Trade Skills Career Overview

A trade skills degree or vocational program centers on preparing students for a specific career. Trade skills programs focus more on technical, practical skills, rather than the academics and general education required in traditional college degrees. Vocational programs typically offer associates degrees or certificates and cover a variety of fields, from dental hygiene to plumbing to culinary arts to interior design.

Listed at the bottom of this page are colleges and universities that offer online vocational degrees or vocational certificates. You can also explore the various trade skills study areas below.

TRADE SKILLS STUDY AREAS

Career Outlook for Vocational Skills

Vocational skills are generally in constant demand — society will always have teeth to clean, hair to cut, and office buildings to wire. Of course, job availability depends on the specific technical trade you select. Jobs in construction and building may be subject to shifts in the economy, while demand for healthcare workers is expected to increase.

The following shows employment growth in selected trade skills professions between 2016 and 2026, predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Projected Job Growth, 2016 to 2026

  • Medical Transcriptionist: -3%
  • Automotive Mechanic: 6%
  • Carpenter: 8%
  • Electrician: 9%
  • Chef: 10%
  • Hairstylist: 13%
  • EMT: 15%
  • Plumber: 16%
  • Dental Hygienist: 20%
  • Veterinary Technician: 20%
  • Massage Therapist: 26%

Salary Forecast for Careers in Trade Skills

Because trade skills degrees span a variety of industries, it is difficult to generalize earning potential in all vocational careers. You can make an average to good living with a trade skills degree, especially with increased experience and additional training.

Take a look at the median annual salaries for various vocational occupations reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2017:

Median Annual Salaries, May 2017

  • Hairstylists: $24,900
  • EMT: $33,380
  • Veterinary Technicians: $33,400
  • Medical Transcriptionist: $35,250
  • Automotive Mechanic: $39,550
  • Massage Therapist: $39,990
  • Carpenters: $45,170
  • Chef: $45,950
  • Plumbers: $52,590
  • Electricians: $54,110
  • Dental Hygienist: $74,070

Education Requirements for Vocational

Typically, trade skills programs award associates degrees or training certificates in a specific technical field. Programs can last from one to two years, and can sometimes require an apprenticeship.

For example, electricians may study for two years in a technical school, followed by a four- to five-year apprenticeship training program before becoming licensed to work professionally. Vet techs can start working after receiving an associates degree and license, and hairstylists attend a cosmetology school to earn a non-degree award and a license. Education requirements for each trade are different, but each teaches valuable skills requested by entry-level employers today.

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