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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

2 years to prosperity: nursing, aviation, tech trades

Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics students Tyler Clark and David Hink simulate removing an engine with instructor Paul Eisenhart at the Hagerstown campus. Photo: Joe Crocetta/Herald-Mail

A two-year degree in nursing or a technical trade can lead quickly to a middle-class wage, reports Forbes in a story on top trade schools.

Payscale estimates a $52,500 early career median salary for a nurse with an associate degree. That’s more than 75 percent of four-year graduates earn.

There are lots of opportunities for people with technical skills as baby boomers retire.

“We just had a career fair here in Pittsburgh maybe four, five months ago, and we had more companies sign up to attend than we have graduating students,” says Steve Sabold, the director of admissions for the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics. A two-year technical school founded in 1929 (Orville Wright’s company had a hand in its founding), PIA houses programs in aviation maintenance and aviation electronics. . . . according to Aircraft Maintenance Technology magazine, while 35% of aircraft technicians were over the age of 50, only 5% were below 30.

Meanwhile, enrollment in two-year schools is declining.

Florida tracks the median first-year wages and employment rates for 12 apprenticeship programs offered by “district technical centers,” a key component of its postsecondary education system. These programs range from plumbing technology to machining to early childhood education, and most of them result in median first-year wages between $40,000 and $55,000, compared to only $34,000 for bachelor’s degree holders. The most lucrative program, for elevator constructor mechanics, boasts median first-year wages of $91,000. Similarly, employment rates also favor apprenticeship graduates, with all but one program reporting a rate of 83% or higher, compared to 71% for bachelor’s degree programs.

College graduates with bachelor’s degrees see faster earnings growth than apprentices, however, so they could catch up over time.

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