There's often more than one way to learn how to do a job. If you like learning by doing, an occupation with an apprenticeship might be for you.
Apprenticeships are an arrangement in which a worker receives hands-on job training, technical instruction, and a paycheck—all while learning to do a job. Apprentices work for a sponsor, such as an individual employer or a business-union partnership, who pays their wages and provides job training. Formal apprenticeship programs usually last about 4 years but may be completed in less than 1 year or take as long as 6 years, depending on the occupation. At the end of a registered program, apprentices get a nationally recognized certificate of completion as proof of their skills.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship (OA), the Employment and Training Administration program that oversees registered apprenticeships, counted almost 600,000 active apprentices in nearly 27,000 registered apprenticeship programs in 2022. Many apprenticeships are in construction trades, which may be among the best-known opportunities for this method of career entry. But other apprenticeships are in occupations related to helping others, installing and fixing things, producing things, and more.
This article looks at 30 occupations not in construction trades that OA identified as having the largest number of active, registered apprentices in 2022. In addition to providing the number of apprentices in each of these occupations, the article highlights employment, projections, and wage data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
BLS projections and wage data are for the occupations as a whole and not just for apprentices. Compare projected employment growth rates with 5 percent, the average rate projected for all occupations from 2021 to 2031; and wages with $45,760, the median annual wage for all workers in 2021. Many apprenticeship program agreements stipulate a starting wage for apprentices that is at least 50 to 70 percent of the journey-level wage.
If you want to help people, then an apprenticeship in one of the healthcare, protective service, or education occupations shown in table 1 might be a good choice. As table 1 shows, there were 4,033 active nursing assistant apprentices in 2022. Nursing assistant apprenticeships vary from a few months to about a year, depending on the program, and may lead to a clinical nursing assistant (CNA) credential. These apprentices typically are supervised by healthcare staff to help patients with basic care and daily living tasks.
Of the occupations shown in table 1, nursing assistants is projected to have the most openings from 2021 to 2031, averaging 212,700 each year of the decade. Employment of medical assistants is projected to increase 16 percent over the decade, the fastest growing of occupations in table 1. Another healthcare occupation, registered nurses, had the highest median annual wage ($77,600) of those occupations in table 1.
You might like to work with your hands and fix things, in which case an apprenticeship in an installation or maintenance occupation might be of interest. Electrical power-line installers and repairers had 15,249 active apprentices in fiscal year 2022, the most of any occupation in this article. Apprenticeships for electrical power-line installers and repairers vary from 3 to 4 years, depending on the program. These apprentices are typically supervised by an experienced craftsperson as they assist with installing overhead and underground power lines.
General maintenance and repair workers is projected to have 160,100 openings each year, on average, over the decade; that's the largest number among the occupations shown in table 2. Employment of industrial machinery mechanics is projected to be the fastest growing from 2021 to 2031 of occupations in table 2, at 16 percent. Electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation, and relay is the highest paid occupation in this category, with a median annual wage of $93,420 in 2021.
If you want to create or develop something, then apprenticing in a production or engineering job might be for you. Machinists accounted for the most active apprentices among occupations in table 3, with 1,884 active apprentices in fiscal year 2022. These apprenticeships typically last 4 to 5 years, depending on the program. Machinist apprentices are supervised by an experienced craftsperson as they learn to operate and maintain different types of equipment to make parts for ships, aircraft, spacecraft, and other manufactured products.
With 47,600 openings each year, on average, welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is projected to have the most openings from 2021 to 2031 of the occupations in table 3, despite employment growth that is expected to be slower than average. Both of table 3's technologist and technician occupations—electro-mechanical and mechatronics and industrial engineering—had a median annual wage above $60,000 in 2021.
There are opportunities for apprenticeships in other occupations that you might not be aware of. For example, table 4 shows that there were 9,944 actively apprenticing heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in fiscal year 2022. Apprenticeships for truck drivers last about a year, although some are as long as 3 years. These apprentices typically are supervised by a lead driver as they learn to safely operate trucks and the equipment used to load and unload trailers.
Cooks is projected to have 480,600 openings each year, on average, from 2021 to 2031—the most of any occupation in this article. Of the occupations in table 4, software developers is projected to have the fastest employment growth (26 percent) over the decade and had the highest median annual wage ($120,000) in 2021.
As noted elsewhere in this article, construction occupations also are a source of many apprenticeships. Learn about those occupations, as well as ones highlighted in this article and hundreds of others, in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). The OOH has information about what workers do, along with the occupation's employment, wages, job outlook, and more.
Visit Apprenticeship.gov for more information about apprenticeship opportunities.
Ryan Farrell and William Lawhorn , "Beyond construction trades: Apprenticeships in a variety of careers," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2022.