With solid job growth and compensation as high as six figures in some cases, these careers are a testament to the value of vocational education.

10 Highest-Paying Jobs for Vocational Grads

Not all lucrative jobs require a bachelor's degree or more. In fact, there are a number of high-paying jobs available to those who earn a certificate or two-year degree from vocational schools. Check out these 10 highest-paying jobs for vocational graduates, that offer both a nice wage and potential for job growth in most cases. Read on to learn more about what vocational school students can look forward to in the coming years. All career and salary data is from 2014, and all employment growth projections are from 2012-2022.

1 - Air Traffic Controllers

Air Traffic Controllers

There is a surprising amount of traffic flying through the sky at any moment, and air traffic controllers are responsible or making sure all those aircraft get back to the ground safely. In addition to keeping the skies safe, they are also expected to route flights in such a way that there are no delays. They manage several aircraft at once, especially over heavily traveled areas. There are three types of controllers: tower controllers keep an eye on the aircraft on runways, en route controllers monitor aircraft in the air, and approach and departure controllers coordinate take-offs and landings.

In addition to earning the proper degree, air traffic controllers must pass background and medical exams, receive a qualifying score on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pre-employment test, pass the Air Traffic Standardized Aptitude Test (AT-SAT) and spend two to five months training at the FAA Academy.

  • Salary: $118,780
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Employment projection: 1.4%

2 - Radiation Therapists

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists administer radiation to patients who are undergoing treatment for cancer and other diseases. Their work includes ensuring the proper use and safety of machines, explaining procedures to patients, enforcing safety protocol to avoid radiation exposure, and keeping detailed records of treatment. They work as part of a team to ensure the best possible care and treatment for their patients.

After earning an associate degree, radiation therapists must also become licensed. Licensing requires certification by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), and other requirements might be in place, depending upon the state.

  • Salary: $83,710
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Employment projection: 23.5%

3 - Funeral Service Managers

Funeral Service Managers

When a loved one passes away, funeral service workers are there to help grieving families understand and navigate the more practical details. Though funeral service managers might work directly with clients from time to time, their job usually keeps them in the background, overseeing general operations of the funeral home. They handle marketing and public relations, manage and supervise staff, and properly allocate funds to keep the funeral home running smoothly.

Unlike most other positions in the funeral home, funeral service managers are not required to be licensed. However, a strong background in office management is a plus, especially for those with the hope of running their own funeral home.

  • Salary: $81,080
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Employment projection: 12.5%

4 - Nuclear Technicians

Nuclear Technicians

These individuals work with physicists, engineers and other professionals to conduct nuclear research or work in nuclear power facilities. Operating technicians might work in the power plants, ensuring that the power is running smoothly. Radiation protection technicians monitor levels of radiation contamination in or around the plant. Nuclear technicians might also work in waste management facilities to ensure the safe handling and disposal of nuclear waste, or might assist with research in laboratories.

Given the security and safety concerns of nuclear technology, those in the field must undergo background checks for security clearance. On-the-job training is long and rigorous; training programs might last from six months to two years. Those who have gained equivalent experience in the U.S. Armed Forces can enter the job without an associate degree.

  • Salary: $75,960
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Employment projection: 14.9%

5 - First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers

First-Line Firefighters

Firefighters do much more than go into burning buildings to save those inside; they also respond to medical emergencies, hazardous waste spills, wildfires, accidents and more. Supervisors monitor the fire house response to any call, direct those who are fighting the fire, and handle paperwork surrounding the incident. They also oversee training of the firefighters, ensure trucks and other equipment are meticulously maintained, and regularly provide community education and outreach.

Since firefighters often respond to medical calls, they must be prepared to help by earning their EMT-Basic certification. Other certifications might be required, depending upon jurisdiction. Extensive training never ends; even seasoned firefighters are constantly running drills and learning new techniques.

  • Salary: $73,550
  • Education required: Post-secondary non-degree award
  • Employment projection: 6.3%

6 - Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Those in this position work in hospitals, outpatient clinics and other health care facilities to obtain images of various parts of the patient's body in order to help physicians establish a diagnosis and treatment plan. Nuclear medicine technologists ensure that machines are working properly, explain procedures to patients and administer radioactive drugs, obtain images through proper use of the machines, and keep detailed records of each procedure.

In some states, licensure is required for nuclear medicine technologists. Some choose to pursue certification in order to enhance job prospects; this certification is available through the American Registry of Radiologic Technicians (ARRT) or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).

  • Salary: $73,230
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Employment projection: 20.2%

7 - Dental Hygienists

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists handle a wide variety of duties in a dental office. They treat patients by taking and developing x-rays, cleaning teeth, administering fluoride and other treatments, applying sealants, and providing education to the patient on good oral health. They might have other duties, depending upon the state. Some can work with periodontal dressing and temporary fillings.

All states require dental hygienists to be licensed. Though rules vary by state, requirements typically include graduating from an accredited program and passing a licensing exam.

  • Salary: $71,970
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Employment projection: 33.3%

8 - Electrical and Electronics Repairers

Electronics Repairers

A wide variety of jobs in numerous industries are open to electrical and electronics repairers, including those in telecommunications, utilities, transportation and more. They figure out the specifications for certain equipment, troubleshoot, repair and replace defective parts, test equipment to ensure it is in good working order, and provide estimates, explanations, and final bills to clients. They might work in the field or in service centers or shops as "bench technicians."

In addition to the proper education, repairers often train to work on certain types of equipment, including manufacturer-specific training. Certification is usually optional and can be earned through the Electronics Technicians Association International (ETA) or the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians (ISCET).

  • Salary: $70,110
  • Education required: Postsecondary non-degree award
  • Employment projection: -0.2%

9 - Registered Nurses

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) make up a huge segment of the workforce in the United States; as of 2014, employment stood at 2,687,310 nurses nationwide. RNs assess patients, take medical histories, consult with doctors, administer medications and other treatments, operate medical equipment, perform diagnostic tests and analyze results, and provide patient education. They might have other duties, depending upon specializations. Some might also work as health educators, hospital administrators, pharmaceutical representatives, and other positions that require nursing expertise.

All nurses must be licensed; though some requirements vary from state to state, all states require graduation from an accredited program and passing of the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN. Nurses can also certify in a particular specialty, such as pediatrics or ambulatory care.

  • Salary: $69,790
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Employment projection: 19.4%

10 - Web Developers

Web Developers

These internet experts plan, develop, create and maintain websites. They might handle everything from concept to completion, as well as provide content for the site. Their work might also be more targeted, focused only on building the site. Once the site is created, they might work with ongoing technical aspects, such as capacity, performance, loading speed and traffic. Web developers can specialize as web designers, programmers or webmasters.

In addition to earning the appropriate degree, web developers can enhance job prospects by demonstrating a great deal of experience. Since the world of web development changes as rapidly as the internet does, these experts are constantly learning and training.

  • Salary: $68,670
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Employment projection: 20.1%


  • O*NET Online, http://www.onetonline.org/
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.bls.gov/
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