Many students believe that the next natural step after graduating from high school is to go off to college. Secondary education has become such a common transition that many parents begin saving for college tuition as soon as their children are born. Although college can be the next chapter in a student's education, many teenagers still choose to attend trade school.
Television personality Mike Rowe says the country is in the midst of a skilled labor shortage because workers lack the necessary training to fill the hundreds of thousands of available jobs. Lack of information may drive the notion that trade jobs are nothing more than a backup plan if college doesn't pan out. However, by realizing that trade jobs, along with short-term vocational training, is a smart investment — and eventually a lucrative career choice — attitudes about trade schools and labor-intensive jobs may shift.
A great number of college graduates enter the workforce with degrees that may not help them land jobs. And these students typically carry thousands of dollars in tuition debt. Many college grads are underemployed and working in jobs that aren't even in their fields of study. Career and technical schools help students develop specialized skills that make graduates immediately marketable in their chosen fields, and trade salaries can be very competitive.
The following are some of the fastest-growing and highest-paying trade careers to consider, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Forbes magazine.
• Construction manager: Construction professionals with great organizational and communication skills can enjoy high earning potential as construction managers. Expected growth of this career over the next 10 years is 5 percent. The average income of a construction manager is $87,000. However, with a top-end hourly pay of around $75 per hour, it's easy for managers to earn into six figures.
• Elevator installer and repairer: This career is listed as a top-earner. These employees can earn anywhere from $74,000 to $105,000 per year. Elevators are in demand as urban centers increase, so this career has staying potential.
• Rotary drill operator: The oil and gas industry relies on rotary drill operators to extract oil or natural gas from underground sources. Salaries for these jobs can range from $30 to $40 per hour.
• Dental hygienist: Cleaning teeth and inspecting mouths for disease is an important role. Job growth is still hovering around 20 percent, and hygienists can expect to earn up to $98,000.
• Electricians and plumbers: Electricians and plumbers are continually in demand. With a short amount of trade school and apprenticeship, it's possible to earn up to $90,000 per year.
These are just a few of the many skilled professions that vocational schools prepare their students for. Scholarships and funding programs are available to help make vocational training an affordable possibility.