5 Trade Jobs That Can Make You More Money Than A College Degree


Trade jobs women working

You’ve been told that going to college will increase your opportunities and help you land higher-paying jobs. While that’s true in some cases, the results can vary, leaving you job hunting while managing student loans. 

If you want to skip that section of your life, these five trade jobs that can not only make you more money than a college degree but also stay in demand for the foreseeable future

  1. Licensed General Contractor 

A general contractor manages construction sites. As a contractor, you’re responsible for maintaining safety, hiring sub-contractors, and providing the necessary equipment. To become a licensed general contractor you must: 

  • Pass the general contractor’s exam. The test is several hours long and has over 100 multiple-choice questions.
  • You can find helpful educational resources online to prepare you for the contractor’s exam. 

After passing the exam, you receive your license and can begin working. On average, licensed general contractors make $43.93 an hour, which adds up to an average of over $80,000 a year. 

  1. Landscape Designer 

Landscape designers work on gardening or outdoor residential projects. You gather information about the area the project is in to determine the best design plan. On average a landscape designer earns about $54,000 a year. 

  • This is a field that you can enter with or without education in a relevant subject. However, some employers do prefer a bachelor’s degree, so you will have to look around. 
  • You can begin the job without a degree by gaining experience on the job. You might do this as an assistant or by volunteering.
  • Landscape designers need to be both practical and artistic.

In general, the more experience you have the more money you’ll make so it doesn’t hurt to volunteer at your local garden club. 

  1. HVAC Technician 

HVAC technicians install, repair, and replace heating and air conditioning systems, refrigerators, and ventilation systems. 

  • There is no formal education requirement but many people choose to enter short-term training programs to gain certificates to increase job opportunities. 
  • Experience can be gained in one of these programs or while on the job.
  • HVAC technicians can become certified in other areas to gain more money as specialists. 

HVAC technicians typically make about $23.25 an hour, to begin with. As you gain more experience and certificates, your income could increase to $30 or $40 an hour. 

  1. Plumber

Plumbers install and repair water and gas lines, test water pressure, clear blockages from drains, and estimate repair costs with clients. The requirements to be a plumber include:

  • A high school diploma or the equivalent. 
  • On-the-job training or education through a short-term training program.
  • A license, depending on the state you are in. This can require up to five years of experience.
  • In general, you’ll start as an apprentice and work your way up in the trade.

The average plumber earns $24.58 an hour, which comes out to about $47,000 a year. 

  1. Licensed Practical Nurse 

Licensed practical nurses work under registered nurses and doctors. As a nurse, you provide patient care including updating patient charts, monitoring vitals, helping with bathing and care, and administering medication. There are a few requirements to become an LPN including:

  • Graduating high school.
  • Completing a vocational LPN program, which usually takes one year or acquiring a graduate certificate in nursing.
  • Passing the National Licensure Examination.
  • Most LPNs also have prior experience in the field in other positions, including volunteering.

Once these steps are met, you can work as an LPN earning an average salary of $47,480. In some areas, this can increase to over $50,000 depending on your experience. 

These five trade jobs are just some of the many occupations you can pursue that can make you more money than a college degree. Do a little research of your own to see what trade jobs might be right for you.


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