Top 12 Highest-Paying Trade Jobs in Demand for 2023
Updated August 2, 2023
A trade job can be a great option if you enjoy challenging, hands-on work. Jobs in this field usually require vocational schooling or training and often pay well for the specialized skill set they require. Whether you are in the process of applying to trade schools or researching trade jobs in your area, learning about the wide variety of high-paying trade careers available can help you choose a career that best suits your interests.
In this article, we explain what a trade job is, list 12 of the highest-paying trade jobs to consider and answer frequently asked questions about trade jobs.
What is a trade job?
A trade job is a career that doesn't typically require a four-year bachelor's degree but instead requires specialized training. Those who are seeking a trade job can get that training in various ways, depending on what the job is. Training options typically include:
Trade schools and apprenticeships typically take less time and money to complete. An associate degree could take up to two years, while trade schools typically take anywhere from eight weeks to two years.
Three professionals sit smiling under three stacks of dollar bills, each with a label that tells their job title. The three job titles are: Power plant operator, Diagnostic medical sonographer and Dental hygienist. At the top of the illustration, a banner reads, "Highest-Paying Trade Jobs."
Highest-paying trade jobs
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for all occupations in the U.S. is $58,260, and the average growth rate from 2021 to 2031 for all occupations is 5%. Here are 12 of the highest-paying trade jobs on the market listed from highest to lowest, with projected job growths of at least 4%. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit indeed.com/salaries.
National average salary
Job growth rate, 2021-31
$141,126 per year
$121,591 per year
$98,674 per year
$96,298 per year
$83,238 per year
$77,773 per year
$77,758 per year
$67,860 per year
$67,213 per year
Real estate appraiser
$64,246 per year
Licensed practice nurse
$59,794 per year
$58,128 per year
Primary duties: Ultrasonographers, also called "diagnostic medical sonographers," perform diagnostic image testing on the body. They use a special medical instrument called an "ultrasound transducer" that uses sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body.
Ultrasonographers may specialize in the imaging of the heart, blood vessels, muscles, joints or several of these. They can also specialize in women's reproductive health or pediatric care. Ultrasonographers process images from testing and work closely with doctors, who review the images for abnormalities.
An ultrasonographer's duties include:
Consulting with patients and answering questions about the procedure
Operating and maintaining imaging equipment
Analyzing images and creating a summary of initial findings for the doctor
Updating patients' medical records
Primary duties: Radiation therapists work as part of an oncology team to provide treatment to cancer patients. The radiation treatment that radiation therapists administer can help shrink tumors to help patients heal and recover. Radiation therapists undergo safety training to make sure they are not exposed to harmful levels of radiation.
As part of their duties, they:
Explain treatment to patients and help develop a treatment plan
Update patient records with detailed notes after each treatment session
Operate machines to administer concentrated levels of radiation to affected areas
Keep parts of the body that aren't being treated safe from radiation exposure
Primary duties: Respiratory therapists work with patients who have difficulty breathing. They assess and treat dysfunction of the lungs and provide patient care for all ages. They may also provide emergency care in cases of drowning, heart attack or shock.
A respiratory therapist's duties include:
Connecting patients who can't breathe on their own to ventilators and ensuring patients are receiving the proper amount and flow of oxygen
Assessing patients' respiratory needs by administering diagnostic tests, such as measuring patients' lung capacity or analyzing blood samples to determine oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Performing appropriate treatments and teaching breathing exercises to help patients breathe easier
Read more: Learn About Being a Respiratory Therapist
Primary duties: Dental hygienists clean teeth and provide patients with preventative dental care. They also help educate patients on good oral hygiene, including how to properly brush and floss to prevent dental problems, such as cavities.
A dental hygienist's duties include:
Cleaning and polishing patients' teeth
Taking X-rays as needed to diagnose dental issues
Updating patients' medical records
Read more: Learn About Being a Dental Hygienist
Primary duties: Construction managers work with architects and engineers on residential, commercial or federal construction projects. The main responsibility of the construction manager is to assess what building materials will be necessary to complete a project and then secure the needed materials.
Construction managers use analytical and problem-solving skills to evaluate blueprints and provide time and cost estimates for project completion. They need to have exemplary leadership skills to manage construction teams and excellent customer service skills to form strong relationships with clients.
They are also responsible for the following:
Hiring a team of construction workers
Overseeing the construction crew throughout the construction process
Getting the necessary building permits
Making sure that everything complies with building codes and regulations
Primary duties: Aircraft mechanics provide maintenance and repair services for flying vehicles like helicopters and airplanes. They ensure that all of the mechanical components of an aircraft meet operational and safety requirements. Aircraft mechanics usually work at airports, government organizations, military groups and engineering companies.
The typical responsibilities of an aircraft mechanic include the following:
Inspecting aircraft systems
Diagnosing operational issues
Cleaning mechanical parts
Updating maintenance records
Primary duties: Cable technicians, or cable installers, install and repair cable lines at homes, offices and other buildings. Because cable installers may need to respond to a widespread outage and troubleshoot issues, their schedule can include overtime and on-call hours.
Cable technicians often work outdoors in different weather conditions and must follow safety procedures to prevent injury.
A cable technician's responsibilities include:
Troubleshooting systems and informing customers of the problem
Performing preventive maintenance on equipment
Replacing equipment that's not working as it should
Primary duties: Industrial mechanics test and calibrate the industrial equipment such as production machinery, shredders, packaging machinery and conveying systems. An industrial mechanic can ensure that factories operate efficiently and safely by performing emergency repairs and reducing possible downtime. The typical work environment for industrial mechanics includes factories, construction sites or power plants.
An industrial mechanic's job duties can include:
Performing diagnostic tests on equipment
Repairing or replacing machinery
Reviewing technical manuals for information on specific machines
Cleaning or lubricating machinery
Primary duties: A solar installer is a professional who installs solar photovoltaic (PV) panels onto a structure's rooftop, which provides electricity from the sun. An installer assembles and maintains solar panels. They establish a plan for the installation on each owner's property based on the customer's preferences. Solar installers work in a variety of outdoor weather conditions.
Their typical job duties include:
Connecting solar panels to buildings' electrical wiring systems
Performing testing and activating solar panels
Applying weather sealant
Related: Guide To Becoming a Solar Installer
Primary duties: A real estate appraiser estimates the value of land and the buildings on that land. Real estate appraisers visit a site, analyze their characteristics and compare it to similar properties. They specialize in residential real estate or commercial real estate and often spend time in the field traveling to different properties.
A real estate appraiser's typical duties include:
Inspecting properties and taking notes of their unique characteristics
Taking pictures of the properties, inside and outside, to document their report
Writing and delivering reports on the property value
Primary duties: Licensed practical nurses work under the direction of doctors and registered nurses. They take detailed notes to update patients' charts and inform their supervising doctor and nurse of any changes.
LPNs can work in a variety of different settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and residential homes. LPNs may be required to work longer than eight-hour workdays and be physically fit to be able to provide patients with hands-on care.
An LPN's duties include:
Monitoring patients' vital signs
Bathing and dressing patients
Primary duties: Electricians install and maintain electrical systems in homes, businesses and factories. On the job, electricians practice critical thinking skills when diagnosing problems. They often work with people and need good customer service skills. The job is physical and requires them to be on their feet and move around a lot.
An electrician's duties include:
Troubleshooting problems with electrical systems
Repairing and replacing components of an electrical system
Complying with local regulations
Read more: Learn About Being an Electrician
Frequently asked questions
What trade is right for me?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to decide what trade job might be right for you:
Do you enjoy working with your hands?
Are you good at communication?
Do you like collaborating with others or completing projects solo?
Do you enjoy helping customers solve problems?
What type of work environment do you prefer?
Are you good with technology?
Do you want to operate heavy equipment?
Do you prefer the arts, sciences or humanities?
Are you interested in working in a factory setting?
Are you interested in health care?
Take a moment to think about what kinds of things are interesting to you. Then, do some research to find a trade that aligns with these interests and talents.
Do I need to go to college to get a trade job?
You don't need to get a bachelor's degree to begin your trade career. Instead, most trade workers typically attend a technical or trade school to become qualified for a trade job. Many trade careers combine classroom learning with on-the-job training, so earning a college degree isn't necessary.
The term "trade school" can be a broad term for institutions that provide training known as career and technical education (CTE). Types of trade schools include:
Vocational high school career programs
Career training centers
Military vocational programs
How do I find an apprenticeship?
While many trade jobs require you to attend a trade or technical school, some require you to complete an apprenticeship through an employer. An apprenticeship program is a type of paid vocational training program that teaches industry skills for a specific position. Most apprentices are full-time, paid employees. Many apprentices complete these programs to learn skilled trades, such as carpentry, welding or plumbing.
Here’s a list of steps you can take to find an apprenticeship program that’s right for you:
Consider your desired position and industry
Search for programs
Prepare your resume
Apply and complete an interview
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