Top Trade & Vocational Careers

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2022  •  8 min read  •  Trade & Vocational
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Finding the right career isn’t easy. If you don’t want to go to a traditional college, a trade career or vocational career might be the right option for you. The right trade or vocational training might just set you apart from others.

With so many job candidates showing up with a bachelor’s degree, it’s no longer that unique. Trade and vocational career training offers an opportunity to grow in your career path. You don’t have to get a bachelor’s degree to enjoy a career with a good salary.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of the 20 fastest-growing occupations are found within the trade and vocational career category. You can snatch up one of these great careers with the right training.

Top Trades & Vocations

What are Trade/Vocational Careers?

This type of career won’t require the typical bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions. Instead, they may require a diploma or certificate from a trade school program.

Which Trade/Vocational Careers are in the highest demand?

Healthcare jobs are on the rise, but so are many others. Alternative energy jobs have also shown very high growth in numbers.

Top 6 Benefits of a Trade or Vocational Career

1. Gain Employment Faster

When you choose to attend a trade school, you’ll enter into a program that won’t take as long as a bachelor’s degree. Many of the programs are two years long, with some even shorter. You’ll likely earn an associate degree or a post-secondary certificate.

With some vocational and trade careers, you can get your certification within 16-months or four semesters. Trade schools often offer faster programs because they offer a summer semester instead of taking a break.

2. Hands-On Learning

At a trade school, most of your training will be hands-on. Instead of just learning out of a book, you’ll gain practical instruction in your specific program. This may include working on vehicles if you’re going to school to be a mechanic or gaining experience in other real-world situations.

3. Plenty of Job Opportunities

Without any experience, some of these types of careers may be accessible for you. However, when you gain vocational training, you set yourself apart from other candidates. Plus, many trade schools provide career placement. This means they can put you in contact with employers looking for someone with your skills.

4.  More Job Growth

Those going to a vocational school and entering into a trade career will see more job growth. Compared to the average job growth, trade and vocational careers saw a much higher growth rate over the past few years.

5.  Higher Salaries

With a trade career, you can earn more than someone with a high school diploma and even many entry-level positions for those with bachelor’s degrees. The average salary of the best trade and vocational careers is higher than the national average salary. Some even hit the six-figure salary mark with the right experience and training.

6. You Get to Use What You Learned

When you go to college and get a bachelor’s degree, you might work in an unrelated field. This is rather common for college graduates. Trade school is quite different, however.

Trade and vocational training programs are set up to train you to use what you learn on the job. More often, vocational school programs will lead to a trade career in the area you study.

Top Trade & Vocational Careers by Average Salary

Occupational Therapy Assistant

One of the fastest-growing vocational careers is a career as an OTA (occupational therapy assistant). You will work under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist. As an OTA, you will help patients to recover life skills after an accident or disability.

You may help patients learn how to work with their wheelchairs. It’s also possible you will work with injured workers to get them back to their jobs.

As an occupational therapy assistant, you can earn an average salary of about $62K per year. This is one of the fastest-growing trade and vocational careers, with a growth rate of more than 33%.

Web Developer

If you love working online and enjoy developing websites and apps, you can become a web developer. This type of vocational career is growing very fast and offers plenty of opportunities. You’ll work on the technical framework of a website or application.

If you become a front-end web developer, you may work on the website’s look. This is a technology job in high demand, offering plenty of job satisfaction.

As a web developer, you can earn an average salary of about $82K per year. You will likely need an associate degree, and there are some certifications you can gain, as well.

Physical Therapist Assistant

A PTA (physical therapist assistant) will work directly with patients to help with massage, exercise, and balance training. You’ll work under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. This vocational career will allow you to help patients with recovery after an injury.

With an associate degree program from a vocational school, you can earn an average salary of $58K as a PTA. This position is expected to grow by more than 27%.


Another great vocational career you can gain with just an associate degree program is a career as a paralegal. This trade career will have you working at a law firm. Your duties will include research, clerical, and administrative tasks.

You may be responsible for researching statutes, drafting legal correspondence, organizing information, and filing exhibits, appeals, and briefs. It’s a career with a large amount of research. You’ll need good tech literacy, as well.

As a paralegal, you can earn around $55K per year, on average. This vocational career has a projected job growth rate of about 12%.

Ultrasound Technicians

Also known as a diagnostic medical sonographer, this position is found in the healthcare industry. You’ll work with physicians in need of images from ultrasound machines. It’s common for an ultrasound technician to capture images of tissues, organs, and other matter found within the body.

There are many specialties within this trade career. Some sonographers will specialize in cardiac or pediatric, while others will work in multiple settings.

The average salary for an ultrasound technician is about $76K per year. You will need to earn an associate degree from a vocational career program. This is one of the vocational and trade careers with very high growth at nearly 20%.

Computer Network Support Specialist

With an associate degree program from a trade school, you can become a computer network support specialist. You can work in this trade career to ensure computer networks run smoothly. You may work directly with network users in a workplace setting, as well.

With the right hands-on training, you can provide support for all types of computer networks. This type of trade career pays nearly $69K on average per year.

Dental Hygienist

You can become a dental hygienist and assist dentists with a vocational career program. As a dental hygienist, you will help with cleaning teeth and educating patients about proper oral care. You will also operate the dental x-ray equipment.

Dental hygienists earn an average annual salary of about $77K. This position will likely require an associate degree, and it’s expected to grow at a rate of nearly 11%.

Respiratory Therapist

If you’re interested in helping people overcome diseases and other conditions, this vocational career is a great choice. As a respiratory therapist, you work with patients to help them deal with chronic respiratory conditions. You may also provide care for those that have gone through a cardiac arrest or suffered another type of trauma.

You will need an associate degree from a vocational program to become a respiratory therapist. The average salary for this vocational career is about $64K and the job growth is projected at nearly 21%.

HVAC/R Mechanic or Installer

If you love to work with your hands, you can become an HVAC/R technician. You won’t need a degree to enter this trade career. Instead, you can complete a post-secondary program and earn a certification.

HVAC/R technicians work with heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration. This trade career often means you will be servicing HVAC systems for residential and commercial buildings. You will likely install new systems and provide repair services for existing systems.

As an HVAC/R technician, you can earn more than $51K per year, on average. This vocational career has a job growth rate expected to be around 12%.

Massage Therapist

Another fast-growing vocational career is the job of a massage therapist. This type of trade career requires post-secondary training, but it’s not a degree program.

You will work with patients to help them relax and heal as a massage therapist. As you train for this vocational career, you will gain knowledge of anatomy, how to relieve pain, injury healing, and more. There are many types of massage therapies and techniques you will learn during your training.

This vocational career pays an average annual salary of around $47K. It has a high projected job growth rate of more than 22%.

Is a Trade/Vocational Career Right for You?

There are many different trade and vocational careers to consider. These options and others don’t require a bachelor’s degree. With the right certification program or associate degree, you can put your new skills to work within two years or less.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.