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Top 6 Figure Trade Jobs: Lucrative Careers Without a College Degree

Seeking a six-figure salary without the traditional college route? This article cuts straight to the chase, highlighting trade jobs where earnings exceed $100,000 annually. You’ll learn about top earners in construction, aviation, tech, and more. Expect insights into the training required for these in-demand roles, carving out your route to financial prosperity with skill and precision. Welcome to the efficient road map to 6 figure trade jobs.

Key Takeaways

  • High-paying construction trade jobs, such as construction manager, boilermaker, and pile driver operator, do not require a college degree, offering salaries upwards of $70,000 with the right training and experience.
  • The aviation and healthcare industries offer six-figure incomes for roles like air traffic controller and respiratory therapist, which require specialized certifications or associate degrees instead of a college degree.
  • Trade school education provides a faster, cost-effective path to lucrative careers in various industries, equipping students with hands-on, in-demand skills for jobs that are resilient to economic shifts.

High-Paying Construction Careers

6 Figure Trade Jobs

Imagine earning a six-figure salary while being at the heart of creating impressive structures or maintaining crucial infrastructure. This is the case for numerous individuals in well-paid construction professions, often referred to as six figure jobs. These aren’t your typical construction workers but highly skilled trade professionals who have honed their craft through years of practice and training.

Take for instance, the construction manager, the boilermaker, and the pile driver operator. These are among the highest paying trade jobs in the construction industry. In 2023, construction managers, boilermakers, and pile driver operators reported average annual salaries of $77,650, $69,780, and $70,220 respectively. Even with the projected decline in employment for boilermakers, there are expected to be about 1,100 job openings each year due to worker retirement and occupational transfers.

Despite requiring considerable expertise, these positions don’t necessitate a college degree. What they do need is a high school diploma and specific job training or apprenticeship programs. These programs equip individuals with the necessary skills to navigate construction sites and manage construction projects effectively.

Construction Manager

Being a construction manager isn’t merely a job, it represents a prosperous career trajectory. These professionals oversee construction projects and coordinate resources to ensure everything runs smoothly. They had a median annual wage of $98,890 as of 2023.

But that’s just the beginning. With 6 to 8 years of experience, top-earning construction managers can make up to $163,800 annually. Imagine earning such an amount while being at the heart of creating commercial buildings and infrastructure. Indeed, a construction manager’s role is both rewarding and fulfilling.


Alternatively, if the prospect of fabricating, setting up, and upkeeping boilers, tanks, and vats intrigues you, a career as a boilermaker might suit you. Boilermakers have a median annual salary of $88,110, making it one of the high-paying jobs in the construction industry.

However, to become a boilermaker, the following steps are required:

  1. Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent.
  2. Complete an apprenticeship program, which typically takes a few years of on-the-job training.
  3. Gain experience and develop skills in the field.
  4. Enjoy the financial rewards and satisfaction of doing a skilled trade job.

While it may take some time and effort, the benefits of becoming a boilermaker are worth it.

Pile Driver Operator

Serving as a pile driver operator is yet another well-compensated position in the construction sector. With a median annual salary of $71,880, pile driver operators can potentially make up to $113,360 per year. This role requires comprehensive training on heavy equipment operations, including formal training programs and years of apprenticeship.

With a job outlook of 15%, the demand for pile driver operators is expected to be robust in the coming years. And to effectively operate the machinery, pile driver operators need to acquire highly technical skills, reinforcing the specialized nature of their work. This is truly a lucrative career for those who excel in operating heavy machinery.

Aviation Industry Opportunities

6 Figure Trade Jobs

If the construction industry doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry. The aviation sector also presents a plethora of well-remunerated trade job opportunities. The roles of air traffic controllers and aircraft mechanics are two such positions that offer the prospect of six-figure incomes without necessarily requiring a college degree.

Air traffic controllers:

  • Manage the flow of aircraft into and out of the airspace
  • Coordinate the movement of aircraft on the ground
  • Require critical thinking and active brain involvement
  • Have a median annual salary of $129,750.

On the other hand, aircraft mechanics maintain and repair different types of aircraft, ensuring they are safe for flight. These aviation industry opportunities, which also include Aviation Inspectors and Airport Managers, contribute to the diverse and lucrative opportunities in the field.

All these roles require specific certifications or skills, but the reward is a high-paying, satisfying career in one of the most exciting industries out there.

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers form an integral component of the aviation sector. Every time you board a plane, be it for a holiday or a business trip, it’s the air traffic controllers who ensure your flight gets from point A to point B safely. As such, they receive a median annual wage of up to $132,250.

It’s a high-stakes, high-reward profession. Air traffic controllers work in control towers, approach control facilities, or en route centers, handling critical operations that necessitate sustained attention and concentration in stressful conditions. If you thrive under pressure, this could be the career for you.

Aircraft Mechanic

Meanwhile, aircraft mechanics serve as the unheralded champions of the aviation sector. They maintain and repair aircraft to ensure they are safe for flight. With a median salary of $65,550 per year, this is a rewarding career that offers financial stability.

Becoming an aircraft mechanic involves training at an FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school, which takes about 18 to 24 months. Additional training is also required to comply with FAA regulations. With an average of 12,800 job openings projected each year over the next decade, this is a field with promising prospects.

High-Demand Technical Jobs

The technical job domain is another sphere teeming with in-demand, high-earning prospects. Jobs like electricians and HVAC technicians not only offer competitive salaries but also provide job stability. These professions require a high school diploma and specific job training or apprenticeship programs, making them accessible to many.

Consider the role of an electrician. They install, test, and maintain electrical systems, ensuring electrical designs comply with relevant codes. Or take the HVAC technician, who ensures our homes and workplaces remain comfortable by maintaining heating and cooling systems. Both these trades are in high demand, with a positive job outlook.

Moreover, emerging technical trades such as wind turbine technician and solar photovoltaic installer are also experiencing significant demand with high growth rates projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means more opportunities for those who want to dive into these technical trades.


Envision being able to literally illuminate people’s homes! That’s the responsibility of an electrician. These professionals install, test, and maintain electrical systems, ensuring that homes, businesses, and cities can operate smoothly. As an electrician, you can earn a median salary of $60,976, making this trade job one of the highest paying.

This rewarding career is accessible to anyone with a high school diploma and the willingness to undergo an apprenticeship. Through on-the-job training, you can learn to ensure electrical designs comply with relevant codes and become proficient in installing and maintaining electrical systems.

HVAC Technician

As an HVAC technician, you’re entrusted with the comfort of residential and commercial spaces. HVAC technicians maintain heating and cooling systems, ensuring that indoor environments remain comfortable year-round. With a median annual wage of $48,630, this is a stable and financially rewarding career.

To become an HVAC technician, you’ll need to:

  1. Attend trade school. These programs offer a quick and focused path to acquiring the necessary skills.
  2. Once you’re qualified, you could find yourself working anywhere from residential homes to large commercial properties.
  3. Enjoy comprehensive benefits and high salaries in certain cities.

This trade job is worth considering in the current job market.

Industrial Electrician

Being an industrial electrician is another much-needed role in the technical profession. These professionals maintain and repair electrical equipment in industrial settings. Industrial electricians have the potential to earn up to $122,500 annually with on-the-job experience. This high salary reflects the valuable skills and expertise they bring to their profession..

Like other trade jobs, becoming an industrial electrician requires a high school diploma and specific job training or apprenticeship programs. Through these programs, you can acquire the technical skills necessary to maintain and repair electrical equipment, and launch a successful career in this high-demand field.

Health Care Trade Careers

Shifting our focus from the technical and construction sectors, let’s explore the healthcare domain. Trade jobs in the healthcare industry offer lucrative opportunities for those who want to make a difference in people’s lives. Roles like respiratory therapists, dental hygienists, and diagnostic medical sonographers are not only financially rewarding but also provide a sense of fulfillment that comes from helping others.

Respiratory therapists, for example, assist patients with breathing issues and lung diseases, providing vital care in various healthcare settings. Dental hygienists, on the other hand, focus on oral health, performing cleanings and examining patients for signs of diseases. Meanwhile, diagnostic medical sonographers operate imaging equipment to create ultrasounds, aiding in the observation, diagnosis, and treatment of medical conditions.

Each of these roles requires specific skills and training, but they don’t necessarily require a four-year college degree. And yet, they offer salaries that rival, if not exceed, many jobs that do require a degree.

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists hold a pivotal position in healthcare, aiding patients with respiratory problems. They work in various settings, from hospitals to nursing homes, providing vital care to those in need. Their efforts are well rewarded, with a median salary of $61,830 per year.

To become a respiratory therapist, an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy and state licensure are typically required. With approximately 9,400 job openings projected each year over the next decade, this profession offers both job security and a rewarding career helping others.

Dental Hygienist

As a dental hygienist, you’ll assume an essential role in preserving oral health. Dental hygienists perform cleanings, examine patients for signs of oral diseases, and provide other preventive dental care. With a median annual salary of $63,596, this is a rewarding career that offers financial stability.

The requirements to become a dental hygienist include an associate’s degree in dental hygiene and state licensure. And with high salaries offered in certain states, this profession offers both financial rewards and the satisfaction of promoting oral health and well-being.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers perform a key function in healthcare, operating imaging devices to generate ultrasound images. These images aid in the observation, diagnosis, and treatment of medical conditions. As a diagnostic medical sonographer, you can:

  • Perform ultrasound examinations
  • Analyze and interpret the images
  • Collaborate with other healthcare professionals
  • Provide patient care and support

In addition, you can earn a median annual salary of $67,108.

Becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer typically requires an associate’s degree or postsecondary certificate. With a positive job outlook of 14%, this profession offers job security, rewarding work, and opportunities for advancement in the healthcare industry.

Technology and IT Trade Jobs

The Technology and IT sectors present a spectrum of trade jobs whose earning potential can match or surpass numerous positions that necessitate a four-year degree. If you have a knack for technology and enjoy problem-solving, then a career in IT could be your ticket to a high-paying job.

Roles such as Full-Stack Developers, Database Developers, and Software Engineering Managers command salaries from $103,759 to $142,270 on average. In some roles like Site Reliability Engineers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts, earnings can reach up to $162,523 and $150,000 respectively.

These positions generally require a trade school education, which can range from six months to two years. The best part? Many graduates often secure employment before completing their studies, thus catalyzing their career growth in these high-paying sectors – and it only takes a few seconds to apply for these programs.

Web Developer

Web Developers rank among the top 25 highest-paying trade school occupations, boasting a median annual wage of $60,127 and a 13% job outlook. These professionals collaborate with clients and tech teams to create and maintain websites, using foundational knowledge in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

The standard educational requirement for web developers includes having a high school diploma and some vocational or postsecondary education. By acquiring niche skills such as 3D and graphic design, you can open doors to higher-paying opportunities in this field.

Computer Support Specialist

Computer support specialists play a crucial role in offering technical help to both employees and customers. With a median annual wage of $57,890, this profession offers a stable and financially rewarding career.

The entry requirements for computer support specialists differ; network support may require an associate’s degree, while user support might necessitate completion of college courses or relevant IT certifications. With an average of 66,500 job openings projected each year over the next decade, this is a field with promising prospects.

Software Developer

Software Developers rank among the 25 best-paid jobs in the US, with starting salaries at $73,769, an average base pay of $118,784, and the most remunerative roles fetching up to $191,268.

The Software Developer field encompasses a range of roles, including:

  • Application development
  • Cloud programming
  • Game development
  • Front-end development

These roles offer varying salaries and opportunities to specialize in niche areas.

The Benefits of Trade School Education

Having familiarized yourself with the profitable opportunities in trade jobs, let’s delve into the advantages of trade school education. Unlike traditional four-year colleges, trade school programs are typically completed in two years or less. This means you can graduate and begin your career faster.

The benefits of attending a trade school include:

  • Lower average annual cost compared to a four-year college
  • Reduced financial barrier to education, making it more accessible to a broader range of students
  • Focused and accelerated curriculums, allowing students to graduate and begin their careers more quickly
  • Often resulting in reduced overall educational costs

Trade schools provide trade school graduates with:

  • Hands-on training
  • Professional development through live demonstrations and practical projects
  • Preparation for entry-level employment
  • Specialized, in-demand skills
  • Job security and resilience to economic shifts

Graduates enter the workforce with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed, thanks to their college education. After the verification successful waiting period, they are ready to make a difference in their chosen fields.


In conclusion, trade jobs offer lucrative career opportunities across various fields, from construction and aviation to healthcare and technology. Whether you’re an aspiring electrician, a budding dental hygienist, or a future web developer, there’s a high-paying trade job that’s just right for you. With the benefits of trade school education, including shorter completion times, lower costs, and focused curriculums, you can jumpstart your career without the burden of a four-year degree. So why wait? Embark on your journey towards a fulfilling and high-paying career in the trades today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What trade makes six figures?

Several trade jobs have the potential to earn six figures. According to the National Society of High School Scholars, some of these high-earning trades include aircraft mechanics, plumbers, pipe fitters, and steamfitters, construction managers, industrial electricians, energy technicians, and software developers/computer programmers. For instance, aircraft mechanics can earn around $135,628 per year, while plumbers, pipe fitters, and steamfitters can earn about $132,275 per year. Construction managers have the potential to earn around $130,000 per year, and industrial electricians can earn approximately $122,500 per year. Energy technicians in the renewable energy sector can earn about $115,076 per year. 

What is the highest paying job in the trades?

Construction managers are among the highest-paying trade jobs, overseeing various construction projects from start to finish, including public, commercial, residential, and industrial projects.

What’s the easiest 6 figure job?

The easiest 6-figure job without a college degree requirement is a data scientist, where you can analyze raw data to improve business performance. Consider pursuing this field for high earning potential.

What are 6 figures?

“6 figures” refers to a number between 100,000 and 999,000, typically used to describe a salary of over $100,000 per year. It signifies a substantial income level.

What is the average salary of a construction manager?

The average salary of a construction manager is $98,890 per year as of 2023.

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