Best Paying Skilled Labor Jobs

Jan 19, 2020

There are a number of skilled labor jobs that offer competitive salaries. For individuals that already have an interest in a specific trade or know they want to work in a labor-intensive field, they may want to consider a skilled labor job.

Career Options for Best Paying Skilled Labor Jobs

Individuals who enjoy working with their hands or want to enter the workforce directly after high school may be interested in a skilled labor job. While there may be a stigma attached to these jobs that they are low paying or require little skill, many of these jobs do require extensive training and intelligence and do come with attractive salaries. We will explore five of these careers below.

Job Title Average Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Railroad Workers $61,480 -2%
Boilermakers $62,150 6%
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters $53,910 14%
Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers $83,020 -6%
Line Installers and Repairers $65,880 4%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Best Paying Skilled Labor Jobs

Railroad Workers

There are various types of railroad workers. Locomotive engineers are responsible for driving both freight and passenger trainers, monitoring the speed and air pressure of the train, knowing how to operate the train, and communicating with dispatchers. Conductors also drive freight and passenger trains and check passenger tickers, make announcements, and help load and unload cargo. Railroad brake, signal, and switch operators are responsible for operating equipment that make sure the trains run safely and smoothly. A high school diploma is necessary for any of these positions, along with several months of on-the-job training. The median salary for all these workers in 2018 was $61,480, though the top ten percent in this field made $95,140.


Boilermakers are in charge of making sure boilers, vats, and various other vessels that hold liquids and gases are properly assembled, installed, and repaired. They must be able to operate equipment to perform these tasks, like automatic welders. To become a boilermaker, you must complete an apprenticeship program and may need some experience in welding. These workers made a median salary of $62,150 in 2018, but some boilermakers made more than $89,940.

Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

As a plumber, pipefitter, or steamfitter, you will be responsible for installing pipes that carry liquids in plumbing systems for homes and businesses. You also need to know how to repair parts of the plumbing system, which may include replacing or repairing old sections of piping. Pipefitters perform these same duties, but typically the pipes they install carry chemicals and acids. Steamfitters specifically install pipe systems that transport high pressured steam. These professionals learn the trade through an apprenticeship program. The median salary for these professionals was $53,910 in 2018, while the top ten percent made $93,700.

Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

As a power plant operator, distributor, or dispatcher, you will be responsible for operating and controlling large systems that create and distribute electricity. You must be able to correctly read different types of charts and meters to gauge how much electricity is flowing, and check equipment to ensure it is functioning properly. A high school diploma is necessary to be trained for this position, in addition to a great deal of necessary on-the-job training. You may also need to take an exam or get a license, depending on the type of plant you work in. The median salary for these professionals in 2018 was $83,020, while the top ten percent made $113,250.

Line Installers and Repairers

Line installers and repairers are responsible for installing and repairing different types of lines and cables on both electrical systems and telecommunications systems. For those that work on electrical systems, their duties could include climbing poles to install or repair new power lines, inspecting existing lines, and following safety procedures. For telecommunication line systems, you may be in charge of laying underground cables, as well as aerial cables. These professionals typically need a high school diploma to find a job, and on-the-job training is necessary to learn the tricks of the trade. The median salary for all line installers and repairers in 2018 was $65,880. The top ten percent of workers in the electrical power-line field made more than $101,560, while the top ten percent in telecommunications made $92,440.

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