Common Searches

When people contemplate career choices, the thought of blue collar labor often invokes dread. Thing is, the world needs people to fill various labor positions in the job market. Unfortunately, public weariness towards blue collar work has led to a shortage of trained applicants in the labor force. Furthermore, the situation has been exacerbated by the longstanding tendency of parents to warn children against labor. One common refrain is that blue color work is what you’ll end up doing your entire life if you don’t pull high scores in school.

However, there are various labor jobs that pay considerably better than many of the white collar positions secured by college graduates. What’s even more amazing is that these higher-paying blue collar jobs will often require just weeks or months of vocational training, with no major debt incurred by the end.

Read on to find the 10 best-paying positions in the field of labor.

1. Bricklayer

Bricklayers build walls and structures for chimneys, schools, high rises, and other buildings. The job involves:

  • Handling
  • Carrying
  • Hauling
  • Moving
  • Laying

All this is done with heavy materials, such as bricks, cement, concrete, marble, and cinder. As such, the job requires plenty of physical strength, hand-eye coordination, balance, and even some math skills.

Do bricklayers earn good money

Bricklayers are responsible for some of the strongest, longest-lasting, fireproof, and storm-resistant buildings in towns and cities across America. In fact, you might pass a handful of brick buildings each day that have stood for more than a century, whereas once-neighboring buildings have given way to the ravages of time. Over the decades, bricklaying has even been a hobby among notable individuals, including Sir Winston Churchill.

Most bricklayers complete high school and then train for the job under a trade apprenticeship program. Bricklayers potentially can earn a median yearly salary of $45,965.

2. Chemical Plant Operators

Chemical plant operators oversee the machinery behind the production of chemicals, paints, synthetics, adhesives, and more. While the work environment is typically hot, noisy, and rancid, chemical plant operating is also one of the least physically hazardous factory professions due to strict safety regulations.

Chemical plant operators are largely to thank for various products people take for granted on a daily basis. Whenever you do arts, crafts, or anything else involving paint or adhesives, your use of those products is made possible by the hard work and diligence of people employed at chemical plants. These people also ward off some of the dangerous elements of these chemicals in order to contain their benefits for the average consumer.

Incoming operators are usually high school graduates who are trained on the job. The median yearly salary of a chemical plant operator can potentially reach $40,473.

3. Derrickman

Not the kind of job for those with vertigo. Of all the jobs in the oil rigging field, the derrickman’s duties are the most challenging. The derrickman works about 85 feet above ground on an elevation platform suspended from an oil rig. With a harness attached to his torso, he reaches beyond the platform to move the drilling pipes. Back on the ground, the derrickman works with the mud engineer.

The job received one of its most notable Hollywood portrayals in Urban Cowboy (1980), where John Travolta portrays a young Texan who moves in with his uncle’s family and works in the elder’s oil refinery. While the events depicted at the refinery are not exactly pretty — Travolta’s character experiences a death-defying hang from a 200-foot scaffold, and his uncle later dies in an explosion — the derrickman vignettes come off as far more realistic and genuine than the honky tonk shenanigans that comprise the bulk of the film’s storyline.

While the job is dangerous, it does pay well and doesn’t call for any special schooling. The median yearly salary of a derrickman can potentially reach $46,072.

4. Executive Housekeeper

Most homeowners are unaware of all the dirt that lies hidden in the crevices of furniture and both behind and underneath large kitchen appliances. For the executive housekeeper, work primarily involves ridding rooms of such dirt, one house after another.

How much do housekeepers make

While it’s not the cleanest job in the world, the executive can always assign the dirtier tasks to his or her staff while focusing on the less-grimy aspects of professional housekeeping, such as appointment setting and customer relations.

The median yearly salary of an executive housekeeper can potentially reach $44,459.

5. Firefighter

The work of a firefighter essentially involves going into spots from which others do everything to flee: burning buildings. In addition to rescuing people and salvaging properties from the ravages of fire, the job can also involve other types of rescues, such as cats and children stuck in high trees, people trapped under ice, rescues from overturned cars, and drownings. While the work of a firefighter is often dangerous and strenuous, it’s also one of the most courageous and honorable of all professions.

During the 9/11 attacks, firefighters from every department across New York’s five boroughs were there on the scene to provide emergency work and relief to survivors from inside the collapsed buildings, as well as to the thousands of pedestrians engulfed by soot, ash, and rubble. Throughout the course of relief efforts, 341 firefighters from 75 different firehouses gave their lives to help restore peace, sanity, order, and safety to a city that had undergone one of the most brutal terrorist attacks in the history of mankind.

To become a firefighter, you will generally need a high school Diploma and in some cases medical emergency training. The yearly median salary of a firefighter can potentially reach $44,597.

6. Railroad Engineer

Children often dream of running trains while playing with toy train sets, but few people know just how demanding the job can be in real life. As a railroad (or “locomotive”) engineer, a day’s work involves directing all kinds of trains through various conditions, as well as overseeing the mechanical upkeep of each train. The job requires strength, stamina, manual dexterity, mechanical knowhow, and a love for long voyages.

railroad engineer salary

Due to the often extreme nature of train dynamics, a rail engineer must be adept at applying various preventative measures against derailment and train partings, all the while maintaining an appropriate traveling speed. Railroad engineering is an especially revered field Down Under, where train operators for the Rio Tinto Group, who transport iron ore through the outback of Australia, are among the profession’s highest paid members anywhere.

In addition to a high school education, you will usually need to take trade school courses and be recertified every two or three years for this line of work. The yearly median salary of a railroad/locomotive engineer can potentially reach $62,995.

7. Medical Laboratory Technician

If the sight of internal human matter makes you feel queasy, you might not have the stomach to be a medical lab technician. People in this job run tests on blood and urine samples and ready them for examination. Lab techs contribute to the advance of treatments and medicines by preparing matters that help scientists better understand the workings of the human body.

The distribution of clinical labs often varies from one institution to the next. For example, some facilities have one microbiological lab, whereas other facilities devote a separate unit to each facet of microbiology. These separate units might include:

  • Virology, which studies viruses in human fluid samples
  • Parasitology, which looks for parasites in human waste
  • Urinalysis, which runs urine tests for signs of analytes
  • Toxicology, where blood and urine are tested for signs of recreational drug use

To become a medical lab tech, you’ll generally need either a two or four-year degree from an accredited university, as well as certification from the American Society of Clinical Pathology. The yearly median salary of a medical laboratory technician can potentially reach $41,737.

8. Personal Trainer

Personal trainers often work in upscale environments, but the job itself typically involves lots of sweaty, strenuous activity. Work as a trainer extends beyond the training of clients; you also have to work out yourself in order to stay in shape and uphold the principles of fitness. There’s a great honor that comes with helping people achieve their fitness goals. While the job might not garner the same prestige as heroic professions such as firefighting, a personal trainer effectively helps clients gain the necessary health for longer lives.

Trainers sometimes cultivate certain modes of training that are optimized toward specific clienteles (young, old, beginner, advanced, etc.). In most cases, trainers will prescribe a fixed set of plans for both aerobic exercise and strength training. With strength training, a plan will specify the target muscles, the amount of reps, the length of rests, and the number of sets on a given piece of equipment. Some trainers will even recommend dietary regimens, complete with nutritional supplements.

Once you’ve passed a fitness training program, you can do this type of work for a national athletic chain, an independently own gym, or at your own workout facilities. In some states, however, you will need certification to offer professional workout advice and train clients on heavy equipment. The yearly median salary of a personal trainer can potentially reach $53,056.

9. Police Officer

As everyone has seen in hundreds of police dramas, the work of an officer involves stopping crime, capturing criminals, and rescuing victims from dangerous, violent situations. Since crime occurs around the clock, police are called upon to work irregular shifts. Police officers encounter a variety of unpredictable situations, from holdups and hostage ordeals to armed standoffs and domestic disturbances. Life as a police officer requires strength and bravery, but it’s an ideal line of work for those who seek adventure and justice.

what's the average annual salary of a police officer

Over the course of a career in law enforcement, an officer will usually see numerous instances of human suffering. While on the line of duty, an officer might encounter strung-out addicts, dead bodies, and victims who’ve been beaten, maimed, or tortured — things the average person would not have the stomach to witness. This is especially true in urban areas that are plagued with high crime rates. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a thick skin when going into this line of work. But despite the downsides of this job, police serve one of the most necessary functions in any safe and orderly society.

To become a police officer, you’ll need an Associate’s degree in criminal justice, as well as extensive training with a local police academy. The yearly median income of a police officer can potentially reach $50,089.

10. Plumber

One of the dirtiest jobs is that of a plumber, because it often involves clearing away matter that no one wants to handle, let alone visualize. The job involves unclogging toilets that refuse to flush, as well as sinks, showers, and bathtubs that fail to drain properly. Even though there’s a fair share of human waste to tackle in this work, plumbers also have plenty of cleaner assignments, such as:

  • Plumbing
  • Fixing heat systems
  • Water-supply installation

At the end of each day, plumbers ensure people have warmer homes, cleaner water, and functioning kitchen and bathroom facilities.

In most states, you need certification and an apprenticeship to gain work as a plumber. The yearly median income among plumbers can potentially reach $40,334.

Labor Workers Are Essential

From dirty work such as that of a plumber, derrickman, or chemical plant operator, to the heroic roles of a fireman or police officer, people often make good money in labor positions. So instead of viewing such fields as dead-end jobs, things that people do when they make nothing better of themselves, labor work should instead be viewed as lucrative and honorable.

After all, each one of these jobs fills an important function in society. Every day of the week, white collar workers benefit and rely upon the labors of their blue collar counterparts. With American unemployment figures hovering around 6 percent while thousands of positions go unfilled due to a lack of skilled workers, an infusion into the labor force of newly trained, Millennial workers could end up serving as one of the greatest jolts to the U.S. economy.

Gain the Skills to Become a Fitness Trainer, Lab Assistant or Police Officer

Whether you opt to work in a white collar or blue collar profession, you can gain essential skills for your field of choice through the on-ground and online courses at Vista College. If you wish to become a fitness trainer, medical lab technician, or police officer, our programs can equip you with the knowledge and skills you will need to seek entry-level positions in those fields.

The Vista College Personal Fitness Trainer program consists of on-ground training in the various aspects of the health industry. Over the course of this 720-hour program, students take a list of courses that include Anatomy and Physiology, Exercise and Nutrition, Sport-Specific Optimum Performance Training, and Kinesiology of the Human Movement System. In the final course, students are prepared for the certification exam of the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

If you’d like to enter the healthcare industry without a doctorate, you could gain the necessary skills for seeking entry-level lab work by completing Vista’s Medical Lab Tech Associate’s program. With a full-time course load, you could master the various aspects of medical lab work — from the testing of bodily fluids to the entry of patient data — in just 18 months.

If justice and crime prevention are your true callings, Vista’s AAS in Criminal Justice program could give you an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the areas related to criminal law. The 70-week program covers everything from law enforcement and legal procedure to criminal psychology and corrections. Upon completion of this online program, you could be ready to apply to your local police academy.

To pursue these or other Vista College programs, contact a Vista College Admission Representative to find out more about our degree options.

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