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Published: Dec 30, 2022 14 min read
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With the ongoing labor shortage, companies are having difficulties filling trade jobs that require specialized skills obtained through routes other than a four-year college degree. Trade careers exist in various industries, often involve hands-on work and can allow for a quick entry into the job market.

In addition, plenty of trade jobs can pay well, though higher salaries will depend on skill level, location, and experience. For instance, according to ZipRecruiter data, the average pay for a construction manager can vary by as much as $40,000.

Read on to learn about the highest paying trade jobs to understand their job duties, annual salary, demand and requirements.

Our Top 7 Picks for the Highest Paying Trade Jobs

The best paying trade jobs can be found in the construction, healthcare, energy and engineering industries. Take a look at these seven top-paying trade jobs to see if one sounds like a good fit for your career interests and goals.

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Construction manager

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish. They are responsible for ensuring that projects are completed on time and within budget, and that they meet the specified quality standards and building standards. They also ensure the work meets legal and safety requirements and satisfies the client's requests.

Construction managers typically work in offices, but they may also spend time on construction sites. They may work on projects for the government, private companies, or other organizations.

You'll need at least a construction management associate's degree and extensive on-the-job training to qualify to manage projects. This isn't an entry-level trade job, since employers usually require past construction experience. Construction management jobs can also require state licensure.

This occupation tops the list of the best trade jobs for pay — the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows an average salary of $108,210 as of 2021. Construction managers will enjoy plenty of job opportunities, with 8% employment growth expected through 2031.

Elevator mechanic

Elevator mechanics put new elevators in buildings and maintain existing ones, ensuring their safe use. They perform tasks such as connecting wiring, fixing braking issues, testing for mechanical problems and recording maintenance work. They also perform routine inspections and troubleshoot computer and electrical systems.

Most of these mechanics work for building equipment contractors. This career path often starts with an apprenticeship that takes four years and provides the technical skills and hands-on experience needed to work on elevators independently. You can also expect to get a state license and complete ongoing training.

With the BLS reporting a $91,320 average salary in 2021, elevator mechanics rank among the highest paying trade jobs. While projections of a 3% job growth rate expected through 2031 will mean less demand, businesses will still need mechanics to replace those leaving their companies.

Electrical lineman

An electrical lineman is a skilled tradesperson who installs, maintains, and repairs electrical power systems and transmission lines. They work on a variety of electrical projects, including installing power lines, transformers, and other electrical equipment, as well as performing repairs and maintenance on existing systems.

This physically demanding career involves working with power equipment and tools and lifting heavy objects like cables. Linemen must also use work vehicles to reach locations and safely climb up poles.

Electric lineman jobs typically require an apprenticeship that features a few years of hands-on training and technical courses, either through an electric company or a trade union. You can also find vocational school programs offering background courses or associate's degree programs with hands-on training opportunities. Some states also require electrical linemen to be certified by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).

According to the BLS, the average trade jobs salary for an electrical lineman is $79,060 as of 2021. Jobs in this essential occupation are projected to increase by 6% by 2031. Location will affect demand, so you'll find more jobs in areas with new developments.

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Building inspector

Building inspectors make sure that properties thoroughly comply with relevant building codes. They use both building plans and in-person inspections to look for issues with a property's structure and systems, including electrical and plumbing components. In addition, they check for fire risks, log discovered issues and complete reports. These trade workers often work for government agencies, construction companies and engineering firms.

Relevant certificate and associate's degree programs at vocational schools can prepare you to read blueprints, understand building codes and identify building problems. You can also expect on-the-job training and possibly the need to get a state license. Trade school careers in building inspection can also require construction or maintenance experience.

Per the BLS, the average building inspector salary is $68,480 as of 2021. The expected 4% employment decline for building inspectors means that most available inspection jobs will be replacing departing employees.

Respiratory therapist

Respiratory therapists are healthcare professionals who provide care to patients with respiratory disorders. They work with patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, and may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.

Respiratory therapists help make treatment plans and assist patients who have breathing conditions, usually in hospital settings. They run breathing tests, monitor patients' health and perform treatments such as chest physiotherapy and oxygen therapy. They also educate patients on at-home therapies and medication use.

This career requires an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy. In addition, you'll need to do a practicum for hands-on experience and take a certification or licensure exam. You'll typically also need a certification from the National Board for Respiratory Care.

The BLS data shows these good trade jobs have a $68,190 average salary as of 2021. Respiratory therapist jobs are in high demand, with 14% employment growth expected through 2031.

Electro-mechanical technician

Electro-mechanical technicians are skilled workers who maintain, repair, and install electrical and mechanical systems and equipment. They may work on a variety of equipment, including motors, generators, conveyor systems, and industrial machinery.

These high-paying trade jobs involve setting up and configuring the equipment using a variety of tools and documentation. In addition, technicians test the equipment and perform repair and maintenance work.

You'll often find these jobs in the engineering, transportation, manufacturing and electronics industries. Qualifications include either a certificate or an associate's degree in electro-mechanical technology.

The BLS lists an average salary of $63,880 for these trade school jobs as of 2021. While jobs in this career are projected to decline by 4% by 2031, demand remains, as retirees will need to be replaced.

Wind turbine technician

Wind turbine technicians typically focus on keeping existing turbines in working order, but they may also install new ones. Duties can include replacing blades, performing mechanical tests, recording performance data and physically inspecting turbines for wear and defects.

Not only do they work directly on these alternative energy devices, these technicians also handle the systems that control them. Many tasks require a lot of physical stamina and safety precautions.

You can become a wind turbine technician via a certificate or associate's degree program at a trade school. These programs often allow for hands-on experience with wind turbines and possibly include internships. Employers offer additional training so you understand specific turbine models and manufacturers.

As of 2021, the average wind turbine technician salary is $58,580 per the BLS. This trade career is also in top demand, with 44% job growth expected by 2031. You can expect the increased interest in wind power to create employment opportunities, even though this occupation has a low number of workers.

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Highest Paying Trade Jobs Guide

Whether you're just starting out or you have reasons for leaving a job you currently work, skilled trade jobs can provide you with a decent salary and job security for years to come. Keep reading to better understand what skilled trade jobs are, which options are available, how to qualify and how to find the highest paying jobs.

What are skilled trade jobs?

Skilled trade jobs are any that require you to have a specific ability or skill to perform. They involve completing job-specific technical training that you usually obtain through a technical school or apprenticeship program. Pursuing one of these careers is often a lucrative alternative to attending a four-year college.

Many of these jobs fall within the service, industrial or construction industries and require hands-on work and sometimes physical demand. They often involve building, maintaining, repairing or installing something. Other trade jobs require serving or taking care of people or animals.

Types of trade jobs

Construction and manufacturing careers stand out as common trade jobs. Some construction jobs include working as a painter, plumber, electrician, HVAC technician, construction manager or carpenter. Popular manufacturing options include working as a welder, machinist, maintenance technician or installer.

Service-related trade jobs are common in healthcare, food service and personal service settings. Examples include nursing assistants, sterile technicians, respiratory therapists, hairdressers, dental hygienists and bakers.

You'll also find trade jobs in the agricultural and transportation industries. These can include jobs as diverse as working as a farm manager, animal caretaker, vehicle or aircraft mechanic, bus operator or forest technician.

Requirements for a trade job

While trade jobs often don’t need a bachelor's degree, specific requirements all depend on the specific job. Some trades require completing a vocational program at a trade school, while others require apprenticeships or on-the-job training, or a combination of both.

Programs at vocational schools usually take two years or less and lead to a certificate or associate's degree. Rather than include general education coursework, these programs mainly focus on specialized courses in the chosen trade. In addition, they often includes labs or direct work experience. Construction managers, building inspectors, healthcare trade professionals and mechanics all complete such programs.

Other hands-on trade occupations such as plumbing and electrical line repair involve completing up to a few years in an apprenticeship. These programs allow you to work under a seasoned professional to learn hands-on, practical skills. At the same time, you often do some in-classroom learning. After completing an apprenticeship, you can usually begin working on your own.

Employers often provide on-the-job training after you complete formal education. This allows you to learn the company's processes or specific equipment and tools used. This is especially common for installation and repair trade jobs.

Note that certain trade jobs require certification and licensure too. This usually means passing an exam in your field. Respiratory therapists, construction managers and plumbers are some trade jobs requiring this.

How to find the highest paying jobs in trade

To find the highest paying trade jobs suitable for you, first consider your interests and identify certain careers that interest you. Next, research the job's average salary and current demand in your location — the best job search sites, such as ZipRecruiter, will not only have that information but will often feature educational resources as well. If you attend a vocational school, you can also get help from the career center or attend a career fair to learn more about trade job opportunities and career prospects.

Before applying to high-paying trade jobs, make sure you meet the requirements and prepare properly. For example, you'll want to know how to write a cover letter for a job and how to prepare for an interview to succeed.

You can then use online job sites, contact employers directly or attend career fairs to apply for trade jobs. It also helps to network with others in the trade and consider continuing education that can help you stand out. Carefully review the salaries listed in trade job postings to find high-paying options.

Highest Paying Trade Jobs FAQ

What jobs require trade school?

Many hands-on jobs require trade school rather than a four-year college because they require a specialized skill rather than a broader education. Career trade jobs range from installation and maintenance positions such as plumbers and mechanics to healthcare and service occupations such as dental assistants, chefs and respiratory therapists.

What trade jobs are in demand?

According to the BLS, some of the most in-demand trade jobs include wind turbine service technicians, solar photovoltaic installers and physical therapist assistants. Respiratory therapists and construction managers have above-average demand, while demand for electric linemen is average. You can also explore job search sites to see skilled trade jobs in demand in your area.

Why are trade jobs important?

Skilled trade workers significantly contribute to maintaining the country's infrastructure. For example, the country needs construction and maintenance workers to keep properties, roads, vehicles and systems in running order. On the other hand, skilled trade jobs in healthcare are important for keeping the public healthy.

Is a trade job a good career path?

The skilled trades are a broad field, with diversity in career options, work settings and educational paths. They also require less education to get started. That means you can start getting experience and earning money sooner. In addition, you have a huge list of trade jobs to consider so you can find a path that fits your talents and interests.

How We Chose the Highest Paying Trade Jobs

We looked at the job descriptions and training requirements to identify skilled trade jobs. Job search site were a great help there. For finding out how much a job pays, we checked the current employment and salary data from the BLS and then identified the seven highest paid trade jobs.

Summary of Money's Highest Paying Trade Jobs