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8 Blue Collar Jobs That Pay Six Figures

The old adage is that the only way to truly make it in America is with a college degree.  And it seems even that is hard nowadays.  For evidence, all you need to do is turn on the news every night and hear disheartening stories of down-and-out college graduates working for minimum wage.

However, that is only one side of the story.  The reality is that you do not need to get a college degree to make a lot of money.  There are plenty of opportunities out there for people to make money.  Such opportunities are plentiful in so-called “blue collar” professions, or trade craft professions.  If you don’t mind working with your hands most of the day, here are 8 blue collar jobs that make six figures:

1) Longshoreman


Longshoremen, or dock workers, spend their days loading and unloading cargo off of ships.  Starting out, you can expect to make at least $20/hr .  But journey-level longshoremen can expect to make up to $120,000.  Those who work on the west coast of the United States get paid slightly more than the east coast longshoremen.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the profession will increase by 15 percent through 2020, which is about the average of many other professions.

 2) Electrician

The top 10 percent of electricians earn more than $82,680.  But if you are working overtime or are taking on commercial jobs, you can easily make six figures.  If you move to a big metropolitan area with high demand, you can also expect to make six figures a year.  A journey-level union worker electrician in San Francisco makes about $150,000 a year.  If you are an apprentice electrician, you will probably earn 30 to 50 percent of what journey-level electricians earn around your area.

3) Elevator Repair and Installation

Elevator repair personnel install, maintain, and repair elevators.The average hourly wage for an elevator repairman is about $35 and the average salary is over $73,000.  The top 10 percent of elevator repairmen make approximately $105,000.

4) Transportation Inspectors

Transportation inspects inspect equipment or goods that go travel long distances (such as interstate travel).  This includes truck, freight, and rail inspectors also.  The average annual salary of a transportation inspector is $65,770 and the hourly wage is $31.62. Journey-level transportation inspectors in major cities make an average of $110,210.

 5) Aircraft Mechanics

Aircraft mechanics make an average of $54,500 and have an hourly wage of $26.20.  The top 10 percent of airline mechanics make an average of $74,000 a year without overtime.  However, with overtime and working at a big company (such as Boeing), aircraft mechanics easily break the six figure barrier.  If you are a mechanic at companies like Boeing, you will have unlimited overtime.

6) Nuclear Reactor Operator

Nuclear reactor operators are responsible for controlling a nuclear reactor via the control panel in a power plant.  You have to have a license to operate a nuclear reactor but you do not need a degree.  In order to work as a nuclear reactor operator, you will need to work in a nuclear power plant for at least three years, most often as an equipment operator.  The average salary of a nuclear power reactor operator is $77k.  However, the top 10 percent make a six figure salary.  There is also overtime available that can bring you up to six figures if your base wage is not six figures yet.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the growth in the industry is going to be 19 percent by 2018.

When you are looking for a nuclear reactor operator job, keep in mind that a nuclear reactor operator is different than a nuclear power engineer.  Nuclear power engineers need a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering to get the job, and the pay is significantly higher; the median pay for nuclear engineer is $104, 270.

7) Boilermakers

Boilermakers are usually repairing, repiping, and retubing containers that hold gas and liquids used for commercial and residential properties.  Boilermakers also weld and operate tools and machinery in locomotive equipment.  Boilermakers on average make about $56k, but the top 10 percent make over $80k.  However, with overtime and the right opportunity, boilermakers can easily make over six figures.

8) Construction Manager

Construction is a physically exhausting so don’t go into it if you are not physically able.  Although you do not do as much lifting as a construction manager, you will have to start out doing actual construction yourself.  As a construction manager you will manage, plan, supervise, and coordinate construction projects from beginning to end.  Construction managers earn a median salary of $82,790 and an average salary of $94k per year.  The top percentage of construction managers earn up to $150k per year.  Do note that construction management jobs are cyclical with the real estate market.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that from 2012 to 2022, the occupation is going to grow 16 percent.


The 8 above professions make impressive six figure wages if you add in overtime and/or if you are in the top 10 percent of the profession.  In addition, the following jobs have been known to provide great wages that are almost comparable the the above 8:

  • Subway and streetcar operators
  • Gas plant operators
  • Petroleum pump operators
  • Rotary drill operators
  • Railroad conductors
  • HVAC service technician

A lot of the mentioned trade professions in this article are unionized so they often include overtime and guaranteed wages.  In addition, these blue collar positions also give ample opportunity to go out and operate your own business, which can definitely land you a six figure income.  So if people tell you that getting a college degree is the only road to a good-paying job, they are wrong.   The blue collar jobs above are proof that you don’t need a college degree to earn a good salary; all you need is some training, networking, and a good work ethic.

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