Here’s a list of some top paying jobs that take the least time in school. There are many others besides the ones listed here, and in fact I edit this article from time to time adding new careers and updating salary information. The length of the programs listed here are generally:

  • 3-6 weeks certificate or license training
  • 3 month certificates
  • 6 month certificates
  • 12 months to 2 years diplomas and associate’s degrees

Highest Paying Jobs with 6 Weeks to 2 Years in School

You can get training in the classroom and online for certificates like nursing assistant, CDL truck driver, and medical assistant in 3 weeks to 3 months. There are 3 and 6 month certificate programs in the skilled trades, medical, dental, and criminal justice fields too. All salary information noted below was found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics official government website.

Use our program search application to connect with a trade school program near you.

Welding Technology

The job of a welder, in a nutshell, is to bond metals using heat. In broader terms, welders are needed in every aspect of life, from auto racing to building bridge, to keeping airplanes in the sky. Most employers prefer hiring welders who have completed formal training programs (6 months to 1 year) and who have been certified.

The average salary for welders in 2021 was $48,290. But, for welders, salary is heavily determined by which industry they work in since jobs like underwater welder can pay over $100,000. There is a growing shortage of experienced welders so job prospects should remain fairly stable for those who fit the bill. Find a welding training program.

Dental Hygienist

After as little as two years in an accredited program, you could have what is considered one of the best paying jobs for trade school graduates. Though, to research, teach, or work in the public school system, you’ll need a master’s degree. Dental hygienists work alongside dentists to clean patients teeth and look for any signs of dental or oral problems. Dental hygiene is one of the highest paying careers that you do not need 4 years of schooling.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the mean annual salary for dental hygienists in 2021 at $81,360 with the top 10% making over $100,000. Find a dental hygienist program.

Electrician

Electricians repair, install, and maintain power in virtually every structure throughout the country (and world). Many electricians begin as an apprentice but they must be 18, have a high school diploma or GED, pass a drug screening, and pass an aptitude exam. The majority of states require that electricians be certified to perform their service. Many aspiring electricians choose to attend a trade school for their formal electrician training(which takes about 1 year) but they still have to complete an apprenticeship too. Apprenticeships can take 4-5 years to finish.

The average salary of an electrician in 2021 was $63,310, but the top 10% make closer to $99,800. Find an electrician training program.

Graphic Designer

Using design software or creating by hand, graphic designers can become employed in a variety of capacities. Graphic designers work in the digital, marketing, print, trade, and many other spaces. Although there are bachelor’s degrees available in graphic design, most community colleges offer 2 year associate’s degrees where the programs focus solely on the industry, instead of having to take core subjects such as math and sciences. Many graphic design students obtain their initial experience through internships which usually serves them well once they are looking for their first job.

The average annual salary for graphic designers was $59,970 in 2021, however, with education, experience, and talent it’s not uncommon for this career to pay a lot more. With the top 10% of graphic designers earning over $98,260 annually. Find a graphic design program.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants provide administrative and clinical duties for medical facilities such as doctors offices and hospitals. Medical assistants may work at the front desk, or they may get the patient ready for the doctor. There are a few different types of medical assistants including administrative, clinical, and podiatric. While most states have no set schooling requirements for medical assistants, most employers prefer to hire medical assistants who have completed formal training. Medical assisting programs through trade schools can take as little as 6 weeks for certificate training, or up to one year to earn a diploma. Associate’s degree programs through trade schools or community colleges take two years if the student attends full time.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states the median annual pay for medical assistants is $35,850 with the top 10% of all medical assistants earning about $50,580 per year. When looking for a job, certified medical assistants with knowledge of electronic health records will have the edge over their competition. Find a medical assistant program.

Medical Billing & Coding

Although they are usually lumped together(like I’m doing here), medical biller and medical coder (certified coding specialist) are two different positions. They both work within the medical health field, gathering patient, doctor, and insurance information. Medical coders, however, inspect patient records to ensure the diagnosis code given to insurance companies coincide with procedures performed on the patient. Medical billers use those codes to bill insurance companies, so the patient and healthcare facility receive accurate reimbursement.

After their 1-2 years of training, both medical biller and medical coder are similarly paid, earning over $48,310 annually on average (source: BLS). Find a medical billing and coding program.

Pastry Chef

Pastry chefs specialize in creating and making tantalizingly tasty treats. Focusing on culinary arts through a community college or culinary school is the quickest way to go when considering a career as a pastry chef. Normal length of time here is 1-2 years. Some pastry chefs do choose the 4 year bachelor’s degree route, however.

According to BLS, the annual salary of all types of chefs is $56,920. The top 10% of chefs made an average of $84,570 on 2021. Individual talent and experience will help when searching for jobs in this increasingly competitive space. Find a pastry chef program.

Paralegal

A Paralegal’s job is to assist their employing lawyer by working up cases, doing legal research, drafting documents, and anything else their employer has them in charge of. Paralegals can do most of the work necessary for a case, aside from presenting it to the court. There are a few different routes to take to become a paralegal. An associate’s program through a community college is one of the most common ones and, if a student attends full time, it only takes two years to complete.

The mean salary of a paralegal is $58,330 per year. Entry-level paralegals earn right around $36,410 while paralegals who have been in the industry for some time will make closer to $88,640. Experienced and formally trained paralegals have the best job prospects. Find a paralegal program.

Registered Nurse

Registered Nurses provide care to patients. There are many areas an RN can specialize such as cardiology, critical care, addiction, and pediatrics. To become a Registered Nurse, it only takes 2-3 years through an associate’s degree program in nursing, or a diploma through an accredited and approved nursing school. Programs should include both practical and clinical application. All RN’s must be licensed to practice.

The mean annual salary for a Registered Nurse is $82,750. Entry level RN positions brought in over $59,450 and the top 10% earned over $120,250 according to the BLS updates in March of 2022. Find a local RN program.

Truck Driver

Truck driving is not your typical 9-5, but it’s a great way to make a living and there are many different types of truck driver jobs. Training for your CDL license generally takes 6 weeks to 3 months. There is an increasing shortage of drivers so earning your Commercial Drivers License (CDL) is a great choice if you want to finish your training fast. One downside of a truck driving job is that the hours can keep you away from home for semi-extended periods of time.

The mean annual pay for heavy and tractor-trailer drivers was over $50,000 in 2021. However, as an experienced truck driver, you could be earning over $72,000 per year.  Besides a nice paycheck, most truck drivers get good benefits too. Find a CDL training class.

HVAC Technician

HVAC technicians work on heating and air conditioning equipment in industrial, business, and residential settings. There are different types of HVAC tech programs including certificate training, diploma and associate degrees. These programs take from a few months to 2 years to complete. You can also find NATE technician training at some schools, for those who want to get NATE certified. Read about why you should hire NATE technicians, written by an HVAC company owner. It’ll give some context on the importance of  NATE certification to some companies.

The mean annual salary for HVAC mechanics and installers was $54,690 in 2021. The bottom 10% earned close to $34,320, and the top 10% earned around $78,210. Find a local HVAC training program.

Web Developer

Web developers design and create websites, they control everything from how the website looks to how it works on the backend. The most common path for web developers is through a technical college where a 2 year associate’s degree can be earned. Some employers may look for web developers with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or another related field. Also, some experience with graphic design may be preferred.

The average annual salary for web developers is $81,320. Web developers in the top 10% pay bracket earned over $129,000 in 2021.

Electrical and Electronics Engineer Technician

Electronics and Electrical Engineer technicians have a few things in common but are otherwise somewhat different jobs. As of 2021, both electrical and electronic engineer technicians earned an average of $69,070 annually.

Entry level positions pay about $39,840 and experienced workers can earn over $99,000. Both electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and create electronic equipment that would be used in every aspect of life. To become an electrical or electronics engineer tech, all that is necessary beyond a high school diploma or GED is an associate’s degree in electrical or electronic engineering which takes two years as a full-time student. Find an electrical technician program.

The Very Top Paying Jobs: For the highest paying trade school and tech jobs the time spent in school is normally at least 4 years.

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