8 Blue-Collar Jobs That Pay Surprisingly Well

These 8 manual occupations pay more than $55,000 a year

workers were cutting tracks for ...
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By Alison Griswold

Think there's no money in manual labor or unskilled technical work? Think again.

As it turns out, there are more options than you might expect. We combed through data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to find blue-collar jobs with median annual salaries that are surprisingly high.

The following occupations rival many white-collar jobs in annual pay, each earning well above the U.S. median annual household income of $51,371 in 2012.

8. Signal and track switch repairers

Median annual pay: $55,450

Job description: Install, inspect, and repair the equipment involved in signaling and communication systems for the railroad.

How to become one: Most positions require an associate's degree or some college education, though a small number will take just a high school diploma.

7. Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers

Median annual pay: $60,730

Job description: These workers control petroleum refining and processing systems, often with different specialties that determine the specifics of their work.

How to become one: This job requires a high school diploma and either an apprenticeship or relevant experience.

Find a job now as a petroleum pump system operator or refinery operator.

6. Subway or streetcar operators

Median annual pay: $62,730

Job description: Subway and streetcar operators transport passengers in cities and suburbs. Usually they operate vehicles on above-ground or underground tracks, or on streets.

How to become one: Several months of on-the-job training and a high school diploma are usually required for this job.

Find a job now as a subway or streetcar operator.

5. Electrical power-line installers and repairers

Median annual pay: $63,250

Job description: Electrical power-line installers and repairers are responsible for installing and repairing the wiring used in electrical power systems. This can include building poles and transmission towers.

How to become one: Some positions involve formal apprenticeships, and almost all require a lengthy period of on-the-job training.

Find a job now as an electrical power-line installer or repairer.
Construction WIP
Alamy

4. Transportation inspectors

Median annual pay: $63,680

Job description: Transportation inspectors examine everything from freight and rail vehicles, to the cargo being carried in different transportation devices.

How to become one: Many jobs require only a high school diploma, and typically want some relevant experience.

Find a job now as a transportation inspector.

3. Electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation, and relay

Median annual pay: $68,810

Job description: Test, repair, maintain, and inspect electrical equipment in generators, substations, in-service relays, and other types of facilities.

How to become one: The training can involve an apprenticeship and usually requires some college or associate's degree.

Find a job now as an electrical and electronics repairer, powerhouse, substation, or relay.

2. Elevator installers and repairers

Median annual pay: $76,650

Job description: Elevator workers repair, install, assemble, and maintain various types of elevators, freight lifts, escalators, and dumbwaiters.

How to become one: Some states require a license, and almost all installers and repairers learn the job through a formal apprenticeship.

Find a job now as an elevator installer.

1. Power distributors and dispatchers

Median annual pay: $83,034

Job description: Power plant distributors and dispatchers work with electric power systems, which can involve a range of tasks.

How to become one: Some positions require a license or a background check, and most applicants need some education and previous experience.

Find a job now as a power distributor or dispatcher.

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17 Comments

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PHANTOMSTRANGER

One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of these jobs actually require you to be on the job to make those wages which almost means living on the job. For example, I'm a master electrician working on in a DOE complex and many days where non manual employees are off work, holiday and vacation/personal, WITH PAY- I'm on the job. Some people say 100k for these jobs? Yeah but these workers are at work many weeks six or seven days, ten to twelve hours a day. Moral of the story- go to the big school and get a job where you THINK about doing things for twice as much as actually doing them, get treated with some dignity, and have some of your waking life left for family and outside interest. Blue collar ain't no way to be- trust me.

January 20 2014 at 9:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
traderjim7

I would imagine that this article is aimed at older career change workers. For most of these jobs, a college degree in electrical engineering is the key. If young people in high school want to pursue any of these jobs, they need to take vocational courses in high school as possible, and learn as much as they can about electricity in their spare time. Then become an electrician, and one will be on their way.

November 20 2013 at 11:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott Gogolewski

For the past 2 years I've earned over 150k selling network management software... No college degree. Have no shortage of companies trying to recruit me away but life is good where I am at,

November 15 2013 at 2:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Scott Gogolewski's comment
Scott Gogolewski

That's 150k each year to be clear.

November 15 2013 at 2:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Youth In Asia

I made $103k in 2012 as a locomotive engineer for a class 1 railroad. I've already exceeded $110k for 2013. Just goes to show that there are plenty of high paying jobs that do not require a college education.

November 15 2013 at 1:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Steve

Being Union would be the downside of any of those jobs. I belonged to a Union years ago and vowed never again if I could help it.

November 15 2013 at 12:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ba72211

Swag.

November 14 2013 at 5:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Levi Mclaughlin

Highly skilled tool maker $25 to $30

November 14 2013 at 11:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Freddie

No wonder my elevator installing buddy always had more money than I did. If I had known that back then....he would have bought the rounds more often! ;-))

November 14 2013 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wbearl

I spent 38 years working in the Transportation Industry. We were paid well and had great benefits and now I have a good retirement. So what is the down side? I worked any time day or night, rain or shine. Every time I or my people signed a document we were liable for a $10,000 fine and/or prison time. We were constantly given random drug tests, with zero tolerance. In 38 years I saw too many people killed and way to many permanently injured. I also saw hundreds try the jobs and quit when they got a true taste of the job.

November 14 2013 at 8:42 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
bluskiess

I should have been an electrician .... masters degree is nothing!!

November 14 2013 at 8:29 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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