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Highest Paying Trade Jobs (Over $80K Annually)

Curious what trades pay the most? This list includes some of the highest paying skilled trades that you can get into with just a small amount of training and education.

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated January 16th, 2024

The highest paying trade jobs offer salaries that exceed $80,000 annually. A skilled tradesperson can bring in over 6-figures annually in some jobs with experience and education. While you may start out at lower wages than what is listed here, the path to salaries of $80K or more is yours if you want it.

All data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the year of 2022. The BLS does an annual survey of households and businesses to get the data, so it is based on real salary and feedback from real people.

Below is a summary table of the highest paying trades with their median annual salaries.

CareerMedian SalaryEducation RequiredOutlook
Air Traffic Controller$132,250Associate’s Degree or Relevant Experience1% growth through 2032
Construction Manager$101,480Vocational or Associate’s Degree5% growth through 2032
Nuclear Technician$100,420Vocational or Associate’s Degree1% decline through 2032
Elevator Repairer$99,000Vocational1% growth through 2032
Power Plant Operator$97,570Vocational or On-the-Job Training10% decline through 2032
Radiation Therapist$89,350Vocational14% growth through 2032
Subway or Streetcar Operator$88,260On-the-Job Training4% growth through 2032
Nuclear Medicine Technologist$85,300Vocational or Associate’s Degree0% change through 2032
Electrical Power Line Installer$82,340Vocational or Apprenticeship3% growth through 2032
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer$81,350Vocational14% growth through 2032

All of the careers below require 2-years or less of education. Some jobs may require an Associate’s degree – but most offer opportunities with some vocational training and an apprenticeship.

Air Traffic Controller

Median Annual Pay
$132,250

Recommended Education
Associate’s Degree or Relevant Experience

Career Outlook
1% growth through 2032

An air traffic controller helps guide airplanes so they keep a safe distance from each other and control centers. Ensuring the skies stay safe is their primary duty. Air traffic controllers use big screens and radios to talk to pilots and tell them when to take off, land, and which path to fly in the sky.

To become one, you will need to finish high school. You can then go to a special school called an ‘ATC college’ or earn an Associate’s degree. Sometimes you can land a job with no college if you have solid work experience. Once you land a job you will most likely go to the FAA academy to be fully trained before working on your own.

Construction Manager

Median Annual Pay
$101,480

Recommended Education
Vocational Training or Associate’s Degree

Career Outlook
5% growth through 2032

Construction managers are the people in charge of a construction project. From planning to finishing, they will be the go to person for all things related to the project getting complete on-time and on-budget.

Some of their daily work will include:

  • Prepare estimates for costs and labor
  • Work with other team members like construction workers, architects, and county personnel
  • Deal with emergencies that will impact costs and timelines
  • Ensure all local laws and compliance measures are being met
  • Communicate with client on project status and relay details on any project delays or cost increases
  • Hire and manage the construction team

A high-school diploma will be required. Some construction managers do have a Bachelor’s degree, but many only have vocational training or an Associate’s degree. Work experience and ability to manage people and projects will be more important than formal education for many employers.

Nuclear Technician

Median Annual Pay
$100,420

Recommended Education
Vocational Training or Associate’s Degree

Career Outlook
1% decline through 2032

A nuclear technician will typically work in a nuclear power plant. They are responsible for the performance of equipment and monitoring radiation levels.

Daily duties might include:

  • Test equipment to make sure it is working properly
  • Monitor radiation levels and types that are being produced in a facility – including soil, water, and air tests
  • Notify employees if there are hazardous conditions

A high-school diploma will be required. An Associate’s degree or vocational training is recommended. New hires are usually placed with a more experienced technician for on-the-job training.

Elevator Repairer

Median Annual Pay
$99,000

Recommended Education
Vocational Training

Career Outlook
1% growth through 2032

Elevator and escalator workers repair, install, and do maintenance work on various moving platforms. They may work on an escalator, moving walkway, or lifts.

Some frequent tasks include:

  • Maintain service records for repairs and maintenance work completed
  • Troubleshooting on non-functioning systems
  • Ensure escalators and elevators are fully working
  • Replace parts as needed
  • Analyze blueprints to know what parts or equipment are needed to do installations and repairs
  • Work with electrical components for motors and control panels

A high-school diploma will be required. An apprenticeship is the most common path to this career. Many states do require elevator and escalator installers be licensed. Certifications from an accredited school or organization can help with job opportunities.

Power Plant Operator

Median Annual Pay
$97,570

Recommended Education
Vocational or On-the-Job Training

Career Outlook
10% decline through 2032

Power Plant Operators control the equipment that is needed to distribute electrical power to our communities. This job title is an umbrella for careers like nuclear power reactor operator, power distributor, or power dispatcher.

These professionals do a variety of work that might include:

  • Checking equipment for problems
  • Regulate how power flows through systems
  • Analyze data from gauges and meters to monitor voltage and flow
  • Apply fixes to abnormalities in systems

A high-school diploma will be required. No college is needed, but some employers may prefer candidates with vocational training. On-the-job training may be available for qualified, hard-working applicants.

Radiation Therapist

Median Annual Pay
$89,350

Recommended Education
Vocational Training

Career Outlook
14% growth through 2032

Radiation therapists work with patients that require radiation. They are responsible for ensuring patients are comfortable, safe, and that the proper amounts of radiation are being used. They may work with a team of specialists like a oncology nurses, doctors, or medical dosimetrists.

Duties include:

  • Keep patients calm and prepare them for the treatment
  • Keep records of therapy provided in patient chart
  • Monitor patients while treatment is being given
  • Apply proper cautions to keep other body parts from being exposed to radiation
  • Operate the radiation machine and make sure the calibration and dosage are aligned with the doctor requirements

A high-school diploma will be required. An Associate’s degree or vocational training in radiation therapy will be needed. Most states do require licensing or certification from an accredited program.

Subway or Streetcar Operator

Median Annual Pay
$88,260

Recommended Education
On-the-Job Training

Career Outlook
4% growth through 2032

Transporting passengers around town is the what a streetcar or subway operator does each day. These jobs may not be available in all states since not all have subways or streetcars.

Duties include:

  • Make sure passengers get to their destination safely
  • Operate controls to allow passengers on and off
  • Maintain legal speeds

A high-school diploma will be required. Most operators will undergo on-the job-training with an experienced operator before going out on their own.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Median Annual Pay
$85,300

Recommended Education
Vocational Training or Associate’s Degree

Career Outlook
0% change through 2032

Nuclear medicine technologists work with patients and administer radioactive drugs. In some cases they may also go on-location on a nuclear disaster to treat patients.

Duties include:

  • Tell patient about the treatment and set expectations
  • Properly dispose of radiation equipment
  • Monitor and test equipment
  • Prepare radioactive drugs as required by doctor
  • Administer drugs and monitor patients

A high-school diploma will be required. An Associate’s degree or vocational training will be needed. Certification is highly recommended from an accredited organization.

Electrical Power Line Installers

Median Annual Pay
$82,340

Recommended Education
Vocational Training or Apprenticeship

Career Outlook
3% growth through 2032

Electrical power-line workers install and repair power lines that are used to deliver electrical power. It is a dangerous job that requires heights and working with high-voltage electricity.

Duties include:

  • Repair, inspect, test, and install power lines
  • Climb utility poles or use buckets to reach higher equipment
  • Find non-working devices and do repairs as needed
  • Install electrical cable to poles and buildings

A high-school diploma will be required. Vocational training is recommended, but many get into the career with an apprenticeship.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Median Annual Pay
$81,350

Recommended Education
Vocational Training

Career Outlook
14% growth through 2032

Diagnostic medical sonographers work with imaging systems to create sonograms and ultrasounds. These images help medical professionals see inside the body to help assess medical issues. As a medical sonographer you may specialize in a certain area like obstetrics, vascular, breasts, or abdominal to name a few.

Some frequent duties include:

  • Assist patients with test prepping process and ease any concerns they have
  • Keep records of findings and update patient records
  • Get exam room ready
  • Maintain and test imaging quipment
  • Analyze test results and submit a summary of findings to the doctor

A high-school diploma will be required. An Associate’s degree or vocational training will be needed. Certification is highly recommended from an accredited organization.

There you have it. The best paying skilled trade careers you should consider getting into. Once you are ready, start checking out trade schools to see if you can find one to attend. Or, reach out to employers you might be interested in working with and see how you can land a job with them.


Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.