21 well-paying blue-collar jobs to pursue (with salaries)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 September 2022 | Published 30 November 2021

Updated 22 September 2022

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Blue-collar jobs, sometimes called manual labour jobs, are physically demanding but they provide a high level of job satisfaction if you enjoy being physical. These jobs rarely require a university degree. If you don't want to work in an office or pursue a university education, you may want to know what manual labour jobs are available. In this article, we consider what a blue-collar job is and provide a list of manual labour jobs with their average salaries and an explanation of their primary duties.

What are blue-collar jobs?

Blue-collar jobs refer to jobs for the working class. People first used the term in the 1920s when workers who performed manual work wore darker coloured work clothes to hide the dirt from performing their job functions in the mining and manufacturing industries. These jobs require manual hands-on labour. Although you don't typically need a degree for manual labour jobs, they may require a secondary qualification and specialised skills for the job tasks they perform.

Related: White collar vs blue collar jobs: what is the difference?

What are the industries with manual labour?

Certain industries have high numbers of manual labour jobs. You can find manual labour jobs in the construction, mining, maintenance or manufacturing sectors. Other sectors with manual labour jobs are catering, sanitation, firefighting, police, energy, healthcare, and retail.

Related: 8 popular construction trades (with salaries and duties)

How much do blue-collar workers earn?

The salary ranges in blue-collar industries vary widely and depend on the industry and the experience of the blue-collar worker. Managers and experienced workers earn the highest salaries. Although there are no formal education requirements for most manual labour jobs, the positions that earn the highest salaries require formal training from a trade school, an apprenticeship, licenses or certifications.

Related: High-paid jobs without a degree (plus salaries and duties)

21 blue-collar jobs to pursue

There are a variety of manual labour positions that pay well. Here are some of the best manual labour jobs with their average salary and primary job duties:

1. Construction inspector

National average salary: £34,784 per year

Primary duties: Construction inspectors oversee construction projects to ensure their successful completion. They make sure the project aligns with contract specifications and complies with local regulations. They examine the project environment, machinery and structures to ensure they don't pose a safety risk for workers on the site.

Related: How to become a building inspector (with definitions)

2. Waste manager

National average salary: £20,681 per year

Primary duties: Waste managers oversee waste management schemes such as those at landfill sites. They supervise the transportation of waste by ensuring water, land or air contamination does not take place. They also assist with the development, implementation and promotion of new waste disposal schemes, ensure compliance with relevant legislation and manage the waste disposal budget.

3. Landscaper

National average salary: £26,309 per year

Primary duties: Landscapers build and maintain parks, gardens and other landscapes. They plant flowers and shrubs, clean outdoor facilities and prune overgrown hedges. In this blue-collar job, they also supervise the maintenance and repair of landscaping equipment.

Related: How to write a landscaping CV (With template and example)

4. Firefighter

National average salary: £27,361 per year

Primary duties: Firefighters inspect and maintain safety equipment. They respond to emergency call-outs, such as fires and floods. They respond to other types of threats, such as bomb alerts, and chemical and other hazardous substance spills.

5. Conductor

National average salary: £27,545 per year

Primary duties: Conductors work on trains or railroads. They ensure the safe transport of passengers and cargo. Their responsibilities include checking passengers' tickets, assisting passengers and announcing the train's arrival at a station.

Related: How to become a train conductor (with skills and duties)

6. Police officer

National average salary: £28,183 per year

Primary duties: Police officers make arrests based on violations of the law. They patrol assigned areas, respond to calls for police service, identify dangerous situations and help detectives with their criminal investigations. They also help with evidence collection and monitoring.

7. Boilermaker

National average salary: £53,183 per year

Primary duties: Boilermakers repair and create steam boilers and boiler house auxiliaries. They use blueprints to align boiler structures or plat sections to form boiler frame vats or tanks. Boilermakers use a range of tools, including levels, hand and power tools and turnbuckles.

8. Gas installer

National average salary: £31,186 per year

Primary duties: Gas installers install, maintain, service and repair gas appliances. They cut, bend and join gas pipes and fittings. They provide customers with cost estimates and carry out tests to find gas leaks.

9. Plumber

National average salary: £30,126 per year

Primary duties: Plumbers repair, assemble and remove taps, toilets and pipes. They test plumbing systems to ensure they're functioning correctly. Plumbers are a blue-collar type job that use blueprints to help them find service panels to make repairs.

Related: Vocational training: definitions and examples

10. Avionics technician

National average salary: £25,962 per year

Primary duties: Aircraft or avionics technicians test, repair and install the equipment supporting aircraft electronic systems. These systems may include radio, missile controls or navigation systems. They ensure the usability of aircraft equipment and test components of the equipment, such as circuit testers and voltmeters.

11. Nuclear power reactor operator

National average salary: £32,425 per year

Primary duties: Nuclear power reactor operators operate and control nuclear reactors, record data and implement emergency procedures when needed. They design safety assessments and conduct probabilistic safety assessments. The role of a nuclear power reactor operator has a high level of responsibility with higher salaries than many other manual jobs.

Related: How to become a nuclear power reactor operator (plus skills)

12. Electrician

National average salary: £35,074 per year

Primary duties: An electrician installs and repairs electrical wiring and lighting systems in homes, manufacturing plants or businesses. They also do inspections of industrial equipment and electrical components. This includes circuit breakers to ensure they're operating safely.

13. Criminal investigator

National average salary: £34,788 per year

Primary duties: Criminal investigators investigate crimes, such as armed robberies, sexual assaults and homicides. For this blue-collar job, they collect evidence during their investigation to solve the crime. They interview witnesses and suspects and take notes to help improve their analysis of the crime.

14. Lorry driver

National average salary: £38,239 per year

Primary duties: Lorry drivers supervise the loading of their lorries. Once the lorry has been loaded, the driver drives to their destination. During their journey, they take regular breaks from driving. After arriving at their destination, they position the vehicle for unloading. They transport a variety of goods, including building materials, consumer goods and food products.

Related: How much does a lorry driver make? (with different types)

15. Repairs manager

National average salary: £38,445 per year

Primary duties: Repair managers hire new employees and train them. They make sure repairs to facilities take place and supervise their employees. They order supplies when needed and make sure that the equipment works properly. Duties also include conducting site inspections to identify areas needing maintenance.

16. Production manager

National average salary: £39,787 per year

Primary duties: A production manager plans production schedules and determines the resources and production costs. They negotiate with managers and clients while overseeing the production process making sure it complies with health and safety regulations. Production managers also determine quality control standards.

17. Painter

National average salary: £45,481 per year

Primary duties: Painters prepare surfaces by washing walls, repairing holes and removing old paint. In this blue-collar job, they mix, match and apply paints and other finishes to a variety of surfaces, preparing the surrounding areas by covering them with a cloth or plastic sheet to prevent messes. They're also able to provide decorative and faux finishes if the customer requests them.

18. Aircraft mechanic

National average salary: £31,451 per year

Primary duties: Aircraft mechanics inspect and repair aircraft engines. They make sure the mechanical components are functioning correctly, and identify damage, malfunctions or defects in the engine components. Aircraft mechanics use power tools, including saws and grinders, to perform their functions. They ensure compliance with relevant aviation rules and regulations.

Related: How to become an aircraft mechanic in 5 steps (with FAQs)

19. Diver

National average salary: £32,385 per year

Primary duties: Commercial divers install, repair or remove underwater structures and equipment. They use scuba gear and power tools, including welding equipment or drills, in their work. Sometimes divers conduct experiments or photograph underwater structures to inspect them better.

20. Construction Manager

National average salary: £52,093 per year

Primary duties: Construction managers oversee many aspects of the construction and maintenance of facilities, structures and systems. They plan, direct and coordinate activities and workers, and organise, schedule and budget to ensure they complete a project on time and within the specified budget.

21. General contractor

National average salary: £62,287 per year

Primary duties: General contractors make the equipment, services and materials for a construction project available. Sometimes they hire subcontractors to assist with some of a project's construction work. General contractors schedule and oversee the daily activities of a construction project.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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