8 of the Highest Paying Trades Positions

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 23, 2022 | Published July 26, 2021

Updated June 23, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

Related: Tips to Find Trade Jobs In 2022 (No Degree Needed!)

In this video, Sinead will let you know about various trade jobs and the best tactics to step into the trade industry. Each tip will help you learn how you can relate your previous work or develop new skills to succeed in a trade job.

With over 300 skilled trades across the country, there is an opportunity to find a high-paying position for a long-term career. And similar to other types of jobs, there are specific trades that pay higher than others. You can use this information to research the highest paying trades to find the best match for your skills and desired responsibilities. In this article, we discuss eight trades that offer the highest paying national average hourly rate, along with the primary duties and skills required.

What are the highest paying trades?

Skilled trades are a viable and growing section of employment that allows for hands-on work for those that don't want to be in an office environment. Trades fall into four major categories, including construction, transportation, manufacturing, and services. Below we review eight skills trades positions that offer the highest national average of hourly wages:

1. Millwright

National average salary: $80,306 per year

Primary duties: A millwright is a highly skilled tradesperson who assembles, installs, maintains, repairs, dismantles, and moves machinery of all types. They work on a wide variety of equipment that ranges from conveyor systems to generators and manufacturing machinery. Millwrights work in various industries, including manufacturing, mining, foundry, food processing, petroleum processing, and construction. Some of their primary duties include:

  • Reading and interpreting technical diagrams, blueprints, and manuals for machinery assembly, maintenance, and repair

  • Using various hand tools, power tools, and other machinery to maintain and repair equipment

  • Following safety protocol and lock-out procedures to ensure a safe working environment

  • Assembling, balancing, and calibrating new equipment to proper working order

Because a millwright works with a wide variety of equipment and machinery, they need several essential skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They also require manual dexterity, physical strength, and motor coordination.

2. Pipefitter

National average salary: $76,491 per year

Primary duties: A pipefitter, sometimes referred to as a pipefitter-steamfitter, is a skilled tradesperson who designs, assembles, and installs piping systems that carry water, steam, chemicals, and other fluids or gases. They are a hands-on trade that fabricates, maintains, and troubleshoots these piping systems used within commercial, industrial, and manufacturing facilities. Pipefitters work independently, as contractors, or for businesses that offer pipefitting services. Some of the primary duties of a pipefitter include:

  • Read and interrupt blueprints and engineering drawings to layout piping system

  • Braze, weld, and connect pieces of piping, valves, and control equipment to complete a system

  • Maintain and repair damaged sections of pipe or valves

  • Test piping system for leaks and functionality before use

A pipefitter needs to have solid mechanical aptitude with experience in measuring, cutting, and welding lengths of pipe. They need to have strong math skills, spatial reasoning, and attention to detail. Accuracy and attention to workplace safety are also critical skills.

3. Heavy equipment mechanic

National average salary: $73,618 per year

Primary duties: A heavy equipment mechanic, also called a heavy-duty mechanic, provides mechanical services and repair to heavy equipment used in construction, transportation, mining and quarry, forestry, and petroleum industries. They work on electrical, gas, and diesel-powered engines, hydraulic systems, pneumatic systems, electrical, and electronic functions. In addition, they diagnose, troubleshoot, and repair failures within the equipment and provide maintenance services. Heavy equipment mechanics can work indoors or outdoors, depending on the company. Several primary duties of a heavy equipment mechanic include:

  • Diagnose and troubleshoot faults within the equipment

  • Remove old components and reinstall with new

  • Perform scheduled maintenance on heavy equipment

  • Repair and maintain heavy equipment attachments

A heavy equipment mechanic needs mechanical inclination to understand electric, electronic, pneumatic, and hydraulic systems. In addition, they must have the physical strength and ability to work safely around heavy equipment and tools. Other skills required include analytical, critical thinking, troubleshooting, and problem-solving skills to communicate effectively with others on their team.

Related: 6 Critical Thinking Skills and Why They are Important at Work

4. Powerline technician

National average salary: $68,889 per year

Primary duties: A powerline technician works with electricity and power cables to install, construct, and maintain electrical systems overhead and underground. Working for utility companies, electric power generation businesses, and distribution facilities, they work with high voltage electricity and ensure that homes and businesses receive utility service. Their work is primarily outdoors in the elements, and they often work together in teams. Some of the primary duties of a powerline technician include:

  • Installing, repairing, and troubleshooting electrical transmission and distributions systems

  • Erecting wood, steel, or concrete poles and towers for electrical lines and cables

  • Splicing and soldering together wires and insulating conductors

  • Inspecting and testing overhead and underground power lines

A powerline technician needs a solid foundation in electrical principles and basic mechanics. In addition, they need to work safely at heights, in confined spaces, and with high voltage electricity. Other required skills include analytical, critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities. Working within a team, they also need communication and interpersonal skills.

Related: What is Interpersonal Communication and How Can You Use It In The Workplace

5. Electrician

National average salary: $67,909 per year

Primary duties: An electrician designs, assembles, repairs, and maintains electrical wiring systems, control panels, electrical fixtures, and other electrical controlled machinery or components. Electricians work in residential homes, commercial buildings, manufacturing facilities, and industrial environments. They can work independently, as a contractor or sub-contractor, or for a business. An electrician works indoors or outdoors and can work on brand new or renovation and upgrading projects. Several duties of an electrician include:

  • Design, install, and maintain electrical wiring, systems, and components

  • Inspect, test, and diagnose electrical issues

  • Completion of electrical systems following blueprints and building codes and standards

  • Preventative maintenance and upgrading of electrical systems to comply with updated regulations

An electrician requires various skills to be successful, including mathematics, reading blueprints, and interpreting diagrams. They also require communication, time management, and organizational skills.

6. Plumber

National average salary: $65,234 per year

Primary duties: A plumber is a skilled tradesperson who designs, installs, assembles, and repairs piping, fixtures, and other water or waste distribution components. They work independently, as contractors, or for businesses that offer plumbing services. You can find plumbers working in various industries, including the construction of residential, commercial, or industrial buildings. They also work within a manufacturing or other industrial facilities for the maintenance and repair of plumbing systems.

Several primary duties of a plumber include:

  • Installation and repair of new or existing plumbing systems and fixtures, such as hot water tanks

  • Connection of pipes, couplings, and valves using brazing, soldering, or welding

  • Reading blueprints and engineered drawings for the installation or upgrading of systems

  • Follow all industry best practices, regulations, and codes to ensure a safe working environment and plumbing system

A plumber needs several essential skills to be successful in their role. They need a solid foundation for building construction and water and waste systems. They also need strong math skills combined with spatial reasoning and attention to detail. The ability to follow blueprints and schematics is critical, as is the ability to test and inspect the accuracy of their work.

Related: Deductive Reasoning: Definition, Application and Examples

7. Instrumentation technician

National average salary: $64,782 per year

Primary duties: An instrumentation technician installs, maintains, and repairs control and measuring devices within industrial, manufacturing, and processing facilities or functions. These measuring and control devices include pneumatic, electronic, and computerized equipment that monitor and control temperature, flow, force, motion, pressure, and chemical composition of a specific process. Instrumentation technicians work independently, as contractors or for businesses that offer instrumentation services. Because of their work, instrumentation technicians may work indoors or outdoors, depending on where the monitoring equipment is located. Some of the primary duties of their position include:

  • Assemble and install monitoring instruments based on a blueprint or diagram

  • Monitor and maintain instrumentation equipment

  • Provide maintenance and repair to equipment that is faulty or outdated

  • Follow company and industry best practices and regulations to ensure a safe working environment

An instrumentation technician needs to have a strong aptitude for electronics, electrical, machinery, and mechanics. They also require extensive mathematics skills, logical reasoning, analytical, and problem-solving skills. They also need to work well alone and within a team environment.

Related: Analytical Skills: Essential for Every Job

8. Heavy equipment operator

National average salary: $64,011 per year

Primary duties: A heavy equipment operator drives and safely operates large construction equipment, such as bulldozers, cranes, and loaders. They work outdoors in a variety of elements, including rain, snow, and heat. Many industries employ heavy equipment operators, such as construction, roadwork, mining and quarry, oil and gas production, forestry, and transportation. Besides operating the equipment, a heavy equipment operator also must understand proper maintenance and troubleshooting procedures for taking care of the equipment they use. Some of the primary duties of a heavy equipment operator include:

  • Completion of safety checks and visual inspection of the equipment before operating

  • Movement of products, loading and unloading, hoisting, and other functions based on the equipment

  • Basic maintenance of the heavy machinery

  • Secure special attachments to the equipment based on usage

A heavy equipment operator needs several essential skills to be a safe and productive operator. Such skills include exceptional hand, eye, and foot coordination, depth perception, spatial awareness, mechanical aptitude, and attention to detail. They also require basic math skills to calculate safe load weights and communication skills for radio operation.