26 Short Career Programs That Lead to High-Paying Jobs (2023)

Trade Schools Home > Articles > Highest-Paying Jobs with Short Career Programs

By Publisher
| Last Updated October 11, 2022

Are you eager to start earning good money but not ready to commit to a bachelor's degree? Trade schools and colleges offer short career programs that can qualify you for a professional role that pays well. Plenty of high-paying jobs with little schooling required rival jobs that need a bachelor's or higher, especially when it comes to salary and job outlook.* Areas like healthcare, technology, and skilled trades are full of opportunities.

Is it possible to get a job that pays well without spending four or more years at a traditional college or university? Could trade schools near me offer training that could lead to a good-paying job?

The answer is yes. Absolutely. Many people choose to bypass that longer path and end up with some of America's highest-paying jobs. Without a degree like a bachelor's, they can still out-earn many four-year college graduates.

So, what does it take? It takes a broader view of your educational options and the enthusiasm to learn what skills are needed in the marketplace. Let this be your introduction to a world of fast careers that pay well. The opportunities for those with just two years or less of trade school or vocational training can be surprising.

  • High-Paying Jobs With Little Schooling Required
  • The Trouble With Many Conventional Degrees
  • Maximize Your Return-on-Investment (ROI) at a Trade School

(Video) The 10 Highest Paying Jobs Without A College Degree - LEARN THESE NOW!

High-Paying Jobs With Little Schooling Required

26 Short Career Programs That Lead to High-Paying Jobs (1)

Following, you'll find some of the best-paying careers with little schooling required. For many, all you need is a simple two-year associate degree. And a months-long diploma or certificate program is often enough for some of the fastest careers to get into. Keep in mind that what you can earn might vary depending on which part of the country you work in and how much experience you have.

1. Dental Hygienist

Cleaning teeth, inspecting mouths for signs of disease, and educating patients about proper oral care are the primary duties of dental hygienists. For quick degrees that pay well, this is a popular option. Dental hygienist training can be completed in as little as two years.

  • Median pay: $77,810
  • Top pay: $100,200 or more

2. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

These healthcare technicians use special ultrasound technology to capture images that help doctors correctly diagnose and treat their patients. Most ultrasound techs have an associate degree in diagnostic medical sonography.

  • Median pay: $77,740
  • Top pay: $101,650 or more

3. Registered Nurse

With just an associate degree in nursing, you can enter the world of providing and coordinating essential care for patients in places like hospitals, nursing facilities, and other healthcare settings.

  • Median pay: $77,600
  • Top pay: $120,250 or more

4. Web Developer/Digital Interface Designer

Building attractive and functional websites requires plenty of technical skill but not necessarily much schooling, especially if you already enjoy teaching yourself new tricks. Depending on how motivated you are, this could be one of the quickest careers you can get into in tech. While not required, a formal education in web development or design can give you an edge.

  • Median pay: $77,030
  • Top pay: $129,760 or more

5. Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists help patients breathe effectively, whether they are helping with rehabilitation in a private clinic or placing someone on a ventilator to save their life. COVID-19 has dramatically increased the need for RTs on the front lines in hospitals and in treating lingering or lasting lung damage in those affected by the virus. This means the demand for RTs is high and expected to stay high for some time. Respiratory therapist school can be completed in as little as two years or less.

  • Median pay: $61,830
  • Top pay: $95,540 or more

6. Cardiovascular Technologist/Technician

These specialists perform tests, take ultrasound images, or provide assistance during surgery for heart-related conditions. Cardiovascular technologist training can typically be completed in one to two years.

  • Median pay: $60,570
  • Top pay: $98,070 or more

7. Electrician

Training at an electrician trade school and a short apprenticeship are usually enough to enter this trade, letting you wire buildings for electrical power and communications.

  • Median pay: $60,040
  • Top pay: $99,800 or more

8. Plumber/Pipefitter/Steamfitter

With a short amount of formal plumbing trade school or apprenticeship training, you can specialize in installing and repairing pipes and related equipment.

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  • Median pay: $59,880
  • Top pay: $99,920 or more

9. Commercial Diver

This tradesperson works underwater in special scuba gear to help build, repair, or remove large structures or equipment. For someone who already loves diving, training to dive professionally can be one of the most exciting options among other programs in skilled trades.

  • Median pay: $60,360
  • Top pay: $160,110 or more

10. Paralegal or Legal Assistant

Supporting lawyers by taking care of responsibilities like legal research, administrative tasks, or document drafting is what these well-paid professionals are trained for. An associate degree in legal assisting or paralegal studies can be completed in just two years.

  • Median pay: $56,230
  • Top pay: $88,640 or more

11. HVAC Technician

These tradespeople install, maintain, and repair the systems that heat and cool our homes, businesses, and other buildings. You can learn to become a technician through a short HVAC program available at a skilled trade school in just 8 to 24 months.

  • Median pay: $48,630
  • Top pay: $78,210 or more

12. Surgical Technologist

Preparing operating rooms, organizing surgical equipment, and assisting surgeons during operations are a few of the main roles of this kind of healthcare technician. A certificate or diploma in surgical technology can be completed in 9 to 15 months.

  • Median pay: $48,530
  • Top pay: $75,940 or more

13. Construction Equipment Operator

This skilled trade involves controlling big construction machinery used for building roads or major structures. Businesses are often willing to train on the job. Still, formal heavy equipment training could give you an edge in securing a good job.

  • Median pay: $48,290
  • Top pay: $84,640 or more

14. Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse

You do not need a degree to get into this level of nursing, which lets you work alongside doctors and other health professionals after a quick (typically one year) LPN training program.

  • Median pay: $48,070
  • Top pay: $63,790 or more

15. Clinical Laboratory Technician

Clinical or medical lab technicians collect fluid and tissue samples and perform basic diagnostic tests using special lab equipment. A bachelor's degree is typically required, but an associate degree or certificate in clinical laboratory technology is a great starting point.

  • Median pay: $57,800
  • Top pay: $79,340 or more

16. Software Developer

Although many developers have bachelor's degrees, other successful people in this field begin their careers with under two years of formal training in software development.

  • Median pay: $120,730
  • Top pay: $168,570 or more

17. Commercial Pilot (Non-Airline)

You don't need a college degree to fly charters or to get paid for jobs like aerial photography or firefighting missions. But you do need certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. You can prepare for your certification at an aviation school offering short pilot training.

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  • Median pay: $99,640
  • Top pay: $205,940 or more

18. Network Systems Administrator

Looking after the day-to-day needs of an organization's data communications systems is what this technology-based vocation is all about. Networking training ranges from short certificate and diploma programs to degrees and specific vendor certifications.

  • Median pay: $80,600
  • Top pay: $130,830 or more

19. Automotive Technician

Formal automotive training can prepare you to become a respected technician in an exciting and challenging field. To become a mechanic, you must complete an apprenticeship or a post-secondary program. Many vocational schools offer auto mechanic programs, and some offer apprenticeships and externships.

  • Median pay: $46,880
  • Top pay: $75,100 or more

20. Electrical or Electronics Engineering Technician

Helping engineers develop and test equipment and devices related to things like computers, health monitoring, communications, or navigation is what this kind of specialist does. Electronics training can take anywhere from four months to two years. Certificate or diploma programs can take four months or more to complete, and associate degree programs are typically 18 to 24 months long.

  • Median pay: $63,640
  • Top pay: $99,210 or more

21. Police Officer

Requirements vary from agency to agency. In some cases, you can become a viable candidate for police academy training by being in good physical shape and having some criminal justice education. Short career training in law enforcement can be a requirement or an asset.

  • Median pay: $66,020
  • Top pay: $105,540 or more

22. Aircraft Mechanic

The exciting trade of repairing and maintaining airplanes or helicopters can be learned by getting short FAA-approved aircraft maintenance training from an aviation school.

  • Median pay: $65,380
  • Top pay: $98,590 or more

23. Mechanical Engineering Technician

With an associate degree in mechanical engineering, you can begin assisting mechanical engineers with developing, testing, and manufacturing things like industrial machines, engines, and tools with moving parts.

  • Median pay: $60,460
  • Top pay: $95,300 or more

24. Radiologic (X-Ray) Technologist

An X-Ray technologist operates radiologic medical imaging equipment to produce images and media for diagnostic purposes. These types of professionals assist patients before and after imaging; then process and review the results to ensure they are clear enough for diagnosis and evaluation by a doctor. Completing a diploma or certificate program in basic X-Ray or radiologic technology can help you prepare for any required licensing exams.

  • Median pay: $61,370
  • Top pay: $94,880 or more

25. Welder

Manufacturing, construction, and fabrication usually require welding. Most welders work in the manufacturing sector. However, welders are employed in various other industries, including construction, mining, shipbuilding, power generation, and oil and gas production. The typical way to enter the welding trade is by completing formal welding training, getting certified, and continuing to learn while on the job. By combining classroom education and on-the-job training, employers and unions sometimes offer the opportunity to earn money while learning through a welding apprenticeship.

  • Median pay: $47,010
  • Top pay: $63,660 or more

26. Diesel Mechanic

In this automotive trade, the focus is on inspecting, repairing, or overhauling large vehicles with diesel engines such as trucks, buses, and rolling machinery used in mining or construction. Diesel mechanic training is offered at vocational and trade schools, usually taking nine to 24 months to complete.

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  • Median pay: $48,690
  • Top pay: $76,150 or more

The Trouble With Many Conventional Degrees

26 Short Career Programs That Lead to High-Paying Jobs (2)

Many traditional four-year degrees aren't all they're cracked up to be. For example, a 2022 labor market study shows that, on average, people with bachelor's degrees in majors like education and the humanities have some of the lowest earnings of all their peers.

According to a 2019 NCES employment report , more than half of college graduates with a traditional bachelor's degree in science, technology, engineering, or math are not employed in the fields they studied. Science majors often have difficulty finding work in their fields. In many cases, success in these areas requires spending additional time in school to earn master's or doctorate degrees.

The result is that many college graduates who choose the conventional route end up underemployed in jobs like retail or food service. Those who major in science or the liberal arts are especially vulnerable unless they go on to graduate school to increase their opportunities. According to numbers from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, the median annual wage of a retail salesperson in the U.S. was only $29,120. For cashiers, it was even less: $27,260.

Whether traditional college is worth the time and investment often depends on the career you want. You will need to discover if you can achieve your goals without a degree. Often, training at a vocational school is what you need.

Maximize Your Return-on-Investment (ROI) at a Trade School

In contrast to most traditional four-year institutions, career and technical schools specialize in putting students on a more defined path to succeeding in the job market. And they offer the chance to earn quick degrees or diplomas and complete fast career certification programs. Many of the highest-paying entry-level jobs can be attained with only two years or less of focused career education.

That's the real value of short vocational schooling. It's all about getting new opportunities and a positive return on investment (ROI) with the least amount of schooling needed. In this case, ROI refers to the extra amount you can earn in your lifetime as a graduate, after subtracting the cost of schooling and the amount that a typical non-graduate would earn.

The ROI of graduating from a vocational college or trade school is often very good since you learn marketable skills and technical abilities that employers need. Plus, your time is valuable. So why spend extra time training when there are great careers with little schooling you can get into sooner?

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* Unless otherwise noted, salary information is based on May 2021 data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program.


What is the easiest career with high pay? ›

16 high paying simple jobs
  1. Word processor. National average salary: $47,119 per year. ...
  2. Notary Public. National average salary: $47,835 per year. ...
  3. Purchasing agent. National average salary: $49,376 per year. ...
  4. Groundskeeper. National average salary: $50,475 per year. ...
  5. Accounting clerk. ...
  6. Librarian. ...
  7. Appraiser. ...
  8. Garbage truck driver.
14 Apr 2022

What is the shortest career to study? ›

5 Careers That Require Less Than 2 Years of Training
  • Civil Engineering. ...
  • Licensed Practical Nurse / Licensed Vocational Nurse. ...
  • Radiology Technician. ...
  • Massage Therapist. ...
  • Paramedic / EMT.

What jobs make the most money with the least education? ›

Here are the highest paying jobs without a college degree:
  • Patrol Officer.
  • Executive Assistant.
  • Sales Representative.
  • Flight Attendant.
  • Electrician.
  • Plumber.
  • Wind Turbine Technician.

What is the best short course to get a job? ›

Top 10 Short-term Courses for High-salary Jobs
  • Business Analytics.
  • Full Stack Development.
  • Data Science.
  • Artificial Intelligence.
  • Digital Marketing.
  • Programming Languages.
  • DevOps.
  • Blockchain Technology.
28 Aug 2022

What is a low stress job that pays well? ›

According to data that FinanceBuzz compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), some low-stress jobs that typically yield a six-figure salary include mathematician, software developer, political scientist, physicist, chemical engineer, astronomer, and ...

What is the best job for a lazy person? ›

21 Jobs for Lazy People That Pay Well
  1. Survey Taker. There are tons of online sites looking to hire people to take surveys for money. ...
  2. Online Shopper. Some people don't have time to shop in stores. ...
  3. Line Stand-In. ...
  4. Rideshare Driver. ...
  5. Librarian. ...
  6. Food Taster. ...
  7. Professional Cuddler. ...
  8. Hotel Sleep Tester.
12 Feb 2022

What job pays the most that doesn't require college? ›

Note: We used the Bureau of Labor Statistics' median salary data from 2019 to compile this list and infographic.
  • Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers. ...
  • Police and Detective Supervisors. ...
  • Commercial Pilots. ...
  • Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers. ...
  • Firefighting Supervisors. ...
  • Transportation Inspectors.
30 Jun 2022

Which job is best without education? ›

Here are the best jobs without a degree:
  • Patrol Officer.
  • Home Health Aide.
  • Personal Care Aide.
  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse.
  • Wind Turbine Technician.
  • Recreation and Fitness Worker.
  • Massage Therapist.

How can I get 6 figures without college? ›

Here are some ideas for jobs that make six figures without college.
  1. Real estate agent. Real estate can be a lucrative line of work for the right person. ...
  2. Construction management. ...
  3. Elevator/escalator installer. ...
  4. Commercial pilot. ...
  5. Web developer. ...
  6. Honorable mentions.
3 Jan 2022

What certifications can I get in 3 months? ›

Top careers with three-month certificate programs
  • Medical billing and coding specialist.
  • Web designer.
  • HVAC technician.
  • Truck driver.
  • Licensed real estate agent.
  • IT support.
  • Brick mason.
  • Personal trainer.

Which 6 month course is best? ›

The following positions require a certificate from programs that can be completed in six months:
  • Emergency Medical Technician.
  • Funeral director.
  • Brick Mason.
  • Personal trainer.
  • Medical coder.
  • Firefighter.
  • Air traffic controller.
  • Automobile service station manager.

What certifications can I get in 6 months? ›

6-Month Certificate Programs That Pay Well
  • Real Estate Agent. Selling real estate has limitless potential, and you can get started quickly. ...
  • Commercial Truck Driver. ...
  • Phlebotomy Tech. ...
  • HVAC Tech. ...
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) ...
  • Personal Trainer. ...
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

What is the easiest career? ›

18 Easiest Jobs That Pay Well and are Achievable
#CareerMedian Salary
1Groundskeeper or Landscaping Assistant$31,730
2Taxi Driver or Chauffeur$32,320
3Virtual Customer Service Representative$35,830
4Phlebotomy Technician$36,320
14 more rows
5 May 2022

What certificate makes the most money? ›

10 High-Paying Jobs that Require (or Recommend) a Certificate
  1. Web Developer. ...
  2. Construction and Building Inspector. ...
  3. Architectural and Civil Drafter. ...
  4. Industrial Engineering Technician. ...
  5. Pipefitter and Plumber. ...
  6. Court Reporter. ...
  7. Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Mechanic. ...
  8. Sheet Metal Worker.
21 Jul 2021

What is the easiest degree to get? ›

The 16 Easiest College Majors – 2022 Rankings
  • Psychology.
  • Criminal Justice.
  • English.
  • Education.
  • Religious Studies.
  • Social Work.
  • Sociology.
  • Communications.
11 Sept 2022

What is the most relaxing high paying job? ›

Top Low Stress Jobs That Pay Well in 2021
  • 15 of the Best High-Paying Low-Stress Jobs. There are a variety of jobs in fields such as business and healthcare that are reported to be low-stress. ...
  • University Professor. ...
  • Audiologist. ...
  • Operations Research Analyst. ...
  • Radiation Therapist. ...
  • Statistician. ...
  • Biomedical Engineer. ...
  • Art Director.
28 Sept 2021

What is the least stressful job ever? ›

Not all stress is bad. Healthy stress can serve as a motivator, while unhealthy stress zaps concentration. More than half of Americans report that work is a significant source of stress in their lives. The least stressful jobs include diagnostic medical sonographer, compliance officer, and hairstylist.

What are the most lonely jobs? ›

There are times when we all wish we had more alone time, but there are certain occupations that take isolation to a whole new level.
  1. Crew Member, Concordia Station in Antarctica. ...
  2. Winter Caretaker, Yellowstone National Park. ...
  3. Service Person, Thule Air Base. ...
  4. Fire Lookout, Gila National Forest.

What is the happiest job? ›

The 10 Happiest and Most Satisfying Jobs
  • Dental Hygienist.
  • Physical Therapist.
  • Radiation Therapist.
  • Optometrist.
  • Human Resources Manager.

What is the best happiest job? ›

Here is a list of 31 of the happiest jobs you can consider pursuing:
  • Teaching assistant.
  • Early childhood education teacher.
  • Sound engineering technician.
  • Event planner.
  • Heavy equipment operator.
  • Contractor.
  • Recruiter.
  • Property manager.

What job pays $100 an hour without a degree? ›

Freelance photographer

Photographers who specialize in graphic design and art can be the most likely to earn $100 an hour, but they normally have about five years of experience in the field. Education requirements: You don't need formal education for this occupation, but a high school diploma or GED is recommended.

How can I make 150K a year without a degree? ›

The best way to earn $150K without a degree is by enrolling in a coding bootcamp, taking online courses, or networking. To change your career path and earn a high salary you must acquire and master the necessary skills.

How can I make 100k without a degree? ›

Real estate agents, sales jobs, dental hygienists, network architects, and massage therapists are some jobs that pay the most without the need for a four-year college degree or even an associate degree. Freelance platforms offer some of the best jobs without a college degree.

How can I make 80k a year without a degree? ›

Jobs That Pay 80k a Year Without a Degree
  1. Commercial Pilot. Median pay: $121,430 per year. ...
  2. Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Manager. Median pay: $94,560 per year. ...
  3. First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detectives. Median pay: $91,090 per year. ...
  4. Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairer. Median pay: $84,990 per year.
1 Dec 2020

What pays a lot of money? ›

Here are the highest paying jobs of 2022:

Anesthesiologist: $208,000. Surgeon: $208,000. Obstetrician and Gynecologist: $208,000. Orthodontist: $208,000.

What job should I do if I am not good at studies? ›

Acting, dancing, arts, radio jockeying, fitness training are some offbeat courses that have taken the spotlight as rewarding and satisfying options. From short courses, workshops, part-time courses to diploma courses, there is no dearth of opportunities.

What's the fastest trade to learn? ›

Quick trade jobs to learn include truck drivers, medical coders, and personal trainers. Trade school enrollment has surged as college enrollment dropped in recent years. Demand for trade jobs such as trucking has caused governments to relax licensure requirements.

How can I make $100000 a year? ›

How to make $100k a year
  1. Choose the right industry. The first step in earning at least $100,000 in salary is to choose a career in a more lucrative industry. ...
  2. Pursue a high-paying career. ...
  3. Consider your expenses. ...
  4. Move to a high-paying city. ...
  5. Invest in education. ...
  6. Add revenue streams. ...
  7. Negotiate your salary.

How can I get a high paying job with no education? ›

Here are some of the highest jobs without degrees or experience:
  1. Miners. National average salary: $21.71 per hour. ...
  2. Theatre practitioners. National average salary: $23.23 per hour. ...
  3. Landscape technician. National average salary: $21.28 per hour. ...
  4. Claims adjusters. ...
  5. Translators. ...
  6. Mobile developers. ...
  7. Maintenance manager. ...
  8. Receptionists.

How can I make a lot of money with no education? ›

How to make money without a degree
  1. Invest in the stock market. If you are someone who is financially savvy, it's possible to make money in the stock market. ...
  2. Start your own business. ...
  3. Sell stuff online. ...
  4. Rent out your property. ...
  5. Start a consulting service. ...
  6. Take stock photography. ...
  7. Start a blog. ...
  8. Deliver food.


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