The Five Most Popular Apprenticeships

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Big RigsYou don’t have to go into debt to land a great job. Apprenticeship programs provide workers with classroom and on the job training while earning a paycheck. According to the Department of Labor, apprenticeships are available in more than 1,000 career fields and most can be completed in four years or less. Here are the five most popular apprenticeships according to the federal Office of Apprenticeships.

1. Electrician

Electricians are often thought of in residential repair roles, but “…actually most of them are working in construction of new buildings or retrofitting [older] buildings,” says Laurence Shatkin, author of “250 Best Jobs Through Apprenticeships.”
Electrician apprentices learn to read blueprints and technical diagrams, maintain wiring and lighting systems and repair electrical equipment and lighting fixtures he adds.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that apprenticeships usually last four years and workers must put in at least 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of on the job training annually and pass a licensure exam if their state requires one. The good news is that hard work pays off. The median annual salary for full-fledged electricians is $49,320 with top workers earning nearly $83,000.

2. Heavy Truck Driver

With 21 percent annual job growth, opportunities are booming in the heavy truck and tractor-trailer industries. To survive in this field, heavy truck drivers must know their machinery, have an in-depth knowledge of interstate driving laws and understand trailer inspection protocols.

“There are laws that you have to deal with, not only traffic laws, but laws that deal with hazardous substances,” adds Shatkin. “…Those are the kinds of things that you would learn in classes that you wouldn’t learn just driving down the road.”

While completing this one to two-year program, apprentices will obtain their commercial driver’s license and may be subject to drug and alcohol tests. Once they’ve graduated, heavy truck drivers earn a median salary of $37,930.

3. Carpenter

A carpentry apprenticeship lasts about four years and requires workers to learn one crucial skill says Shatkin—learning the codes. On top of developing construction and repair skills, carpenters must also read blueprints, operate a variety of heavy equipment and have comprehensive knowledge of state building codes.

“It’s not surprising that [the most popular apprenticeships] are construction occupations because this is an industry that is poised for a lot of recovery,” he says.

Statistics back this up. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the field will grow by 20 percent annually with the typical worker earning $40,010 each year.

4. Plumber

Complete this four-year apprenticeship and jobs will find you. The market for plumbers is projected to grow 26 percent every year, due in part to environmental issues that force building owners to rethink water use says Shatkin.

“There’s not only new building construction but there are some codes that are setting stricter water efficiency standards such as [requiring] low flow toilets and shower heads,” says Shatkin. Installing and maintaining these new systems mean greater need for plumbing specialists.

In addition to learning water disposal and drain systems, apprentice plumbers spend four to five years mastering building codes, honing their blueprint analysis skills and troubleshooting pipe problems before they become disastrous. Once the apprenticeship is over, full-fledged plumbers land a median salary of $47,750 per year.

5. Pipe Fitter

Dealing with water removal as well as piping systems that transport for steam, chemicals, high-pressure gases, acids and other waste byproducts, pipe fitters are more likely to find work in industrial and manufacturing spots than on residential construction projects.

“Just like the plumbers, [pipe fitters] need to understand the theory behind things like pressure and gravity…” says Shatkin, which oftentimes is covered in a classroom setting.

Pipe fitting apprenticeships typically last four to five years, but after the training is over, seasoned pipe fitters rake in a median salary of $47,750 per year with top workers earning more than $82,000.

Of course there are many, many more apprenticeship programs than just the ones highlighted here. For more information on all available programs, head to the US Office of Apprenticeships right over here.

(Photo: jr-transport)

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2 Responses to “The Five Most Popular Apprenticeships”

  1. DMoney says:

    This is a great alternative to college, but man, those are some tough, manual labor jobs. Kudos to anyone in any of these grueling careers. You’ve earned it.

  2. Julie says:

    Chris this is a great reminder that you don’t have to wait until you’ve got the papers to start making money in your field. Although I wasn’t in a trade I did treat my first few years of work (making less than ideal dollars) as a continuation of my business training. I took on every possible extra project to boost my knowledge and the pay off has been promotions on average every 2 years!

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