High Paying Hands-On Jobs

Individuals interested in high-paying, hands-on careers may want to consider professions that involve architecture, engineering, management, transportation or healthcare. This article explores some career options in these fields with median annual salaries ranging from $76,000 to $116,000.

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Career Options for High-Paying, Hands-On Jobs

Hands-on jobs include those that involve working directly with your hands. While trades are commonly associated with hands-on work, not all of these positions are considered to have high pay; for instance the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that electricians earned a median annual salary under $53,000 in 2016 and carpenters had a median income of less than $44,000 in the same year. Below are some options for high-paying, hands-on careers:

Job Title Median Salary* (2016) Employment Growth* (2014-2024)
Computer Hardware Engineer $115,080 3%
Architect $76,930 7%
Mechanical Engineer $84,190 5%
Construction Manager $89,300 5%
Physical Therapist $85,400 34%
Veterinarian $88,770 9%
Airline/Commercial Pilot $105,720 5%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information for High-Paying Hands-On Jobs

Computer Hardware Engineers

Prospective computer hardware engineers can pursue this high-paying career with a bachelor's degree in computer engineering or a similar discipline. Computer hardware engineers develop physical computers and accessories. They often work for manufacturing companies and are directly involved in overseeing the production of the hardware they design. They also perform tests to make sure it works properly. Since they are directly involved in designing and testing materials, they regularly work with their hands as part of their career. These professionals earned a median annual income of over $115,000 in 2016.


Architects are design professionals who develop plans for structures. Once they've determined a client's needs and preferences they begin to draft plans, and, once a client has approved the proposed budget and design plan, architects finalize the blueprints, contract the construction teams needed for the project, and visit the construction site to review the work and ensure it follows the design plan. Architects must complete an internship and pass an exam after earning their architecture degree; their median annual salary was over $76,000 as of 2016.

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers can begin their career after earning a bachelor's degree and securing a professional engineering license. Mechanical engineers have a career that features a lot of hands-on work opportunities, and they had a 2014 median annual salary of just over $84,000. Mechanical engineers are involved in designing and constructing mechanical items. Their work involves creating prototypes, evaluating them, modifying their design plans as needed and overseeing the production of the product or system.

Construction Managers

Construction managers perform a range of tasks, including overseeing construction staff and the progress of construction projects. They work with budgets and report to the clients about the project status, but their work also involves spending a lot of time on construction sites reviewing plans, coordinating with other professionals involved in the project, ensuring the blueprints and building codes are being followed, and addressing any issues affecting the project's progress. Along with construction work experience, managers typically need a bachelor's degree. These workers earned a median salary just over $89,000 per year per 2016 BLS data.

Physical Therapists

A doctoral degree and license are required to work as a physical therapist. Physical therapists had a median annual salary of over $85,000 in 2016, which makes this a high-paying career option for those who prefer hands-on work. Physical therapists examine patients and develop plans for their patients that are designed to help them increase mobility. They may teach and assist patients with exercises and perform regular follow-up exams to determine if the patient is progressing as expected.


Veterinarians work with animals. They conduct check-ups, give vaccinations, and treat injuries and illnesses. They also operate on animals when necessary and advise pet owners about how to care for their pet. This job involves a lot of hands-on work with animals, and veterinarians need to have a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine and be licensed. Their median annual salary in 2016 exceeded $88,000.

Airline and Commercial Pilots

Commercial pilots can find work with only a high school diploma, while airline pilots are usually required to have a bachelor's degree; though all pilots need a pilot's license. Airline and commercial pilots perform a lot of hands-on tasks, such as inspecting the plane or helicopter before a flight and making sure that all systems are operating properly. During the flight they operate the controls, check all the systems to make sure everything continues to work properly, and communicate with air traffic control. The median annual salary for pilots was over $100,000 in 2016, which makes this a high-paying hands-on career option.

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