42 In-Demand High-Paying Trade Jobs That Don't Need a Degree

Katy Boyles |
Katy is our Social Media Manager at Snagajob, where she loves talking to hourly workers and employers all day long. Her first hourly job was as a hostess.
Categories: Career Advice

42 In-Demand High-Paying Trade Jobs That Don't Need a Degree

If you feel college is the only way to make money, live comfortably, and have a career, thinking again. Many people find success and fulfillment working highly skilled trade jobs. In this article, we’ll discuss the topic of trade jobs, as well as 42 popular respectable trades that pay well. 

What is a Trade Job?

A trade job is any career job that requires a particular skill or skillset. Skills for trade jobs can be learned through experience, apprenticeships, or vocational schools. Employment in a trade career does not require a college degree. 

How Do You Get a Trade Job?

There are several ways to get a trade job. You can attend a trade school, also called the vocational school, for one to two years. You can get hired as a trade worker by enrolling in an apprenticeship with a local business for one to six years. You can also enroll in a bootcamp that lasts one year or less. Many trade students work and gain practical paid experience while they study.

Are Trade Jobs in Demand?

In a way, trade careers make up the backbone of our working society. Trade jobs are considered to be in high demand because they constitute a highly skilled workforce that facilitates a variety of everyday tasks. Trade Workers specialized skill sets make them useful for solving general, creative, or niche problems. Knowledgeable and experienced trade workers are desirable employees because they are hard to replace.   

42 In-Demand High-Paying Trade Jobs

There’s no need to worry about not attaining a college degree. There are tons of well-paying trade jobs to choose from, none of which require a diploma. 


Here is a list of good-paying trade jobs you can pursue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, each job on this list earns at least $20 an hour and at least $30 an hour for overtime. These jobs have higher earning potentials as your time and experience working grows. 


We’ve categorized this list into three categories: the best trade jobs with physical labor, the best trade jobs with little physical labor, and the best trade jobs for creative people. 

Highest-Paid Trade Jobs with Physical Labor 

To preface, most trade jobs require that you use your hands and body on the job. There are trade jobs with very little physical activity—which you will read about in the next two sections—but there is still a need to blend knowledge and experience with the physical application. If you’re someone who likes to work with your hands, enjoys exercise, prefers being outside, and likes working with tools, these jobs are for you.   


  1. Sailor and Marine Oiler

  • Average National Salary: $26.77/hr

  • If you’re fascinated by the ocean, ships, and sea-faring life, this occupation is for you. Sailor and Marine Oilers perform a variety of rigorous maintenance and preservation tasks to marine equipment and vessels. 


2. Electrician

  • Average National Salary: $29.59/hr

  • Electricians complete a wide variety of electrical-related tasks including the installation, maintenance, repairing, and wiring of electrical fixtures and equipment. Electricians work in a variety of settings, from construction sites to commercial buildings to private residences. 


3. Electrical Powerline Installer and Repairer

  • Average National Salary: $35.78/hr

  • Also called Linemen, Electrical Powerline Installers and Repairers are a subset of the electrician trade that installs and repair powerline cables and distribution systems. 


4. First-Line Supervisor of Landscapers, Lawn Servicers, and Groundskeepers

  • Average National Salary: $25.98/hr

  • You need to have strong management and interpersonal skills, as well as an interest in land maintenance, to qualify as a First-Line Supervisor. 


5. Construction Trades Worker

  • Average National Salary: $25.28/hr

  • If you enjoy construction but don’t know where to start, consider becoming a Construction Trades Worker. You will learn a mix of construction skills from which you can specialize.


6. Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installer

  • Average National Salary: $24.97/hr

  • Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers know all about the ceiling and interior wall installations. They specialize in installing acoustic, decorative, and disaster-proof wall materials.


7. Roofer

  • Average National Salary: $22.60/hr

  • A Roofer spends their days under the sun, in all kinds of weather, covering and replacing roofs with all kinds of binders, insulators, and roofing materials. 


8. Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanic

  • Average National Salary: $25.68/hr

  • Commonly referred to as HVAC technicians, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics are always busy tending to commercial and residential heating and cooling needs. 


9. Licensed Practical Nurse

  • Average National Salary: $24.08/hr

  • Licensed Practical Nurses care for people with illnesses or disabilities in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and private homes. They usually work under the guidance of a registered nurse. 


10. Elevator and Escalator Installer and Repairer

  • Average National Salary: $41.44/hr

  • Elevator and Escalator Installer and Repairer take care of both freight and passenger elevators and escalators. This is an interesting job that will continue to be in high demand, especially as population growth creates more infrastructure projects. 


11. Refuse and Recyclable Material Collector

  • Average National Salary: $20.49

  • Become a Refuse and Recyclable Material Collector and help keep your city clean. 


12. Plumber, Pipefitter, or Steamfitter

  • Average National Salary: $29.37/hr

  • Working as a Plumber, Pipefitter, or Steamfitter will challenge you to create an endless amount of workarounds for pipe and steam applications. These jobs are critical to commercial and industrial infrastructures. 


13. Welder, Cutter, Solderer, or Brazer

  • Average National Salary: $22.45/hr

  • If you like to build things and work with fire, consider studying to become a Welder, Cutter, Solderer, or Brazer. These jobs will allow you to work in a variety of industries, like automotive, marine, and transportation businesses. 


14. Aircraft Mechanic or Service Technician

  • Average National Salary: $33.19/hr

  • If working on and around planes excites you, you will fit right in as an Aircraft Mechanic or Service Technician. In this trade, you can service and repair all of your favorite aircraft. 


15. Bus or Truck Mechanic or Diesel Engine Specialist

  • Average National Salary: $25.04/hr

  • This trade is for transportation and enthusiast. If you work as a Bus or Truck Mechanic or Diesel Engine Specialist, you will operate on a wide range of large diesel engines. 


16. Automotive Technician and Repairer

  • Average National Salary: $22.63/hr

  • As long as people rely on cars, Automotive Technician and Repairer roles will thrive. This trade is perfect for individuals who enjoy tinkering, repairing, and modifying cars.

17. Millwright 

  • Average National Salary: $27.53/hr

  • The Millwright profession is a lesser-known trade but an essential one nonetheless. Millwrights are in charge of installing, dismantling, and moving machinery according to layout plans and blueprints.

Highest-Paid Trade Jobs With Little Physical Labor

There are high-earning trade jobs you can pursue that do not require routine physical labor. These jobs may be excellent for individuals with disabilities, poor coordination, or a preference for little physical activity. Still, it should be noted that there will undoubtedly be times where you will have to get your hands dirty or do some sort of heavy lifting on the job. Here is a list of less intense trade jobs you can get without a degree.


18. Computerized Numerically Controlled Tool Operator or Programmer

  • Average National Salary: $22.47/hr

  • Computerized Numerically Controlled Tool Operator or Programmer trade workers tend to work in construction-related fields using materials like stone, metal, plastic, and wood. Experience in this trade can often transfer to custom or artistic installations as well. 


19. Crane or Tower Operator

  • Average National Salary: $30.77/hr

  • Working as a Crane or Tower Operator is a fantastic trade if you want to work in an outdoor setting with minimal physical labor. 


20. Construction and Building Inspector 

  • Average National Salary: $31.96/hr

  • The Construction and Building Inspector trade is a very stable profession. Inspectors assess the structural soundness of a building and ensure it meets all necessary building codes and regulations. 


21. Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver

  • Average National Salary: $23.42/hr

  • As a Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver, you will be responsible for driving trucks and trailers with load capacities of at least 26,001 pounds. This trade is perfect for someone with attention to safety and detail. 


22. Computer Network Support Specialist

  • Average National Salary: $34.16/hr

  • If you prefer to work indoors and have an interest in technology, consider the Computer Network Support Specialist trade. These IT Support Specialists have a knack for troubleshooting and fixing all kinds of network issues. 


23. Police Dispatcher

  • Average National Salary: $21.72/hr

  • Working as a Police Dispatcher may be for you if you have an interest in criminal justice and guiding patrolling officers. 


24. Air Traffic Controller

  • Average National Salary: $61.27/hr

  • Air Traffic Controllers have an aptitude for analyzing code and a fine-tuned attention to detail. They regulate aircraft movement in and around airports to ensure all aircraft take off and land safely. 


25. Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operator

  • Average National Salary: $24.95/hr

  • If you have an interest in ensuring there is clean water for your community, consider working in water treatment. 


26. Respiratory Therapist

  • Average National Salary: $30.20/hr

  • A Respiratory Therapist cares for individuals with breathing illnesses or conditions. They also operate and monitor equipment intended to help individuals with breathing problems. 


27. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

  • Average National Salary: $37.40/hr

  • A Diagnostic Medical Sonographer assists physicians by producing ultrasound images in hospital settings. 


28. Civil Engineer Technologist or Technician

  • Average National Salary: $27.21/hr

  • A Civil Engineer Technologist or Technician aids engineers and scientists with the planning, drafting, and oversight of civil engineering projects. 


29. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technician

  • Average National Salary: $35.91/hr

  • In addition to preparing patients for imaging procedures, an MRI Technician also prepares and maintains specialized MRI equipment. 


30. Locksmith or Safe Repairs

  • Average National Salary: $22.23/hr

  • A Locksmith or Safe Repairs knows all about opening, securing, and repairing locks and safe combinations. They also specialize in cutting keys.  


31. Tool and Die Maker

  • Average National Salary: $26.69/hr

  • Tool and Die Makers work to make a machinist’s job easier by creating specific tools, dies, jigs, and machine parts.

32. Dental Hygienist

  • Average National Salary: $37.53/hr

  • A dental hygienist assists dentists by performing routine patient cleanings. 

Highest-Paid Trade Jobs For Creative People

There is always room for creativity with trade work. If you are an innovative type of person and want a well-paying job without a degree, here is a list for you. These trade jobs are perfect for people who want to create art, think critically, or manipulate materials. 


33. Chefs or Head Cook

  • Average National Salary: $28.24/hr

  • Chefs and Head Cooks run commercial and private kitchens. They plan menus, prepare ingredients, order supplies, and price plates if necessary. 


34. Software Developer, Web Developer, or Tester

  • Average National Salary: $52.86/hr

  • Working and testing web and software applications may be for you if you can explore, design, and re-work technical problems.  


35. Computer Programmer

  • Average National Salary: $45.98/hr

  • Computer Programmers write code scripts and tests to complete specialized software and web tasks. This job may be good for individuals that enjoy activities that involve math and precision. 


36. Software Engineering Developer or Software Quality Test Engineer

  • Average National Salary: $54.94/hr

  • Software Engineering Developer and Software Quality Test Engineer are responsible for architecting and refining software solutions. 


37. Dental Assistant

  • Average National Salary: $20.34/hr

  • Dental Assisting is a commonly overlooked creative trade job. In addition to aiding dentists in intensive work, Dental Assistants also help dentists by creating realistic false teeth. 


38. Carpenter

  • Average National Salary: $26.06/hr

  • Woodworking is a versatile and high-demand trade within private residences and large-scale construction projects. 


39. Photographer

  • Average National Salary: $24.18/hr

  • This is a trade that is important to almost all businesses and has lots of opportunities for creative expression. Photographers produce and edit pictures for a variety of applications. 


40. Paralegal or Legal Assistant

  • Average National Salary: $27.22/hr

  • Paralegals or Legal Assistants assist lawyers with research and investigations. They also prepare legal documents.

41. Makeup Artist

  • Average National Salary: $48.07/hr

  • Another commonly overlooked trade is Makeup Artistry. Makeup Artists can work in commercial, private, and entertainment settings.

42. Detectives or Criminal Investigators

  • Average National Salary: $42.93/hr

  • Many Detectives and Criminal Investigators start off as police officers. This trade is suited for individuals with a desire to work within criminal justice while exercising critical thinking to conduct investigations that abide by federal and state laws. 

A Note on Creativity and Trade Jobs

It should go without saying that all trade jobs are inherently creative because they require an intricate blend of knowledge, skill, and curiosity to problem solve. Take welding, masonry, or plumbing for example—all are vital infrastructure professions. However, it is highly unlikely that anyone infrastructure project will apply the same welding, masonry, or plumbing design solution more than once. Trade Workers in these professions must come up with a creative solution for each project.  


There is also a high demand for these careers in private and creative applications, such as art installations and custom designs. This goes to show that with a good mix of drive, skill, and imagination, almost any trade job can be used for a lucrative private project. 

Why Choose a Trade Job Over a Degree?

Trade jobs prove advantageous over college degrees for a number of reasons. Tuition, time, and benefits are the most common reasons people pursue trade jobs instead of college degrees. Compared to college professionals, trade workers spend less time paying and studying for their professions, while receiving comparable salaries and benefits. 

Trade School Costs Less Than a Four-Year Degree

While tuition for trade schools varies considerably based on the type of work, it is by far a more affordable career option to earning a college diploma. Tuition for trade schools ranges anywhere from a couple thousand to around $40,000 dollars. To put things into perspective, some of the most expensive trade school programs are the same price as one year of college.Despite price, trade school is made even more affordable with loans and aid programs. Trade school applicants are eligible for federal and private loans just like college attendees. And depending on the trade, students can finance their vocational tuition with labor or business-sponsored grants. 

Trade School Takes Less Time Than College

The shortest amount of time it takes to earn a university diploma is four years. Trade school, on the other hand, lasts anywhere from six months to two years. Compared to college students, trade students enter the workforce quicker and with the advantage of practical experience. 

A Note on Apprenticeships

Although trade studies take less time to complete than college, it is not uncommon for some apprenticeships to last longer than four-year college degree programs. The main difference between trade apprentices and college students is that apprentices learn practical career skills  while working their target role. Unlike most university students, trade apprentices enter the workforce immediately and work throughout the entirety of their study.

Trade Jobs are Secure

Most trade jobs are considered stable professions because their functions are important to everyday life. Since professional trade workers take time to hone their skills and expertise, they are hard to replace. Once they’re established in their roles, trade workers can expect long-term job security.

How to Get Into a Trade School?

If you’re interested in pursuing a trade career, you’ll need to look up accredited trade schools online or in your area. To ensure you are considering a quality program, review the school’s record of job placements for your particular trade. Research the trade’s program, mission statement, and fees. If you can, connect with alumni on LinkedIn and ask them about their experience studying at the school in question. 


Once you’re satisfied with your research, apply to the school, complete your coursework, earn your certification, and continue on your professional journey!

A Trade For All, A Trade For You

You can have a career without going to college and you can live comfortably without getting a degree. College is not for everyone, and that’s ok.  There’s a wide variety of unique trades that will challenge, fulfill, and pay you much in the same way a college professional will.