10 high-paying skilled labor jobs that don’t require a 4-year degree

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Pursuing a skilled trade career has many benefits. The top among them is they don’t require a four-year college degree — which saves a lot of money.

The average cost of undergraduate tuition, fees, and room and board rates for 2021-2022 were $27,330 at a four-year public university, according to CollegeBoard. Trade programs often last one or two years with an average cost of $33,000, according to the Center for Employment Training. Many trade jobs also offer career growth, are in high demand, and pay well.

If you’re considering a career that requires specialized, hands-on skills without an undergraduate or graduate degree, here’s more information about trade jobs and a list of some high-paying skilled trade positions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) May 2021 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates data, the most recent available.


What is a Skilled Trade Job?

A skilled trade job requires special skills and training without an undergraduate or graduate degree. Instead, an aspiring craftsperson attends a vocational school or training program to acquire the necessary knowledge and hands-on experience to do a particular job. Some positions may require an associate degree, which you can get at a community college.

Skilled trade training and education can last anywhere from three months to four years, depending on the job, according to Indeed.com. Some employers also offer apprenticeships and low- or no-cost training to skilled labor candidates.

Here’s a look at 10 high-paying skilled trade jobs you can find in Pittsburgh and beyond.




Median Annual Wage: $60,040

Projected 2021-2031 Growth: 7%


Electricians “install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems,” according to BLS. Electricians work in residential settings and commercial buildings. Many electricians receive on-the-job training via an apprenticeship or attend technical school. Multiple states require a license.


Line Installers and Repairers


Median Annual Wage: $74,530

Projected 2021-2031 Growth: 6%


Line installers and repairers install, maintain, or repair electrical power lines and telecommunications cables. These technicians frequently work at great heights, underground, and at substations with high-voltage electricity.


Companies may offer candidates apprenticeships, on-the-job training, or certificate programs in conjunction with community colleges. For example, Duquesne Light Company partners with Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) for its Electrical Distribution Technology (EDT) Program. The 1-year, 32-credit program prepares students for careers as overhead lineworkers, underground splicers, and substation maintenance technicians.


Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians


Median Annual Wage: $69,280

Projected 2021-2031 Growth: 6%


Aircraft mechanics and technicians diagnose, repair, and perform maintenance on aircraft, according to BLS. Avionics technicians test, repair, and maintain aircraft instruments. They usually work on airfields, in hangars, or in repair stations.

Many aircraft mechanics and technicians receive on-the-job training in civilian or military settings. Others attend a Federal Aviation Administration-approved aviation maintenance tech school. Candidates must earn various licenses, certifications, and registrations.


Wind Turbine Service Technicians


Median Annual Wage: $56,260

Projected 2021-2031 Growth: 44%


Wind turbines are a form of renewable energy that converts wind into electricity. Wind turbine technicians repair and maintain them. This job made the BLS list of “Fast-growing occupations that pay well and don’t require a college degree.”


These techs often work outdoors, in confined spaces, and at tall heights. Most earn a certificate in wind energy technology from a technical school, along with on-the-job training.


Industrial Machinery Mechanics


Median Annual Wage: $59,380

Projected 2021-2031 Growth: 14%


Industrial machinery mechanics install, maintain, and repair factory and industrial machinery and equipment. Many work in factories on all shifts. The job typically requires at least a year of on-the-job training. Many industrial mechanics complete a two-year associate degree.


MRI Technologists


Median Annual Wage: $77,360

Projected 2021-2031 Growth: 6%


MRI Technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to produce diagnostic images of patients. They work in healthcare settings, including hospitals, imaging centers, and outpatient clinics. This high-demand job requires an associate degree, certification, and many months of on-the-job experience.


Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers


Median Annual Wage: $60,370

Projected 2021-2031 Growth: 8%


Telecommunications installers and repairers set up, test, and repair communication devices like telephone lines, phone jacks, and routers. They inspect the wiring, diagnose issues, and install equipment. Telecom techs may work inside residential homes, climb ladders or poles, and lift heavy equipment. This role requires a certificate or associate degree in telecommunications and on-the-job training.


Solar Photovoltaic Installers          


Median Annual Wage: $47,670

Projected 2021-2031 Growth: 27%


Solar equipment converts sunlight into renewable energy. Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers set up and maintain solar equipment — such as solar panels — on roofs and other places. They work outdoors, on roofs, in attics, and in crawl spaces. Some solar installers take tech school or community college courses and have workplace training.


Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers


Median Annual Wage: 97,860

Projected 2021-2031 Growth: 3%


Elevator and escalator tradespeople install, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and various lifts, according to BLS. They often work in crawl spaces, cramped machine rooms, or high up in elevator shafts in commercial buildings. Employees learn the trade through an apprenticeship that can last four years; most states require a license.




Median Annual Wage: $57,160

Projected 2021-2031 Growth: 4%


Ironworkers cut, move, and install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to construct or support roads, buildings, and bridges. They work outside, often at great heights, and complete a rigorous three- or four-year apprenticeship that includes hundreds of hours of technical instruction and thousands of on-the-job training hours.

Overall, any of these skilled labor jobs will help you build a high-paying career without the financial investment of a four-year college degree.


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