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Top 12 Highest Paying Trade Jobs (Including 7 You Don’t Need a Degree For!)

5 minute read

By Chelsea Hammond

Many trade jobs are seeing an increase in demand over the next decade. Skilled trades are excellent job choices for people who love hands-on, independent work. You can earn an excellent annual salary as a skilled trade worker, despite not having a degree or equivalent — although some positions require classroom training and professional licensure or certification.

One of the best things about the proliferation of job openings is it’s easier to locate a job you find engaging and meaningful. A trade job could be ideal if you enjoy understanding how complex systems and equipment work and fixing them with your hands.

Ed Bock / Getty

1. Construction Manager

Construction managers earn top salaries averaging around $97,180 annually1 and have fulfilling careers overseeing residential, commercial and industrial projects from conception to completion.

Examples of key responsibilities include:

To become a construction manager, you’ll need at least an associate’s degree, and most positions require previous on-the-job construction experience. However, once you gain the necessary skills and expertise, you can make a profitable career as a construction manager.

2. Respiratory Therapist

You can expect a salary of around $62,810 annually2 as a respiratory therapist. In this position, you’ll spend your days working in a medical setting with patients who require specialized respiratory care. In addition to analyzing lung and breathing issues, you may be called upon to intervene during life-threatening emergencies such as heart attacks.

While respiratory therapy can be a lucrative and fulfilling job, it’s important to be mindful of all applicable laws and specific professional requirements in the country you wish to work. For example, many U.S. states require at least an associate’s degree and additional licensing to work as a respiratory therapist.

3. Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists provide radiation therapy to patients with serious illnesses like cancer and earn an annual salary of around $86,850.3 Their duties include:

Radiation therapy is a very demanding career, and you’ll often be a sought-after resource for many different health issues. Like other healthcare careers, you should research specific work requirements like accreditations or licenses in the country where you hope to work. In most positions and countries, you’ll be required to obtain at least an associate’s degree in your field.

4. Elevator Mechanic

Elevator mechanics can earn a substantial living earning about $97,860 a year,4 and you can get into the career without earning a degree or going to college. As an elevator mechanic, your role involves fixing, repairing, maintaining and installing elevators. Some of the daily tasks you might perform include:

Being an elevator mechanic is about more than keeping elevators in working condition. It’s also about ensuring the safety and well-being of everybody who will use the elevator you worked on.

5. Landscape Architect

As a landscape architect, you can look forward to earning around $67,950 a year.5 Expect to split your time between various job sites and a dedicated office. Your daily routine will generally consist of repairing models, creating designs and supervising subcontractors. You might work for corporations, organizations, private residences, public gardens or parks.

Although general landscapers can get into the field without previous experience, a landscape architect needs at least a bachelor’s degree in their field. Of course, it helps to have previous landscaping experience, too.

6. Electrician

Electricians ensure electrical, control and communication systems are up and running. Most professionals undergo an apprenticeship and learn on the job. However, college courses are available for anyone wanting to grow their knowledge of electricity.

With a salary of $56,9006 annually, being an electrician is a stable and profitable career for somebody with a high school diploma. It also offers some diversity, as you’ll work in a wide range of settings like private residences, commercial buildings, construction sites and more.

7. Plumber

Like electricians, plumbers work in many different settings, from private homes to large businesses. With a salary starting at $56,3307 and usually requiring no more than a high school diploma, plumbing is an excellent way to quickly enter the labor market. As a plumber, some of your usual tasks will include:

You can perfect your skills through on-the-job learning and apprenticeships, and your salary will increase as you gain experience.

8. Carpenter

Carpenters take wood and turn it into frames for construction, structures and other accurately machined materials. As a carpenter, you’ll be using your hands as much as your brain since you’ll need to make precise measurements and accurate cuts. With an average salary of $49,520,8 carpentry is a well-paying career choice that usually allows for on-the-job training instead of a college degree.

If you have an entrepreneurial side and would rather put your talent and experience to use elsewhere, you can also consider selling your creations. Many people are happy to pay a little more for handmade products if you set up a local or online business.

9. Aircraft and Avionics Technician

Aircraft and avionics technicians and mechanics inspect, repair and perform maintenance on aircraft. Duties and responsibilities include:

If you enjoy complex problem-solving and working with your hands, a job as an aircraft and avionics technician could be ideal. Professionals in this field usually require certification from the Federal Aviation Administration,9 alongside either trade school or an associate’s degree, and earn an annual salary of about $69,470.10

10. Boilermaker

As a boilermaker, you’d design, assemble, fix and maintain boilers and other large vessels used in ships, factories and buildings. Daily duties include:

In this role, you can earn a top salary once you gain more than five years of experience in the field, with an average salary of about $69,070.11 A degree isn’t usually required since most boilermakers learn the job through apprenticeships.

11. Building Inspector

Building inspectors supervise construction projects to ensure work complies with zoning codes, building ordinances and other regulations. In this role, you’d spend most of your time outdoors inspecting water systems, highways, buildings and bridges and earn around $68,480 annually12 for doing so.

To excel as a building inspector, you need excellent communication skills, craft experience, mechanical knowledge and a keen eye for detail. A college degree isn’t usually required since most building inspectors learn their trade through apprenticeships or work-sponsored training programs.

12. Chef

As a chef, you’d be responsible for preparing meals in a fast-paced restaurant or hotel environment. You’d create recipes and build menus, train junior cooks and oversee social media photos and tutorials.

The environment chefs work in is demanding but very rewarding, with an average annual salary of $56,920.13 Demand for the role is experiencing massive growth, so plenty of opportunities are available. Professional certification or culinary school could help you climb the ladder faster, but there are no education or training requirements for this position.

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