to fulfill a set number of mandatory dive hours to ensure that you are adequately trained and competent.

Once you graduate, you can choose to specialize in various fields, including underwater welding, salvage, or marine biology. The median pay for commercial divers is around $51,620 per year, with the highest-paid divers making over $95,000 annually.

Job Outlook for Commercial Diver

The job outlook for commercial divers is positive, with the BLS projecting a 9% growth rate from 2018 to 2028. This job growth is faster than the average for all occupations, helping to create ample job opportunities for prospective commercial divers.

The oil and gas industry is one of the primary employers of commercial divers, and with increased offshore drilling activities, demand for commercial divers in this industry is expected to rise. Other fields that are expected to increase their employment of commercial divers include scientific research institutions, government agencies, and construction companies that specialize in underwater projects.


Education and Certification Requirements for Plumber

Plumbing is an essential element in any society, ensuring that clean water is available, and wastewater is removed safely. To become a plumber, you’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Some high schools offer plumbing classes that can help you prepare for a plumbing career. Once you complete high school, you must attend a technical school or an apprenticeship program.

These programs offer hands-on training that covers the necessary skills required for the job, including reading blueprints, installing and repairing pipes, and soldering pipes. A typical apprenticeship program usually lasts four to five years and combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction.

During this time, you’ll earn a wage that increases as you become more experienced. After completing your apprenticeship, you’ll need to obtain a certification or license before you start working as a plumber.

The certification or license requirements vary by state, but typically include a written exam and a certain number of practical hours as a plumber. Holding a certification or license is essential to ensure that you meet the minimum requirements for plumbing work and maintain the highest safety standards.

The median pay for plumbers is around $56,330 per year, with the highest-paid plumbers making over $95,000 annually.

Job Outlook for Plumbers

The job outlook for plumbers is promising, with the BLS projecting an 8% job growth rate from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Plumbing services will always be in demand as new buildings will require plumbing installation, and existing buildings will require maintenance and repair services.

Technological advancements, such as the introduction of smart plumbing systems, are also driving demand for plumbers to keep up with the changing market needs. Additionally, as existing plumbers retire, there will be a need for new plumbers to fill in the gap.


Both plumbing and commercial diving are secure, well-paying vocational jobs that offer exciting career opportunities in various sectors. Prospective commercial divers must obtain scuba diving certification, undergo hands-on training, and fulfill mandatory dive hours to qualify.

On the other hand, plumbers must attend technical school or apprenticeship programs that provide hands-on training, pass a certification or licensing exam, and acquire practical experience. Both fields offer excellent job growth rates, job stability, and opportunities for career advancement.

It’s essential to look beyond the traditional four-year degree and consider vocation jobs with promising futures.

Construction Manager

Responsibilities and Work Environment of Construction Manager

Construction Managers oversee and coordinate construction projects from start to finish. They ensure that projects are completed within budget, on time, and in compliance with building codes and safety regulations.

They work closely with architects, engineers, construction workers, and clients to ensure that the project meets everyone’s expectations. Construction Managers are responsible for creating project schedules, managing resources, and ensuring that project goals and standards are met.

They also manage risks and troubleshoot issues as they arise. Construction Managers work in various settings, including job sites, offices, and trailers.

They often travel between job sites to monitor progress and ensure that all parties comply with project schedules. The job involves working both indoors and outdoors, depending on the construction project’s nature.

Construction Managers must be highly organized, detail-oriented, and have excellent communication and leadership skills. The median pay for Construction Managers is around $97,180 per year, with the highest-paid managers making over $164,790 annually.

Job Outlook for Construction Manager

The job outlook for Construction Managers is promising, with the BLS projecting an 8% job growth rate from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The growth is attributed to the increasing demand for construction projects driven by population growth, new infrastructural developments, and increasing repair and maintenance projects.

Additionally, with the increasing adoption of green building techniques and the need to improve energy efficiency in buildings, there’s also a need for Construction Managers to oversee such projects.

Network Architect

Education and Certification Requirements for Network Architect

Network Architects design and implement computer networks for organizations, ensuring that they are secure, resilient, and meet industry standards. To become a Network Architect, one must acquire an IT certification, such as the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), as well as a bachelor’s degree in Computer Networking or a related field.

Some employers also require candidates to have several years of experience in network administration or a related role. The certification programs are offered in various levels, including entry-level, professional, and expert.

The certification programs provide hands-on training and give participants the necessary skills and knowledge required for network architecture work. With the technology landscape constantly evolving, Network Architects must continuously update their knowledge and skills to stay abreast of emerging trends.

The median pay for Network Architects is around $112,690 per year, with the highest-paid Network Architects making over $166,960 annually.

Job Outlook for Network Architect

The job outlook for Network Architects is also promising, with the BLS projecting a 5% job growth rate from 2019 to 2029, which is on par with the average for all occupations. The growth is attributed to increasing demand for complex and reliable information technology (IT) systems required in organizations to support the increasing digitization of business operations.

Additionally, the growing adoption of cloud computing, internet-of-things (IoT) technologies, and mobile computing is also driving demand for Network Architects.


Construction Managers and Network Architects are two highly skilled professionals in their respective fields. Both professions require extensive training, certifications, and practical experience to provide quality and reliable services.

Construction Managers oversee and coordinate construction projects, ensuring they are completed within budget and within the set schedule. Network Architects design and implement secure and reliable computer networks that meet industry standards.

Both fields offer excellent salaries, job stability, and opportunities for professional growth. As technology continues to advance and infrastructural developments increase, the demand for both professions is expected to continue growing.

First-Line Supervisor

Education and Experience Requirements for Police Chief or Detective

Becoming a Police Chief or Detective is a highly esteemed and demanding career path within the field of law enforcement. To qualify for these positions, individuals must possess a wealth of experience and a strong educational background.

While requirements may vary depending on the agency and jurisdiction, there are some common prerequisites. Typically, aspiring Police Chiefs or Detectives must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, or a related field.

Some larger agencies may even require a master’s degree in a relevant area of study. Alongside formal education, individuals must have served as police officers and gained experience in various positions of increasing responsibility.

This usually involves progressing through the ranks and holding roles such as Police Captain or Sergeant. Experience in areas such as criminal investigation, community policing, and leadership is particularly valued for those aspiring to become Police Chiefs or Detectives.

Many agencies also seek individuals with a strong track record of successful case management and effective leadership skills. Aspiring Police Chiefs or Detectives must have a deep understanding of law enforcement practices, procedures, and current trends.

They must also possess the ability to make sound judgments, manage resources, and foster positive relationships with the community they serve. The salary for Police Chiefs or Detectives varies depending on factors such as the agency size, location, and experience level.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for Police and Detectives was approximately $67,290 in May 2020. However, it’s important to note that the salary for Police Chiefs or Detectives often exceeds the average for this occupation due to their leadership roles and extensive experience.

Job Outlook for Policing

The job outlook for policing careers, including Police Chiefs and Detectives, is influenced by various factors such as population growth, crime rates, and budget allocations. Despite fluctuations in these factors, the overall job growth for law enforcement is expected to remain steady.

The BLS projects a 5% growth rate for Police and Detectives from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. While advancements in technology, such as surveillance systems and data analysis, may help alleviate the need for some positions, the demand for police services and public safety remains essential.

Furthermore, population growth and increasing complexities in criminal activities may continue to drive the need for trained law enforcement professionals. As a result, there will continue to be opportunities for individuals looking to embark on a career in policing and progress to higher-ranking positions like Police Chiefs or Detectives.

Lighting Technician and Media and Communication Equipment Workers

Education and Certification Requirements for Lighting Technician

Lighting Technicians are responsible for setting up and operating lighting equipment for various events and productions. They play a crucial role in creating the appropriate ambiance, mood, and visibility in theatrical performances, concerts, television shows, and other visual media productions.

While formal education requirements may vary, most Lighting Technicians possess a high school diploma or equivalent. Many aspiring Lighting Technicians gain further knowledge and skills through vocational or trade schools that offer specialized programs in theatrical lighting or stagecraft.

These programs provide hands-on training and cover various topics such as electrical systems, lighting control, and design principles. Additionally, some Lighting Technicians may pursue certifications from professional organizations, such as the Entertainment Technician Certification Program (ETCP).

These certifications validate an individual’s competency and expertise in the field. To excel in this role, Lighting Technicians must have an understanding of lighting principles, electrical systems, and various lighting equipment.

They must also possess a keen eye for detail, be able to communicate effectively with other members of the production team, and work well under pressure. The median annual wage for Lighting Technicians was approximately $51,840 in May 2020, according to the BLS.

Job Outlook for Lighting Technicians

The job outlook for Lighting Technicians and Media and Communication Equipment Workers is expected to grow modestly, with a projected 3% growth rate from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS. The demand for Lighting Technicians will be driven by the continued growth of the performing arts and entertainment industries.

Additionally, the expansion of live events, such as concerts, festivals, and corporate productions, contributes to the need for skilled Lighting Technicians. Advancements in lighting technology, including LED lighting and intelligent lighting systems, also create opportunities for Lighting Technicians who are knowledgeable and adaptable to new equipment.

The ability to stay updated on industry trends and advancements in lighting technology can further enhance job prospects in this field.


Police Chiefs and Detectives play vital roles in law enforcement, requiring extensive experience, education, and leadership qualities. The job outlook for policing careers remains steady, with opportunities for growth present in the field.

Lighting Technicians contribute to the success of various visual media productions, with vocational education and certification providing a solid foundation for entry into this field. Job opportunities for Lighting Technicians are expected to incrementally increase due to the growth of the entertainment industry.

Both professions offer fulfilling careers and the potential for advancement and professional growth.

Commercial Pilot

Requirements to Become a Commercial Pilot

Becoming a Commercial Pilot is a dream career for many aviation enthusiasts. However, it requires meeting specific requirements and acquiring the necessary licenses and certifications.

The requirements to become a Commercial Pilot may vary depending on the country and the specific aviation regulations in place. Here are the general requirements to become a Commercial Pilot:


Age: To start flight training, aspiring pilots must be at least 16 years old to fly solo and 17 years old to obtain a private pilot’s license. However, to become a Commercial Pilot, the minimum age is typically 18 years old.

2. Language Proficiency: Proficiency in the English language is essential for effective communication with air traffic control and fellow crew members.

Most aviation authorities require Commercial Pilots to demonstrate English language proficiency through an approved test. 3.

Flight Training: Aspiring Commercial Pilots must undergo flight training from a certified flight school. The training typically includes a combination of ground school instruction and in-flight practical training.

Flight training covers topics such as aircraft systems, aerodynamics, weather, navigation, and emergency procedures. 4.

Commercial Pilot License: After completing the required flight training, aspiring pilots must pass a series of practical tests and written exams to obtain a Commercial Pilot License. The license allows pilots to fly aircraft for compensation or hire.

The specific requirements for obtaining a Commercial Pilot License vary by country, but generally include a minimum number of flight hours, extensive flight cross-country experience, and advanced pilot ratings. 5.

FAA Exam: In the United States, Commercial Pilots must also pass an additional exam administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to receive their commercial pilot certificate. This exam evaluates a pilot’s knowledge, skill, and competence in various areas of aviation.

The salary for Commercial Pilots can vary significantly depending on factors such as experience, type of aircraft flown, and the employer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for commercial pilots was $89,880 in May 2020.

However, it’s important to note that salaries can range from around $49,000 for entry-level positions to over $150,000 for highly experienced pilots.

Job Outlook for Commercial Pilot

The job outlook for Commercial Pilots varies by sector and geographic location. The BLS projects overall employment of Commercial Pilots to grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

The demand for Commercial Pilots is influenced by factors such as population growth, economic conditions, and travel trends. The growth in air travel and the retirement of current pilots are expected to create job opportunities for new pilots.

However, job prospects may be more favorable for pilots willing to work in regional and low-cost carriers, as major airlines typically have more stringent hiring requirements. Additionally, opportunities are often greater for pilots with advanced ratings, such as an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate, which allows them to operate larger aircraft and fly as the pilot-in-command.

Air Traffic Controller

Responsibilities of Air Traffic Controller

Air Traffic Controllers play a vital role in ensuring the safe, orderly, and efficient flow of air traffic. They are responsible for monitoring and directing aircraft movements in the controlled airspace of airports and en-route centers.

Some of the key responsibilities of an Air Traffic Controller include:

1. Monitoring Aircraft: Air Traffic Controllers continuously monitor the position and movement of aircraft through radar and other tracking systems.

They ensure that aircraft are flying in designated flight paths, maintain proper separation between aircraft, and monitor altitude and speed restrictions. 2.

Providing Instructions: Air Traffic Controllers issue clearances and instructions to pilots to ensure smooth operations and maintain safety. They provide instructions for takeoffs, landings, route changes, altitude adjustments, and more.

They must communicate clearly and effectively, as pilots rely on their instructions to navigate. 3.

Managing Traffic Flow: Air Traffic Controllers manage traffic flow to prevent congestion and maintain efficient operations. They coordinate arrivals and departures, adjust routes and speeds, and provide guidance during adverse weather conditions or emergencies.

4. Ensuring Safety: The primary responsibility of an Air Traffic Controller is to prioritize safety.

They are trained to handle emergencies, guide pilots during equipment malfunctions, and provide assistance in case of mid-air collisions or other critical situations. The salary for Air Traffic Controllers can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and level of responsibility.

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for Air Traffic Controllers was $130,420 in May 2020, reflecting the critical nature of the profession.

Job Outlook for Air Traffic Controller

The job outlook for Air Traffic Controllers is stable, with limited opportunities due to the specialized nature of the profession. The BLS projects a 1% decline in employment from 2019 to 2029, primarily due to the modernization of air traffic control systems and increased automation.

While new job openings may be limited, there will be some opportunities as existing controllers retire or leave the profession. The demand for air travel and the need for efficient air traffic management will continue to require skilled Air Traffic Controllers.

Additionally, the need for controllers in other specialized areas, such as remote tower operations and unmanned aerial systems, may create new opportunities within the field.


Becoming a Commercial Pilot or Air Traffic Controller requires meeting specific requirements and undergoing specialized training. Commercial Pilots must acquire the necessary licenses and certifications to operate aircraft for compensation.

The job outlook for Commercial Pilots is positive, with opportunities arising as population growth and travel demand increase. Air Traffic Controllers play a critical role in ensuring safe air traffic management, and their responsibilities include monitoring, providing instructions, and managing traffic flow.

The job outlook for Air Traffic Controllers is stable, although opportunities may be limited due to ongoing automation and modernization efforts. Both careers offer unique and rewarding opportunities within the aviation industry.

Elevator Mechanic

Education and Experience Requirements for Elevator Mechanic

Elevator Mechanics, also known as Elevator Installers and Repairers, are skilled professionals responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing elevators, escalators, and similar lifting devices. To become an Elevator Mechanic, individuals typically need a high school diploma or equivalent.

However, due to the technical nature of the job, further education and training are required to excel in this field. Many aspiring Elevator Mechanics complete a formal apprenticeship program.

These programs combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. During the apprenticeship, individuals learn about elevator systems, electrical components, safety procedures, and troubleshooting techniques.

The duration of an apprenticeship varies, but it typically lasts around four years. Apprenticeships provide valuable hands-on experience and allow individuals to work under the guidance of experienced Elevator Mechanics.

This practical experience is crucial for becoming proficient in elevator installation, maintenance, and repair techniques. Additionally, apprenticeships may require individuals to complete a certain number of hours of related coursework.

Job prospects and advancement opportunities can be enhanced by obtaining voluntary certification. Organizations such as the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP) offer certification programs for Elevator Mechanics.

These programs assess the knowledge and skills of mechanics and validate their competency in the field. The salary for Elevator Mechanics varies depending on factors such as experience, location, and the type of establishment they work for.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for Elevator Installers and Repairers was $84,990 in May 2020, reflecting the specialized nature and importance of this profession.

Job Outlook for Elevator Mechanic

The job outlook for Elevator Mechanics is promising, with the BLS projecting a 7% job growth rate from 2019 to 2029. The growth in this field is driven by factors such as population growth and the need for new elevator installations and maintenance services in both residential and commercial buildings.

Additionally, the increasing demand for accessibility in public and private structures is expected to contribute to job opportunities for Elevator Mechanics. Advancements in elevator technology, including smart and energy-efficient systems, may also create job openings as mechanics are needed to install and maintain these sophisticated systems.

As elevators become more complex, the expertise of Elevator Mechanics becomes increasingly valuable.

Radiation Therapist

Responsibilities of Radiation Therapist

Radiation Therapists play a vital role in cancer treatment. Working under the direction of oncologists and other medical professionals, Radiation Therapists are responsible for delivering radiation therapy to patients as part of their cancer treatment plan.

Some of the key responsibilities of a Radiation Therapist include:

1. Treat

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