Trading college for trade school may have sounded like bad advice ten years ago, but with 44.2 million Americans carrying student loan debt, trade careers are becoming more attractive to high school graduates.
And you can earn a great living in the trades. In fact, you can earn more than many jobs that require a degree.
If you're looking to start life without a mountain of debt and still earn a decent living, here are six of the highest-paying trade careers.
1. Construction Manager
Construction management is a multi-faceted job. You'll be responsible for overseeing deliveries of materials, equipment and tools, but you'll also be in charge of ensuring every project has the proper permits and licenses.
Construction management programs can help you gain the skills you need to handle all aspects of contracting. Some programs also include instruction on environmentally sustainable building and green energy sources.
Demand for construction managers is high and is expected to continue growing by 5% between 2014 and 2024.
Construction managers earn a great living, with the average salary being $99,510 in 2016.
2. Aircraft Mechanic
If you love to fix things and you love the aviation industry, a job as an aircraft mechanic may be a good fit for you.
Aircraft mechanics work on a variety of aircraft, from helicopters to jets and commercial airplanes. Jobs are available in both private and public sectors, and you may work in a variety of settings, including airfields and hangars.
In 2016, aircraft mechanics earned an average salary of $60,270 per year. The highest earners in the field make more than $80,000 per year.
3. Elevator Installers and Repairers
Elevator installers and repairers are responsible for repairing, maintaining and installing elevator systems. This includes doors, control systems, cables, moving walkways, escalators and lifts.
Between 2014 and 2014, this field is expected to grow 13%, so the job outlook is great. The median salary for technicians in this field is around $77,000.
To get your foot in the door, you need a high school diploma and an apprenticeship.
Plumbers are always in demand, and their job is not likely to be replaced by robots anytime soon.
Plumbers and pipe lining fitters are paid well, and no two work days are alike. While you may not need a college education to become a plumber, the field still requires quite a bit of training.
These professionals may provide service to homeowners (i.e. fixing leaking pipes), or they may help install the plumbing system when constructing a commercial building.
Both training programs and apprenticeships are available for aspiring plumbers, and you'll need to obtain a license in your state.
The median annual salary for a plumber is $49,140. The top 10% in the field earn around $80,000 per year.
5. Pile-Drive Operator
If you like the idea of working with heavy equipment, a pile-drive operator may be a good career path for you.
Heavy-duty machines and vehicles are needed to construct buildings, roads, airports, bridges and other infrastructure that we use every single day.
This is a career with a great outlook. Between 2014 and 2024, the field is expected to grow by 10%.
The median salary for a pile-drive operator is $50,810 per year. Those at the top of the field earn more than $80,000 per year.
6. HVAC Technician
HVAC technicians are responsible for installing and repairing heating and cooling systems in residential and/or commercial structures. Training programs are readily available in most cities, and the job outlook is great for this field.
Between 2014 and 2024, employment in this field is expected to grow by 14%.The median salary for an HVAC technician is $45,910. The top 10% earn more than $70,000 per year.