Top 10 Blue Collar Jobs for High Pay and Demand

By Biron Clark


Occupations & Careers

Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Writer & Career Coach

If you’re looking for the best blue collar jobs for high pay and high demand, then keep reading. I’m going to list 10 of the best-paying blue collar jobs that employers are looking for right now so you can target the top areas in your blue collar job search.

Then we’ll look at the median annual salary for these jobs so you’ll know exactly which ones pay the most.

Let’s get started…

Different Types of Blue Collar Jobs

There are five blue collar job categories. These are:

  • Operators (power plant operators, gas plant operators, subway operators, etc.)
  • Technicians (Nuclear technicians, auto mechanics, computer repair technicians, etc.)
  • Public Service (Police officers, detectives, firefighters, etc.)
  • Skilled Trades (Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc.)
  • Laborers (Warehouse workers, janitors, construction laborers, etc.)

Operators, technicians, public service workers, and skilled tradespeople all require a good amount of training, which makes their earning potential a lot higher. However, most labor jobs don’t even require a high school diploma, so these are more entry-level positions.

Now that you know the general types of jobs you’ll encounter in your blue collar job search, let’s look at which ones are best for high pay and getting hired quickly (demand).

Top 10 Blue Collar Jobs for High Demand and High Pay

Blue collar work has historically been less respected and desired, but many of these jobs pay more than the typical college graduate makes. Below are the top blue collar jobs that are both in demand and pay a high median annual salary.

1. Electrical Installers and Repairers

If you like working outside and don’t mind heights then electrical power line installer and repairer might be the career for you. With this job, you’ll be installing and repairing telecommunications cables throughout your local area. Training includes a three-year apprenticeship as well as a good amount of work experience.

As far as jobs on this list go, power-line installers and repairers have a higher median annual salary. However, you will encounter some hazards on the job, including dealing with high voltages and working at great heights. Electrical power-line installers and repairers are also often on-call, meaning if there’s a storm and some lines go down you might get a call in the middle of the night to go fix them.

2. Aircraft Mechanics and Service Techs

This is an ideal job for anyone that loves aviation. Aircraft mechanics and service techs perform scheduled maintenance and repairs on airplanes, jets, and helicopters. Most people in this line of work go to technical school to become qualified. However, some simply learn through on-the-job training. Either way, you’ll need to pass an FAA written exam to become certified.

While you’ll most likely be hired by an airline, as an aircraft mechanic you might also end up working for the government, the military, or a private company. Depending on your job and where you work you may choose to work on multiple types of aircraft or specialize in just one.

3. Elevator Installers and Repairers

To enter this field, you’ll need to complete a four-year apprenticeship program which requires you to have a high school diploma.

Once you’re certified you’ll mostly be reading elevator blueprints, locating malfunctioning components, and repairing cables and motors. The job requires a lot of problem-solving, so if that’s something you enjoy you’ll likely excel in this line of work. Elevator installers and repairers also have the highest median annual salary on this list.

4. Pile Driver Operators

As the name suggests, these workers operate pile drivers, which are used to drive piles into the ground to provide foundation support for buildings, bridges, and other structures. While a formal education isn’t necessary, you’ll need some sort of training to perform this job. In most cases, that will be a three to four-year apprenticeship in heavy equipment operation.

As a pile driver operator, you’ll do more than just operate your machine. You’ll also maintain the equipment, perform inspections, and keep records. You may also be responsible for supervising other workers. This job requires you to work outside most of the time, which can be good or bad depending on the weather.

5. Petroleum Pump System Operators

A petroleum pump system operator sets up, maintains, and controls the refining units at an oil refinery or large ship pumping station. Most workplaces will want you to have a high school education. After that, it generally takes a year of work experience to be trained for the position.

This is a busy job and involves using handwheels to direct the flow of oil. You’ll also need to inform other team members when to open and close valves and check flow rates. The job is fairly physically demanding, as equipment will regularly need to be installed and moved from one location to another.

6. Police Officers

This line of work isn’t for everyone, but if you’re passionate about making your community a safer place to live you might want to think about becoming a police officer. For this career, you’ll need a high school diploma (a bachelor’s degree is recommended but not required), be at least 21 years old, meet certain physical standards, and attend a police academy.

Police officers perform a wide range of duties, including responding to emergency calls, arresting suspects, collecting evidence, and testifying in court. It goes without saying that this job comes with some pretty serious risks. However, if you’re up to the task it can be extremely rewarding work.

7. Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors review commercial and residential buildings to ensure they comply with building codes. A college diploma in engineering, architecture, or construction is required. It’s also a good idea to have experience in a trade, such as plumbing or carpentry.

As a construction and building inspector, you’ll be required to approve any building plans before construction can begin. You’ll also do on-site inspections while projects are being completed to ensure all the work is done properly. In most cases, you’ll be employed by the government, but in some instances, you might be hired by a construction company.

8. Telecommunications Equipment Installer

For those interested in tech and IT jobs, a telecommunications equipment installer might be the ideal job. You’ll travel from place to place installing, maintaining, and replacing telecommunications equipment. Requirements vary, but most people in this line of work have a certificate or two-year degree in electronics or computer science. Some technical schools offer courses specifically for this line of work.

You’ll spend most of your time helping homeowners and businesses set up their communications equipment. You’ll also need to perform repairs. Technology is known to fail at inconvenient times, so it’s not uncommon for telecommunications equipment installers to work nights and weekends on occasion.

9. Powerhouse Substation and Relay Repairer

Powerhouse substation and relay repairers maintain and repair equipment used in generating systems and service relays. Most people in this profession have a certificate or diploma from a community college or technical school. Hands-on training is also a must in order to gain the necessary skills.

This is the perfect career for people who enjoy problem solving and love working with their hands. You’ll spend most of your time locating, identifying, and solving electrical issues. In addition to performing repairs, you’ll also have to maintain records and document your activities so others on your team know what work has been done.

10. Power Plant Operator

This job is responsible for controlling power generating equipment in a power plant. Depending on the type of plant you’re working at the equipment might be fuelled by coal, natural gas, or a nuclear power reactor. No diplomas or certificates are required, but employers usually favor applicants with some post-secondary education and a solid understanding of math.

Power plant operators are in charge of monitoring power generating equipment, performing regular checks for operating problems, regulating the flow of power, and stopping and starting equipment as necessary. As this job has a high median annual salary it’s often seen as one of the more desirable blue collar jobs.

What are the Highest-Paid Blue Collar Jobs in America?

While all the jobs listed above pay a good salary, there’s still a big difference when it comes to the salaries they offer. Here are the top five highest-paying blue collar jobs in the US, ranked in terms of median annual salary:

  1. Elevator Installer: $84,990
  2. Power Plant Operator: $81,990
  3. Petroleum Pump System Operator: $74,180
  4. Powerhouse Substation and Relay Technician: $71,191
  5. Power-Line Installer and Repairer: $61,276

(Median annual salaries compiled from various sources including the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

As you can see, many of these jobs out-earn positions that require a college degree. When you consider that most of these positions require less training and education, and allow you to enter the workforce sooner, there are quite a few advantages to blue collar work.

Differences Between White Collar and Blue Collar Jobs

The terms “blue collar” and “white collar” were coined in the 1920s and 30s. In those days, laborers usually wore blue denim shirts while those who worked in offices mostly wore white dress shirts. Even though work attire is no longer so cut and dry, the terms are still frequently used today.

Blue collar work is generally considered to be any job that requires manual labor and working with your hands. While these roles are usually associated with an hourly wage, there are a number of jobs that also pay a yearly salary. White collar work refers to jobs done in an office, usually in front of a computer, and almost always comes with an annual salary.

Examples of white collar jobs:

Examples of blue collar jobs:

  • Power plant operator
  • Aircraft mechanic
  • Police officer
  • Telecommunication equipment installer


There are plenty of high-demand blue collar jobs out there if you’re interested. Many find these jobs far more interesting, and as we’ve learned some of them pay quite well. In the end, choose a career you know you’ll enjoy and that suits your strengths.

More ideas: 18 jobs and careers that don’t require a college degree.

Biron Clark

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