10 Quick To Learn Trade Jobs

Unlike a college degree, trades offer a quick path to in-demand careers that often pay well. Discover the fastest trade jobs to learn and potential earnings.
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Nalea J. Ko has worked as a journalist in Hawaii, Los Angeles, and New York covering news and entertainment. She currently writes about tech, with a focus on coding. Nalea received her MFA degree in fiction from Brooklyn College and bachelor's in jou...
Updated on September 15, 2023
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Kelly Thomas is an editor with BestColleges and specializes in alternative education. She covers topics like coding bootcamps and the tech industry, as well as skilled trades and certifications. She holds a BA in political science from the University...
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  • Quick trade jobs to learn include truck drivers, medical coders, and personal trainers.
  • Trade school enrollment has surged as college enrollment dropped in recent years.
  • Demand for trade jobs such as trucking has caused governments to relax licensure requirements.
  • Trade schools offer a cheaper and quicker path to a paycheck.

Paying for a four-year college education does not appeal to everyone. Trade schools offer a quicker and more affordable alternative to a traditional university degree.

People attend trade schools to quickly get hands-on training for in-demand trades in only weeks. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, college enrollment dropped 5% from 17.5 million to 16.6 million from 2009-2019, and about 16 million students took trade programs in 2014.

Vocational schools also offer convenient learning options with evening or weekend courses. Online programs with asynchronous formats offer the most flexibility for students. They can complete assignments on deadlines without any live class requirements.

In this guide, discover the fastest trade jobs to learn, how much you can earn, and how long it takes to complete a training program.

Fastest Trade Jobs To Learn

Truck Driver

By 2030, the truck driver shortage could exceed 160,000, according to the American Trucking Associations. In response to the shortage, the federal government has implemented policies to reduce license processing delays and increase recruitment.

Each state sets different restrictions for commercial driver's licensing (CDL). Depending on the state, people must be at least 18 or 21 years old to become a truck driver. During training, truck drivers practice driving with a commercial learner's permit while completing a CDL program, which takes 3-7 weeks.

Many truck driving companies recruit licensed drivers right after graduation. Or, sometimes they pay apprentices while they earn a CDL license. On the job, truck drivers unload and load cargo. They drive locally or between state and international borders. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, truck drivers made a median annual salary of $48,310 in May 2021. The top 10% earned more than $72,730. The BLS projects this field to grow by 6% from 2020-2030.

Medical Assistant

Physician offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers need medical assistants to do clinical and administrative tasks. Medical assistants do not need certification or licensure. But many people complete postsecondary education to earn a diploma or certificate that can take 9-24 months. Programs teach students about working with nurses and physicians to perform exams, take blood pressure and weight, and prepare lab samples.

According to the BLS, the top 10% of medical assistants made more than $48,170 per year in May 2021. BLS data projects jobs for medical assistants to grow by 18% from 2020-2030, with employers adding about 132,600 jobs during that time.

Medical Coder

Medical coders, also called medical records and health information specialists, usually earn a certificate in 9-20 months or an associate degree in two years. Sometimes students can get on-the-job training without any postsecondary education. Medical coding courses prepare students to take the Certified Professional Coder, Certified Coding Associate, or Certified Billing and Coding Specialist exams.

Insurance companies and hospitals need medical coders to code patient data and medical procedures. Medical coders can translate medical procedures and treatment into current procedural terminology. According to the BLS, medical coders who work for the federal government made a median annual salary of $99,750 in May 2020. Those in professional and scientific technical services earned a median annual wage of $63,970. The BLS projects the profession to grow by 9% from 2020-2030.

Personal Trainer

According to BLS projections, personal trainer jobs will grow by 39% from 2020-2030. The field may see the addition of 69,100 positions on average each year, with half of all fitness trainers and instructors finding employment at gyms.

Personal trainers made a median annual salary of $40,700 in May 2021. The top 10% earned more than $75,940. Educational achievements vary by person, with some personal trainers holding certificates or bachelor's degrees.

Personal trainers can complete an educational program through private companies or community colleges. Then, they must take state certification exams. Programs take about one month or up to a year to complete. Private companies and organizations such as the National Commission for Certifying Association offer fitness credentials.


Being a phlebotomist involves taking blood samples from patients while following safety and hygiene standards. The job requires keeping thorough records to track lab samples and results. Certificates and degrees, which take about two semesters or less than one year to finish, teach future phlebotomists how to do their job. The curriculum covers medical terminology, computer applications, and communication. Students complete practica in healthcare settings.

According to the BLS, outpatient care centers and medical and diagnostic laboratories paid phlebotomists the most in May 2021, with respective salaries of $38,220 and $38,040. Between 2020-2030, the BLS projects jobs for phlebotomists to grow by 22%.


To become an electrician, people only need a high school or GED diploma. However, electricians need intensive on-the-job experiences through educational programs or apprenticeships. Electricians may work 2-5.5 years as apprentices under licensed electricians before obtaining a license.

Advanced licenses require more experience. For example, New York City's electrical master license requires 7.5 years of experience or 10,500 hours on the job. In South Carolina, electricians must earn 4,000 working hours under the supervision of a journeyperson or 2,000 hours after completing an associate degree. Each state has different requirements for electricians. Electricians can gain training through a traditional college program, apprenticeship, or trade school program.

While the bottom 10% of electricians earned less than $37,020 in May 2021, the top 10% made more than $99,800, according to the BLS. In addition, the BLS projects employment for electricians to increase by 9% from 2020-2030, with employers adding 84,700 positions every year on average during that time.


Every state requires emergency medical technicians (EMT) to become licensed. Programs, such as those featured on the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs website, take between 1-2 years to complete. Prospective students need at least a high school or GED diploma and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification to begin an EMT program.

As the middle-aged and older population grows, employers will need more EMTs. According to BLS projections, the field will grow by 11% from 2020-2030. Nearly half of EMTs work in ambulance services, making a median annual salary of $36,930 in May 2021.

Diesel Mechanic

Diesel mechanics need a high school or GED diploma. They also often earn a certification or associate degree, which takes six months to two years to complete. Courses teach future diesel mechanics about climate control systems and repairs, hydraulic systems, and brake systems. They also learn about preventative maintenance and electronic systems and technology.

Many manufacturers, such as Harley-Davidson and Cummins, offer specialized training programs. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence offers certification in specific areas such as electronic systems. The BLS projects diesel mechanic jobs to increase 8% from 2020-2030. Salaries vary by industry. But mechanics working for the local government made the highest median wage of $60,670 per year in May 2021.

HVAC Technician

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry offers above-average salaries. According to the BLS, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $48,630 in May 2021, higher than the national average of $45,760. The top 10% of people working in HVAC earned more than $78,210 per year. However, according to BLS projections, the industry will grow by 5% from 2020-2030, slower than the national growth rate of 8%. The BLS projects employers will add 38,500 positions every year on average during that time.

Becoming an HVAC technician involves completing a vocational training program or apprenticeship. Depending on where they live, HVAC technicians may also need to earn licensure. Some companies hire and train HVAC technicians right out of high school. Others prefer hiring technicians who have completed a certificate or associate degree, which takes 6-24 months. Additionally, licensing agencies may require 2-5 years of work experience.


Welders, cutters, and solderers earned a median annual wage of $47,010 in May 2021, according to the BLS. Between 2020-2030, the BLS projects the addition of 49,200 positions every year on average, with a growth rate of 8% during the same period. This percentage is equal to the national average of 8% for all occupations.

Welders learn their trade at a vocational school or community college. They commonly earn certificates and diplomas that can take between three weeks to 18 months to finish. Students learn welding techniques such as gas metal arc welding, flux core arc welding, and shielded metal arc welding. Welders can earn credentials from professional organizations such as the American Welding Society, the American Petroleum Institute, or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Different states may require welders to obtain licensure.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Learning Trade Jobs

What trade can you learn in 6 months?

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Becoming a diesel mechanic, truck driver, or personal trainer takes less than six months. Exact timelines depend on the program and type of training pathway pursued.

Because of the growing trucking shortage in the United States, the federal government has removed time delays in getting a CDL license, expanded apprenticeship opportunities, and reduced financial barriers. You can earn a CDL license and become a truck driver in under six months, or as few as 3-4 weeks. Future truck drivers can also get hazmat or air brake endorsements in that time. Trucking schools also provide job placement and time in the cab to prepare for road exams.

What trade has the shortest apprenticeship?

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While electrical apprenticeships can last as long as seven years for advanced certifications, welders in training spend about 3-4 years in apprenticeships under the supervision of certified welders.

Welding certificates or diplomas take about six months, and associate degrees take up to two years. After completing a postsecondary program, future welders work in apprenticeships that provide paid on-the-job training. Private companies, local unions, and state departments offer paid apprenticeships for welders to teach them how to make welds with galvanized or carbon steel and sheet metal.

To enter apprenticeships, candidates may need to pass a security clearance and show proof of a high school or GED diploma with a minimum 2.8-3.0 GPA or higher.

What is the hardest trade to learn?

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Electrical and HVAC trades require intensive technical training, which can be difficult to learn. Electrician schools teach students how to install, maintain, and repair electrical systems. The curriculum covers math, electrical safety checks, state electrical codes, and how to read diagrams and blueprints.

HVAC technicians must also have a well-rounded knowledge of plumbing, electrical work, and welding. Employers seek candidates with at least three years of work experience or trade school training. The job also requires a certain level of fitness since HVAC technicians crawl through tight spaces or climb up high ladders while carrying a tool belt.

Despite the challenging coursework required for HVAC technicians and electricians, students who have a passion for their trade often enjoy the rigorous hands-on training.

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