Electrician working on building site, Repairing wires at home, repair work at a trade job

Trade jobs are gaining unprecedented attention for their lucrative opportunities and growing demand. Unlike conventional white-collar professions, careers in trade typically require hands-on expertise and specialized skills. The need for skilled trade professionals is growing as industries expand and technology advances. They keep our communities running smoothly, from construction and manufacturing to healthcare and technology.

The roles offer substantial rewards for individuals with the right skills and dedication. The best part? Many trade jobs that don’t require a college degree rank among the highest-paying career opportunities in today’s market.

In this article, we’ll reveal ten high-paying trade jobs currently in high demand. Whether you’re a student weighing your options or a professional seeking a career change, this guide will provide valuable insights into lucrative trade careers.

Are trades a good career path?

To understand the relevance and value of this career path, take a look at the world around us. Imagine the construction of the buildings where we live and work, the electrical systems that power our daily lives, the plumbing that offers access to clean water, and the transportation infrastructure that connects our communities. Each of these aspects of modern life relies heavily on skilled tradespeople. Trade careers are not just important – they are vital for our society to exist.

Unlike many other professions, trade jobs offer stability, respect, and constant advancement. Skills learned in these careers are always in demand, providing job security that is increasingly rare in other fields. 

These roles also come with competitive salaries and benefits, as the demand for skilled professionals often outweighs the supply of available talent. 

Additionally, as technology advances, so do trade opportunities. Tradespeople today work with cutting-edge technology, innovative materials, and traditional tools.

Finally, investing in education and training for a trade is typically less expensive and time-consuming than a four-year college degree but can lead to equally lucrative career opportunities. 

So, are trades a good career path? Absolutely. They offer a unique combination of job security, competitive pay, and the satisfaction of making a real difference.

Advantages of a career in trades

Exceptional job security

Trade jobs are less susceptible to recessions due to their constant necessity. Skilled tradespeople will always be needed to build homes, maintain electrical systems, and repair plumbing systems.

Competitive compensation

Many trade jobs offer salaries equal to or higher than those that require a four-year degree. Specialized trades command high wages due to their unique skills and credentials.

Opportunities for advancement

The trade industry presents clear avenues toward advancement. Starting as an apprentice, one can rise to journeyman status and eventually become a master in their field. This progression leads to increased responsibility, autonomy, and compensation.

Variety of specializations

From electricians and plumbers to HVAC technicians and construction managers, trades encompass a wide range of specialties. This diversity allows individuals to discover a niche that complements their strengths and interests.

Practical and hands-on work

Trade jobs allow you to work with your hands and see the tangible results of your efforts. A more active work environment can be incredibly satisfying for those who enjoy physical work and problem-solving.

Lower education costs

Apprenticeships and vocational schooling are usually less expensive and time-consuming than a four-year college education. With less student debt, you can enter the workforce faster.

Work-life balance

These jobs offer regular, predictable schedules, which can contribute to a healthy work-life balance. Some trades also offer self-employment opportunities, giving individuals more control over their hours and workload.

Essential role in society

Tradespeople maintain and build our communities’ infrastructure. Knowing that their work directly impacts society’s well-being and functionality gives them a sense of purpose and pride.


Working as a freelancer or starting a business is a path many tradespeople pursue due to a lower cost of entry than many other professions require.

Challenges of a career in trades

Physically demanding work

Many trade jobs require physical stamina and strength. The work may involve lifting heavy materials, working in awkward positions, or standing for long periods, which can be taxing and increase the risk of injury.

Exposure to hazardous conditions

Many tradespeople experience electrical hazards, heights, and extreme temperatures. Safety training and compliance with regulations are crucial for these roles, but the inherent risk is not suitable for everyone.

Variable work hours

Work hours can vary depending on the trade. Some require emergency responses or after-hours work, resulting in night or weekend shifts. The hours can be a limiting factor for those who require a consistent schedule.

Need for continuous learning

Trade fields constantly evolve, so continuing education and skills development are essential. While staying current can be challenging, it is necessary for career advancement and safety.

Career misconceptions

Societal misconceptions can often undervalue the skill and expertise required. Overcoming these misguided stereotypes can potentially present a challenge to those considering a trade career.

Competition and market saturation

Jobs may be highly competitive, especially in areas with a high concentration of skilled workers. Standing out in these markets may require additional certifications or specializations.

The highest-paying trade jobs

1. Elevator mechanic

Average salary for an elevator mechanic: $84,990

Growth projection: 1% over the next decade

Education: High school diploma or equivalent, followed by an apprenticeship

Experience: 4-year apprenticeship program; most states require licensure or certification

Elevator mechanics are experts in installing, maintaining, and repairing elevators, escalators, and moving walkways. It takes a unique blend of electrical, mechanical, and electronic skills to make sure these systems work.

Their work is critical in dense urban environments with residential and commercial high rises. Responsibilities include confirming that all safety codes and regulations are followed. Working in tight spaces or heights is often part of the role, as is being available for emergencies. 

2. Construction manager

Average salary for a construction manager: $84,370

Growth projection: 5% over the next decade

Education: Bachelor’s degree in construction management, construction science, architecture, or engineering preferred; substantial experience can substitute for formal education

Experience: Several years of construction experience; management experience is highly valued

Construction managers, also known as project managers or general contractors, plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from beginning to end. They are responsible for ensuring that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards.

Duties include scheduling, cost estimation, risk management, contract negotiation, and compliance with safety and building codes. Construction managers often oversee multiple projects simultaneously and must be adept at multitasking and decision-making.

3. Aircraft mechanic

Average salary for an aircraft mechanic: $65,520

Growth projection: 4% over the next decade

Education: High school diploma or equivalent; technical training from an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school

Experience: FAA certification required; experience with various types of aircraft and systems is beneficial

Aircraft mechanics specialize in aircraft maintenance, repair, and inspection, maintaining safety and performance standards. This trade directly impacts air travel safety and reliability.

They conduct routine maintenance checks, diagnose mechanical and electrical issues, repair or replace defective parts, and test aircraft systems to verify proper functioning. Mechanics must be familiar with various aircraft types, from commercial jets to private planes.

4. Plumber

Average salary for a plumber: $63,200

Growth projection: 2% over the next decade

Education: High school diploma or equivalent, followed by a vocational training program or apprenticeship

Experience: Apprenticeship typically lasts 4-5 years; licensure is required in most states

Plumbers install, maintain, and repair piping systems, fixtures, and appliances – the systems responsible for water supply, waste disposal, and heating.

They collaborate with builders and contractors on new constructions or renovations. Plumbers also specialize in maintenance and emergency repairs, from fixing leaky faucets to addressing major pipe bursts. 

5. Electrician

Average salary for an electrician: $60,950

Growth projection: 6% over the next decade

Education: High school diploma or equivalent, followed by vocational training or apprenticeship

Experience: Apprenticeship typically lasts 4-5 years; licensing requirements vary by state

Electricians are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories. They play a critical role in ensuring the safe and efficient functioning of society’s electrical systems.

Duties range from wiring new constructions and updating old wiring in existing buildings to troubleshooting and repairing electrical problems. Reading blueprints and technical diagrams is a requirement for this trade.

6. Industrial mechanic

Average salary for an industrial mechanic: $54,990

Growth projection: 13% over the next decade

Education: High school diploma or equivalent; technical training or apprenticeship program

Experience: On-the-job training; apprenticeships and certifications can enhance job prospects

Industrial mechanics, also known as millwrights or machinery maintenance workers, play an important role in manufacturing and industrial settings. They install, maintain, and repair industrial machinery and equipment.

The work involves working with complex machinery, like conveyor systems, production machinery, and packaging equipment. Industrial mechanics understand mechanics, hydraulics, pneumatics, and electrical systems. To maintain and repair equipment, they need to be able to read blueprints and technical manuals.

7. Wind turbine technicians

Average salary for a wind turbine technician: $54,660

Growth projection: 45% over the next decade

Education: Postsecondary nondegree award in wind turbine technology; technical school programs are common

Experience: On-the-job training is provided; prior mechanical, electrical, or construction experience can be advantageous

Wind turbine technicians, also known as wind techs, install, maintain, and repair wind turbines, a rapidly growing sector in sustainable energy production. Common responsibilities include inspecting and troubleshooting turbine components, such as electrical systems, hydraulics, and mechanical problems. 

The job is physically demanding, involving climbing high structures, working in confined spaces, and sometimes dealing with extreme weather conditions. A strong commitment to safety practices, dexterity, and attention to detail are essential for success.

8. Cable technician

Average salary for a cable technician: $54,450

Growth projection: 3% over the next decade

Education: High school diploma or equivalent, often followed by technical training or certification programs

Experience: On-the-job training or apprenticeships; certifications can be beneficial

Cable technicians are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing cable systems, including television, internet, and telephone services. Consumers and businesses rely on them to access vital communication and entertainment services.

The job often involves working in various settings, from residential homes to commercial buildings. In addition to running cables and troubleshooting signal issues, they must be able to configure equipment according to customer specifications and needs.

9. HVAC technician

Average salary for an HVAC technician: $52,640

Growth projection: 6% over the next decade

Education: High school diploma or equivalent, plus postsecondary education or apprenticeship

Experience: Apprenticeship programs typically last 3-5 years; certification is required for handling refrigerants

HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance, and repair of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems. These systems are required in homes, offices, and other buildings to maintain comfortable and healthy indoor environments.

Technicians must deeply understand HVAC systems, electrical circuits, and refrigeration systems. They are often called upon to troubleshoot problems, perform regular maintenance, and ensure systems run efficiently and safely.

10. Solar installer

Average salary for a solar installer: $50,890

Growth projection: 22% over the next decade

Education: High school diploma or equivalent, along with technical training or on-the-job experience

Experience: On-the-job training or apprenticeship; specialized certifications available

Solar installers, also known as solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, specialize in setting up and maintaining solar panels on rooftops or other structures. This trade is at the forefront of the renewable energy movement, playing a key role in the transition to sustainable energy sources.

They assemble, install, and maintain solar panels, ensuring they capture solar energy efficiently. Installers must be familiar with electrical systems, how to mount panels securely, and local codes and regulations related to solar installations. As solar technologies and installation techniques evolve, this trade provides continuous learning and growth opportunities.

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Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn