Are you a blue-collar worker already, or thinking about a new career as one?
Despite what some people believe, there are many high-demand working-class jobs that also pay well.
And, to help you find the right career, we've compiled a list of the top eight high-paying blue-collar jobs using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
But first, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page by quickly defining exactly what is and isn’t considered a blue-collar job.
Blue-collar jobs usually involve manual labor — physical work done using your hands and muscles.
In the 1900s, workers in physically demanding jobs used to wear dark blue uniforms. These dark blue materials were more resistant to dirt and didn’t need daily washing.
This is where the name blue-collar came from.
Some examples of blue-collar industries are manufacturing, repairs, mining, construction, agriculture, aircraft mechanics, and law enforcement.
These types of jobs usually receive an hourly wage, rather than an annual salary.
White collar workers are now sometimes called knowledge workers, as their jobs rely more on their knowledge and thinking skills than their physical labor.
In the past, you could tell the difference between a blue-collar and a white-collar job by the workplace attire. Unlike blue-collar workers, white-collar workers usually wore crisp white shirts.
Today, you can find a white-collar worker in an office, a bank, and other desk jobs.
Often, blue-collar workers will complete an apprenticeship, while white-collared workers might have completed a four-year college degree.
Let’s take a look at the top eight blue-collar jobs and how much you can expect to earn from them:
Electricians work with electrical wiring on domestic and commercial projects. They understand how to install electrical components safely and can help maintain them.
Electricians are in demand, with the job outlook for the next 10 years sitting at a projected 8% increase. Electricians can work in different settings, including residential, industrial, construction, and government.
There is opportunity for career progression, as electricians can become supervisors or start their own business. This is a job that may require overtime, night, and weekend shifts.
What do you need to become an electrician?
If you want to be an electrician, you’ll need to complete a four-year apprenticeship program. You will usually need a high school diploma, and there are technical schools that can help give you the right foundation.
Electricians need to be qualified and licensed.
How much do electricians make?
The median wage for an electrician is $56,180. Those with experience can earn up to $73,940.
The roles of police officers vary, but their duty is to protect life and serve the community.
Some of their responsibilities include responding to calls, attending traffic incidents, interviewing and arresting suspects, participating in court trials, investigating crimes, and writing reports.
There are different fields police officers can work in. For example, police officers can become detectives, FBI agents, patrol officers, and federal wildlife officers.
What do you need to become a police officer?
To become a police officer, you need a high school diploma or equivalent. You need to be between the ages of 21–40 and have a current driver’s license.
There are mental and physical tests, and you’ll need to pass a background check.
Depending on where you live, you may need a college degree. When you get accepted into the police force, you’ll enter a training program.
How much do police officers make?
The salary for police officers varies depending on your state. The average salary is $67,600.
Building inspectors oversee the safety of building sites and bridges. They need to make sure building codes are followed and that the work is of a high standard.
They oversee plans, prepare reports, issue stop-work notices, inspect work carried out by contractors, and use equipment to check for faults.
Building inspectors regularly visit each site to make sure the standards are maintained.
What do you need to become a building inspector?
To become a building inspector, you’ll need a high school diploma and at least five years of experience in construction.
Building inspectors usually need to have a license. A college education in fields related to architecture or mathematics can be beneficial.
How much do building inspectors get paid?
The demand for building inspectors is expected to rise by 3% in the next 10 years. The median annual salary is currently $63,860.
Plumbers install and maintain pipes and fittings in domestic and commercial properties.
They’re responsible for testing and planning systems, performing plumbing repairs, reading plans, and choosing materials.
Plumbers can progress in their careers by starting their own businesses. In 2019, there were 490,200 positions for plumbers. This is a job that may require overtime, night, and weekend work.
What do you need to become a plumber?
To become a plumber, you’ll usually need a high school diploma and to complete a four-year apprenticeship.
To increase your chances of success, you can participate in technical school training. Plumbers need a license.
How much do plumbers get paid?
The median yearly salary for plumbers is $56,330. A pipefitter has the same salary as a plumber.
Electrical power-line installers make repairs to power lines and telecommunication systems.
The role is physical, and workers need to be comfortable with heights. Electrical power-line installers have to take precautions due to the hazardous nature of electricity.
Work hours can include night shifts and weekends, and installers may need to be on call in case there is an outage.
What do you need to become a power line installer?
If you want to be a power line installer, you’ll need a high school diploma. You’ll also need to complete an apprenticeship program with on-the-job training.
How much do electrical power-line installers make?
The median annual salary is $68,030. Job growth is stable but not set to improve, as technology is changing the way energy is used.
Boilermakers build, install, and repair boilers. They’re responsible for assembling boilers and tanks, reading blueprints, replacing parts, and cleaning vats.
Boilermakers may need to test existing systems for signs of damage and make repairs as necessary.
The role requires heavy tools and machinery, and workers need to be confident welders. This is a skilled trade, and boilermakers may need to travel to remote locations.
What do you need to become a boilermaker?
To become a boilermaker, you’ll need to complete a four-year apprenticeship. Ongoing training will help you maintain and upgrade your skills.
How much do boilermakers make?
This industry is slowly growing. A boilermaker gets paid about $65,360 per year.
Firefighters are on the front line and respond to fire emergencies. Firefighting can be a dangerous career that requires workers to be on call over long periods.
The role includes driving fire trucks, putting out fires, participating in search and rescue, performing maintenance and cleaning, and writing reports.
Firefighters may need to perform first aid.
What do you need to be a firefighter?
To become a firefighter, you need to be 18 or older with a high school diploma and driver’s license. Depending on where you live, you may also need emergency medical training.
Successful candidates need to complete fire academy training. Physical fitness and clean drug tests are required for the job.
How much do firefighters get paid?
The median annual salary for firefighters is $52,500.
Locomotive engineers maintain and drive locomotives. These trains may be for cargo or passenger transport.
These workers need to be confident using different controls, operating locomotives, managing speed, implementing automation, and tracking performance.
Hours can be long and overnight travel may be part of the job.
What do you need to become a locomotive engineer?
To become a locomotive engineer, you’ll need a high school diploma.
On-the-job training takes about three months to complete, and locomotive engineers need a certification.
How much do locomotive engineers get paid?
The median salary for a locomotive engineer working in rail transportation is $67,270.
Those employed by state governments can earn up to $86,890. Transportation inspectors can earn up to $81,320.
Blue-collar work can be labor-intensive and usually requires a high school education with an apprenticeship or on-the-job training.
Our list of top jobs that pay well includes electricians, boilermakers, police officers, firefighters, locomotive engineers, plumbers, building inspectors, and electrical power line installers.
Most of these industries are in high demand with good career prospects.
If you're ready to take the next step, search for local jobs near you for both skilled and entry-level positions.