Want to earn a decent income when you grow up?
If you believe the hype, you probably think you have to go to college – or live in your mom’s basement for the rest of your life.
I’m here to tell you that’s wrong. There’s another avenue out of the basement: trade careers.
Don’t believe me? Fast Company named skilled trades one of the five jobs that will be the hardest to fill in 2025, noting they “have large numbers of workers retiring but fewer young people choosing these careers, which are also difficult to offshore or fully automate.”
And the best part? Trade careers don’t require four-year degrees (and all the student loans that come with them).
Here are five worth exploring.
5 trade careers that are growing like crazy
The next time someone tells you college is the only answer, reply with this stat: According to Explore the Trades, only 35 percent of future jobs will require a four-year degree or higher.
And then show them this list of booming trade careers, which is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Note that average job growth across industries is five to eight percent, so a growth rate of 14 percent or more is considered “much faster than average.”
1. Wind turbine technicians
To enter this exploding career, you must attend a two-year technical school and complete at least one year of on-the-job training or an apprenticeship. And you can’t be afraid of heights or confined spaces.
“My job is physically strenuous, so it pays more than a lot of jobs in the area,” Reed McManus wrote. “It brings a lot of joy to me at the end of the day when a turbine has been down for some reason and we’re able to fix it, finally see it fire up again, and produce energy.”
Median pay: $52,260
Job growth (2014-24): 108 percent
You’ve undoubtedly heard of electricians and what they do. But did you know it was such a lucrative career? Or that it was growing so quickly? Probably not.
To learn this trade, most electricians complete a four- or five-year paid apprenticeship, which consists of 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training per year.
“Four years does sound like a lot of time, but don’t forget that you are ‘earning while learning,’” electrician Jerry Higgins wrote. “[It’s] completely worth it, however, and one of the reasons is that most everyone agrees that a journeyman electrician holds the BEST job of all the construction trades.”
Median pay: $57,720
Job growth (2014-24): 14 percent
3. Elevator mechanics
Wow. Can you believe the median salary of this gig? As you might imagine, elevator mechanics install and repair elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other types of lifts.
Elevator mechanics learn their trade through a four-year apprenticeship – which might be why elevator mechanic Casey Planchon said you should “start young, while you’re healthy and strong.”
“The job has its ups and downs,” Planchon said. “But the pay, benefits, and satisfaction of building and fixing elevators, escalators, and moving walkways are the best of all the trades. If you decide to pursue this path, push hard and be safe.”
Median pay: $78,890 per year
Job growth (2014-24): 13 percent
4. Industrial machinery mechanics
Also called maintenance machinists, industrial machinery mechanics diagnose and repair issues with (you guessed it) industrial machines.
Unlike many jobs on this list, you don’t need to obtain an apprenticeship first. Instead, you’ll receive on-the-job training, which can last a year or more.
Wondering if it’s the right path for you? OwlGuru offers a quick career quiz specifically for people who are considering the industrial machinery industry.
Median pay: $49,100
Job growth (2014-24): 16 percent
5. HVACR technicians
HVACR technicians (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians) help you stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
To enter the field, you can look for an apprenticeship or attend a trade school for six months to two years.
“After 15 years of installing and repairing furnaces and air conditioners, I am very happy [with] the experience and knowledge I’ve gained,” Dan Robbins wrote. “With hands-on experience and a bit of HVAC schooling, I went from a warehouse clerk to a small-time business owner making a modest living.”
Median pay: $45,910
Job growth (2014-24): 14 percent
The important thing to remember? A four-year college is not the only path to financial security.
Although it can be wonderful, it can also be an expensive mistake – especially if you’re not sure which career you’d like to pursue.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.23% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 6.23%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|