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Look to Skilled Trades for High-Paying Careers

One of the biggest needs in industry today is in finding skilled-trade workers that can do jobs related to heating and air conditioning, electricians, plumbers, elevator repairmen and more. If you’re not interested in white collar work, being a tradesman can be a fulfilling profession that will give you enough income to pay your bills and have enough left over to contribute to your dividend stock portfolio.

Most of the jobs we’ll go over here do not require a four-year degree, but they do require serious training and usually some years of apprenticeship. The good news is that you can usually get some sort of pay while doing your apprenticeship, which is a lot different than paying for college and hoping you’ll have a job afterward.

Highest Paying Trade Jobs

Working In Heating and Air Conditioning

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for someone in this area is around $43,640 per year, or more than $20 per hour, as of 2012. Working in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) involves different types of education depending on the company you want to work for and the state that you work in. Many require a two-year post-secondary degree and some apprenticeship work, but in some states you need to become licensed. The good thing about this career is that it has a competitive pay, and the job outlook is 21% growth, which is well above average. If you decide that a skilled trade is not for you, it’s never too late to go back to college. Find out how to afford it in The Real Cost Of Your College Degree – And How You Can Pay For It.


Becoming an electrician is a little bit more intensive than working with HVACR, but the pay is higher to make up for it. The BLS reports that as of 2012, the median wage was nearly $50,000 per year, which works out to about $24 per hour. To learn this trade, you can start at a technical school and then move into an apprenticeship program, or get directly into a formal apprenticeship program for on-the-job training. In most states you need to be licensed to work as an electrician, so that is part of the process. Though the job growth expected for electricians isn’t as high as for those in the HVACR industry, it’s still higher than average, sitting at 20%. Still trying to find what job you’d like to do? Learn some of the tricks of narrowing it down in How To Find The Right Job And Stay Satisfied.

Plumbing, Pipefitting and Steamfitting

This area of work is similar to the past two in how you’re able to become a professional – you can either go to a technical school and then join a formal apprenticeship program, or you can go straight into a formal apprenticeship program. Plumbers fall somewhere between HVACR workers and electricians, with a median annual wage of just over $49,000 ($22.62 hourly), and a job growth outlook of 21% over the next 10 years or so.

Elevator Installing and Repairing

In terms of wages, elevator repairing and installing is where it’s at; the median annual wage for this job is over $76,000 per year, which is just below $37 per hour, making it the best paying trade on this list. For this job, you have to do four years of paid apprenticeship, be over 18, and have a high school diploma or equivalent to start in the program. In recent years, demand for this skilled labor job has grown significantly; the job growth in elevator installing and repairing is 25% over the next 10 years, well above the average.

Working for Yourself or for Someone Else?

Learning the skilled trade is one thing, but setting yourself up as your own business is another. Going to your region’s small business center can help with learning the details of how to set up a small business and what all is involved in running it. You will want to sit down with a tax professional to understand the ins and outs of how your tax situation is different when you go out on your own, and you will also need to look into the proper insurance amounts you will need to carry for your business. If you think it’s best to work for someone else, find out how to get the job in A Guide To Landing Your Dream Job.

Aside from the self-employed angle, there are various union opportunities that pay handsomely as well. Depending on the economic environment, you could experience some peaks and valleys when it comes to always being employed.

The Bottom Line

If you have the desire and are having a tough time cracking the corporate world, learning a skilled trade can be quite a career-changing move that can pay many dividends for years to come.