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If you’re looking for a job that offers both an exciting experience, stability and a good salary, consider exploring the best paying jobs in transportation. According to ZipRecruiter, the average pay is $50,816 a year, but top earners are making $85,000 annually across the United States.
We've compiled a list of the seven highest paying transportation jobs and their respective requirements, descriptions and average salaries to help you get started.
Our Top 7 Picks for the Best Paying Jobs in Transportation
- Owner-operator driver
- Airline pilot
- Marine engineer
- Railroad engineer
- Aircraft mechanic
- Highway engineer
- Air traffic controller
As an owner-operator driver, you’ll be an independent contractor who — as the name suggests — owns and operates your own truck, van or other vehicles to transport goods from one place to another. You'll be responsible for keeping up with maintenance and repairs on your equipment and navigating routes. You'll also interact with dispatch personnel, manage cargo loads and abide by traffic regulations. The job will require you to plan your routes and handle business-related duties, such as accounting.
Owner-operator drivers take home an average annual salary of $242,167. You'll need to meet certain requirements to qualify for this position, such as having a high school diploma or GED, a clean driving record, a valid commercial driving license and a thorough understanding of road safety regulations.
An airline pilot is responsible for flying cargo or passengers on short- or long-haul flights for commercial, business or leisure purposes. Besides carrying people and cargo, you’ll be responsible for inspecting the aircraft before and after each flight. You should also be able to choose the safest routes, identify likely threats and ensure the safety and comfort of the passengers and crew.
The average salary for an airline pilot in the U.S. is $202,180 a year. To become an airline pilot, you have to meet the requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration. These include getting an FAA-approved bachelor’s degree and obtaining a private or commercial pilot license. You also need an airline transport pilot certification.
A marine engineer is responsible for designing, operating and maintaining ships, boats, barges and other water vessels. You’ll be expected to perform machinery repairs, diagnose system faults and manage the engineering team. You must be knowledgeable about vessel blueprints and construction drawings to ensure they meet all the requirements of safety regulations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of a marine engineer in the U.S. is $93,370. To become a marine engineer, you need to have a degree in naval architecture or marine engineering from an accredited university. You also need an engineering certification and understand how to work with engineering design software, such as Rhino 3D and AutoCAD.
Railroad engineers operate locomotives to move passengers and cargo between cities. You’ll inspect the tracks before each journey to detect potential hazards and abide by the relevant safety regulations. You'll also need to prepare reports on mechanical problems, schedule changes and weather delays.
As a railroad engineer, you’ll work on an engineering team at a railway company and be responsible for the safety of the train passengers and crew. In this role, you’ll earn an average annual salary of $72,940. You need certification from the Federal Railroad Administration for this role.
Aircraft mechanics are responsible for inspecting, repairing and maintaining aircraft components and systems. This job entails performing regular maintenance checks on aircraft engines, avionics, hydraulics, propellers, electrical systems and structural components.
You’ll be responsible for auditing and maintaining aircraft to ensure compliance with safety standards. You should have the necessary technical skills to troubleshoot mechanical or engine problems. It's also necessary to undergo training at an Aircraft Maintenance Technician School approved by the FAA.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. is $69,280.
Highway engineers are responsible for designing and constructing highways, bridges, interchanges, overpasses and related transportation infrastructure. Your primary duties will also include inspecting structures to identify problems in construction methods and designs.
You'll need a bachelor's degree in civil engineering or a related field from an accredited college to become a highway engineer. Your salary will depend on your experience, but the average highway engineer salary lies at $88,050 per year in the U.S.
Employers may require you to be licensed and certified before they offer you a job.
Air traffic controller
Our transportation career list would be incomplete without air traffic controllers. These professionals are responsible for ensuring the safety and efficiency of aircraft operations by monitoring airspace and directing aircraft. Your duties will include issuing instructions to pilots, coordinating with airports or other facilities on the ground and using radar to monitor air traffic. You should be able to recognize emergencies that require quick action.
The job requires you to have a degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program and at least three years of work experience. You should also be an excellent communicator to ensure that others understand what you’re saying over communication equipment. The average salary for air traffic controllers is $129,750 per year.
Best Paying Jobs in Transportation Guide
Landing the best paying job in transportation begins with understanding basic concepts such as the requirements for a transportation job and how to find the one with the highest pay.
We've prepared this guide to help you understand these basics before you start chasing your dream career.
What are transportation and logistics?
Transportation and logistics is the process of planning, controlling and executing the movement of goods or services from one point to another. It involves coordinating elements such as roads, vehicles, warehouses, ports and freight carriers.
Whereas transportation involves simply moving materials and products between destinations, logistics is a broader field. It includes all the procedures for ensuring that people or products reach their destination on time. Logistics covers inventory management, warehousing, packaging materials procurement and delivery management. The goal of transportation and logistics is to get the right product to the right place at the right time in a cost-effective manner.
Types of transportation jobs
There are several types of transportation jobs to consider. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Transportation inspector: If you choose a transportation inspector career, you'll be responsible for inspecting vehicles and equipment used to transport people or goods. You must ensure that vehicles are safe and meet all regulations.
- Transportation manager: The transportation manager's job description includes managing the transport and delivery of products. You must plan routes and schedules for shipments, monitor freight costs and provide customer service.
- Transportation dispatcher: A transportation dispatcher typically works with carriers, schedules transportation and tracks shipments. You'll be responsible for coordinating pickup and delivery times, resolving any problems that may arise and keeping records of deliveries and payments.
- Transportation analyst: A transportation analyst analyzes data and provides insights about transportation trends. You'll be in charge of researching and developing strategies to improve transportation efficiency, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction.
- Transportation engineer: If you choose to pursue a transportation engineer career, you'll be responsible for designing and constructing roads, highways, bridges and other infrastructure projects. You must understand engineering principles and be able to read and interpret technical drawings.
- Transportation broker: If you choose a transportation broker job, you'll be responsible for connecting shippers and carriers. You'll also negotiate routes, cargo and rates to ensure that shipments are delivered on time and at the best possible cost.
- Transportation driver: As a transportation driver, you'll be responsible for transporting goods or people safely to their destination.
Requirements for a transportation job
The requirements for transportation jobs differ depending on the role. Some roles, like owner-operator driver, have simple requirements, like a high school diploma and a commercial driver's license. However, others, like engineer or analyst positions, may require a college degree in engineering or a related field.
Transportation jobs may also require you to have certification from a professional organization or experience in the field. You should know how to analyze data and generate reports using relevant software. You also need excellent communication skills to interact with other team members.
How to find the highest paying jobs in transportation
If you're looking for high-paying transportation jobs, here are some steps you can take to increase your chances of success.
Research the industry
You should do enough research to understand the available roles and the skills and qualifications necessary to succeed in a given role. Job search sites like ZipRecruiter can also help you find high-paying jobs in the transportation industry. Your research should involve finding out how much a job pays in different locations. Determine which job titles offer higher salaries and look for companies specializing in those roles.
Gain relevant experience and skills
Having professional experience in transportation is crucial if you want to stand out from other applicants. You can gain valuable experience by volunteering or interning at a relevant organization or taking on part-time jobs in the transportation industry. If you don’t have a degree, there are plenty of online courses and certifications available to help you gain the necessary skills for various transportation jobs.
Prepare an outstanding cover letter and resume
Knowing how to write a cover letter for a job in the transportation industry can help you get the job. Make sure to highlight your relevant skills and experience and any certifications or licenses you may have. In addition to a perfect cover letter, you should also learn how to prepare for an interview to increase your chances of getting hired.
Networking is key when it comes to finding high-paying transportation jobs. Make sure you're visible on professional platforms such as LinkedIn and attend relevant events to connect with people in the industry. Networking will give you access to more job opportunities and increase your chances of being noticed by employers.
Best Paying Jobs in Transportation FAQ
How many transportation jobs are available?
The transportation industry is the backbone of the U.S. economy, so the job market for various transportation roles is quite large. From aviation to the trucking industry, there are plenty of job opportunities in the transportation sector.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the industry will grow by 6% by 2031, creating even more job opportunities. This growth and the need to replace workers who leave the industry create over 1.9 million openings yearly.
How stable are transportation jobs?
What are some entry-level jobs in the transportation industry?
Is transportation a good career path?
How We Chose the Best Paying Jobs in Transportation
To choose the highest paying transportation jobs, we looked at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website to identify roles with the best wages and strong growth potential. We also analyzed job postings to understand the requirements for various industry roles. This research helped us identify jobs that pay well and have high demand in the industry.