A trade can refer to almost any job, but you might want to narrow the definition to find the highest-paying ones. Trades workers make, install or fix things, such as cars, appliances or room additions, or operate machines useful to production. They don’t need bachelor’s degrees, although some benefit from associate degrees, apprenticeships or technical training. For comparison, high-paying jobs are those making more than the average U.S. pay of $45,790 per year. This figure is of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Power-plant operators held three of the top six highest-paid trade positions in 2011. They handle the machines for producing energy from oil, coal and nuclear materials. Their job titles and average annual wages included nuclear power reactor operators at $76,020; power distributors and dispatchers at $73,710; and power-plant operators at $65,080. Entry-level positions typically require only a high-school diploma, with some jobs also mandating a background check and screenings for drug and alcohol. If you enter this field as a new employee, however, you would receive long-term training on the job, which may include training in a technical school. Nuclear power operators also need a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which demands training, experience, and passing medical and licensing exams.
Elevator installers and repairers handle escalators, elevators and other devices that transfer people and goods between building floors. They ranked second for highest-paid trade careers, averaging $74,140 per year. Most installers learn their skills through a paid four-year apprenticeship. Each year of the program must have at least 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of practical experience. Apprentices must be at least 18, have a high school diploma, pass basic math and mechanical aptitude tests, and must be physically able to do the work.
Powerhouse Electrical Repairers
Ranking fourth for trade career pay were electrical repairers who maintain and repair powerhouse substations and relays. They made $67,380 yearly. A high-school diploma is the minimum requirement for some jobs, although many employers prefer training from a technical school or community college. New employees learn their skills by working with more experienced professionals. You can get certification in different electronic specialties from national organizations such as Electronics Technicians Association International.
Rounding out the top highest-paid trade careers were the supervisors of construction and extraction workers, averaging an annual $63,230. In this job, you would manage staff, materials, budgets and schedules so construction projects finish on time. You probably would enter the profession after spending several years as a construction worker, practicing such skills as carpentry or masonry. Courses in construction management are available from vocational schools and community colleges. Although the primary responsibility of supervisors is management, they can fill in with hands-on tasks when subordinates are absent or cannot perform their jobs correctly.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: U.S. Wages
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Power Plant Operator, Distributor or Dispatcher
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become an Elevator Installer and Repairer
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become an Electrical or Electronics Installer and Repairer
- ONET Online: Summary Report for First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers
- Dick Luria/Photodisc/Getty Images