Skilled Trade Programs

A career in the skilled trades is a great option for young people who are looking for an alternative to a traditional college education. Tradespeople typically have higher starting salaries than their non-skilled counterparts, with wages that increase over time as they gain experience. Skilled trade careers also offer a variety of benefits and job security, making them an attractive option for many people.


Explore diverse career paths in automotive repair through online programs and local schools, including Auto Repair Technician, Diesel Mechanics/Heavy Truck Maintenance, Motorcycle Repair Technician, and Small Engine Repair. These programs prepare students to diagnose and repair vehicles or motorcycles, ensuring smooth operation and safety through hands-on training and specialized equipment use. With high demand across the country and opportunities for specialization, these programs offer a stable career path with average salaries ranging from $44,000 to $47,000, catering to both entry-level technicians and those seeking advanced roles in the automotive industry.


Aviation programs across various institutions, including Pilot Institute and major colleges like Broward College and Texas State Technical College, prepare students for careers as airline and commercial pilots. These programs cover extensive coursework and flight training necessary to obtain licenses such as the Commercial Pilot License and Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, crucial for flying airplanes and helicopters. With competitive salaries ranging from $80,000 to $115,000 depending on experience and location, the aviation industry offers stable employment opportunities and diverse career paths in areas such as air transportation, aerial tours, and agricultural piloting.


Carpentry is a highly sought-after trade, ranked among the top construction jobs for its utility and earning potential. This skilled profession involves constructing, repairing, and installing wooden structures, from residential homes to commercial buildings. With online carpentry courses available through institutions like Penn Foster and others, aspiring carpenters can gain essential skills in framing, roofing, and furniture-making, completing programs in as little as 6 months. The field offers promising job prospects, with a median annual wage of $51,390 and ample opportunities for specialization through certifications like OSHA training or NWFA Certified Installer


A career in construction offers a dynamic path to impact communities and build a secure future. Whether pursuing online degrees in construction management or completing hands-on vocational training, prospective workers can expect to enter the field within 9 months to 4 years, depending on their chosen educational path. With job growth at 12%, faster than the national average, construction offers competitive salaries starting at $35k annually, with opportunities for advancement into specialized roles such as electricians or plumbers, earning over $80k per year.


Electricians are essential for ensuring the functionality and safety of electrical systems in homes and businesses. By enrolling in electrician programs nearby, you can gain the skills needed to install, maintain, and repair electrical components. Courses cover a range of topics, from basic electrical theory to complex wiring practices, preparing you for certification and apprenticeship opportunities. With a projected job growth of 10% over the next decade, electricians can anticipate a strong demand for their expertise. Whether specializing in residential wiring or commercial installations, becoming an electrician offers a stable and rewarding career path in the electrical industry.

Facilities Maintenance

Building Maintenance Programs prepare students with essential skills in HVAC/R, electrical systems, and plumbing. The cost and duration of these programs vary, with certifications typically completed in under a year, enabling quicker entry into the workforce. Salaries for Facilities Maintenance Technicians range nationally from $39,000 to $49,500 annually, with variations based on location and specific job responsibilities.


Gunsmithing offers a rewarding career path for those passionate about firearms, involving tasks such as repairs, customization, and restoration. Training typically includes certification courses lasting 6-8 months or associate’s degrees spanning 2 years, with online options offering flexibility. A Federal Firearms License (FFL), costing around $200 for a 3-year license, may be required for independent practice. Essential coursework covers firearm design, metalworking, woodworking, and safety protocols, preparing gunsmiths for tasks like disassembly, assembly, and troubleshooting. With salaries starting around $41,600 annually and opportunities for higher earnings with experience, gunsmiths can find employment in gun shops, sporting goods stores, or opt for self-employment with an FFL.


HVAC-R technicians play a crucial role in meeting the demand for climate control systems in both new constructions and existing homes. Training for this field typically involves certification programs or associate degrees, available online for flexibility and completion in as little as 6 months to 2 years, depending on the program type. Costs range from $4,000 to $5,000 for shorter programs, with potential for accelerated learning through online coursework. Essential skills covered include HVAC system mechanics, electrical work, and safety protocols, preparing technicians for jobs in residential and commercial settings.

Certification from organizations like NATE or HVAC Excellence validates skills and can lead to starting salaries around $47,000 annually, with potential to earn up to $75,000 or more with experience. Employment benefits often include medical insurance, retirement plans, and allowances for tools. Technicians are in demand nationwide, with job growth projections strong at 15%, ensuring steady opportunities in diverse environments such as hospitals, hotels, and businesses.

Home Inspector

Pursuing a career as a home inspector offers independence and flexible hours, with a critical role in ensuring public safety and property integrity. Training typically involves completing a 200-hour self-paced online course over about 12 months, meeting national and potentially state-specific educational requirements. Costs for these programs generally range between $2,500 to $3,000, providing essential knowledge in home construction, inspection protocols, and report drafting, essential for earning an average annual salary ranging from $43,000 to $73,500, with top earners reaching up to $100,000 annually.


Becoming a locksmith offers a hands-on career solving practical problems and aiding people in emergency situations, making it ideal for those who enjoy problem-solving independently. Training typically ranges from 5 to 7 months, though self-paced options allow for faster completion, and costs generally fall between $800 to $1,000, excluding potential additional expenses for in-person training or apprenticeships. Locksmith education covers key identification, lock operation and rekeying, home security systems, and surveillance technologies, preparing graduates for an average annual salary of $50,210, with opportunities for higher earnings in specialized fields like automotive or commercial locksmithing.

CNC Machinist

Becoming a CNC machinist opens doors to a dynamic career where precision meets innovation. Typically requiring about 12 months of dedicated training, this path equips you with skills vital for transforming raw materials into intricate components essential across industries like aerospace, automotive, and medical technology. Training costs vary widely—from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the program type—offering flexibility for different financial situations and career aspirations. Certification, though optional, enhances employability, showcasing proficiency in CNC operations and adherence to industry standards. With an average starting salary of $49,560 annually, CNC machinists enjoy stable career prospects in a field integral to modern manufacturing’s advancement and growth.


Plumbing offers a vital career path with training durations ranging from 6 months to 4 years, depending on the program chosen. Vocational colleges and trade schools typically offer certificates in under a year, while apprenticeships extend over four years, providing on-the-job training. Costs vary widely, with vocational programs ranging from $700 to $3,000, and online courses averaging around $2,300. Essential coursework includes plumbing principles, materials, installation techniques, and safety protocols, preparing individuals for roles in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. Plumbers can expect stable job prospects with a median annual income of $60,090, complemented by union benefits like paid training and comprehensive insurance coverage.


Welding programs across numerous institutions, including Blue Mountain Community College, Forsyth Technical Community College, and many others, prepare individuals to fuse metal and thermoplastics for various industrial applications. With over 50,000 welding professionals in the U.S., the career involves using heat to join metals, essential in sectors like manufacturing, construction, and aerospace. Training typically involves hands-on experience with tools like arc welders and robotic arms, with options ranging from vocational schools to military training programs. Prospective welders benefit from gaining additional certifications for specialized roles such as robotic arm welding or inspection, enhancing career opportunities in diverse fields like shipbuilding and underwater welding.

Exploring a Career Path in the Skilled Trades

If you’re thinking about going to college, you’re not alone. College is a popular choice for high school graduates, but it’s not the only option. In fact, if you’re not sure what you want to do with your life, or if you don’t have the money for college, consider whether a skilled trade or technical education is better for you.

Skilled Trade Jobs vs. College Degrees

A college degree is no longer an assurance of a job that pays well or provides great benefits. In fact, many college graduates are struggling with student loan debt and low-paying jobs that don’t match their education level. A skilled trade job provides valuable training while earning a paycheck at the same time.

Why Skilled Trade?

A career in the skilled trades can be a rewarding and lucrative opportunity. Skilled trade workers have always been in demand, and with the aging of the baby boomer population, this trend is expected to continue for years to come. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will be an estimated 637,000 new construction jobs created by 2024.

There are many reasons why choosing a career in the skilled trades may be right for you:

  • The average salary for a skilled trade worker is $51,350 per year — nearly double that of those who don’t pursue post-secondary education or training.
  • You can earn while you learn! Many programs offer apprenticeship programs where you can earn while getting trained on the job under the supervision of experienced journeymen.
  • You are more likely to find employment than traditional college graduates because there are more opportunities available across multiple fields within the construction industry than there are qualified candidates.

If you love working with your hands and it’s something that comes naturally to you, then pursuing a career as an apprentice electrician or plumber may just be what’s best suited for your interests and abilities.

Skilled Trade Jobs

Mechanical Trades

If you’re interested in working with your hands and building things, then a career as a mechanic might be a good fit for you. There are many different types of mechanical trades, including:

  • HVAC Technician – This is short for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Technicians. They install and maintain heating systems using tools like drills and soldering irons.
  • Welding – Welders use special gas torches to melt metal together (welding) or cut metal apart (cutting).
  • Locksmith – Locksmiths specialize in repairing locks on doors and windows. They can also install new locks or keys if needed.
  • Automotive Specialist – Automotive Specialists work with cars and other motor vehicles to keep them running smoothly by diagnosing problems and fixing them with tools like hammers and screwdrivers.

Building Trades

Carpenter: Working with wood, carpenters build everything from houses to furniture. They also repair damaged buildings or other structures. To become a carpenter, you’ll need to complete an apprenticeship program through your local union.

Electrician: Electricians install electrical wiring in homes and businesses. They also repair and maintain existing electrical systems. To become an electrician, you’ll need to complete an apprenticeship program through your local union.

Building Maintenance: Building maintenance workers keep buildings in good condition by fixing things like broken windows, faulty plumbing or heating systems, or leaking roofs. To become a building maintenance worker you’ll need some experience doing repairs around the house or on job sites before starting this kind of career path.

Green Building Construction: Green building construction is an emerging field that focuses on the use of environmentally friendly materials in new construction projects. Green builders look for ways to reduce the amount of waste generated by their projects, as well as ways to conserve energy and water use during construction.

Plumber: Plumbers install and repair pipes that carry water and sewage through a home or business. They also install plumbing fixtures such as faucets and toilets. Many plumbers work for local governments maintaining municipal water systems, but many others work on private residential properties or in commercial buildings such as shopping malls or office complexes.

Miscellaneous/Service Trades

Chef: A chef is the head cook of a restaurant, hotel, or other food establishments. Chefs need at least a high school diploma and certification from a culinary arts program approved by the American Culinary Federation or equivalent training program.

Baker: Bakers work at commercial bakeries or may operate their own small bakery business from home. Baking skills include making bread, cakes, and cookies from scratch using traditional recipes and techniques.

Medical Assistant: Medical assistants help doctors with various tasks such as taking medical histories, collecting blood samples, administering injections, and measuring vital signs like blood pressure.

Teacher Assistant: These assistants help teachers with various tasks such as grading papers or assisting with classroom activities like science experiments or field trips.

Computer Support Specialist: These specialists install software updates on computers, troubleshoot problems with computers, and provide technical support over the phone or online chat programs like Skype or Google Hangouts if customers have questions about their computers’ functionality.

The Bottom Line

So is a career in the skilled trades right for you? The short answer is yes. First, there’s a shortage of skilled workers in today’s economy, meaning that competition for jobs is lower when compared to many other fields. On top of that, according to historical data, construction trade jobs are some of the best paying in the U.S. and require less than four years of training. Definitively, learning a skilled trade could be an excellent choice for anyone looking to become a master at their craft and make good money doing it.

Related Information

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Are the skilled trades worth it?

Online programs vs bootcamps for skilled trades