Blue collar workers tend to get a bad rap. Often unfairly associated with poor education and minimal abilities, most occupations that are classified as "blue collar" actually involve specialized skills, extensive training and technical know-how.
Unfortunately, the job market for these professionals is experiencing a decline. The emergence of more specialized equipment, the movement toward a service-based economy, and the outsourcing of jobs to developing nations with lower wages have all contributed to this decline.
Despite the overall decrease in blue collar jobs, however, several of these professions maintain a strong presence in today's workforce, and the most highly-skilled workers will have the best opportunities for work in these occupations. What's more, the pay for these jobs is comparable to many so-called white collar jobs, and oftentimes, depending on the industry, these workers even make significantly more than the average American worker.
Below are 10 of the best-paying blue collar jobs that are still very much in demand in today's workforce, according to the 2006-2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics's Occupational Outlook Handbook. Most of the jobs on this list pay more than $43,318 annually, what the Census Bureau lists as the U.S. median income, and none of them require more than a high school education (though you may need apprenticeships or vocational training for some).
Average pay: $43,670/year*
Average Pay: $23.86/hour (about $49,628/year)
Average Pay: $20.40/hour (about $42,432/year)
4. Electricianslearn their trade through apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job training and related classroom instruction. Manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, physical fitness and a good sense of balance are essential to excelling at this trade.
Average Pay:$20.33/hour (about $42,286/year)
Average Pay: $28.23/hour (about $58,718/year)
Average Pay: $45,210/year
Average Pay:$23.70/hour (about $49,296/year)
Average Pay: $20.48/hour (about $42,598/year)
Average Pay: $21.77/hour (about $45,281/year)
Average Pay: $21.28 (about $44,262/year)
*Salary information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Copyright 2007 CareerBuilder.com.