10 Best-Paid Skilled Labor Jobs


Skilled labor jobs can pay well, even very well. Yet, many young people feel the pressure to get a college degree and don't consider hands-on labor. Fortunately, a growing movement hopes to get younger workers enthused about building, fixing, and installing.

Mike Rowe of the popular TV series "Dirty Jobs" says, "Tradesmen need fans, regular people who understand the magnitude of their work, the impact of their chosen profession, and the importance of their skill." What this country needs, according to Rowe are more people willing to take the time to master heating and air-conditioning, electricity, creating solid foundations, smooth roads, and functional plumbing.

Ross Porter, President of IRWIN Tools based in Huntersville, North Carolina asserts, "A job in a skilled trade is a solid, decent and admirable way to support a family. To work with one's hands-to build something-always has been and always should be commendable."

Are you interested in earning high pay while working with your hands? Here's a list of the top 10 most highly-paid jobs that have the most potential for growth, according to PayScale.

1. Wind Turbine Technician

Average Salary: $67,500 per year

Wind turbine service technicians, also called wind techs, are responsible for repairing and maintaining the complicated machinery inside wind turbines. Their work can be as simple as changing light bulbs or as complex as repairing a circuit board. The field is so new there isn't an official certification track yet, however according to the American Wind Energy Association, the amount of energy provided by wind turbines grew by 39 percent each year between 2004 to 2009. Get ready to be blown away by your pay. With five to eight years of experience some techs can earn over $84,000 per year.

plumber2. Plumber

Average Salary: $51,600 per year

This career is about much more than fixing leaky toilets. Plumbers install and repair the water, waste disposal, drainage, and gas systems in residential, commercial and industrial buildings using a variety of materials from copper to cast-iron. They must be able to follow building plans or blueprints and instructions from supervisors, lay out the job, and work efficiently with materials and tools. There's room for creativity as plumbers have become more involved in the design process of water and waste systems. No wonder highly-skilled professionals can take home over $92,000 per year.

HVAC Controls Technician3. HVAC Controls Technician

Average Salary: $51,000 per year

Without workers skilled in the science of heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems, we wouldn't be able to control the temperature, humidity, and the total air quality in residential, commercial, industrial, and other buildings. They also help with the storage and transportation of food, medicine, and other perishable items. Many HVAC technicians will specialize in either installation or maintenance and repair, but must first train to do both. High school students interested in this career should take courses in shop, math, mechanical drawing, applied physics and chemistry, electronics, blueprint reading, and computer applications.

4. Elevator Mechanic

Average Salary: $49,900 per year

Mechanics are responsible for assembling, installing, maintaining and replacing elevators, escalators, chairlifts, dumbwaiters and moving walkways in new and old buildings. They must complete a four-year apprenticeship offered by local joint educational committees representing the employers and the union-the International Union of Elevator Constructors. The good news is that job prospects and salaries are looking up in this industry. Top earners make about $96,700 with over five years experience.

Maintenance Supervisor5. Maintenance Supervisor

Average Salary: $48,800 per year

You'll find maintenance and repair workers in almost every industry, and with them comes their supervisor. Responsibilities include supervising, troubleshooting and project management of machines, mechanical equipment, buildings, plumbing, electrical, and air-conditioning and heating systems. Many supervisors get their start right out of high school. Courses in mechanical drawing, electricity, woodworking, blueprint reading, science, mathematics, and computers are useful and education at a technical college is an important part of training.

6. Construction and Building Inspector

Average Salary: $48,000 per year

Got an opinion on those potholes on the interstate? How about your neighbor's sloping porch? If so, a career as an inspector is right up your alley. You'll examine buildings, highways and streets, sewer and water systems, dams, bridges, and other structures for compliance with building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications. About 44 percent of inspectors worked for local governments but plenty of home inspectors are self-employed and make their own hours.

Project Supervisor, Construction7. Project Supervisor, Construction

Average Salary: $46,600 per year

Independent types who want to manage a team and a project yet still work for themselves will be in good company as the BLS finds over half of construction supervisors are self-employed. Far from working alone, managers work with owners, engineers, architects, and others to coordinate and supervise construction from the concept through final build,the project gets completed on time and within budget.

8. Bricklayer

Average Salary: $46,200 per year

Talk about staying power: the buildings, fences, roads and footpaths crafted by brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons often outlast the individual because of the durability of concrete, stone and brick. The work itself ranges from simple masonry on walkways to complex installations of exteriors on a highrises. Training often happens on the job as an assistant to carry materials, move scaffolding and mix mortar. Learning restoration skills such as cleaning and pointing are essential to becoming a full-fledged craftsman. Registered apprenticeship programs usually last between three and four years.

Refrigeration Mechanic9. Refrigeration Mechanic

Average Salary: $45,600 per year

You won't have to worry about becoming a desk jockey if you pursue a career as a refrigeration mechanic. Your "office" can be in any number of places including homes, stores, hospitals or factories that need installation, service, and repair of refrigerating systems. On the job, mechanics are required to read blueprints, design specifications, and manufacturers' instructions to install motors, compressors, condensing units, evaporators, piping, and other components. Systems must also be charged with refrigerant and checked for proper operation and leaks.

Biomedical Equipment Technician (BMET)10. Biomedical Equipment Technician (BMET)

Average Salary: $45,500 per year

If you are fascinated by how things work, this could be the job for you. BMETs maintain, adjust, and repair every kind of healthcare machinery from patient monitors and defibrillators, to X-rays, electric wheelchairs and eye testing equipment. With the strength of the healthcare industry, this is a great occupation to pursue. Be prepared to head back to school if you want to work in this field. Employers generally prefer applicants with an associate's degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering. Go for a four-year degree if you want to advance.

Source: Salary data is provided by online salary database PayScale.com. Salaries listed are annual salaries for full-time workers with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

Next: PARADE's What People Earn: Skilled Worker Edition

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The government gave away all our trade secrets to our so-called "friends" "alliances" and now they are getting our jobs overseas, if we were to open factories here, it would have to be with outside money, local money is hard to come by, Mr. Obama gave that to the banks, and wisdom has left the building.

May 11 2012 at 3:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

well maybe if you worked as well as the illegal immigrants they would hire you instead.. employers look for fast and hardworking folks, if they work better than you try harder.....and if there is an illegal person that does and you don't, then the pick is obvious.

November 26 2011 at 12:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What we need is to bring our jobs BACK to the US, instead of outsourcing. Then there will be jobs to be had, there are alot of unemployed people that would welcome to be a customer service rep, pretty tough to do when the companies have outsourced to India or where ever. Quit giving our jobs away and quit letting more people in. We need to take care of our own.

October 26 2011 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hollyjeangerard's comment

well maybe if you worked as well as the illegal immigrants they would hire you instead.. employers look for fast and hardworking folks, if they work better than you try harder.....and if there is an illegal person that does and you don't, then the pick is obvious.

November 26 2011 at 12:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Emily Jones

Why 4.5 m people in Britian are unemployed then?

October 15 2011 at 9:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ron Townsend


October 13 2011 at 7:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ron Townsend

I am now 60yrs old and finished 35yrs in trade work. Most of them years I was located in palm beach cty, Fla.. Florida is a right to work law state, I hope everyone knows what that means. Unions are useless in my state and the purpose of unions is to stand up for the workers, to make sure they get fair wages, to make sure the benefits are there, to make that everyone is treated fairly, this is not rocket science, that is what unions are for. The problems are some things have been over regulated and most things have been deregulated to much. Where I'm located at now in florida, if I went back to work in the trades, I would have 35%cut in wages to go to work and the bad part of it is that I'm right outside of one of the biggest military bases this country owns. Now, That's embaressing . so what i can't spell.

October 13 2011 at 7:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Concerning the brick layer,where's the stringline ? and why is he starting in the middle?

October 05 2011 at 7:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Willie's comment
John Russell

Probably for the same reason the HVAC Technician is using a pair of "knucklebusters' (Pump pliers) to take off that condenser fan screen instead of the proper sized wrench or socket ...

This Idiot producer/photographer told him too because he thinks it looks better

The only time you take that off is to change a fan motor otherwise you use the access door on the side of the unit but that doesn't look as cool in a picture.... It advertising people get a clue ....

Personally I think the best is having the nearly dead patient with no heart beat taking the picture of the Biomed Tech getting ready to 'jump start' him ... I certainly hope they gave him a discount

October 29 2011 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dale Wall

I don't think that the NORTHEN border has even been menchened, all anyone can talk about is is the southern border.I know there are more from the mexicon side then the northen side. Canada don't want our problems they got there own

October 05 2011 at 7:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Sears and Macy’s should be sued for age and reverse race discrimination. I worked as a bench technician at a couple different companies for about 18 years but was laid off as most of those type jobs were outsourced overseas..

In 2008 I applied at Sears here in So. California for a Appliance Repair Technician and took a long test and aced it. When I was called in for an interview, the hiring manager seemed concerned about my age (45) and mentioned a few times about the physical aspects of the job. I assured him that I am in excellent health and could easily handle the work. The next week I called and I was told I was over qualified for the job which of course means I was too old.

Several months later the HR from Sears called me about a appliance inspection type position. Because it had been over 6 months I had to take the test again so I did. When I was called in again for an interview this hiring manager asked if I was bilingual and I of course replied no. He said many of their customers are now Hispanic so they prefer bilingual. Of course I was not hired. They could of atleast had the decency to tell me this upfront that so I didn’t waste several hours of my time.

I had a similar experience at Macy's when applying for seasonal work around Christmas that year.. And like a slap in the face, I keep seeing the same jobs listed over and over again..

Total reverse discrimination and age discrimination. it's the same
with most of these companies. If our government wasn't so Goddamn
rotten and corrupt they would never get away with this crap.

I contacted a lawyer as was told the unwritten law is employers’ CAN discriminate against White English Speaking Americans, they just can't discriminate against NON-White and/ or Non English speaking Americans

October 05 2011 at 6:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Currently most jobs are taken in all fields. What America needs is new factories, refineries, and new techonlogy ideas. The government isn't the answer here. They get their money from the working class(you and me.) We need to let businesses open new plants here in America where they want to open them. We need to build more refineries and drill our own oil. These steps will create real job's both union and non-union.

Right now we are regulating our factories so heavily that instead of building factories here they move them to a country that doesn't put as much control over them. There is a cost to every regulation to that business. Those cost are factored in raise the price of those goods accordingly. We need balance here. In passing regulations that affect the cost of making goods in America we need realize how it will affect Americas factories to be competitive. We can complain about the low labor wages in China or elsewhere. However, we can control them.

We must find a way to make goods that we and the world will purchase. Technology has been our ally here and so has been oil and chemical industries. We are going to have to make hard decisions here. Are Jobs and the well being of the American Families more important or are the enviromental cause more important.

It's important to remember that as we protect our enviroment at home the same amount of polution goes on in the world with oil, chemical and factories that we once had. I believe it's foolish for us to think that because the air polution is now moved to China isn't eventually being breathed in by us Americans. But they got our jobs.

October 05 2011 at 6:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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