10 High-Paying Blue-Collar Jobs (With Salaries and Duties)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 7, 2022 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated June 7, 2022

Published February 4, 2020

Many high-paying jobs today require a college degree. However, with the right certifications and mechanical expertise, you can apply for blue-collar jobs that pay well. Blue collar is a stereotype that describes jobs that involve physical labor or a skilled trade.

In this article, we provide details about some high-paying jobs in blue-collar fields for your career consideration.

What are blue-collar jobs?

Blue collar is an informal employment classification for jobs involving physical labor or a skilled trade. Many of the trade jobs are represented by labor unions. Examples of industries with blue-collar jobs include:

  • Foodservice

  • Technical installation

  • Custodial work

  • Sanitation

  • Manufacturing

  • Construction

  • Shipping

  • Retail

  • Warehousing

Most blue-collar workers are paid hourly wages, though some get paid per project or receive an annual salary. Blue-collar jobs often don't require a college degree but they do require highly specialized skills and expertise in performing certain tasks.

Blue-collar positions frequently offer on-the-job training, apprenticeships or trade school instruction. Some higher-paid, more specialized blue-collar positions also require you to have specific certifications or technical skills.

Related: Blue Collar vs. White Collar Jobs: Here's the Difference

10 high-paying blue-collar jobs

Here's a look at 10 high-paying blue-collar jobs today:

1. Construction and building inspector

National average salary: $57,314 per year

Primary duties: Construction and building inspectors examine the structural quality and overall safety of buildings, streets and highways, water and sewer systems, bridges, dams and other structures. They also check plumbing systems and electrical systems, including heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR).

While no two inspections are alike, construction and building inspectors conduct a preliminary inspection during the first phase of the construction process. They will then conduct follow-up inspections throughout the construction project. When the project is complete, they do a final thorough inspection and provide oral or written feedback related to their findings.

Requirements: Construction and building inspectors need at least a high school diploma or its equivalent to be considered for employment. However, many employers prefer candidates with college-level experience in engineering, architecture, construction technology or building inspection. Many states also have certification requirements that inspectors must meet before they can practice their profession.

Aspiring construction and building inspectors may earn certifications through the International Code Council (ICC). To obtain these certifications, candidates are required to pass an examination that covers building codes, features and procedures. They will need to meet continuing education requirements to keep their credentials.

2. Structural iron and steel worker

National average salary: $58,431 per year

Primary duties: Structural iron and steel workers layout and fabricate steel and sheet metal used for constructing buildings, dams, bridges, towers, fences, storage tanks and highway guard rails. They are responsible for the completion of a structure's framework with steel or iron columns, beams and girders with riveting, welding and related construction methods.

Requirements: Most structural iron and steel workers hold a high school diploma or GED. While no college degree is required, candidates must complete an apprenticeship program. An apprenticeship program for structural iron and steel workers varies in length, but it can take up to four years to complete. Some employers don't require candidates to complete an apprenticeship, but they need to complete on-the-job training.

Related: What Is On-the-Job Training?

3. Locomotive engineer

National average salary: $58,438 per year

Primary duties: Also known as "train engineers," locomotive engineers operate diesel-electric and battery-powered trains that transport passengers and cargo. They operate controls—such as throttle and airbrakes—and monitor air pressure, speed and battery voltage. They also collaborate with other railroad workers, update train inspection logs, monitor locomotive equipment and make sure that the train remains on schedule.

Requirements: Individuals must hold a high school diploma or its equivalent to work in a railroad. They may start out in an entry-level position—such as brakeman or conductor—before they can qualify for a locomotive engineering position. In the U.S., most states require aspiring locomotive engineers to complete a certification training program approved by the Federal Railroad Administration before they can work as a locomotive engineer. They must also pass a hearing and vision test, a skill performance test and a knowledge test.

Related: Learn About Being an Electrical Engineer

4. Radio and telecommunications equipment installer

National average salary: $60,470 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Primary duties: Radio and telecommunications equipment installers are responsible for installing, adjusting and testing wiring, circuits, communication systems and stationary and mobile radio equipment. They are also responsible for identifying and repairing any problems that might occur in telecommunications systems and equipment.

Requirements: Radio and telecommunications equipment installers must have postsecondary education in the field of electronics or computer technology. They also need to complete on-the-job training, which may include shadowing experienced individuals and taking training sessions about new equipment and service procedures. Individuals who want to work as telecommunications equipment installers in the marine and aviation industries need to obtain a license from the Federal Communications Commission before they can start working. To obtain the license, candidates must pass an examination, which covers electronics fundamentals, maintenance practices and radio law.

5. Gas plant operator

National average salary: $77,805 per year, according to BLS

Primary duties: Gas plant operators oversee the storage, production and transport of different types of gas. They control and monitor compressors, pipelines and distribution tanks to keep gases at pressurization and temperature levels. Most gas plant operators work for oil and utility companies where they check gauges and maintain equipment as necessary.

Requirements: To start a career in plant operations, candidates must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Also, due to the dangerous nature of the job, employers usually require candidates to complete technical training programs and pass extensive licensing examinations. In the U.S., most states require new gas plant operators to pass licensing examinations that test their knowledge of various terminologies, legal and safety issues and basic procedures.

6. Electrical line installer and repairer

National average salary: $79,060 per year, according to the BLS

Primary duties: Also known as "electrical linemen," electrical power-line installers and repairers install, maintain, remove and repair high-voltage and low-voltage distribution lines and associated facilities and equipment. They are usually on 24-hour call to quickly respond to power outages and other emergencies. They must effectively perform many tasks to help deliver electrical power from generating stations into houses, factories, businesses and other facilities.

Requirements: Electrical power-line installers and repairers must hold a high school diploma or GED. They must complete an apprenticeship program, which usually takes around four to five years to complete. The apprenticeship program provides a comprehensive study of the mechanical, physical, safety and ethical requirements of the electrical industry. They must also obtain approximately 640 hours of classroom training.

7. Boilermaker

National average salary: $80,027 per year

Primary duties: Boilermakers are responsible for making and installing boilers and other large containers that store gases or liquids such as oil. They are also responsible for analyzing blueprints, casting pieces and forming them into shape, and welding pieces together. Boilermakers also test newly built boilers and perform regular maintenance. They also update boilers to increase efficiency and meet environmental standards. Boilermakers

Requirements: Aspiring boilermakers must have a high school diploma or GED. They must also complete an apprenticeship training program, such as the Boilermakers National Joint Apprenticeship Program (BNAP). This apprenticeship program takes about four years to complete and requires 576 hours in the classroom and 6,000 hours of work assignments. Candidates may take courses at a technical or vocational school before learning additional skills directly from their employers.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

8. Powerhouse, substation and relay repairer

National average salary: $87,640 per year, according to BLS

Primary duties: Powerhouse, substation and relay repairers are responsible for checking, testing, repairing or maintaining electrical systems and equipment used in generating stations, in-service relays and substations. They also create and maintain records detailing repair, maintenance and tests. They may also consult schematics, manuals and engineering personnel to troubleshoot and fix equipment issues.

Requirements: Most employers prefer candidates who have taken courses in electronics at a technical school or community college. Courses usually cover DC and AC electronics, microcontrollers and electronic devices. In addition to technical education, workers are usually required to undergo training on specific types of equipment.

9. Power plant operator, distributor and dispatcher

National average salary: $94,790 per year, according to BLS

Primary duties: Powerplant operators, distributors and dispatchers control and maintain the machinery that power stations use to generate electricity. They check charts, meters and gauges to monitor the flow and voltage of electricity. They also adjust controls to regulate power flow as well as start or stop turbines, generators and other equipment as necessary.

Requirements: Power plant operators, distributors and dispatchers usually need a high school diploma or GED. However, employers may prefer candidates who have a vocational school or college degree. Employers may also require candidates to undergo rigorous, long-term technical instruction and on-the-job training. Power plant operators, distributors and dispatchers must spend several years of on-site training and experience to become fully qualified. Even fully qualified dispatchers and operators must take regular training courses to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date.

10. Elevator installer and repairer

National average salary: $97,860 per year, according to BLS

Primary duties: The primary duties of the elevator installers and repairers typically include reading blueprints to determine what tools and equipment are needed for the job and to look for malfunctions in switches, motors, brakes and control systems. They may also install or repair elevator doors, cables, motors and control systems.

Requirements: Most elevator installers and repairers are required to complete a formal apprenticeship program, which is typically offered by industry associations such as the Association of Elevator Contractors, or elevator unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers or the International Union of Elevator Constructors. The apprentice program usually includes at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training, which allows apprentices to learn the basics of electronic and electrical theory, safety, blueprints, math and applied physics.


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