21 High Paying Trade Jobs with a High School Diploma in 2021

 21 Trade Jobs

So you have survived High School but still have not decided on a career path but know for certain college is not for you. There are many high paying trade jobs you can start with just a high-school diploma. For those that are classroom adverse, most of the training for these jobs can be first-hand while earning a paycheck.  

That said most modern trade jobs do require basic knowledge about the job and many require certification and safety training that will need to be completed. In many cases, this can be accomplished while working as a Helper or Apprentice while taking the required courses.

If you’re lucky you may find a company that provides this training in-house or even reimburse you for the cost but if not this can be accomplished through online courses, local apprenticeship programs, or trade schools. Local Trade Unions are also a good resource for training and in many cases can help with job placement. 

Here is a list of 21 trade jobs you can start with just a high-school diploma. 


Hourly Rate $19 – $45

Boilers heat water and other liquids under pressure and this pressure is used to make power, heat, and products. Boilermakers construct, install, test, and repair these boilers and other pressure vessels.  

As such, there is a demand for individuals who enjoy working with their hands, can apply critical thinking, and pay close attention to detail.

As a Boilermaker you would learn to:

  • Read technical drawings and blueprints.
  • Welding techniques used in pressure vessels
  • Test and inspect boiler systems.
  • Use a wide range of hand and power tools.
  • Inspect valves, joints, and pipes and make necessary repairs.
  • Attach rigging and signal crane operators to place equipment
  • Build, install, and repair air pollution equipment.
  • Install heat-resistant materials in areas where there is a hazard of fire.

Where do Boilermakers work:

  • Power Plants
  • Water Treatment Plants
  • Cargo, Container and Cruise Ships
  • Chemical Plants
  • Refineries
  • Breweries


Hourly Rate $14 – $37

Carpenters build install and repair structures or fixtures made of wood and similar materials. These include but are not limited to building frames, Joyce structures, wooden stairways, partition walls, door frames, and concrete forms. Many also install Roll Insulation, windows, drywall, roofing, or brattice, underground partitions used to block off areas and direct airflow.

As a carpenter, you will learn to:

  • Read technical drawings and blueprints.
  • Make accurate measurements before assembling materials.
  • Make inspections to recognize damage in structures and recommend the necessary repair.
  • Selecting and ordering the correct materials.
  • Making any necessary repairs.

Where do carpenters work:

  • Housing construction and repair
  • Commercial construction
  • Industrial Construction
  • Bridge Building
  • Mining

CNC Machine Operator

Hourly Rate $14 – $25

A CNC Operator manufactures items using (Computer Numerical Control) Machine Tools. Utilizing bits, cutting heads, plasma, or even high-pressure water jets these machines cut and shape materials to manufacture parts and tools. 

CNC operators are responsible for setting up the machine and maintaining a clean well-organized and safe workspace. Operators also ensure the quality of work by testing and refine the equipment settings to ensure all items match clients’ specifications. 

As a CNC Operator you will learn:

  • Translate engineering drawings and design specifications.
  • Operational characteristics and specifications for various machines
  • Inspection, usage, and maintenance of all safety equipment
  • Monitor equipment while executing task adjusting when necessary
  • Routinely inspect the machine and perform regular maintenance
  • Maintain logs and production reports
  • Basic Material Science
  • Optimizing tools settings for the most efficient production.

Where do CNC Operators work:

  • Machine shops
  • Industrial contractors
  • Automobile part manufacturers
  • Machine Tool Manufacturing
  • Furniture component manufacturers
  • Valve and pump manufacturers
  • Industrial machine manufacturers
  • Medical component manufacturers
  • Aerospace component manufacturer

Commercial Diver 

Hourly Rate $15 – $41

A Commercial Diver can work in a variety of underwater environments including rivers, lakes, coastal areas, and the deep ocean. They are used in a variety of work from Gathering evidence for law enforcement, an inspection of underwater equipment, construction of underwater pipelines, and many others. 

As a commercial diver you will learn:

  • Proper use of dive equipment
  • Safety Measures and Protocols
  • Service equipment that cannot be removed from the water. 
  • Attach explosives underwater.
  • Underwater Photography.
  • Conduct Underwater Surveys
  • Underwater Welding
  • Underwater Rigging & Recovery

Where do underwater divers work;

  • Offshore Oil and Gas 
  • Engineering & Construction 
  • Salvage & Demolition
  • Law Enforcement
  • Marine Research
  • Marine Archaeology

Crane Operator

Hourly Rate $15 – $44

Crane operators can operate various types of cranes hoist and other cable lifting equipment. They are responsible for precisely moving large structural components or equipment. Crane operators are most commonly used in the construction, mining, railway, and shipbuilding industries. Some operators also work in steel foundries and manufacturing plants.

As a Crane Operator, you will learn:

  • Crane operations and procedures
  • Rigging
  • Features and limits of various crane types.
  • Master the controls of the crane to deliver materials with precision.
  • Deliver materials to workers in hard-to-reach places.
  • Master hand signals to communicate with other workers.

Where do Crane Operators work:

  • Construction 
  • Cargo shipping
  • Mining
  • Shipbuilding
  • Manufacturing
  • Steel foundries
  • Heavy Equipment manufacturing


Hourly Rate $16 – $45

Electricians are classed as a skilled tradesmen and as such are responsible for all things electrical. They install, repair, and maintain electrical wiring, transmission lines, electrical conduit, switches, and controls, for homes, commercial buildings, manufacturing plants, ships, and aircraft

Electricians are employed to maintain and install electrical cables, wiring, breaker boxes, and switches, then connecting them to the main power supply. They also install electrical components and provide maintenance and repair of existing electrical infrastructure.

As an Electrician you will learn:

  • Basic Electrical Theory, 
  • Read technical drawings and blueprints
  • Mathematics and Load Calculations
  • Cable and Wiring Techniques
  • Electrical controls and switches
  • Building Codes and Regulations

Where do Electricians work:

  • Housing Construction
  • Commercial building construction
  • Industrial Construction
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Power plants
  • Transmission Line Construction and Maintenance
  • Shipbuilding
  • Aircraft manufacturer

Elevator Mechanic

Hourly Rate $21 – $59

Elevator Mechanic/Technician specializes in the assembly, installation, maintenance, and repair of elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other electrical lifts. Elevator mechanics and technicians typically specialize in one of two areas. One area of expertise is in inspecting and fine-tuning equipment after installation. 

The other more common is the journeyman mechanic that works with the more experienced technician to install and repair the equipment. Elevator and escalator installers and repairs typically work in small cramped areas inside crawl spaces and machine rooms, they’ll also be required to work at heights inside elevator shafts and elevated areas.

As an Elevator Mechanic/Technician you will learn:

  • Reading technical drawings and blueprints.
  • Assemble elevator cars and associated components
  • Install and repair moving walkways.
  • Install dumbwaiters.
  • Installation of electrical control systems.
  • Troubleshoot malfunctions 
  • Repairing and replacing electrical and mechanical parts.
  • Carrying out preventative maintenance.

Where do Elevator Mechanic/Technician work:

  • Elevator and Escalator manufacturers
  • Hotels
  • Commercial buildings
  • Office Buildings
  • High rise apartments
  • Hospitals
  • Airport
  • Manufacturing

Heavy Equipment Operator

Hourly Rate $15 – $41

As a Heavy Equipment Operator, you can learn to operate a wide range of Industrial Vehicles such as excavators, mining trucks, shovels, bulldozers, end loaders, graders, and others. Heavy equipment operators typically work on four types of equipment, bulldozers, backhoes, graders, and front-end loaders. Others May specialize in surface mining equipment trucks and Mining shovels.

As a Heavy Equipment Operator you will learn:

  • Operational characteristics of the various equipment
  • Equipment Safety Inspection
  • Operational safety
  • How to Read Blueprints and Grading Plans
  • How to Locate Underground Utilities
  • How to maintain the equipment logs

Where do Heavy Equipment Operator work:

  • Construction companies
  • Civil Engineering firms
  • Road construction companies
  • State Departments of Transportation
  • City Public Works
  • Pipeline construction
  • Airports
  • Surface mines and quarries

HVAC Installer

Hourly Rate $14 – $37

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. As an HVAC Installer, you will be responsible for the installation of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration equipment following the manufacturer’s specifications and guidelines. HVAC Installers are also involved in designing manufacturing and installing ductwork and other air handling equipment. 

As an HVAC installer you will learn:

  • Read technical drawings and blueprints.
  • Relationship of components and how they work together.
  • How to properly connect the different components
  • Operation of specialized tools and equipment
  • How to calculate airflow
  • Maintenance and Troubleshooting Techniques
  • Local Code and Federal Regulations

Where do HVAC installers work:

  • HVAC Contractors
  • Residential construction
  • Commercial building construction
  • Refrigeration installation
  • Manufacturing and Industrial Construction
  • HVAC maintenance companies

Iron and Steel Worker

Hourly Rate $15 – $45

Ironworkers specialize in assembling and installing steel and iron structural components to create structures such as bridges, offshore drilling platforms, metal buildings, or the internal cores of commercial buildings. Ironworkers work mostly outdoors and involves a great deal of climbing balancing and reaching. Safety is paramount and involves devices such as safety belts, scaffolding, and nets. 

As an ironworker you will learn to:

  • Reading Technical Drawings and Blueprints.
  • Proper use of Safety Equipment
  • Technical aspects and techniques of assembling steel structures
  • Rigging & machinery moving
  • Operate Cranes and Boom Trucks
  • Load, unload, and secure materials
  • Use hand signals to communicate with equipment operators
  • Welding and Cutting
  • Use a variety of Metalworking Tools.

Where do Ironworkers work:

  • Construction companies
  • General Contractors
  • Foundation Subcontractors
  • Manufacturing 
  • Installing Bank Vaults and Doors
  • Offshore Drilling Platforms
  • Bridge Building
  • Assembly Structural Precast 
  • Overhead Crane assembly and disassembly


Hourly Rate $11 – $22

Landscapers build and maintain Gardens, Parks, Residential, and Commercial Landscapes. Their duties include installing, trimming, cutting, and maintaining the hedges, trees, plants, flowers, grass, and irrigation of outdoor facilities. Landscapers often work closely with Landscape Architects and garden designers on new construction and remodeling of outdoor areas. 

As a Landscaper you will learn: 

  • Proper techniques for maintaining healthy plants.
  • What plants will grow best in your area
  • Proper use of mulch and fertilizer
  • General garden maintenance.
  • Tree maintenance.
  • Installation and maintenance of water gardens
  • Installation and maintenance of irrigation systems
  • Plants and agriculture.
  • Designing and building garden structures.
  • Proper Equipment Operation

Where do landscapers work:

  • Landscape Contractors
  • Greenhouse and Garden Stores
  • Municipal Contractors
  • City Maintenance
  • Commercial Building Owners
  • Hotels
  • Amusement parks
  • Private and Public Parks

Maintenance Engineer

Hourly Rate $12 – $30

Maintenance Engineers predominantly work in large facilities and are responsible for keeping all the machinery and equipment functioning. A maintenance engineer’s typical duties include equipment installation, preventive maintenance, troubleshooting, repair, and safety inspections of all facility equipment. They frequently coordinate this outside contractors and suppliers on the installation, maintenance, and repairs of specialized equipment.

As a Maintenance Engineer you will learn:

  • Benefits Function and Objectives of Maintenance
  • Preventive Maintenance Process Flow
  • Lubrication and Operating Tolerances
  • Troubleshooting process and techniques 
  • Vibration monitoring and analysis
  • Crack and Corrosion analysis
  • Failure Analysis
  • Maintenance Logs and Record-Keeping
  • Basic Mechanical Engineering
  • Standard and Specialized Tools

Where do Maintenance Engineers work:

  • Mechanical Maintenance Contractors
  • Industrial Engineering Contractors
  • Commercial Facilities
  • Manufacturing Facilities
  • Hotel and Resort Properties
  • Airports
  • Amusement Parks
  • Hospitals
  • Breweries

Marine Mechanic

Hourly Rate $12 – $30

Marine mechanics are multi-discipline service technicians for Marine propulsion, mechanical, and electrical systems. Their duties include inspection of, routine maintenance, troubleshooting, and making repairs to the mechanical and control systems for Outboard Motors, Inboard Motors, and large Diesel Ship Engines to include steering and hydraulic systems.

Most Marine Mechanics are based onshore and work on boats and ships while in Ports, Marinas, or Dry Docks but many are assigned as crew or sent with a vessel temporarily to make repairs while they are underway.  

As a marine mechanic you will learn:

  • Mechanical Engineering Basics
  • Marine Mechanical Systems 
  • Welding
  • Marine Electrical
  • Marine Refrigeration
  • Pipe fitting
  • Metal fabrication
  • Corrosion Mitigation

Where do Marine Mechanics Work:

  • Marine Engineering Contractors
  • Marine Engine Manufacturers
  • Ship Maintenance Contractors
  • Cruise Ship Companies
  • Cargo Fleet Companies
  • Fishing Fleet owners
  • Yacht Owners
  • Yacht Maintenance Contractors
  • Ship Building Companies
  • Commercial Ports
  • Coastal Marinas
  • Inland Marinas

Brick, Block, and Stone Masons

Hourly Rate $15 – $42

Brick masons and Block masons, also called bricklayers, specializes in assembling concrete blocks, and bricks to create and or clad structures. These structures can range from walls for buildings to chimneys, walkways, and more. Being a Mason is one of the oldest professions on the planet, literally starting in the Stone Age.

Stonemasons perform the same basic function as a bricklayer the difference being stonemasons work the stone to the shapes they need before placing it on the structure. Master Stonemasons are often called upon to create the ornate structures found on churches, public buildings, and memorials. 

As a Mason, you will learn:

  • Reading Technical Drawings and Blueprints.
  • Calculate materials needed
  • Proper use and maintenance of hand and power tools
  • Performance characteristics of materials
  • Proper mixing and application of Mortar and Grout
  • Break or cut Bricks, Blocks, and Stone
  • Placing each brick block or stone according to plans
  • Ensure that the structure is perfectly Straight Level and Plumb
  • Maintain a clean and safe workplace

Where do Masons work:

  • Masonry contractors
  • General contractors
  • Home construction
  • Commercial Building Construction
  • Industrial Construction
  • Retaining wall contractors
  • Landscape Contractors
  • Churches
  • Restoration Companies


Hourly Rate $17 – $39

Millwrights, also known as Industrial Mechanics, are highly skilled Tradesman who installs, maintains, repairs disassemble, and reassembles High Precision Machinery for Factories and Mills. Millwrights, as the name suggests, origins began in dates back to before the Greeks and specialized in the construction of drive shaft bearings and gears for water or wind-powered mills used in the production of Corn & Wheat Flour, Lumber, Paper. 

Modern-day Millwrights specialize in installing and maintaining large machinery that requires a high level of precision frequently working with tolerances less than 5 thousand of an inch. Because of their expertise and training Millwrights are generally associated with rigging lifting and setting heavy machinery. 

As a Millwright you will learn:

  • To read diagrams, schematics, drawings, and service manuals
  • How to operate and maintain specialized tools and measuring devices
  • How to install, align and calibrate test equipment
  • Rigging operations and lifting equipment
  • How to understand achieve and maintain allowable tolerances.
  • Install machinery.
  • Dismantle machinery.
  • Welding
  • Identify faults and carry out maintenance.
  • Transport the machinery to its required location.
  • Make adjustments to machines to ensure optimum productivity.

Where do Millwrights work:

  • Industrial maintenance contractors
  • Industrial mechanical contractors
  • Industrial construction contractors
  • Paper and Wood Pulp Mills
  • Flour Mill
  • Concrete manufacturing plants
  • Industrial machine manufacturers
  • Vehicle manufacturers
  • Airports
  • Surface and Underground Mining
  • Oil and gas refineries


Hourly Rate $15 – $47

Most people know plumbers as the call you make when you have a busted pipe or stopped up drain but their knowledge and expertise covers a wide range including Residential Commercial and Industrial. Plumbers are called upon any time fluids need to be transported via a pipe. 

Plumbers are responsible for the installation and maintenance of water and gas supply lines, Plumbing fixtures, bathtubs, sinks, dishwashers, water heaters, water softeners, well pumps, and septic systems. Industrial Plumbers specialize in large commercial buildings and industrial complexes with much higher levels of use. This includes large buildings with multiple floors, factories, and industrial complexes.

As a Plumber you will learn:

  • Reading blueprints and technical drawings
  • Basic construction skills
  • Basic tools and plumbing techniques
  • Specialized tool and equipment
  • Cutting and fitting Pipe and Tubing
  • Troubleshooting and repairs
  • Proper installation of drain lines
  • Proper installation of water lines
  • Proper installation of gas lines
  • Building codes and their application

Where do plumbers work:

  • Plumbing contractors
  • Housing contractors
  • Commercial contractors
  • Oil and gas companies
  • Plumbing Service
  • Residential buildings
  • Office Buildings
  • Factories
  • City Public Works
  • Water treatment plants
  • Chemical plants

Rail Maintenance Operator

Hourly Rate $16 – $39

Rail maintenance operators maintain, replace, install or “lay” track for railroads, mines, and industrial complexes. Are responsible for operating cleaning, Railroad cleaning, Bed Tamping, Track-Laying, and Alignment equipment. They’re also assigned to inspect switches and sections of track for broken, misaligned otherwise damaged rails or cross ties that may pose a safety risk.  

As a Rail Maintenance Operator you will learn:

  • To read maps, diagrams, and technical plans
  • Basic track inspection
  • Rail worker safety training
  • Specialized Tool and Equipment training
  • Track maintenance practices
  • Rail and track signaling 
  • Switchyard operations
  • Continuously welded rail maintenance
  • Welding
  • Hazardous material awareness

Where do Rail Maintenance Operators work:

  • Railroad companies
  • Rail Maintenance contractors
  • Amtrak
  • Quarry and Mining companies
  • Large industrial facilities
  • Timber and Lumber operations
  • Private rail operators
  • Railyards
  • Railroad maintenance facilities


Hourly Rate $14 – $28

A Roustabout, also known as a Floorhand, is an entry-level position and typically works for Oil & Gas companies in drilling operations. They worked mainly in and around drilling rigs assisting with day-to-day operations. Their responsibilities include assisting in assembling and disassembling drilling rigs, cleaning tools, and equipment, operating motorized lifts and winches to move pipe, and clear debris. 

Roustabouts are also involved with lubricating drill bits, maintaining drill pipes and casing, cleaning and repairing tanks. Many roustabouts choose to work offshore where the pay is higher but the work is more demanding, along with keeping up with all the other duties they maintain vessels by cleaning scraping and painting decks and equipment in and around the work areas.

As a roustabout you will learn:

  • To read plans and technical drawings
  • Oil and gas characteristics
  • Workplace safety protocols and regulations
  • Basic use of hand tools
  • Welding
  • Rig and site maintenance
  • Mud pump operation and maintenance
  • Material safety handling
  • Rigging & Crane Signal operations
  • Visual inspection of rig and safety equipment

Where do Roustabouts work:

  • Oil and gas companies
  • Oil and gas contractors
  • Drilling equipment suppliers
  • Drilling equipment maintenance contractors
  • Independent drilling operations
  • Offshore drilling rigs
  • Offshore production and storage facilities

Solar Photovoltaic Installer (solar panel installer)

Hourly Rate $15 – $31

A Solar Panel Installer also called PV Installer installs and maintains passive solar electrical systems for both Residential and Commercial Buildings They’re responsible for measuring the available area and determining the number, location, and best methods of installation for the solar panels and control systems. 

PV installers verify the measurements and designs of the structure on which the system is being installed, connect the panels output storage batteries, and DC to AC Inverters that can supply power to the structure. Depending on local code these systems can even be connected to the main power grid what are the owners of the systems that can sell their excess power. With the renewable energy boom and the advances in manufacturing lowering the price of Photovoltaic Panel Installers are in great demand and are currently one of the fastest-growing jobs worldwide. 

As a Solar Photovoltaic Installer you will learn:

  • To read Diagrams and Technical Manuals
  • Basic Electrical Theory
  • Proper use of safety equipment
  • Properties of photovoltaic cells
  • Photovoltaic site assessment
  • Calculating system performance
  • Tools and techniques for operation and maintenance
  • Troubleshooting and testing photovoltaic systems
  • Photovoltaic Design and Grid Connection

Where do Solar Photovoltaic Installer work:

  • Solar panel insulation contractors
  • Solar panel manufacturers
  • Solar panel distributors
  • Residential installation
  • Commercial installation
  • Industrial installations


Hourly Rate $16 – $37

A Toolmaker, also known as a Tool and Die Maker, works from engineering drawings to layout designs on blank materials and billets and then cutting out the shape with high Precision to match the drawing. They use various machines such as the Lathe, Milling Machine, Grinding Machines, and Jig Grinders.

Unlike CNC Operators, Toolmakers are part Artist and Engineer learning their craft through a mix of hands-on apprenticeship and classroom training. They’re often called upon to produce specialized tools used in the manufacture of other tools such as injection molds, extruders cutting heads, and jigs. 

As a Toolmaker you will learn: 

  • To read engineering plans and diagrams
  • The basic operation of cutting and grinding tools
  • Proper use of safety equipment and protocols
  • Use of specialized hand tools and measuring devices
  • Properties of materials used in manufacturing.
  • Manual Mill Machine operations
  • Manual Lathe operations
  • CAD
  • Benchwork and layout
  • Threading, tapering, and holemaking

Where do Toolmakers work:

  • Engineering contractor
  • Product design
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Shipyards
  • Engine Manufacturing
  • Mechanical fabricators
  • Paper mills
  • Aircraft manufacturing
  • Automobile Manufacturing
  • Industrial equipment manufacturing

Wind Turbine Technicians

Hourly Rate $18 – $39

Wind Turbine Technicians, also known as Windtechs installs, maintains, and repairs wind turbines. They’re able to troubleshoot diagnose and correct any problems that could cause the turbine to shut down prematurely. 

Their job duties include inspecting the interior and exterior of the towers, performing routine maintenance, replacing worn or defective parts, and collecting data on the operation of the turbine. Windtechs work both in high places small cramped compartments inside the tower and nacelle.

As a Wind Turbine Technician, you will learn:

  • To inspect the exterior of the tower, nacelle, and blades
  • Proper use of climbing and safety equipment
  • Basic Electrical Theory
  • Proper use of specialized tools
  • Routine maintenance on wind turbine systems
  • Diagnostic software
  • Service Underground transmission 
  • Service fiber optic control systems
  • Rigging and lifting equipment
  • Maintaining maintenance logs and inspection reports

Where do wind turbine technicians work:

  • Wind-powered energy companies
  • Wind turbine maintenance contractors
  • Wind turbine manufacturers
  • Wind Farms 
  • Offshore wind farms

By Bryan Greene