Many people hear that obtaining a college degree can help professionals earn more money throughout their lives. However, as the price of tuition continues to rise, bachelor's degrees can be out of reach for many. In fact, students with moderate budgets at state schools paid an average of $25,290 for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Four years of such an education can easily cost over $100,000. The average cost is $127,000 in total. Even with scholarships and grants, many women must go into plenty of debt to pay for undergraduate degrees. However, they don't want to be stuck in low-paying jobs. Trade schools offer excellent solutions for such women. These programs can lead to some of the highest-paying jobs without a degree.

What Are Trade Schools?

These institutions offer postsecondary educations without the four-year time and money commitments of traditional universities. Instead of degrees, graduates from trade schools earn certificates. These credentials show potential employers that you developed the skills to do the specific job well.

One of the main reasons you may consider trade school is the time it takes to earn a certificate. You don't have to spend two years taking general education courses and an additional two years on major-related courses. Instead, you skip the general education requirements and start learning job-related skills immediately. Typically, trade schools take two years or fewer to finish. Some programs only take six months.

Trade school often costs significantly less per term and overall. On average, learners pay $33,000 for trade school. While that's still no small sum, it's typically $94,000 less than a bachelor's degree.

Some trade schools exist within community colleges and even major universities. Others are stand-alone institutions. Most trade schools offer several start dates each year rather than the traditional summer, fall and spring semesters. Some institutions also offer career placement services to help you get started in your new job.

What Careers Are Offered at Trade Schools?

Trade school graduates go on to fill vocational careers. These are positions that require specific skills. They often work with particular types of machinery. For example, you may become a rotary drill operator on an oil rig, an aircraft mechanic or an electrician. Similarly, many trade school graduates work in construction as site managers, crane operators or pile-driver operators.

Not all trade school careers are physical in nature. The health care industry continues to grow and needs many vocational professionals. For example, you can finish school and become a phlebotomist, medical assistant or a medical biller and coder. This field also needs technicians for laboratories, medical information, radiology, surgeries and more. Thirty-one percent of vocational professionals work in this area, the most of any field.

You don't need an MBA to launch a fulfilling career in business. Trade school graduates can become accountants, logistics managers, marketing professionals and real estate agents. If you have a creative streak, you can pursue vocational careers in fashion design, culinary arts or interior design.

Several public service positions also require trade schools. If you want to become a firefighter, police officer or paramedic, a trade school can get you there. Similarly, forensic technicians, paralegals and other auxiliary law enforcement professionals use these institutions to launch their careers.

Top-Paying Trade School Careers

While trade school graduates work in all kinds of sectors of the economy, not all positions pay as well as others. It's important for students to know what kinds of salaries to expect. Web developers, who often earn associate degrees, earn over $57,000 per year. Similarly, computer network architects earn an average of $51.86 per hour. Other technology-focused careers such as applications software developer, computer programmer and database administrator earn over $40 per hour on average.

Construction careers can also pay well. Elevator installment and repair technicians are some of the highest-paid trade school professionals. Across the country, the median pay is $77,580. Petroleum technicians earn $61,762 on average. Plumbers and electricians make about $50,000 per year. HVAC technicians can earn about $42,000 annually.

The medical field has plenty of well-paying opportunities as well. Dental hygienists make more than $54,000 on average. Radiation therapists earn about $66,823 per year, while sonographers make $51,832 annually on average. Respiratory therapists do similarly well with $51,011 per year.

Careers for Women Who Go to Trade Schools

The list of trades for females is the same as the one for males. Depending on a person's interests and talents, any trade can be a possibility regardless of gender. However, some trades attract women more than men. Some of these professions cater more to women's needs. For example, they may tend to have more flexible schedules for single moms or less of a pay gap. Furthermore, a few careers generally consist of more women overall, which can help newcomers feel more comfortable.

Many of the trades in which women make up the majority of the workplace center around health care. For example, over 97 percent of dental hygienists are women. Similarly, nearly 93 percent of medical assistants and 90 percent of licensed vocational nurses are women. More than 80 percent of medical billing and posting clerks, accountants, paralegals, phlebotomists, insurance claims clerks and massage therapists are women.

Women who go into emergency services may find problems with pay gaps. However, when they become emergency management directors, they earn more. While men in this profession earn about $68,407 per year, women in the same positions make an average of $70,337 annually. However, much fewer of these directors are women.

What Women in Traditionally Male Trades Earn

Throughout the workforce, women make 81 cents for every dollar a man makes on average. While the gap continues to close, some trades pay women more than their male colleagues. For example, female medical assistants earn about $597 per week, while their male counterparts earn $550. In other health care support occupations, women earn about $603 per week while men make $560.

Although some people consider electronic engineering a traditionally male field, women tend to earn more in these positions. While men make $1,772 per week, women earn $1,901 weekly.

Other male-dominated trades can be particularly lucrative for women. While women make up about 9 percent of the construction labor force, they tend to occupy higher-paying jobs in this field. The average male construction laborer earns $796 per week. However, women in these positions make $802 in an average week.

Although many people may feel surprised that women can make more in male-dominated fields, they can also fare better in some traditionally feminine roles. For example, women who are teachers' assistants earn more than men in the same trade. However, there are fewer of these examples.

Women also fare better in male-dominated careers because these tend to have more shortages. As in the years surrounding World War II, women are entering fields like welding, HVAC and electrical work to make up for shortages. Because many current trades workers are nearing retirement, the demand for such jobs continues to grow. For example, the HVAC trade will need 14 percent more workers by 2024. Women who want stable, well-paying careers may consider some of these traditionally masculine trades.

How to Pay for Trade School

Although trade schools cost only a fraction of the average bachelor's degree, students often need help paying for this education. If this sounds like you, be sure to explore scholarship, grant and government loan options.

First, see if your desired school accepts aid based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. While many public community colleges accept FAFSA aid, private trade schools may not. Either way, it's worth investing some time in filling out this free form. You will input some identifying and financial information.

The Department of Education then uses what you provide to determine how much you and your family can reasonably contribute to your education. Your school tells the department how much you will need for school. The difference between these numbers is your financial need.

If your school qualifies for federal aid, the department will then offer loans, grants or both depending on your need. Many students qualify for federal loans. While you would have to pay these back over time, they can help you enter a high-paying career quickly. These loans often have lower interest rates than their private counterparts. As such, you should only take out private loans as a last resort.

The Department of Education may also offer you grants, particularly if your need is high. Some grants never need repayment. However, you may need to repay others if you do not keep the agreements. For example, the TEACH grant pays for much of a teaching degree. However, if graduates do not go to work in high-need positions in time, the grant may convert to a loan.

Scholarships are often the gold standard for financial aid. Learners never have to repay these awards, even if they drop out of school or do not go into their intended careers. Many scholarship-granting organizations want to see your FAFSA paperwork before they give you the money. This is why it's a good idea to fill out the FAFSA even if you will not qualify for federal aid with your school.

While many scholarships base winners off of need, others are merit based. Women in trade schools can often earn scholarships from women-centric associations in their desired trades. For example, the National Association for Women in Construction offers scholarships to women pursuing construction trade certifications.

Some trade schools offer payment plans rather than asking for tuition upfront. This practice is especially common among schools that do not accept federal aid. Be sure to contact your school's financial aid office to see which types of financial aid you can get. Remember that these schools cater to people who struggle to pay for traditional colleges. They can help you find exactly what you need.

Earn Certifications Online

Although many trade schools require hands-on experience, some offer online classes or entire degrees that you can earn on your own computer. These options are ideal for women who need to work or take care of families while they attend school. Furthermore, many of these programs are less expensive than in-person trade schools. Some of the most common online trade programs are:

  • Medical billing and coding
  • Cybersecurity
  • Accounting
  • Criminal justice
  • Business administration

Students who have unpredictable or busy schedules should be sure to find programs with asynchronous courses. In these classes, educators record their lectures, and learners watch them whenever they can throughout the week. Synchronous online courses require you to log in to live video chats at specific times. However, some of these synchronous courses take place at night or on weekends to accommodate working professionals.

For health care trade schools, you can find hybrid schools. In these programs, you get hands-on experience for some of the time but complete other coursework at home online. The hands-on components may take place during evenings or weekends as well.

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