Top Paying Traditional Trades to Consider When Choosing a Career

There are many factors to consider when choosing a career—job security and satisfaction rank high on most people’s lists. However, while these factors are important, it’s hard to overlook the impact salary can have on your quality of life. Luckily, for those looking to make a good living, there are many trades which pay high salaries. Here are some of the top paying traditional trades to consider when choosing a career.



Electrician is one of the highest paying trades you can pursue. As an electrician, you will be responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining electrical systems in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for electricians is around $60,040 per year, and the top 10 percent earned more than $99,800. Additionally, electricians often receive great benefits such as paid vacations, health insurance, and even retirement plans. Plus, job security won’t be an issue as electricians are in high demand in many industries, including construction, manufacturing, and maintenance.


With a high exceeding $99,920 and a median salary right around $59,880 per year, it’s safe to say that plumber is near the top of the list as one of the highest paying traditional trades. Plumbers specialize in the installation, repair, and maintenance of a variety of different pipes, fixtures, and other systems. While on-the-job training as an apprentice is the most common method for becoming a plumber, there are also programs offered through trade schools and technical colleges. Licensed plumbers won’t have to look too hard for work as there is an ever-growing need for plumbing in residential and commercial buildings.


Carpenter is another of the top paying trades with the highest earners seeing salaries topping $80,940 annually. The median salary for carpenters is around $48,260 per year. Carpenters specialize in the construction, installation, and maintenance of buildings, furniture, and other structures. Carpenters must have a strong understanding of mathematics and be able to work with a variety of different materials. If you're interested in construction and enjoy working with your hands, carpentry may be a great option for you.


Brick-masons are skilled tradespeople who specialize in building structures using bricks, concrete blocks, and other types of masonry materials. They are involved in the construction of walls, chimneys, archways, and other structures, and must be able to read blueprints and work with precision.

As of May 2021, the BLS reports the median annual salary for brick-masons is around $48,040 and the top 10 percent bring in over $78,810. As with other traditional trades, brick-masons often receive good benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans. Additionally, brick-masons can also work as self-employed contractors, giving them the flexibility to set their own hours and choose their own projects.

HVAC Technician

Does $78,210 sound like a decent wage? That much and more is what the highest paid HVAC technicians can expect to rake in each year. That said, the median salary for HVAC technicians is around $48,630 per year, which still keeps HVAC technician near the top of the list of highest paying traditional trades. HVAC technicians specialize in the installation, maintenance, and repair of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. If you don’t get a certification or degree from a trade school, you can expect to have to work as an apprentice for three to five years to learn the trade. To increase your chances at being a successful HVAC technician, you’ll need to be detail-oriented, proficient at math, and able to read and understand blueprints.


Welders are also in high demand and are one of the highest paying trades. The median salary for welders is around $47,010 per year and the highest earners top out at over $63,660. Welders specialize in the joining of metals and other materials. They must have a good understanding of geometry and be able to safely and accurately weld materials together.

These are just a few of the top-paying traditional trades you can consider when choosing a career. Each trade requires different skills and experience, so it’s important to research each one thoroughly before making a decision. It’s also important to consider other factors such as job satisfaction and job security when making your decision—according to 2021’s Skilled Trades Report, 83 percent of skilled tradespeople are “either somewhat or extremely satisfied in their choice of work.” Pursuing a career in traditional trades demands hard work, dedication, and the ability to adapt to new technologies and techniques. Despite the challenges, a career in these trades can be financially rewarding and personally fulfilling, ensuring a good salary and the opportunity to build a secure future. If you're ready for the challenge, traditional trades are worth considering.

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