If college isn't the right fit for you — or you want to avoid pursuing a degree in a white-collar field where job prospects are dim — perhaps a blue-collar job is a better option.
Fortunately, plenty of blue-collar jobs that pay well are available. And many don't require you to pursue a typical four-year college degree.
Whether you're looking for a career change or an alternative to a college job that helps you move beyond living paycheck to paycheck, here are 15 blue-collar careers to consider.
All salary figures are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
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Plumber, steamfitter, or pipefitter
Median annual salary: $60,090
Plumbers, steamfitters, and pipefitters install, inspect, maintain, repair, and replace piping systems.
While some folks in these jobs deal with residential plumbing only, you may choose to work with commercial or industrial plumbing.
Although you might not be able to retire early on this salary, you can still earn a good living.
Median annual salary: $63,080
Surveyors precisely calculate property boundary lines prior to the start of construction work. The data they compile is crucial to engineering and construction projects.
A bachelor’s degree is typically required to become a surveyor.
Construction and building inspector
Median annual salary: $64,480
Construction and building inspectors verify that buildings are constructed safely and are up to code.
While the BLS expects job openings in this area to slip 2% over the decade ending in 2032, there should still be about 15,700 new jobs in the field each year.
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Water transportation worker
Median annual salary: $66,100
Water transportation workers operate, oversee, and maintain water transportation vessels, such as container ships, ferries, cruise ships, and oil tankers.
You might also hear workers in this field referred to as “merchant mariners.”
Median annual salary: $66,920
Boilermakers build, maintain, and repair boilers, which heat water and generate heat for residential and commercial buildings.
The best-paying boilermaker jobs are in the chemical manufacturing, petroleum and coal, and railway industries.
Median annual salary: $68,960
Railroad workers include train drivers, those who coordinate train activities, and rail yard switch and signal operators.
You could work with freight trains, passenger trains, or both as a railroad worker.
Median annual salary: $69,190
Telecommunications technicians repair and install crucial telecommunications equipment.
Depending on the job, this could include working with telephone lines, fiber optic cables, or radio towers.
Aircraft equipment mechanic or technician
Median annual salary: $70,740
Aircraft equipment mechanics and technicians attend a Federal Aviation Administration-approved school and/or receive on-the-ground training to perform repairs and routine aircraft maintenance.
Median annual salary: $73,210
Landscape architects help design outdoor spaces for government entities, homeowners, commercial businesses, and other clients.
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Gas plant operator
Median annual salary: $79,460
Gas plant operators help distribute or process gas for city utility companies and other entities.
Gas plant operators who work in chemical manufacturing tend to earn the highest salary (nearly $100,000) in this field. Those working in natural gas distribution and electric power generation typically earn above $80,000.
Median annual salary: $79,570
Transportation inspectors review cargo carried by trains, planes, boats, and trucks. They also help ensure the safe transportation of people.
You will make the most money in this field by working for the federal government, where your earnings can top $120,000.
Electrical power line installer
Median annual salary: $82,340
Electrical power line installers install, repair, replace, and maintain electrical transmission towers and their corresponding elements.
You might erect poles, repair cables, and otherwise ensure the electrical infrastructure stays intact.
Streetcar or subway operator
Median annual salary: $88,260
Streetcar or subway operators help to keep public transportation moving.
Just keep in mind that not every city offers this form of transportation. So, job prospects will depend on where you live.
Power plant operator, dispatcher, or distributor
Median annual salary: $97,570
Electric power plant operators, dispatchers, and distributors are responsible for managing electric power systems.
While opportunities in this field are likely to decline over the next decade, the high salary and continued demand for electric energy could still make it a good career to consider.
Elevator and escalator installer or repairer
Median annual salary: $99,000
Elevator and escalator installers and repairers can find themselves working anywhere from shopping malls to department stores.
These workers might also install and repair moving walkways like those in busy airports. The job pays well, which can help you build wealth over time.
Blue-collar jobs are more than just in high demand: Depending on the job and industry, they can also pay exceptionally well.
So, if you want to get ahead financially, consider pursuing one of the jobs on this list.