15 Highest Paying Blue-Collar Jobs in 2022

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Many are surprised to learn that in today’s industry white collar jobs aren’t the only way to earn a high paycheck and that advanced academic skills aren’t necessary to become successful. However, these blue collar jobs do require expertise in performing a certain task or a set of highly specialized skills.

In this article, we’ll explain all about blue collar jobs and discuss the requirements, salaries, and responsibilities that come with working some of the highest paying blue collar jobs.

What Are Blue-Collar Jobs?

Blue collar jobs are those that require physical labor—this can include manual labor such as construction work, factory work, or farming, but also service jobs such as in the automotive or hospitality industries.

The term blue-color can be traced back to the 1900s, when those who worked jobs that required physical strength wore uniforms made of dark blue material, as it was more dirt-resistant.

Blue collar jobs employees represent the nation’s working class and usually receive an hourly wage, but in many industries, workers get paid on a project-by-project or annual basis. There are many blue collar jobs that pay well without a degree—to be eligible for these positions, all that’s required is a high school diploma or a GED (General Education Development) certificate.

However, if you want to secure higher pay as a labor worker, you’ll need professional certification to move up the ranks. To qualify for a blue collar job that comes with higher pay, candidates usually need to complete an apprenticeship, which they can do while working and receiving regular payment.

15 Highest Paying Blue-Collar Jobs

Although there are many blue collar jobs with low pay, there are also those where workers can earn up to six figures by acquiring the proper certification and hands-on experience. These high paying labor jobs make a great choice for individuals who aren’t keen on academic learning but are looking to become highly skilled and successful at their profession of choice.

If you’re not ambitious and professional success isn’t among your long-term goals, you can check out our list of jobs for those who hate working or consider some high-paying part-time jobs.

However, if you’re interested in lucrative blue collar jobs, read on to find a high paying physical labor job that suits you best.

1. Electrical Power-Line Installer

An electrical power-line installer is responsible for installing and repairing electrical power lines and communication systems. This position isn’t recommended for those not comfortable with heights and careless, as working with electrical wiring requires great attention due to the high risks associated with electricity.

This position is often listed as one of the top 10 blue collar jobs, as the average electrical power line installer in the US makes an annual salary of around $62,542. Their duties typically include being on call in case of a power outage as well as working weekends and night shifts. To become an electrical power-line installer, you need to complete a 3-year apprenticeship and a good amount of experience.

2. Construction and Building Inspector

A construction and building inspector is responsible for inspecting buildings to ensure they’re safe and meet code requirements. The duties of these blue-collar employees include overseeing and inspecting work done by contractors and preparing reports, with their biggest duty being approving building plans before construction begins.

Being one of the top paying blue collar jobs, the average salary for a construction inspector is around $66,470, with the highest salaries reaching $101,170. To secure a position as a building inspector, you need a high school diploma or GED and experience in construction trades such as plumbing or carpentry, and some states also require certification. A degree in mathematics or architecture can also be very beneficial.

3. Electrician

Electricians are responsible for maintaining and repairing electrical systems. They need to possess knowledge regarding the safety of installing electrical components and their maintenance. Individuals working in this line of blue collar jobs have opportunities for work progression—with time and experience, they can become supervisors or even start their own businesses.

By working one of the highest paying manual labor jobs, electricians earn an average median salary of $53,000, while the highest median salaries for this profession are around $75,000. Additionally, all electricians must be suitably qualified and licensed—to become one, you need a high school diploma and a technical school background, which will help you complete the 4 years of apprenticeship this profession requires.

4. Plumber

A plumber is responsible for installing and maintaining pipes and fittings. Their job includes performing regular plumbing repairs, choosing materials, and making plans for pipeline systems. The standard qualifications for this line of profession include a high school diploma and a 4-year apprenticeship, but if you want to secure a higher blue collar salary, you’ll need technical school training and a license as well.

A job in plumbing is a good choice if you’re looking for blue collar jobs that pay well, as plumbers’ median salary ranges between $52,047 and $68,462. Another great thing about this occupation is that plumbing and other related professions like pipefitting and steamfitting are currently in demand, and are considered jobs that will be in high demand in the future.

5. Boilermaker

A boilermaker is responsible for fabricating, assembling, and installing boilers, tanks, and other pressure vessels. Their duties also include damage-testing existing systems and doing repairs when necessary, and updating boilers to meet environmental standards. Candidates for this profession can start their education in technical or vocational schools before moving on to on-job training.

To become a boilermaker, you need a high school diploma or GED, after which you‘ll need to complete an apprenticeship program. This profession finds its place on this list of highest paying blue collar jobs due to the fact that the annual entry-level salaries are as high as $53,000, while senior boilermakers earn around $81,150.

6. Police Officer

Although the specific job roles may vary from one police officer to another, their main duty is protecting and serving the community. Some of the typical on-job tasks of a police officer are attending traffic incidents, responding to calls, arresting suspects, attending court hearings, and writing reports. Police officers have plenty of career-advancement opportunities such as becoming detectives and FBI agents.

To become a police officer, you first need to pass a background check and physical and mental examinations. To apply for the job, police officers only need to be 21 years of age and have a high school diploma and driver’s license. Working in one of the blue collar jobs that pay over $100 000, police officers in California earn the highest median salaries of around $105,220, while the annual average in the US is $67,600.

7. Firefighter

Pursuing a career as a firefighter can be challenging, as this profession requires you to be on the front lines in case of a fire emergency. Apart from it being a dangerous career, it also includes being on call for long hours, even days and nights in some cases. Some of the on-duty responsibilities include driving a firetruck, participating in search and rescue, and putting out fires.

To be eligible for one of the highest paying blue collar worker jobs, firefighter candidates need to be 18 years of age and have a high school diploma and driver’s license. They also need to complete physical and drug tests and pass the fire academy training before joining the force. The average annual salary of US firefighters is around $51,000.

8. Power Plant Operator

A power plant operator is responsible for regulating and maintaining power generation industrial equipment. Their main duties revolve around monitoring the flow and voltage of electricity, although in some plants the equipment can be fueled by natural gas, coal, or a nuclear power reactor.

For working one of the top paying blue collar jobs, power plant operators have to undergo frequent rigorous training. Employers make sure candidates get plenty of experience by providing them with several years of on-site training. Being a power plant operator means you’ll constantly be updating your skills, as even experienced workers take regular training courses. Depending on the level of seniority, power plant operators make between $48,090 and $111,470.

9. Oil Worker

Although some employers prefer workers with a degree in petroleum engineering or geology, many oil workers land their job with just a high school diploma or GED. Working one of the most dangerous highest paying manual labor jobs, oil workers are exposed to all types of different weather conditions and work from 10 to 12 hours a day. Since oil extraction is performed on remote and offshore locations, workers are often required to be away from home for longer periods of time.

The entry-level annual salaries of oil workers vary around $50,000, but if you show commitment to the job, you can earn a higher wage. Workers with specialized skills such as underground pipefitters and drilling experts can even reach salaries as high as $200,000.

10. OTR (Over the Road) Truck Driver

An OTR truck driver is responsible for driving a tractor-trailer and transporting various goods, equipment or chemicals over long distances. This is a good choice for individuals looking for blue collar jobs that pay well without a degree, but it does come with its downsides.

Similarly to the oil worker job, this profession requires you to spend a lot of time away from home. The average annual base salary is around $80,000, and although it comes with minimal educational requirements, drivers need to possess a Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and a clean driving record. OTR drivers also need to have strong organizational skills for properly tracking mileage covered and hours traveled.

11. Elevator Installer and Repairer

Elevator mechanics are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing elevators. The typical duties that come with this job include inspecting control systems, motors, and brakes for malfunctions and reading blueprints to determine the type of equipment needed for the job.

This is yet another example of high paying labor jobs that don’t require secondary education—most elevator repairers are required to complete an apprenticeship program that usually includes a minimum of 2,000 hours of training, which allows candidates to both learn theory and get hands-on experience. Individuals who land blue collar jobs in this line of work receive an annual salary between $62,000 and $92,000.

12. Pile Driver Operator

Apart from being responsible for operating a machine that drives piles into the ground, pile driver operators are also in charge of maintaining equipment and keeping track of records, and sometimes even supervising other workers. Working one of the highest paying blue collar jobs in America comes with its challenges, which for pile driver operators are the varying weather conditions, meaning being exposed to both extreme heat and cold weather.

While formal education isn’t a prerequirement for becoming a pile driver, you’ll need to obtain the skills needed for operating heavy equipment by attending an apprenticeship program. The median annual salaries of pile drivers are somewhere around $76,000.

13. Farmers and Ranchers

Being a farmer or rancher is a full-time job, and many work over 40 hours per week. Although it’s seasonal, this job still finds its place on our list of highest paying blue collar jobs, and with good reason. During harvest, work on crop farms can take place from sunrise to sunset, whereas during the rest of the season farmers focus on marketing output, maintaining machinery, and planning for the next season.

Most ranchers and farmers have at least a high school diploma, but farming often requires extensive knowledge, which is why a degree in agriculture can be very beneficial. Your efforts can be well worth it when you take into account that the most successful farmers earn an annual average salary of around $126,000.

14. Detective and Criminal Investigator

The typical detective duties include analyzing crime scenes, gathering evidence and information, and carrying out investigations. Although being a detective is often portrayed as a job for those who prefer working alone, detectives spend most of their time working alongside police officers in an effort to solve crimes. If we consider the best-paid detectives, we can say this job belongs to the group of blue collar jobs that pay over $100 000, but we must note that you need years of experience and a successful track record to earn a six-figure salary as a detective.

The median annual salary is around $83,000, and an associate degree isn’t always required. To secure a job as a criminal investigator, you can start by joining the police academy and first becoming a police officer before moving up the ranks.

15. Nuclear Power Reactor Operators

Nuclear power operators are in charge of regulating energy flow by controlling cooling systems and implementing safety procedures. They also keep track of data that aids their decision-making, and are skilled in using equipment to detect problems and find solutions. Just like a nuclear power controller, you can also be in control of the smart devices in your home by implementing one of the most popular smart home systems in 2022.

This is one of the highest paying blue collar worker jobs that includes great responsibility. The average annual salary of nuclear power operators is $162,971, which is what makes it one of the most desirable blue collar jobs. The most successful nuclear power operators earn salaries as high as $796,000, meaning this job offers plenty of space for advancement.

Conclusion

When choosing a career, it’s always best to pick one that suits your strengths. Although some of the jobs we mentioned above do rely on academic success, each job requires a unique skill set. Although the time necessary for getting the needed technical knowledge and experience will vary from one job to another, the good news is you can usually do so while working and earning a living. If you’re currently on the lookout for a new job, consider visiting one of the best job posting sites where you’re sure to find at least some of the blue collar jobs we mentioned.

FAQ

What blue collar job pays the most?

Blue collar jobs that offer the highest salaries include nuclear power operators and power operators in general. OTR truck drivers and detectives are also among the blue collar workers earning the highest wages in the US.

What are some advantages of working a blue collar career?

One of the biggest advantages of working a blue collar job is that there are no student loans, as most blue collar careers don’t require secondary education. Another thing that many consider a big advantage of most blue collar jobs is that they entail less stress.

What is the hardest blue collar job?

Determining which one is the hardest from the highest paying blue collar jobs is difficult, as this varies from one person to another, and is directly linked to a person’s ambitions and individual skillset. For example, some might find working in construction very difficult, while others might feel built specifically for that type of work.

Sources

ABOUT AUTHOR

I'm a bit of a nomad – I've graduated marketing from one university, but have worked in many different fields. Through NGOs, I've coached career changers and professionals, and enjoy giving advice about training options, employment prospects and how to make the most of your career. I know what it's like to be lost and not sure where to go – that's why I love helping people find their path. When I'm not writing (which is rare), you can usually find me reading books or watching true crime documentaries (I know, thrilling stuff).

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