Apprenticeships Can Lead To High-Paying Jobs For Those Without Degrees

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Instead of racking up debt while going to college, apprentices start earning money within their first year in the classroom.

According to a recent report published by the office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, enrolling in an apprenticeship program can be a cost effective way to boost earnings while gaining the job training you need.

Most of these programs require apprentices to train with an experienced professional for at least  2,000 hours  as well as completing  classes. At the end of the program, apprentices receive  a nationally  recognized certificate of completion, either from the Department of Labor or from an approved state agency.

There were more than  358,000 registered apprentices in more than 21,000 apprenticeship programs in 2012, according to the DOL's website, mostly in  construction, manufacturing, and health-care industries.

Popular programs include electricians (four years),  cabinetmakers ( four years), mine inspectors ( four years) ,  firefighters (three years),  paramedics (two years),  pharmacy support staff ( one year), correctional officers (one year),  and  dental assistants ( one year).

Last year, apprentices in an electrician program made an average of $23.96 per hour in their first year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This pay increases along with their experience throughout their four years in the program. Upon completion of the program, ideally, these workers will have made some money, acquired fewer student loans, have four years of work experience, and have potential contacts and references who will vouch for them.

Many of the occupations that apprenticeships feed into are expected to grow at a fast rate in the coming years. For example, hiring for dental hygienists is projected to grow by 38% between 2010 to 2020, according to the BLS, and these professionals made an average annual salary of $68,250 as of 2010.

Most apprenticeship programs are registered with the DOL and must meet certain guidelines set by the government. Expanding these programs may also help with unemployment rates, as they lessen the financial burden for those who need additional schooling or training.

One such example is Germany,  which trains around 1.5 million apprentices per year and has a low  youth unemployment rate compared to its euro-zone  neighbors . Other countries are following Germany's footsteps, such as the U.K., which enrolled  more than half a million apprentices last year. Ramping up apprenticeship programs may be more difficult in the U.S., however, since they require significant cooperation between companies and the government.

To apply to a program, you need to be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or equivalent.

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