Career Planning

Trades with the Highest Salaries

Gen Z is increasingly flocking to trade jobs, which have great salaries and require less up-front investment.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

June 26, 2024

Trades with the Highest Salaries
Trade jobs are popular with Gen Z. Explore some of the highest-paying trade jobs.
Gen Z is increasingly seeking out trade jobs over the college degree, accounting for a 16% uptick in trade and vocational school enrollment over the past few years. As high school students continue to pursue this avenue after high school graduation, it’s imperative to research salaries. Choosing a trade degree or certification over a college degree will ultimately take less time to complete and cost less. For that reason, trade and vocational employees can achieve life milestones faster, like buying a car or home. A great salary will only bolster their opportunities.

Top-Paying Trade Jobs

Like all jobs, there are those in the trade fields that make more than others. While passion and skill set play a huge role in what someone does for a living, salary numbers also impact the decision-making process.
If you’re interested in a trade or vocation career, check out the trade jobs with the highest salary, according to Forbes.


A boilermaker builds, installs, and maintains boilers, closed vats, and tanks. They may work on ships, in factories, or in large buildings.
High school graduates may need to complete an apprenticeship to become boilermakers. Fortunately, apprenticeships are paid education opportunities, meaning you could get paid the entire time you’re learning the ropes. The mean annual wage for boilermakers is $73,840, with some making over $102,000, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This field is expected to grow by 1% by 2029.


Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical wiring, equipment, and fixtures. They may work with a large corporation, a smaller firm, or even own their own business.
Like boilermakers, electricians learn on the job through apprenticeships. These are also paid learning experiences, meaning an aspiring electrician earns money right away. Finally, the annual mean wage for electricians is $67,810, states the BLS. Some electricians make over $104,000 per year. Over the course of the next 10 years, this field is supposed to grow by 6%, which is faster than the average career. Skilled electricians will be in demand!

Elevator and Escalator Mechanics

Elevator and escalator mechanics work to install, maintain, and repair elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other lifts. This role may require employees to work in tight, cramped spaces or at great heights. Sometimes, mechanics are on call 24 hours a day. Like most trades, elevator and escalator mechanics learn their trade through an apprenticeship. In addition to completing an apprenticeship, these mechanics may need a license, which is common for trade jobs. These mechanics make great salaries, with the mean being around $100,060, according to the BLS. Some elevator and escalator mechanics make as much as $138,910 per year. Unlike electricians, the demand for these types of mechanics is expected to remain flat over the next 10 years.

Industrial Machinery Mechanics

Industrial machinery mechanics have a big job to do: they install, maintain, and repair factory machinery and equipment. This job may require an associate’s degree as well as one year of on-the-job training. Courses for industrial machinery mechanics might include welding, mathematics, hydraulics, and pneumatics. The BLS reports that the median annual wage for industrial machinery mechanics is $63,690, and they can make as much as $85,970. This role is expected to increase by 13% over the next 10 years, making it a fast-growing career option.


Millwrights are very closely related to industrial machinery mechanics. They install, move, and dismantle machinery and heavy equipment according to blueprints, layouts, or other plans. These jobs may be found in manufacturing, construction, and mining industries. Some millwright jobs may require a certification or associate’s degree. However, many employers offer three to five years of on-the-job training. The mean annual wage for millwrights, as reported by the BLS, is $64,310. Some millwrights may make $82,700. This role falls under the industrial mechanics field, which is again expected to grow by 13% over the next decade.

Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Finally, plumbers finish off this list of highest-paid trades. These tradespeople install, alter, and repair pipelines and pipe systems. They may also install heating and cooling equipment as well as mechanical control systems, like sprinklers. Some aspiring plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters attend a vocational school for training. Others learn through an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Many states require plumbers to be licensed. The median annual wage for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is $67,840, with some in the field making as much as $103,140, states the BLS. This field is expected to grow 2% over the next 10 years, like most careers.

Choosing Top-Paying Trade Jobs

If you’re interested in a trade job after high school, or even after college or a career change, do your research on salaries in your area. Depending on where you live and the specialty you pursue, your salary could be much higher than the average. You will also need to learn whether your trade requires education in a classroom setting or provides on-the-job training. Some trades will require an investment in education, although not near the amount you would spend on a college degree. Others offer on-the-job training, or apprenticeships, that allow you to be paid while you’re learning the skill. For help in paying for your training, check out vocational, technical, and trade school scholarships for students on Fastweb.

You Might Also Like

Kathryn Knight Randolph

Associate Content Editor

Kathryn Knight Randolph is the Associate Content Editor at Fastweb. She has 17 years of higher education experience, working first as an Admissions Officer at DePauw University before joining Fastweb. In b...

Fastweb makes finding scholarships a breeze.

Become a member and gain exclusive access to our database of over 1.5 million scholarships.

By clicking, I agree to the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.