Top 10 Blue Collar Jobs

Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor

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Blue collar workers tend to get a bad rap.  Often unfairly associated with poor education and minimal abilities, most occupations that are classified as "blue collar" actually involve specialized skills, extensive training and technical know-how. 

Unfortunately, the job market for these professionals is experiencing a decline.  The emergence of more specialized equipment, the movement toward a service-based economy, and the outsourcing of jobs to developing nations with lower wages have all contributed to this decline. 

Despite the overall decrease in blue collar jobs, however, several of these professions maintain a strong presence in today’s workforce, and the most highly-skilled workers will have the best opportunities for work in these occupations.  What’s more, the pay for these jobs is comparable to many so-called white collar jobs, and oftentimes, depending on the industry, these workers even make significantly more than the average American worker.     

Below are 10 of the best-paying blue-collar jobs that are still very much in demand in today’s workforce, according to the 2006-2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.  Most of the jobs on this list pay more than $43,318 annually, what the Census Bureau lists as the U.S. median income, and none of them require more than a high school education (though you may need apprenticeships or vocational training for some).

Construction and building inspectors receive their training on the job, but they must learn building codes and standards on their own.  Experienced inspectors can teach them the most about techniques, regulations and recordkeeping and reporting duties.
Average pay: $43,670/year*

Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters install, maintain and repair many different types of pipe systems from those in municipal water treatment plants to residential, commercial and public buildings. They generally learn the trade through comprehensive training programs.
Pay: $23.86/hour (about $49,628/year)

Structual iron and steel workers usually participate in a three- or four-year apprenticeship to learn the skills necessary to place and install iron or steel construction materials that form structures such as buildings and bridges.
Pay: $20.40/hour (about $42,432/year)

Electricians learn their trade through apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job training and related classroom instruction.  Manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, physical fitness and a good sense of balance are essential to excelling at this trade.
Pay: $20.33/hour (about $42,286/year)

Elevator installers train for their jobs through apprenticeships that can last up to four years, and then apply through a local affiliate of the International Union of Elevator Constructors, which requires the successful completion of an aptitude test.
Pay: $28.23/hour (about $58,718/year)

Police officers often train for 12 to 14 weeks at the state and local levels and then go through a probationary period ranging from six months to three years.  Through experience and demonstrated skill, they can work their way up to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant and captain.
Pay: $45,210/year

Subway or streetcar operators most often start off as yard laborers before they begin training.  In addition to needing physical stamina, manual dexterity and mechanical aptitude, these workers need to pass a physical exam, drug screening and criminal background check. 
Pay: $23.70/hour (about $49,296/year)

Commercial and industrial equipment electrical and electronics repairers need knowledge of electrical equipment and electronics to make necessary repairs when equipment breaks down.  They can train through a one- to two-year community college or vocational school programs or on-the-job training.
Pay: $20.48/hour (about $42,598/year)

Aircraft and avionics mechanics specialize in preventive maintenance, inspecting aircraft engines, landing gear and other aircraft parts.  Professionals must have 18 months of work experience to obtain certification or complete a Federal Aviation Administration-certified program before they can work.
Pay: $21.77/hour (about $45,281/year)

Plastic machine setters set up and tend machines that transform plastic compounds into consumer goods from toys to auto parts. These professionals learn their skills on the job, sometimes participating in formal training programs.
Pay: $21.28 (about $44,262/year)

*Salary information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics


Last Updated: 22/02/2008 - 1:54 PM


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