What Trades Make the Most Money?

Construction manager, welder, mason, electrician, and more

It’s no secret that some trades make more money than others. But which ones? If you’re interested in making more money, you’ll want to know which trades are the most lucrative.

Here’s a look at some of the best-paid trades out there.


What is a Trade Job?

A trade job is a type of employment that involves working with one’s hands to create or fix something. Trade jobs are typically found in the construction, manufacturing, and repair industries.

For example, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, and plumbers are all examples of workers in trade jobs. Trade jobs often require completing an apprenticeship or other type of training before becoming certified to work independently. They do not typically require a college education.

Although trade jobs have traditionally been considered to be “less prestigious” than jobs that do require a college degree, they are essential to the functioning of society and the stigma is certainly not earned.

Without workers in trade jobs, our homes would not be built, our cars would not run, and our appliances would not be repaired.

As a result, these jobs tend to be quite well-paying and offer a variety of other benefits.

What Are the 18 Highest-Paying Trade Jobs?

There are a variety of trade jobs that can offer high salaries and good job security. Here are 18 of the highest-paying trade jobs.

1. Power Plant Operator

Average Salary: $67,565

Power plant operators are responsible for the safe and efficient operation of power generation facilities. They work closely with other plant personnel to ensure that the facility is running smoothly and that all safety procedures are being followed.

Power plant operators typically have a high school diploma or equivalent, and many states require them to hold a valid driver’s license. Many operators also receive on-the-job training from experienced personnel. The job can be physically demanding, and operators must be able to work long hours, often in shifts.

However, power plant operators typically earn high wages and enjoy excellent benefits. Job prospects in this field are expected to be good, particularly in areas with a growing population or an increasing demand for electricity.

2. Elevator Mechanic

Average Salary: $54,996

Elevator mechanics are responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining elevators and other vertical transportation systems. They often work in close collaboration with other tradespeople, such as electricians and carpenters.

To become an elevator mechanic, you will typically need to complete an apprenticeship program lasting 2-4 years. Once you have completed your apprenticeship, you can expect to earn a competitive salary and enjoy good job security.

However, it is important to note that elevator mechanics often work in cramped, dirty, and dangerous conditions. If you’re not afraid of heights and are willing to put in the hard work, becoming an elevator mechanic could be a great career choice for you.

3. Electrical Lineman

Average Salary: $71,340

Electricity is essential to modern life, and electrical linemen are the workers who keep the power flowing. As an electrical lineman, you would be responsible for installing and maintaining power lines. This can involve anything from putting up new lines to repairing damaged ones.

It’s a physically demanding job, but it can be very rewarding. Electrical lineman typically earn good salaries and benefits, and there is always a demand for their skills.

If you’re interested in becoming an electrical lineman, the best way to get started is to complete an apprenticeship program. These programs combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, and they typically last four years.

4. Construction Manager

Average Salary: $118,334

A construction manager is responsible for the coordination and oversee of construction projects. They are in charge of budgeting, scheduling, and quality control. A construction manager typically has a four-year degree in engineering, architecture, or construction science.

Construction managers typically work full time. They may work more than 40 hours per week to oversee deadlines and coordinate workers, materials, and equipment. Some projects may require working on nights and weekends. Travel is often required to visit project sites.

Construction managers must be able to handle stress and manage multiple tasks simultaneously. They must also have excellent communication skills to interact with clients, architects, engineers, and construction workers.

The pros of being a construction manager include high pay, opportunities for career advancement, and the ability to see the fruits of your labor. The cons include long hours, stress, and the possibility of injury.

5. Millwright

Average Salary: $60,488

A millwright is a trained tradesman who installs, maintains, and repairs industrial machinery and equipment. Millwrights typically work in factories, power plants, and other industrial settings. Although many millwrights are employed full-time, some work on a contract basis.

Becoming a millwright typically requires completing an apprenticeship program, which takes four to five years to complete. Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction in topics such as blueprint reading, welding, and mathematics.

Some millwrights also complete voluntary certification programs offered by organizations such as the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET).

Most millwrights work full time, and overtime hours are common. Because millwrights often work in factories and other industrial settings, their work can be noisy and dirty. In addition, because they regularly work with heavy machinery and tools, there is a risk of injury.

6. Boilermaker

Average Salary: $85,047

Boilermakers build, install, repair, and maintain boilers, tanks, and pressure vessels. They also fabricate and erect steel structures, operate welding equipment, and cut and shape metal plates and pipes. The job requires both physical strength and stamina, as well as precision and attention to detail.

Many boilermakers are also members of a union, which provides them with additional job security and benefits.

The best way to become a boilermaker is to complete an apprenticeship program sponsored by a local union. These programs typically last four years and include both classroom instruction and on-the-job training.

7. Heavy Equipment Operator

Average Salary: $51,000

Heavy equipment operators are responsible for operating a variety of large, powerful machines. Common examples include bulldozers, excavators, and cranes.

While the specific duties of a heavy equipment operator vary depending on the type of machine being operated, they typically involve operating the controls to move the machine, performing maintenance and repairs, and inspecting the machine for safety issues.

Most heavy equipment operators learn on the job, although there are some vocational programs that offer training. Many employers prefer to hire candidates who have some experience operating heavy machinery. Operators who have experience with multiple types of equipment are often in high demand.

Working as a heavy equipment operator can be very physically demanding. Operators must be able to lift heavy objects, climb on and off of equipment, and work in all weather conditions. They also need to be comfortable with heights, as some machines require operators to work at great heights. The hours can be long and irregular, as heavy equipment operators often work extended shifts or on call.

Despite the challenges, working as a heavy equipment operator can be very rewarding. Operators often earn high wages, and the job outlook is positive. Heavy equipment operators who are willing to relocate or travel can find many opportunities in industries such as construction, mining, and logging.

8. Pipefitter

Average Salary: $50,160

A pipefitter is a tradesperson who installs, repairs, and maintains piping systems. Pipefitters typically work in the energy industry or in manufacturing plants, but they may also be employed in the construction or plumbing industries.

In order to become a pipefitter, most people complete an apprenticeship program that combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction.

Pipefitters typically earn an hourly wage, and those with more experience or who are working in unionized jobs may earn higher wages. The work can be physically demanding, and pipefitters often work in challenging environments, such as on offshore oil rigs or in power plants.

However, those who are willing to put in the hard work can find good job satisfaction and earn a good income as a pipefitter.

9. Welder

Average Salary: $43,773

Welding is a trade job that involves joining two pieces of metal together using heat and pressure. Welders can work in a variety of settings, including factories, construction sites, and vehicle repair shops. Depending on their experience and training, welders can specialize in different types of welding, such as gas welding, arc welding, or welding.

To become a welder, you will need to complete an apprenticeship or vocational training program. During your apprenticeship, you will learn the basics of welding, including safety procedures and how to operate different types of welding equipment. Once you have completed your training, you will be able to take the certification exam to become a certified welder.

The salary for welders can vary depending on their experience and location. However, welders typically earn a higher wage than other trade jobs. In addition, welders often receive benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans.

There are some drawbacks to being a welder. For example, welders often work long hours in difficult conditions. Additionally, welding can be a dangerous job if proper safety precautions are not followed. However, for those who are interested in the trade, welding can be a rewarding career with excellent job security.

10. Tile Setting

Average Salary: $67,099

A tile setter is a trade job that involves laying ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles in a variety of settings, including floors, walls, showers, and countertops.

Tile setters must have a steady hand and an eye for detail, as even the slightest imperfection can be easily noticeable once the tiles are in place. While tile setting can be physically demanding, it is also a highly skilled trade that requires creativity and precision.

Tile setters typically start out as apprentices, working under the supervision of more experienced tile setters.

With training and experience, they can eventually become journeyman tile setters, and eventually master tile setters. Tile setting is a physically demanding job that requires precision and attention to detail. However, it is also a highly skilled trade that offers creative opportunities.

11. Mason

Average Salary: $48,070

Masonry is one of the oldest and most respected trade jobs in the world. Masons have been responsible for some of the most iconic and enduring structures in history, from the Great Pyramids of Giza to the Taj Mahal.

Masons are responsible for laying bricks, stones, and other materials to create both functional and beautiful structures. Masonry is both an art and a science, requiring a deep understanding of how to work with different materials and how to achieve the desired results. A successful mason must be able to visualize the final product and have the skills to execute the plan.

There is no one-size-fits-all path to becoming a mason. Some masons learn their trade through on-the-job training, while others attend formal apprenticeship programs. Regardless of how you learn the trade, it’s important to get as much experience as possible. The more exposure you have to different techniques and materials, the better prepared you’ll be for a successful career in masonry.

Masons can expect to earn very competitive salaries. In addition, masonry is an incredibly rewarding career, offering the opportunity to create beautiful and lasting structures that will be enjoyed by generations to come.

Of course, like any job, there are also some challenges associated with masonry. One of the biggest challenges is working with heavy materials. Masons also need to be comfortable working at heights.

But for many people, these challenges are more than offset by the rewards of working in this fascinating trade.

12. Construction Inspector

Average Salary: $63,488

Construction inspectors are responsible for ensuring that construction projects meet all safety and building codes. They may work on residential, commercial, or industrial construction projects.

To become a construction inspector, one must usually have at least a high school diploma. Some inspectors may also have an associate’s degree or certification in construction technology. Many inspectors begin their careers as entry-level employees, such as assistant inspectors or administrative staff. With experience, they may advance to senior inspector positions.

Construction inspectors typically work regular business hours. However, they may occasionally need to work overtime to meet deadlines or attend evening meetings. Some jobs may require travel.

The most common benefits of working as a construction inspector include job stability and good pay. However, the job can be stressful, and inspectors may need to work in inclement weather.

13. Electrician

Average Salary: $49,100

Electricians are responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining electrical systems. There is a great demand for electricians, and the job outlook for this career is very positive.

Electricians typically complete an apprenticeship program before becoming licensed to work independently. Apprenticeship programs usually last four years, and during this time electricians learn the skills they need to perform their job safely and effectively.

Electricians must be willing to work long hours, as many jobs require overtime. Electricians also need to be physically fit, as the job can be quite physically demanding.

14. Landscape Designer

Average Salary: $62,586

Many people want to beautify their outdoor living space but do not have the time or knowledge to do so themselves. As a result, they hire landscape designers to create and maintain an attractive lawn and garden.

Landscape designers typically have a background in horticulture, architecture, or civil engineering. They use this knowledge to design outdoor spaces that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

You can become a landscape designer without formal education, but you may enjoy better job prospects if you complete an accredited landscape design program.

15. Plumber

Average Salary: $56,330

Plumbers are responsible for installing and repairing piping systems that carry water, waste, gasses, and other fluids. They work in a variety of settings, including residential, commercial, and industrial.

While most plumbers complete an apprenticeship, some start their careers with a certificate or associate degree from a trade school.

Plumbers typically work full-time, but they may also work overtime to meet deadlines or respond to emergencies. The job can be physically demanding, but it also offers a chance to work independently and to take on challenging projects.

16. HVAC Technician

Average Salary: $50,338

HVAC technicians are responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. With the ever-increasing demand for energy-efficient homes and businesses, HVAC technicians are in high demand. Many training programs can be completed in as little as six months, making it an ideal career choice for many people. Although the job can be physically demanding, it is also well-paid.

Most technicians are able to find steady work, even during economic downturns.  That said, there are also some downsides to the job. They often have to work long hours, including evenings and weekends. In addition, the work can be dirty and dusty, and technicians may have to crawl into small spaces.

17. Cable Technician

Average Salary: $54,553

Cable technicians are responsible for installing and maintaining cable television and broadband Internet systems. They typically work for cable companies or telecommunications providers. Cable technicians must have a strong knowledge of electrical systems and be able to safely work with power tools and equipment.

Most cable technicians start their careers by completing a vocational training program or an apprenticeship. Some may also have previous experience working in the electrical or construction trades.

Once they have completed their training, cable technicians can expect to earn a competitive salary and benefits package. However, the job can be physically demanding, and workers may have to work long hours, including nights and weekends.

18. Solar Energy System Installer

Average Salary: $51,112

Solar energy system installers are responsible for the installation of solar panels and related equipment. They work with both residential and commercial customers to ensure that the solar panels are installed correctly and that the customer is satisfied with the results.

These workers typically have a high school diploma or equivalent, although some jobs may require previous experience in the electrical or construction fields. Many trade schools offer training programs specifically for solar energy system installers.

Solar energy system installers must be comfortable working on rooftops and in other high places. They also need to be able to lift heavy equipment and understand complex electrical diagrams.

Final Thoughts

As you can see from this list, there are a number of well-paid trades out there if you’re looking to make more money.

Of course, salaries will vary depending on experience and location, but these trades are definitely worth considering if you’re looking to boost your earnings potential.