14 Blue-Collar Jobs That Pay at Least $100,000 a Year

Some blue-collar jobs require special training or manual work, but they also come with a big paycheck.
Last updated April 3, 2023 | By Jenny Cohen Edited By Chris Kissell
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Are you considering a career change to find a job that can earn you more money? Don’t rule out blue-collar work.

Some blue-collar jobs might not require a four-year college degree, and apprenticeships or trade schools can make the switch to a blue-collar job even easier.

Here are a few options to choose from that can make you at least $100,000 a year in salary. These positions can help you move beyond living from paycheck to paycheck and into a position that is more lucrative.

All salaries listed in this story are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Air traffic controller

Maksim Shmeljov/Adobe team of aircraft control officers works using radar

Air traffic controllers need an associate degree to be up in a tower directing traffic. The median annual wage for a controller is around $130,000 and can go up above $185,000 for some workers.

Be aware that air traffic controllers have a stressful position, which may discourage some potential workers from pursuing the profession.

Radiation therapists

Valerii/Adobe woman is undergoing radiation therapy for cancer under the supervision of doctors

Radiation therapists hold important positions in helping cancer patients and those with other diseases receive radiation treatment. A radiation therapist may need an associate degree and a license or certification to work in the profession.

Radiation therapists make a median wage of $82,790 in 2021, with the top 10% of the profession getting more than $128,550 per year in pay.

Police and detectives

New Africa/Adobe detective board with fingerprints, photos, map and clues connected by red string

Police officers and detectives employed by your local police department can make some serious cash, particularly if they have been working for several years.

A police officer in the U.S. makes a median wage of $66,020, but the top 10% of the profession make more than $105,540 per year.

There are training and age requirements that a potential officer has to meet, but some police departments may accept officers with at least a high school degree.

This low degree threshold might make the job appealing if you would prefer to go directly into training without having to sit in a college classroom.

Elevators and escalator installation and repair

Алексей Смышляев/Adobe elevator equipment during major repairs

Whenever you get on an elevator or escalator, be thankful for the specialized workers who install and repair such equipment.

The median wage for installers and repairers is around $98,000, but additional experience can help boost your income. The top 10% in the profession make more than $130,000. And you can get into the profession with a high school diploma and an apprenticeship program.

Mail superintendents

Pixel-Shot/Adobe  young postman putting letters in mail box outdoors

A postmaster or mail superintendent can be a good position, especially in light of the additional benefits as a government employee.

The median wage is around $80,000, but the top 10% of the profession make close to $100,000 per year in salary. You also don’t need more than a high school degree in order to work as a postmaster.

Airline pilot

Viacheslav Yakobchuk/Adobe pilot and female first officer seated in the flight deck

Airline pilots need a bachelor’s degree as well as pilot training in order to move up in the profession. But the position can be a lucrative one if you prefer to fly the skies instead of sitting behind a desk.

Airline pilots of all types made a median salary of $202,180 in 2021, while commercial pilots made a median wage of $99,640 for that year.

Be aware that salaries can vary widely depending on the type of experience you have or the position you may be hired to fill. So, do some research on which positions in the field may be the best fit for you.

Construction manager

romul014/Adobe woman construction worker on building site

Construction positions are in high demand, with some firms admitting that they are having trouble hiring workers.

Construction managers may need a bachelor’s degree as well as on-site training. In exchange, they can make a median wage of $98,890, while the top 10% of workers in the profession make more than $163,800.

Nuclear technician

Quality Stock Arts/Adobe labor worker pressing the button while talking on the radio

Nuclear power plants need trained technicians to operate their facilities, making the position a good blue-collar option for some workers.

Technicians usually need an associate degree in a nuclear-related field and receive extensive on-site training. But a typical nuclear technician can earn about $100,000 a year, with the top 10% of workers in the profession picking up more than $126,600 in 2021.

Power plant operators

dusanpetkovic1/Adobe plant worker in overalls with protective helmet on head and antiphons on ears

You don’t have to work in a nuclear power plant to earn a good salary in a blue-collar position. Power plant operators of other types can also make more than $100,000, and sometimes with just a high school diploma.

Operators made a median of $80,850 in 2021, with the top 10% making more than $100,000.

Petroleum engineers

manit/Adobe industrial engineer stands in a pipeline manufacturing facility using digital tablet

Working in the oil and gas industry can earn you some extra money, depending on the position you have.

A petroleum engineer may need a bachelor’s degree to get the position and might work on-site as well as in the office. Your degree may need to focus on engineering of some sort with relevant knowledge in the energy field.

The median wage for a petroleum engineer in 2021 was $130,850, with the top 10% of engineers in the field making more than $208,000.

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Firefighting and fire prevention supervisor

luckybusiness/Adobe firefighters successfully completed the firefighting

Overseeing firefighters and fire prevention workers in the field can be lucrative for blue-collar workers. Rookie firefighters may need a high school diploma, as well as training in the field before moving up into a supervisory role.

Firefighting supervisors make a median wage of $78,230, while the top 25% of the workforce can make a median of more than $100,350.

Farmers and ranchers

america_stock/Adobe young farmer is holding a box of organic vegetables

If you prefer to work outdoors in a rural setting, look into becoming a farmer or rancher. The position usually only requires a high school degree as well as relevant work experience.

The median pay in 2021 was $73,060, but the top 10% of ranchers and farmers made more than $126,330.

Power line installation and repair

Prapat/Adobe electrician with safety equipment installing cable lines

Working on power lines usually doesn’t require more than a high school degree, but you also may have to pick up extensive on-site training before you can get a full-time position working on power lines.

There are specific hazards to the job, as you may be working with high-voltage electrical lines at heights that might not be typical for a blue-collar job. The position can earn you a median salary of $78,310 per year with the top 10% of workers in the field making more than $107,110 in 2021.

Mechanics supervisor

Drazen/Adobe mechanic going through paperwork while working in the office

If you don’t mind getting your hands a little greasy, consider a position repairing or installing mechanical machinery. Working up the ranks could land you a lucrative supervisory role.

A mechanics supervisor can make a median salary of $70,240, with the top 10% of workers making a median of at least $109,440.

Bottom line

Akarawut/Adobe worker is choosing copper tube for sawing

Blue-collar work may not be for everyone, but it could be a good option for you if you’re ready to change careers.

Learn whether you need training at a trade school or if you can learn on the job through apprenticeship programs in your area.

If you land one of these lucrative positions, you might be able to eliminate money stress and progress toward a brighter future.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.