7 High-Paying Trade Jobs for High School Graduates

Posted on August 06 2020

Electrician wearing hardhat and toolbelt repairs an industrial machine.

Many people believe a college degree is necessary for landing a good job, but this isn’t necessarily true. While studies do show a link between education level and earning potential, many high-paying trade jobs require only a high school diploma and some training.

A high school education will provide critical thinking capabilities along with communications, mathematics, and English skills. These skills are highly valued among employers and open doors to many job opportunities in industries ranging from media and communications to criminal investigation or even gaming. In fact, there are 13 million jobs in the United States for high school graduates that pay at least $35,000 per year, according to U.S. News & World Report

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the median annual salary for high school graduates over the age of 25 will be $33,904 in 2020, compared to $24,492 for working professionals without a high school diploma. 

Whether you’re a high school student looking to graduate early or a working professional who wants to expand their career options by returning to school, a high school diploma opens up a multitude of employment options. Here are seven of the highest-paying trade jobs for high school graduates.


1. Elevator Installer     

Average annual wage: $80,870

Requirements: High school diploma, apprenticeship, and certification in some states

Elevator installers are responsible for installing, fixing, and maintaining elevators, escalators, and moving walkways. They are typically on call 24 hours a day due to the possibility of emergency repairs, according to The Balance Careers. In addition, this job is relatively dangerous and requires workers to spend hours in tightly enclosed spaces, making it one of the highest paid trades.

2. Electrical and Power-Line Installers     

Average annual wage: $66,868

Requirements: High school diploma and on-the-job training

Electrical and power-line installers maintain, repair, and install electricity lines. They also find, fix, and identify defective devices, regulators, transformers, and switches. The work is physically demanding. Typically, electrical and power-line installers work during regular business hours, but the occasional weekend or holiday may be required.

3. Electrician

Average annual wage: $52,527

Requirements: High school diploma, licensure, and apprenticeship 

Electricians can have an extensive apprenticeship that lasts up to four years, according to The Balance Careers. Day-to-day they will install, maintain, and repair wiring; read blueprints; and test for electrical problems. When installing new wire, they will plan the layout and create a blueprint. Inspecting and complying with National Electrical Code is required. 

4. Plumber     

Average annual wage: $50,349

Requirements: High school diploma, licensure, and apprenticeship

Being a plumber requires both attention to detail and physical strength. Plumbers install pipes, inspect and test equipment, and clear sink drains and toilets. Troubleshooting is another task along with providing cost estimates for their work. A plumber’s  apprenticeship requires both classroom and on-the-job training. 

5. Home Inspector   

Average annual wage:  $48,373

Requirements: High school diploma and licensure in some states

Home inspectors can choose how to conduct the home inspection. Their job is to find what needs to be fixed, discover what’s dangerous and failing, and note what is inadequate in many categories — from wiring, to roofing, to something as simple as a kitchen vent. There are 18 states that do not require a home inspector to have a license. For those that do, licensure requirements vary by state.

6. Heating, Venting, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Technician     

Average annual wage: $44,604

Requirements: High school diploma and apprenticeship

HVAC technicians install and maintain heating, cooling, and ventilation equipment, according to The Balance Careers. Workers perform duties such as designing low-voltage wiring, troubleshooting HVAC units, and being responsive to customer needs. It is common for technicians to run after-hours calls.

7. Truck Driver   

Average annual wage: $41,340

Requirements: High school diploma and commercial driver’s license (CDL)

Daily, truck drivers load freight, inspect cargo, and deliver goods, according to The Job Network. They can have local or extended driving routes. In an emergency, they will need to perform vehicle maintenance and troubleshoot mechanical issues. Stamina is important for this field as it can require long work hours.


Advance Your Career by Earning an Online High School Diploma 

Obtaining a high school diploma is the first step to accessing the many well-paying trade job opportunities for high school graduates. The online high school diploma program at The American Academy can help high school students and working adults further their careers and increase their annual wages. The fully accredited online program offers flexible learning plans that allow students to work at their own pace. Learn more about the program and pursue educational goals at The American Academy.

Recommended Readings

How to Graduate High School Early

How to List a High School Diploma on a Resume: Why Earning a Diploma Makes a Difference

How to Be a Good Student and Why It Matters



CareerBuilder, “Well-Paying Jobs That You Can Get Right Out of High School”  

Education Week, “Many Young People Think a High School Diploma Is Enough, Poll Finds” 

HuffPost, “Highest Paying Jobs for High School Graduates” 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Median Weekly Earnings $606 for High School Dropouts, $1,559 for Advanced Degree Holders
The Balance Careers, “Are Home Inspectors Required To Be Licensed?”
The Balance Careers, “Best Jobs for Trade School Graduates”
The Balance Careers, “Plumber Job Description: Salary, Skills, & More”
The Job Network, “10 Jobs For Trade School Graduates”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Line Installers and Repairers”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers
U.S. News & World Report, “13 Million Good Jobs Available for Those with High School Diplomas”
U.S. News & World Report, “25 Best Jobs for High School Graduates”
USA Today, “Many Youths Say a High School Diploma Is Enough to Succeed, Poll Shows. Experts Are Alarmed”