Skilled Trade Jobs in Demand for 2024

By Austin Kilham · March 13, 2024 · 6 minute read

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Skilled Trade Jobs in Demand for 2024

You don’t necessarily need a four-year degree to have a rewarding career that pays well. In fact, there are plenty of jobs out there that don’t require a bachelor’s degree and meet a wide variety of talents and interests, from nursing to mechanical technicians.

Here’s an explainer of what exactly is a “trade job,” plus a list of 25 of the highest-paying trade jobs as of 2022, which is the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is a Trade Job?

A trade job is a career that requires advanced training and skill that can be acquired outside a four-year bachelor’s degree. Instead, experience can be acquired through on-the-job instruction, apprenticeship, or vocational schooling.

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Highest-Paying Trade Jobs

If you’re interested in a job that doesn’t require a college degree, or you love working with your hands, consider this list of some of the highest-paying trade jobs in the U.S. The compilation shows average annual salary and was compiled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By the way, most if not all trade jobs require workers to be on site. Working remotely is not an option.

1. Power Plant Operator, Distributor, and Dispatcher – $97,570

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, long-term on-the-job training

Duties: Control power plants and the flow of electricity from plants to substations, which then deliver power to homes and businesses.

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2. Real Estate Broker – $52,030

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent. Must complete some real estate courses to be eligible for licensure.

Duties: Help people buy and sell properties.

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3. Registered Nurse – $81,220

Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, Associate degree in Nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Registered nurses must be licensed.

Duties: Help provide and coordinate patient care.

4. Dental Hygienist – $81,400

Requirements: Associate degree

Duties: Provide preventive dental care and examine patients for signs of oral diseases.

5. Water Transportation Worker – $66,100

Requirements: Will vary by job. For example, there are no requirements for entry-level sailors, while other workers might need to complete Coast Guard–approved training.

Duties: Operate and maintain vessels that carry cargo and people on the water.

6. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer – $78,210

Requirements: Associate degree

Duties: Operate special imaging equipment to create images of patients’ internal organs or to conduct tests.

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7. Farmer, Rancher, or Other Agricultural Manager – $75,760

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

Duties: Run farms and other establishments that produce livestock, dairy products, or crops.

8. Gas Plant Operator – $79,460

Requirements: High school diploma

Duties: Help distribute or process gas for utility companies by controlling the compressors on main gas pipelines.

9. Pile Driver Operator – $70,220

Requirements: High school diploma and vocational training can be helpful.

Duties: Operate machines that drive pilings for retaining walls, bulkheads, and foundations of buildings, bridges, and piers.

10. First-Line Supervisor of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers – $77,650

Requirements: High school diploma and five years or more work experience

Duties: Directly supervise and coordinate the activities of construction or extraction workers, such as miners or those drilling for minerals.

11. First-Line Supervisor of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers – $76,020

Requirements: High school diploma, some work experience

Duties: Directly supervise and coordinate mechanics, installers, and repairers. They may also advise customers seeking recommendations for services.

12. Legal Support Worker – $59,200

Requirements: Associate degree

Duties: Perform a variety of tasks to support attorneys such as interviewing clients, legal research, and case summaries.

13. Locomotive Engineer – $73,850

Requirements: High school diploma

Duties: Operate passenger and freight trains safely. May also coordinate train activities or control rail yard signals and switches.

14. Subway and Streetcar Operator – $75,880

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

Duties: Operate subways or elevated suburban trains that don’t have a separate locomotive, or may operate an electric-powered streetcar. May handle fares.

15. Line Installer and Repairer – $82,340

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

Duties: Install and repair lines for electrical power systems, telecommunications, and fiber optics.

16. Computer Network Support Specialist – $59,660

Requirements: Entry-level requirements may vary, but network support specialists usually need to have an associate degree. Applicants to these jobs may qualify with high school diploma and information technology certifications.

Duties: Provide technical support to computer users while also maintaining computer networks.

17. Claims Adjuster, Examiner, and Investigator – $72,040

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

Duties: Evaluate insurance claims and act as an intermediary between claimants and the insurance company.

18. Electrical and Electronics Installer and Repairer for Transportation Equipment – $71,740

Requirements: Specialized training at a technical college

Duties: Install and maintain mobile electronics communication equipment on trains, watercraft, or other mobile equipment.

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19. Avionics Technician – $70,740

Requirements: Some may obtain a degree or certificate from a Federal Aviation Administration–approved aviation maintenance technician school, while other candidates may be trained on the job or in the military.

Duties: Repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft.

20. Fire Inspector and Investigator – $65,800

Requirements: High school diploma, on-the-job training, and typically some experience as a firefighter

Duties: Fire inspectors help ensure buildings meet federal, state, and local fire codes and inspect buildings for potential fire hazards.

21. Transit and Railroad Police – $76,380

Requirements: Typically you must have a high school diploma or equivalent, complete a transit and railroad police training program, and receive a passing grade on a law enforcement exam from your state.

Duties: Help protect employees, passengers, and railroad and transit property.

22. Insurance Sales Agent – $57,860

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

Duties: Work with clients and customers to explain and sell various types of insurance.

23. Media and Communication Equipment Worker – $74,490

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

Duties: Install, repair, and maintain audio and visual systems across various industries, such as corporate offices and the film industry.

24. Boilermaker – $66,920

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

Duties: Install, maintain, and repair boilers.

25. Construction and Building Inspector – $64,480

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

Duties: Inspects buildings to ensure they are structurally sound and in compliance with specifications, building codes, and other regulations. May focus on a specific area such as plumbing or electrical systems.

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The Takeaway

On the high end, trade workers can make $90,000 or more at a career that doesn’t require a college education. That’s well above the $59,540 that represents the annual median income of U.S. full-time workers. And with a diverse range of career options to choose from, individuals who choose a trade job have a good chance at finding a fulfilling career that matches their interests and personality.

As your career takes off and you start earning a salary, you’ll likely want to begin budget planning and setting financial goals like paying down debt and saving for your future.

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Photo credit: iStock/kali9

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Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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