7 Top Paying Vocations

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top paying vocationsBy Sarah Blais – Jan. 26, 2018
Last week, we talked about the benefits of choosing vocational school over a typical college. How would you like to hear the payoff – literally?

With the cost of a college education skyrocketing higher than ever, now is the best time to look at alternative careers that pay the same or more as fields requiring a Bachelor’s degree.

From their last 2012 survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows careers that don’t require a college degree pay the most. If you don’t want to enroll in a university, you’re not out of options.


7. Dental assistant

Graduation timeline: 6 months to 2 years
Average salary: $35,000/year

Dental assistants wear many hats in the office. Their tasks include providing patient care, taking x-rays, record keeping, and running the front desk. Because they’re usually the most inexperienced employees, many offices also expect them to observe and help with more complicated procedures. While this is the lowest paying job on the list, it’s worth mentioning because it’s the first rung on the ladder for a higher-paying position. After dental assistants spend a year or two learning, the practice will expect you to move up to hygienist, which makes about $70,000 a year. Your company will likely reimburse your tuition while you go to school and work.

6. Plumber

Graduation timeline: 2 – 5 years
Average salary: $49,000/year

A plumber specializes in installing and maintaining sewage, draining, and water systems carrying liquids and gases to and from buildings. People with an analytical mind do the best in this job, as there’s many complicated procedures to learn. Depending on your location it’s not a very competitive field, and you may find yourself on call often. Besides home visits, you can also find a position as a company’s in-house plumbing repair person or work in construction.

5. Electrical Technician

Graduation timeline: 1 – 4 years
Average salary: $50,000/year

Electricians do everything under the sun to bring power to the people, including wiring homes and buildings, and servicing manufacturing equipment. Like plumbing, the popular career paths are construction, home maintenance, and in-house company specialist. You should be fairly fit, as you could be working outdoors or in high places. Although it isn’t as dangerous as most construction jobs, there’s still the risk for shocks and burns.

4. Construction and building inspectors

Graduation timeline: 1 – 3 years
Average salary: $53,000/year

Before you move into your new house or relocate your office, who makes sure everything is up-to-code and inhabitable? An inspector can check construction sites, buildings, and residential areas to ensure its livability. Since the mid-1970’s, inspection has gained popularity as more legal codes have been put in place to uphold public safety.

3. Aircraft equipment mechanic/technician

Graduation timeline: 1.5 – 3 years
Average salary: $55,000/year

If you have the dexterity of a car mechanic but want to deal with bigger modes of transportation, you may like working with aircrafts. Technicians do repairs, maintenance, and inspections on commercial and private aircrafts. They work under strict deadlines to uphold flight schedules, and in loud environments from engines and equipment. Throughout your career, you must maintain your certification through training and work experience.

2. Respiratory Therapist

Graduation timeline: 2 – 3 years
Average salary: $56,000/year

If you enjoy working with others and have a passion for the medical field, respiratory therapy is a rewarding industry. A respiratory therapist takes care of patients who have trouble breathing. They determine the reason through interviews and careful examination, whether it’s because of a chronic disease or outside hazards. You’ll assist a wide range of people, from premature infants with underdeveloped lungs to elderly patients with diseased lungs. Respiratory therapists can open up their own practice or work in a division at a larger public hospital.

1. Web Developer

Graduation timeline: 2 – 4 years. Can also be self-taught
Average salary: $63,000/year

Fairly self-explanatory, a web developer builds and maintains websites. They take care of everything from the design to performance and technical aspects. The beauty of this field is you’re not required to have a degree. Most trades require some type of official licensing for safety and liability coverage, but such is not always the case in creative endeavors. A certification looks good on a resume, but if you have an impressive portfolio, many companies are willing to see past formal education. It’s an imaginative trade that everyone needs in the 21st century, from small businesses to large corporations.

These are great places to start, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all. After a certain level of expertise and experience, it’s possible to make more money. Every career opportunity is what you make of it, and there’s no limit to how much you can make if you find the best opportunity and continue learning in your field.


Sarah Blais is an education writer based in New York City. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and Mass Communication in from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State.

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