Highest-paying Construction Careers for High School Graduates

Anesthesiologists, surgeons, lawyers and engineers are listed as the highest paying jobs in America. All of which require at least a four-year college degree, as well as advanced schooling. Most require young people to take on large amounts of student debt.

Of course, there is another pathway into rewarding high paying careers straight out of high school. A pathway into apprenticeship within the construction and building trades offers an “earn while you learn” model for those ready to get to work. Apprenticeship is higher education that includes a hands-on approach for those who are more interested in learning with both their minds and their hands.

“More of Minnesota’s youth are beginning to choose a direct pathway into a career,” said Sarah Lechowich, senior director of the Construction Careers Foundation, which leads Construction Career Pathways, a statewide initiative to attract more young people into Minnesota’s construction industry. “Careers can be started out of high school through construction trades apprenticeships, which set young people up with skills for a long-term career through hands-on, paid learning experiences and great benefits.”

High school students can prepare for a career in construction by  learning basic trades skills through summer internship programs like the Minnesota Trades Academy or through construction courses offered in high school.
(PC: Emily Sweeney, Pre-COVID Image taken Summer 2019)

To discover which construction careers pay high school graduates the most, we consulted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, and Minnesota trades websites updated in April.

Here are the five highest earning construction careers that require a high school diploma or equivalent:

Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers
Starting Wage: $27.45/hr
Journey-Level Wage: $39.93/hr
Career training: apprenticeship

Elevator and escalator installers and repairers work on the elevators and escalators in residential buildings, offices, malls, airports, and all other locations. After learning the skills they need through an apprenticeship, most of these workers will also have to become licensed through their state.

Starting Wage: $19.67/hr
Journey-Level Wage: $43.71/hr
Career training: apprenticeship

Most electricians learn the trade through an apprenticeship, though smaller numbers attend vocational school. Nearly all electricians must be licensed by their state. The growth rate for the profession from 2018 to 2028 is projected to hit 10%, driven in part by the construction of new homes.

Starting Wage: $24.84/hr
Journey-Level Wage: $35.42/hr
Career training: apprenticeship

After completing an apprenticeship, boilermakers install, assemble, repair, and maintain boilers in buildings ranging from apartments to offices to construction sites. This work is physically demanding and can require lots of travel.

Plumbers and Pipefitters
Starting Wage: $19.05/hr
Journey-Level Wage: $40.90/hr
Career training: apprenticeship

Plumbers and pipefitters install and repair the pipes that are essential to indoor plumbing. Though only a high school diploma is needed to begin an on-the-job apprenticeship, some plumbers do attend vocational school. Additionally, most states require plumbers to be licensed.

Structural Iron and Steel Workers
Starting Wage: $27.87/hr
Journey-Level Wage: $34.20/hr
Career training: apprenticeship

Structural iron and steel workers primarily work in the construction and contracting industry, placing iron and steel columns, girders, and structural pieces in buildings and other projects. The number of jobs for these workers is projected to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, primarily due to the increase in commercial construction projects such as high-rise buildings.

Visit ConstructionCareers.org for more information on the apprenticeship process and the benefits of joining a union and starting an apprenticeship. Also resource the Careers page to learn more about the 30+ careers in Minnesota’s construction industry.