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43 Trade School Jobs Among the Highest Paying Trades

Last Updated July 27, 2020


Want to make over $20 or $25 an hour? Going to a trade school is a great way to learn in-demand skills for reliable, satisfying, high-paying jobs. You can get fast training for a trade that pays well in a sector like energy, construction, auto repair, aircraft maintenance, or industrial technology. And if you expand your definition of "trade," you can train for other good-paying jobs in areas like health care, information technology, the media arts, and more.

Trade School Jobs Among the Highest Paying TradesHere's why it can pay to attend a trade school: Jobs that provide good incomes are often more easily obtained after training at one. The simple fact is that many of the highest paying trades in America are filled with people who began their careers with a short skills-based education from a vocational or technical college.

And the potential benefits don't stop there. Beyond just being among the highest paying, trade jobs are also frequently some of the most satisfying. After all, they often involve a lot of physical, hands-on work while still being very mentally engaging. Just think back to the joy you felt as a kid when you got to help build, create, or fix something tangible. It probably gave you a real sense of pride, achievement, and confidence.

So by pursuing this type of path, you give yourself an opportunity to gain more financial prosperity, as well as true enjoyment while earning it. Plus, many of the best trade school jobs offer something else: a genuine chance at career security and advancement.


23 High-Paying Skilled Trades in America

The following trade school jobs list features many occupations for which training programs are often easy to find. However, it doesn't include some of the jobs for which it may be more common to begin training as an apprentice directly with an employer.

An example would be a trade such as electrical power line repair since many energy utilities provide their own in-house programs. Other high-paying examples might include areas like elevator repair, structural ironwork, rail car repair, or telecommunications repair. Even so, many people pursuing those types of careers still find it beneficial to get a pre-apprenticeship education from a trade school before approaching potential employers.

So here are some of America's highest paying trade school jobs. (The cited wages are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' May 2019 estimates.)

1. Construction Manager

  • Average hourly pay—$50.48
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $79.23
  • Main tasks—Planning, overseeing, and handling the coordination of construction or maintenance activities (including budgeting and scheduling) related to specific building projects

2. Pile-Driver Operator

  • Average hourly pay—$33.76
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $54.72
  • Main tasks—Using large pile-driving machines that are mounted on barges, cranes, or skids to hammer long beams of steel, wood, or concrete into the ground as part of a big construction project

3. Aircraft Mechanic

  • Average hourly pay—$32.27
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $48.59
  • Main tasks—Inspecting, repairing, adjusting, or overhauling airplane or helicopter engines and other important systems

4. Commercial Diver

  • Average hourly pay—$32.26
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $57.61
  • Main tasks—Using various construction tools and scuba diving gear to help build, assemble, inspect, or fix components of large structures under water

5. Avionics Technician

  • Average hourly pay—$32.20
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $46.70
  • Main tasks—Installing, testing, and fixing high-tech equipment used in space vehicles or aircraft for purposes like navigation, radar detection, weather tracking, radio communications, and weapons control

6. Boilermaker

  • Average hourly pay—$31.27
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $45.40
  • Main tasks—Assembling, installing, or fixing very large containers or vessels designed for holding liquids or gases (such as closed vats, steam boilers, and boiler furnaces)

7. Crane Operator

  • Average hourly pay—$29.10
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $44.15
  • Main tasks—Lifting and moving construction materials, manufactured products, or machinery using mechanical beam and cable equipment

8. Electrician

  • Average hourly pay—$29.02
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $46.43
  • Main tasks—Wiring buildings for electrical power, lighting, or communications systems (and maintaining or repairing those systems)

9. Plumber, Pipefitter, or Steamfitter

  • Average hourly pay—$28.75
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $46.72
  • Main tasks—Putting together and installing, adjusting, or repairing pipes and related equipment used for liquid or gas distribution

10. CNC Machine Tool Programmer

  • Average hourly pay—$28.72
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $42.87
  • Main tasks—Giving instructions to computer numerically controlled machinery for making objects like tools, molds, and dies

11. Rotary Drill Operator for the Oil and Gas Industry

  • Average hourly pay—$27.44
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $40.18
  • Main tasks—Extracting oil or natural gas (or core samples) from underground sources by setting up and using large drilling equipment

12. Millwright

  • Average hourly pay—$27.43
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $38.98
  • Main tasks—Assembling industrial machines, performing maintenance or repairs on them, and dismantling them when necessary

13. Wind Turbine Technician

  • Average hourly pay—$27.26
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $38.53
  • Main tasks—Installing, inspecting, fixing, and maintaining large wind turbines used for generating electricity

14. Brick Mason

  • Average hourly pay—$27.15
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $42.00
  • Main tasks—Constructing or fixing walls or other structures by placing and binding bricks, cinder blocks, structural tiles, or other similar materials

15. Industrial Machinery Mechanic

  • Average hourly pay—$26.60
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $38.30
  • Main tasks—Fixing, maintaining, or putting together machines used for industrial processes like manufacturing or oil, gas, or chemical refining and distribution

16. Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanic

  • Average hourly pay—$26.36
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $37.50
  • Main tasks—Troubleshooting, adjusting, and fixing large mobile equipment used for construction or natural resource excavation (such as bulldozers, road graders, cranes, and conveyor systems)

17. Construction Equipment Operator

  • Average hourly pay—$26.06
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $41.17
  • Main tasks—Controlling various kinds of heavy construction machines like front-end loaders, tractors, bulldozers, graders, and derricks

18. Carpenter

  • Average hourly pay—$25.41
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $40.72
  • Main tasks—Constructing or fixing the wooden frameworks or foundation forms for buildings and related structures

19. HVAC Technician

  • Average hourly pay—$24.72
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $37.46
  • Main tasks—Repairing or installing systems for the heating, cooling, and ventilation of buildings

20. Diesel Mechanic

  • Average hourly pay—$24.21
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $35.62
  • Main tasks—Troubleshooting and repairing larger vehicles with diesel engines such as trucks, buses, and, in some cases, marine vessels

21. Auto Body Repairer

  • Average hourly pay—$22.79
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $35.32
  • Main tasks—Refinishing or repairing the bodies and structural frames of cars and trucks

22. Welder

  • Average hourly pay—$21.73
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $30.89
  • Main tasks—Joining metal pieces together using handheld welding torches or related equipment

23. Automotive Mechanic

  • Average hourly pay—$21.58
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $33.11
  • Main tasks—Inspecting, troubleshooting, and repairing motor vehicle engines and other important systems and components

20 Additional High-Paying Vocations in America

High-Paying Vocations in AmericaSome people consider a trade to be any occupation that requires a very specific set of mid- to high-level skills. So by broadening the definition beyond areas like construction, mechanical repair, and industrial work, it quickly becomes apparent that many of the highest paid trade jobs can be found in other sectors such as technology and health care. Plus, like the occupations listed above, the following examples also tend to involve a lot of deeply engaging (and often hands-on) tasks.

1. Computer Network Architect

  • Average hourly pay—$55.34
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $80.96
  • Main tasks—Designing efficient and secure networks for data communications and putting them into action

2. Applications Software Developer

  • Average hourly pay—$53.66
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $79.13
  • Main tasks—Overseeing the creation of new computer programs or mobile apps (or modifications to existing ones)

3. Logistics Manager

  • Average hourly pay—$49.67
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $77.17
  • Main tasks—Coordinating activities related to the storage, transportation, and distribution of physical goods

4. Database Administrator

  • Average hourly pay—$46.21
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $71.18
  • Main tasks—Managing and implementing changes to information systems that store, organize, and provide select access to data

5. Funeral Service Manager

  • Average hourly pay—$45.78
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $77.82
  • Main tasks—Coordinating the resources and activities of facilities that provide funeral and memorial services for the families and friends of recently deceased individuals

6. Computer Programmer

  • Average hourly pay—$44.53
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $67.43
  • Main tasks—Generating, testing, or changing the code that makes software work the way it's intended to

7. Film or Video Editor

  • Average hourly pay—$41.97
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $80.93
  • Main tasks—Choosing and arranging sequences of film or video clips for movies, TV shows, or similar projects

8. Fashion Designer

  • Average hourly pay—$41.40
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $71.64
  • Main tasks—Creating original clothing designs and fashion accessories

9. Multimedia Artist or Animator

  • Average hourly pay—$40.76
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $67.28
  • Main tasks—Creating animations, special effects, or visual enhancements for projects like movies, video games, television shows, or advertisements

10. Web Developer

  • Average hourly pay—$39.60
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $68.31
  • Main tasks—Creating or modifying functional and user-friendly websites using the most appropriate programming languages and graphics, multimedia, or database tools

11. Dental Hygienist

  • Average hourly pay—$37.13
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $49.68
  • Main tasks—Examining and cleaning the teeth of dental patients while educating them about good oral hygiene and looking for signs of problems that a dentist may need to address

12. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

  • Average hourly pay—$36.44
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $49.07
  • Main tasks—Using ultrasound technology to capture images of what's occurring inside a patient's body

13. Sound Engineering Technician

  • Average hourly pay—$32.25
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $58.33
  • Main tasks—Recording or mixing sound in settings like live music venues, theaters, sports arenas, recording studios, or film sets

14. Engineering Technician

  • Average hourly pay—$31.84
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $46.49
  • Main tasks—Assisting engineers with the development and testing of design solutions to various real-word problems

15. Electrical or Electronics Drafter

  • Average hourly pay—$31.60
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $48.39
  • Main tasks—Producing drawings and diagrams of wiring or circuit board layouts

16. Respiratory Therapist

  • Average hourly pay—$30.75
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $41.82
  • Main tasks—Evaluating and providing therapeutic treatments for patients who have medical conditions that make it difficult for them to breathe

17. Radiologic Technologist

  • Average hourly pay—$30.34
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $43.15
  • Main tasks—Using X-ray technology to obtain diagnostic images of a patient's internal anatomy

18. Occupational Therapy Assistant

  • Average hourly pay—$29.75
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $39.52
  • Main tasks—Helping people improve their ability to lead normal day-to-day lives in spite of limitations caused by illness, injury, or disability

19. Cardiovascular Technologist

  • Average hourly pay—$28.66
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $45.37
  • Main tasks—Using special equipment such as electrocardiogram (EKG) machines to test the heart and lung functions of medical patients

20. Physical Therapist Assistant

  • Average hourly pay—$28.14
  • Top-end hourly pay—over $38.87
  • Main tasks—Carrying out treatments, as directed by a physical therapist, that help people regain or improve their strength and range of motion after injury, surgery, or other physical impairment

Big Demand for Many of America's Highest Paid Trades

Trade School Jobs Among the Highest Paying TradesOver recent years, several employer surveys have found that skilled trade jobs are some of the hardest to fill. And in many regions throughout the U.S., a shortage of qualified tradespeople is becoming the new norm, especially as a lot of older workers from the Baby Boomer generation continue to retire.

In fact, numbers from the Current Population Survey show that, in 2019, half of all American tradespeople in the repair, maintenance, and construction sectors were over the age of 42. In the utilities sector, the median age of tradespeople was 45.

As a result, employers in many growing industries are actively recruiting the next generation of tradesmen and women. High-tech manufacturing, construction, and oil and gas extraction companies are just a few examples.

And you can probably imagine what would happen if America didn't have qualified people in the trades. Everything that we rely on for our way of life would begin to crumble. From roads and bridges to pipes and electricity, almost our entire modern infrastructure is built, maintained, and repaired by skilled tradespeople. It's the type of work that cannot simply be outsourced overseas. It must be done locally.

That's why a lot of the highest paying trade school careers also have bright outlooks going forward. The market for people with these skills is expected to be very large for decades to come.

How to Find the Education You'll Need

Clearly, there are plenty of trade school jobs in demand. And you don't have to choose the highest paying trade to make good money. A whole world of compelling options is available to you. So take a few moments to explore the training possibilities offered in your location. Simply type in your zip code right now to get started!