Eleana Bowman
Community Specialist
Posted June 30, 2021

Top 17 high-paying manual labor jobs hiring now

Find out what manual labor jobs are and learn about the top manual labor jobs you can apply for right now — and earn a good salary.
Eleana Bowman
Community Specialist
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Top 17 high-paying manual labor jobs hiring now
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Manual labor jobs require you to do physical work for the majority of your job. Because of this, some people are hesitant to seek out a manual labor job. But there are lots of reasons why you should consider one.

A big draw? The possibility of earning a good salary.

In this article, we’ll talk about what manual labor jobs are and the financial benefits of pursuing one. We’ll also list some of the highest-paying manual labor jobs and their requirements so you can find the job that’s right for you.

What exactly are manual labor jobs?

Manual labor jobs are positions where you perform physical work. They’re sometimes called “blue-collar” jobs, as opposed to “white-collar” jobs, which usually take place in an office setting. Industries like construction, manufacturing, transportation and utilities typically offer a large number of manual labor jobs.

As you can see from the chart below, these industries, along with a few other physical-labor-intensive fields, make up a huge portion of the U.S. economy.

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Although many manual labor jobs don’t require extensive experience or education, you can still earn a good salary working one. Sometimes, all you’ll need is a high school diploma to qualify for an entry-level manual labor job.

Do manual labor jobs pay better than other jobs?

Like many jobs, the pay for manual labor jobs depends on a lot of different factors. One key thing to remember is that, in general, manual labor jobs are more likely to pay at an hourly rate rather than a weekly salary. And while hourly workers may not receive as many benefits as salaried workers, this trend may be changing.

Manual labor tasks increasingly require more complex skills, contributing to the manual labor skills gap. As a result, white-collar salaries have increased by 7.5% over the past three years, while other workers, many of whom only have a high school diploma, have seen salaries increase by 10%.

Top 17 manual labor jobs that pay well

There are dozens of manual labor jobs available in many different fields, from carpentry to landscaping to welding. This list of manual labor jobs will give you an idea of the available positions, their requirements, and how much you can expect to earn.

1. Construction worker

Construction workers, sometimes called construction laborers, perform all kinds of manual labor tasks on construction sites. These may include moving and unloading building materials, operating power tools, and more.

Entry-level construction workers report to supervisors, while laborers with more experience may supervise others.

Requirements for hire:
Construction workers typically hold a high school diploma and can have less than one year of work experience.

Average annual pay: $44,825

Hours per week: Varies by job site

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2. Landscaper

Landscapers perform outdoor manual labor tasks such as mowing, planting, and watering a variety of trees and plants.

Depending on the job site, landscapers may also dig holes for planting trees or installing irrigation systems, perform electrical or masonry work, or lay concrete. Some landscaping jobs also include a customer service component.

Requirements for hire:
Landscapers usually have a high school diploma and some landscaping experience. Most landscaping jobs don’t require experience in every landscaping skill.

Average annual pay: $35,400

Hours per week: 40

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3. Automotive technician

Automotive technicians repair cars and trucks in a repair shop or dealership setting. They need to identify problems with customer cars and provide the correct repairs according to manufacturer specifications.

Some automotive technician positions may focus on a specific make of car, while others may focus on a specific type of repairs, such as oil changes, tire maintenance, or auto body repair.

Requirements for hire:
Automotive technicians typically need a high school diploma and some experience working with cars. Some entry-level automotive technician jobs that don’t require previous experience are also available.

Average annual pay: $46,760

Hours per week: 40

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4. Carpenter

Carpenters work on large-scale projects such as framing on construction sites and polished indoor projects such as finishing cabinets and remodeling homes.

Carpenters must be able to read blueprints and other design plans and carry out those plans according to client or company needs. Many carpentry jobs require you to own and be familiar with your own basic tools, which typically include both hand tools and power tools.

Requirements for hire:
Some carpentry experience in either rough or finish carpentry is usually necessary.

Average annual pay: $38,900

Hours per week: 40

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5. Electrician

Electricians install, repair, and maintain indoor and outdoor wiring, fixtures, and other equipment. They work in both residential and commercial buildings.

Inside wiremen tend to work exclusively on the wiring in buildings, while outside linemen are electricians that work on telephone and power lines. Electricians may also specialize in working on construction sites, marine equipment, or in hospitals.

Requirements for hire:
Not all electrician jobs require education, but 67% of electricians hold a certificate or associate degree in electrical work.

Average annual pay: $39,800

Hours per week: 40

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6. Plumber

Residential plumbers work to repair leaks, clogs, and other issues in pipes in a home or other residential building. They may also create new pipe systems.

Plumbers can also specialize in other areas. They may work in construction to make sure new plumbing meets local building codes or collaborate with architects to decide on the best placement for pipes and plumbing fixtures.

Many plumbers are self-employed, but plumber jobs are also available at many large and small businesses.

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Requirements for hire:
Some plumbers may be hired as apprentices with a high school diploma, but many plumbers receive a certificate or associate degree in plumbing from a technical or trade school.

Average annual pay: $50,500

Hours per week: 40

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7. Welder

Welders have a specialized skill set of joining or fusing metal together using high heat tools. Welders work in many different industries, including manufacturing, construction, and other industrial settings.

Less experienced or unskilled welders typically work on assembly lines and perform a small set of tasks over and over again. Skilled welders may specialize in working on ships or oil rigs, joining steel beams on construction types, or even laboring on car racing teams or NASA projects.

Requirements for hire:
Most welders have earned a high school diploma or a welding degree or certificate. Unskilled welding positions require little prior experience, while skilled welders usually need additional training or apprenticeships.

Average annual pay: $38,000

Hours per week: 40-60

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8. Stone or brick mason

Masons use stone or brick to build walls, paths, and other structures. They need to plan their structures for accurate layouts, mix concrete or grout, and assemble the entire project.

Some masons also repair old brick or masonry work, such as chimneys, walls, or houses.

Stone and brick masons must have strong attention to detail and be able to lift a significant amount of weight in their day-to-day work. When working on residential projects, masons also need to be comfortable with customer interactions.

Requirements for hire:
Most masonry jobs do not require a certain level of education, although you can earn a certificate in masonry. Typically, masons learn the necessary skills on the job or through an apprenticeship.

Average annual pay: $47,700

Hours per week: 40

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9. Housekeeper

Housekeepers are professional cleaners that work in private residences, offices, or hotels. They dust, mop, vacuum, clean bathrooms, and make beds.

Housekeepers need to meet all cleaning requirements and expectations laid out by their employer.

Some housekeepers are contracted through a house cleaning service and are assigned work through the company. Others work independently with their own roster of clients.

Requirements for hire:
Most housekeeping jobs do not require any education and instead provide on-the-job training.

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Average annual pay: $28,000

Hours per week: Varies, but typically 40+

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10. Custodian or janitor

Custodians perform some cleaning duties like housekeepers, but they also do a variety of other manual tasks.

In addition to sweeping, mopping, and other general cleaning, custodians are typically responsible for some maintenance and repair duties. This could include mowing lawns and other landscaping tasks, sorting trash and recycling, and coordinating repairs with other service experts such as electricians or plumbers.

Custodians typically work in schools, office buildings, or public venues like theaters and stadiums.

Requirements for hire:
Most custodial jobs require a high school diploma and some janitorial experience.

Average annual pay: $24,900

Hours per week: 20-40

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11. Firefighter

Firefighters not only combat active fires, but they also work on fire safety and prevention measures. This includes driving to emergency scenes, operating ladders and hoses, and rescuing people from burning structures.

Typically, firefighters are the first to arrive on the scene at an emergency.

Firefighters may assist in other emergencies, such as car accidents, gas leaks, and natural disasters. Some firefighters also provide emergency first aid care while waiting for paramedics or EMTs to arrive on the scene.

Firefighters often work approximately ten 24-hour shifts throughout a month.

Requirements for hire:
Firefighters typically need a high school diploma and significant firefighter training. Training requirements vary by state. Firefighters also need to be in excellent physical condition.

Average annual pay: $48,900

Hours per week: ~60, but can vary depending on shift schedule

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12. Commercial fisher

Commercial fishermen plan and oversee fishing trips for the purpose of selling their catch to restaurants, grocery stores, or other retailers.

They need to comply with all local fishing regulations, supervise a crew, and prepare the fish for preservation or sale.

Fishers also maintain their fishing equipment and their vessels. They need to maintain their nets and traps as well as navigational tools and fish-finding equipment.

Many commercial fishers go out to sea for extended periods of time, which can be anywhere from three to six months. While at sea, they may work up to 18 hours a day. Some commercial fishing jobs have shorter excursions, with trips lasting 24-36 hours.

Requirements for hire:
Entry-level commercial fisher jobs don’t require any formal education. In most cases, you’ll learn on the job.

Average annual pay: $37,400

Hours per week: Up to 126 during fishing trips

13. Truck driver

Truck drivers drive tractor-trailers long distances while hauling commercial goods. Most commonly, they’ll transport goods from warehouses or manufacturing plants to retail locations.

In addition to loading and unloading the truck, drivers also must stay on schedule and know how to complete basic truck repairs. They are responsible for running the truck safely and efficiently.

Many long-haul truckers are gone for several weeks at a time as they carry multiple loads between destinations.

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Requirements for hire:
Requirements for hire: Most truck drivers have a high school diploma. You’ll also need a commercial driver’s license and a clean driving record.

Average annual pay: $45,900

Hours per week: 70

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14. Agriculture worker or farm laborer

Agriculture workers and farm laborers do many different kinds of manual labor tasks in order to cultivate crops and livestock.

They may work on small family farms or large-scale commercial farms.

Agriculture workers typically care for crops throughout the life cycle. Their tasks often include planting, watering, pest control, and harvesting. They may use fertilizer, pesticides, and other tools to do so. They also frequently use farm equipment and machinery.

Farm laborers who work with livestock are responsible for caring for animals such as cows, pigs, and chickens. They may clean out pens and cages, herd animals into different pastures or areas, and identify animals who are sick.

Requirements for hire:
Most agriculture and farm jobs do not require any formal education.

Average annual pay: $30,900

Hours per week: Varies by season

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15. Manufacturing technician

Manufacturing technicians work in factories, warehouses, and other industrial settings to produce goods.

They follow blueprints and quality assurance checklists to make sure the products they assemble are high-quality and up to the brand’s standards.

Manufacturing technicians work in many different industries. They may assemble medical devices, technology or computer components, or vehicles.

Some manufacturing roles may require technicians to work with heavy machinery or robotics tools.

Requirements for hire:
: Entry-level manufacturing technician jobs typically require a high school diploma. Higher-level manufacturing jobs may require additional education, certification, or training.

Average annual pay: $37,400

Hours per week: 40

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16. Painter

Painters work on construction sites or in private residences to provide the final finish on a room or building.

Painters determine the supplies needed for a given job and prepare the space and surrounding area to be painted. They may need to remove wall fixtures, cover furniture and floors, and fill holes or cracks.

Requirements for hire:
Painters usually have a high school diploma and some painting experience.

Average annual pay: $34,800

Hours per week: 40

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17. Chef or line cook

Chefs and line cooks prepare food in restaurants and hotels.

Typically, chefs coordinate the entire kitchen, including managing staff, planning menus, and ordering supplies. Line cooks, on the other hand, operate just one station, such as the grill.

Food-service positions in fast food or casual dining establishments may have shorter shifts or hourly requirements, while higher-end restaurants may be more demanding and require long hours.

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Requirements for hire:
Chef and line cook job requirements vary greatly. In general, no formal education is required. Some cities or states may require certain certifications or training for handling food prior to employment.

Average annual pay: $37,900

Hours per week: 20-60, depending on job site

Browse chef jobs

Find a high-paying manual labor job that’s right for you

With this list in hand, you can start pursuing a manual labor job that fits your needs and interests — and earn a good salary while doing it.

Pay close attention to the job requirements to make sure you’ll be comfortable in the manual labor job you’re interested in. Then, craft a strong resume that showcases your skills.


For more help with your manual labor job search, check out the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.

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