The 4 Best High-Paying Vocational Careers

The salaries offered by the vocational jobs we reviewed vary dramatically. In order to come up with this list, we looked at the average median salary for the field based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and compared them to the national median income of $34,750 per year. If finding a high-paying vocational job is important to you, this list is a good place to start. However, remember the key to finding the best career for you is to take salary into consideration along your lifestyle, schedule, and interests. Also note that some of the highest-paying vocational careers are also some of the smallest fields we’ve reviewed, so opportunities might be limited even if you’re interested in that line of work. This is something else you need to consider before committing yourself to one particular path.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer programmers make about $74,280 on average each year. This is nearly $30,000 more than the national median income, and some programmers earn much more than this. Depending on where you’re employed, you could make closer to $120,000, especially if you’re skilled in several programming languages. In order to get started in the field, you should aim for a bachelor’s degree, although there are a few companies that accept an associate’s degree in programming. Something to bear in mind, however, is that despite the high upfront costs of pursuing a more advanced degree, you can be confident you’ll get a good return on your investment given the high earning potential. Also, think about the flexibility offered by a computer programmer job. Many programmers work from home and their skills are in high demand, so freelance work is always a possibility if you’d rather not work for a single company.

As a dental hygienist, you can expect to make over $70,000 in a year if you’re working full time. You’ll probably also receive additional benefits, such as vacation days, sick leave, health insurance, and more. Something to note is that many hygienists work part time and are usually not eligible for all these extra benefits. However, the upside to the abundance of available part-time positions is you have a lot of flexibility in terms of how much you want to work. If you’re interested in a full-time position but can’t find one in your area, it’s often possible to get two part-time jobs where you work at different dental offices on alternating days. Should you ever decide you’d rather work only part time, it’s as simple as quitting one of your two jobs. Flexible schedules like this are pretty uncommon among vocational medical careers, so this is something to take into account along with the excellent salary.

Radiation therapists earn the most of any vocational career we reviewed, but they score third on this list because jobs in this field are difficult to find. Though a 24% increase in the number of available positions is expected in the next decade, that only amounts to 4,500 new jobs. Despite this, a career as a radiation therapist is still one to consider because their median salary is nearly $80,000. On top of that, radiation therapists are able to keep traditional work hours because treatments are scheduled in advance. Most other vocational medical professionals end up working some night and weekend shifts to ensure patients receive the round-the-clock care they need. Because of this, the opportunity to work regular 9-to-5 shifts every week is a luxury in the medical community. If this appeals to you, consider earning a two-year degree in radiation therapy.

Like radiation therapists, nuclear medicine technologists earn a relatively high salary of over $70,000 per year, but finding jobs is tough. The field of nuclear medicine technology is growing quickly, but it’s still relatively small. Improve your job prospects by specializing in a particular area, like positron emission technology. This will give your salary a boost as well. The highest-paid nuclear medicine technologists earn well over $90,000 per year. Few other professions offer this much money to individuals with associate’s degrees, so this is a career you should investigate further if there are jobs in your area. As with most medical professions, though, nuclear medicine technologists may be expected to work nights, weekends, and even some holidays. They may also have to be on call and available to come into work during their time off. This is something to weigh in when you’re deciding whether or not a career as a nuclear medicine technologist is right for you.