10 Hands-On Jobs That Pay Well

LearnHowToBecome Team
Mandy Sleight
November 9, 2021

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Hands-on jobs are always in demand, and you can even get some without completing a degree. Some people find the best hands-on jobs are fulfilling, provide valuable skills, and can be high paying with little schooling.

While some of the best hands-on jobs require a degree, others only require training through a vocational trade school, where you learn the skills needed to be competitive and earn top pay.

Here are some of the top hands-on jobs that pay well:

Airline Pilot

Average salary: $186,870
Required education: Airline certification and licensing program, or bachelor's degree in aviation

Airline pilots have a lot of responsibility to ensure airplanes, helicopters, and other aircraft make it safely from one point to the next. To become an airline pilot, you will need a commercial pilot's license, a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and some employers require a bachelor's degree.

Airline pilots usually start off as commercial pilots and complete on-the-job training to meet federal regulations to fly. This is one of the highest-paying hands-on jobs you can get with a certificate or bachelor's degree.

Construction Manager

Average salary: $107,260
Required education: Bachelor's degree in business, engineering, construction, and other fields

Construction managers are in high demand, with the job outlook growing by 11% through 2030. Most construction managers earn a bachelor's degree, and new construction managers will probably work under an experienced manager for a year or more to receive on-the-job training. Some construction managers start out as contractors, or other trade workers, to gain experience in the field.

Construction managers oversee the construction project, including planning, coordinating, and making budgets to ensure the project finishes on time and on budget. This hands-on job pays well and provides valuable skills in an industry growing faster than most.

You can boost your career even further by earning a master's degree in construction management.

Electrician

Average salary: $61,550
Required education: High school diploma or trade school

If you're considering becoming an electrician, this is one of the best trade school jobs. You can learn skills that will help you increase your salary as an electrician and by attending a technical school.

Electricians work on homes and businesses to ensure electrical power, lighting, and control systems are installed and maintained properly, providing repairs as needed. In most states, you will have to get and maintain an electrician's license, which requires you to pass a test based on local, state, and national electrical codes. Journeyman electricians can further their skills to become master electricians.

Home Inspector

Average salary: $66,470
Required education: High school diploma

If you prefer to learn on the job and want a hands-on job without a degree, consider becoming a home inspector. Home inspectors may require a license or certification in some states, with training requirements varying by state and locality.

To get the most out of your salary, consider a certificate or associate degree at your local community college to learn and develop the necessary skills to be a successful and in-demand home inspector. As a home inspector, you will ensure the home meets local, state, and national building codes and contract specifications.

Home inspectors often have experience in other trade jobs such as HVAC technicians, electricians, plumbers, or contractors.

Plumber

Average salary: $61,100
Required education: High school diploma

Another hands-on job without a degree is becoming a plumber, which usually only requires a high school diploma. Plumbers install and repair systems and fixtures in homes and businesses. Most plumbers learn skills on the job as an apprentice or go through vocational school.

Apprenticeships typically take four or five years to complete. After training, you must pass a journeyman licensing exam to work on your own. After several years of on-the-job experience, you can earn master status by taking another exam. At this point, you can get your plumbing contractor's license, which many states require to operate independently.

Licensed Practical Nurse

Average salary: $50,090
Required education: Technical school or community college certificate program

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) provide medical care, including monitoring patient health and comfort, changing bandages, and making status reports to doctors and registered nurses (RN).

LPNs can get certified through a state-approved program in a year or two before passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). LPNs must maintain their license as a condition of employment and can become certified in different subjects of interest to gain valuable skills for this hands-on job.

Welder

Average salary: $46,690
Required education: High school diploma, on-the-job training

Becoming a welder is another hands-on job that pays well without a degree. Welders learn on the job and can also complete a technical program through a vocational school to further their skills. Welding is the ultimate hands-on job, using hand-held or remote-controlled equipment to fill holes, seams, join, and cut metal parts.

Welders can become certified and specialize in certain industries, like aerospace, defense, or metal fabricating. Employers will often pay for training and testing, making this hands-on job lucrative with an in-demand skill set.

Chef

Average salary: $58,740
Required education: High school diploma

Chefs only need a high school diploma to get started, with most of the skills required to prepare food learned on the job. There are also programs through community colleges, culinary arts schools, and four-year programs that allow you to practice your cooking skills and learn how to work kitchen equipment, plan menus, and proper food sanitation.

Chefs often start out as line cooks, moving up to becoming a chef once their skills and experience warrant it. Certification through the American Culinary Federation can speed up advancement and lead to higher pay.

HVAC Technician

Average salary: $53,410
Required education: Associate degree or trade school certification

HVAC technicians install and repair heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that regulate air quality and temperature in homes and businesses.

Expect to spend up to five years working under an experienced technician or completing an apprenticeship program. HVAC techs must pass an EPA certification exam and may have additional local or state requirements that require licensing. HVAC technician work can be fulfilling, providing valuable skills that can be transferred to other trades.

Wind Turbine Service Technician

Average salary: $59,340
Required education: Associate degree or trade school certification

One of the faster hands-on jobs that pay well is becoming a wind turbine service technician. This job is projected to grow by 68% by 2030. A skilled wind turbine service tech installs, repairs, and maintains wind turbines.

Wind techs can learn skills by completing an associate degree at a community college or attending a trade school for certification. Expect to complete a year of on-the-job training or an internship with a servicing contractor before you can venture out on your own.

Getting a Hands-On Job that Pays Well

If you like to work with your hands and find a career at a desk boring, consider one of the top 10 hands-on jobs. You can also find out how your interests can align with career opportunities by taking the Lantern Career Interests Quiz.

Lantern can tell you what you need to achieve your career goals, including whether you should attend college or trade school. Here are some other resources for getting started:

Become Team
Mandy Sleight
Contributing Writer

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