What are the fastest growing blue collar jobs?
In last two years, 5.8 million new jobs have been added to job market which in turn dropped down the unemployment rate from 6.7 percent in 2013 to 5 percent at the end of 2015. Whether the growth will continue at the current rate is debatable but it is certain that these fastest growing blue collar jobs will constitute a great share of future positions.
USA Today analysis predicts that blue collar jobs will account for 40 percent of job growth by 2017, or in other words, there will be 2.5 million job openings for low and middle-skilled employees. The growing demand for specialized workers is only one of reasons that make blue collar industry increasingly appealing. The others are high wages and opportunity to develop a unique set of skills.
Prevalent stereotypes which associate term ‘blue collar’ with low-skilled, unqualified, low-wage workers, could not be further from the truth. Many emerging blue collar positions require a special set of skills that employees can acquire only through serious training. The fact that there are not many people who have necessary skills gives competitive advantage on the job market.
College education has become very pricey and student loans put many high school graduates off pursuing BA and MA degrees. On the other side, vocational training can secure comfortable living with much less initial investment. And while higher education undoubtedly secures good employment prospects, it is a myth that low and middle-skilled workers earn less by default. For instance, an average electrician makes $5,000 a year more than the average college graduate. And when you scroll through our ranking 11 best paying blue collar jobs in the US, you see that an elevator installer, with an average salary of 76,650, earns more than an average advanced degree holder.
In creating list 11 fastest growing blue collar jobs, we used Bureau of Labor Statistics projections of future job demand by 2024. Besides job growth, we present average salaries as determined by BLS.
11. Computer-controlled machine tool operators, metal and plastic
Projected growth: 1 7.5
Average salary: 37,920
We start this ranking with the occupation which proves that blue-collars jobs are not only about getting your hands dirty. These specialized workers operate computer-controlled machines or robots to perform one or more machine functions on metal or plastic workpieces. Besides high school diploma, educational requirements for the profession include on-job training that may last one year or more depending the type of machine employee works with. In addition, possessing certificate which proves your competence can boost employment prospects.
Wisconsin, Vermont, and Indiana are three states with the highest number of available jobs for this occupation. At the same time, top-paying states for these workers are Washington (52,040), Vermont (50,070) and Maine (44,800).
10. Industrial machinery mechanics
Projected growth: 18
Industrial machinery mechanics maintain and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery. Their main duty is to detect malfunctions, discover the source of the problem and remove it. Today, they often rely on the help of computerized diagnostic systems, which makes their work much easier and faster. In order to become an industrial machinery mechanic, you need high school diploma and a year or more of on-job-training or practical knowledge gained in a technical school.
If you want to find a job as an industrial machinery mechanics, you might try your luck in Wyoming, Alabama, and Iowa, the states with the highest concentration of jobs for the occupation. Or you can go to top-paying states Alaska, Hawaii, and California.
9. Helpers – electricians
Projected growth: 18
Average salary: 29,110
Electrician’s helpers assist electricians by using, supplying or holding materials or tools, and cleaning work area and equipment. As you can see from the job description, the occupation does not require special knowledge. However, if your goal is to become electrician one day, the position gives you a great opportunity to pick up necessary skills and get on-job training from experienced workers. Advancing from helper to electrician is something worth considering, as you will be earning almost twice more.
Currently, the greatest demand for electricians’ helpers is in Texas, New York, and Florida, while top paying states for the occupations are Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
8. Brickmasons and blockmasons
Projected growth: 18.6
Brickmasons and blockmasons, labor workers who use bricks, concrete blocks, and natural and man-made stones to build fences, walkways, walls, and other structures, perform one of the most physically demanding jobs on this list. The rise in the number of jobs for this occupation is mainly driven by future population growth. In order to become brickmasons or blockmasons, you need high school diploma and training. Many decide to enter free apprenticeship programs that usually last three or four years since this type of education enables them to become foremen and the superintendents.
The highest demand for this occupation is in Utah, Maryland, and Montana, while Massachusetts, Illinois and New York are top-paying states with salaries 77,630; 70,910, and 65,460, retrospectively.
7. Insulation workers, mechanical
Projected growth: 19.4
Average salary: 50.160
The whole world is trying to figure out how to reduce energy use and decrease greenhouse gas’s emissions, so it is no wonder that mechanical insulators will be in demand. These blue collars insulate pipes, equipment, and all types of mechanical systems, including boilers, HVAC systems, and ducts. Besides high school diploma, the job usually requires formal apprenticeships programs which combine on-the-job training with technical instruction.
According to Mechanical Insulation Industry, mechanical insulation could deliver annually “$3.7 billion in energy savings and reduce 37.9 million metric tons of carbon emissions”. Currently, the highest concentration of jobs for mechanical insulators is in Louisiana, Wyoming and Delaware, while Oregon, Indiana, Illinois are top paying states for this occupation with salaries over 80.000.
6. Bicycle repairers
Projected growth: 21.7
Average salary: 26.960
In 2014, 18 million bikes were sold in the US, while 36 million Americans rode a bike more than 4 times during the year. Although overall bicycle use has remained flat in last few years, workers who know who to fix broken bikes are in demand.
There is no much doubt about what bicycle repairer’s duties are – he or she is responsible for fixing two-wheelers, which means that this job requires a lot of hand work. However, that is not the whole story. Bicycle repairers also have daily interaction with clients which can add stress especially if they are dealing with demanding customers. This is a good career choice for those who can not wait to leave school, since high school diploma, along with some formal and informal training is enough to get you the job. However, the salary is way below state’s average which means that you might need an additional job to make a living.
5. Reinforcing iron and rebar workers
Projected growth: 23.4
Average salary: 54,810
The fifth place on the 11 fastest growing blue collar jobs is reserved for reinforcing iron and rebar workers, an occupation which requires a lot of physical strength. Their main duty is to position and secure concrete by using different tools and rod-bending machines. Besides high school diploma, these labor workers must either get informal on-the-job training or enter a formal apprenticeship program. While this job brings one of the highest salaries on the list, it can be hazardous. Job related injuries among reinforcing iron and rebar workers are greater than the national average.
Hawaii, Louisiana, and District of Columbia are three states with the highest demand for reinforcing iron and rebar workers, while New York, Illinois, and New Jersey are places where they earn the most.
4. Solar photovoltaic installers
Projected growth: 24.3
Average salary: 40,020
Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, assemble, install, or maintain solar panel systems on roofs or other structures. Future growth of almost 25 percent is driven by booming PV market which enables millions of Americans to use a renewable source of energy in a cheap and efficient way.
Those who decide to take a career in PV sector should be ready to travel to job sites and work on call in cases of emergencies. High school diploma and on-the-job training which lasts up to 1 year are prerequisites for getting PV jobs. Also, some installers expand their knowledge by taking courses at technical schools or community colleges, or by entering training in an apprenticeship program.
Expectedly, sunniest states in the US Hawaii, New Mexico, and Arizona have the greatest number of job openings for PV installers, while these blue collars earn the most in the following three states: Hawaii (50,740), Massachusetts (48,920), and New Years (44,380)
3. Ambulance drivers and attendants
Projected growth: 33 percent
Average salary: 25,490
Ambulance drivers and attendants drive an ambulance or assist in transporting sick, injured, or convalescent persons. Given the amount of responsibility that the job requires one can argue that they are underpaid. Educational requirements for the occupation are high school diploma or equivalent and one year of formal training.
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Dakota, Mississippi, and West Virginia offer the greatest number of jobs for this occupation, while Washington, Massachusetts, and Nebraska pay the most, with average salaries 33,540, 31,780 and 31, 730 retrospectively.
2. Commercial Drivers
Projected growth: 36.9 percent
Average Salary: 39,520 (truck drivers); 30,220 (bus drivers)
Truck and bus drivers belong to the category of commercial drivers. Both professions carry certain challenges. While truck drivers stay on the road for weeks, bus drivers have more conventional working hours but face a greater risk of work-related injuries and illnesses than the national average. This, along with low salary might be one of the reasons which put people off these occupations.
HuffingtonPost published the chart which illustrates how the growth of truck drivers’ salaries did not keep up with the inflation rate in the period between 2000 and 2013 which caused a shortfall in the occupation. Although high demand for this profile forced companies to raise wages, income increase has not yet given desired results. At the same time, 94 percent of school districts experienced some degree of shortage of school bus drivers mainly because of high prerequisites for entering the profession.
1. Wind Turbine Technicians
Projected growth: 108 percent
Average salary: 48,800
Wind Turbine Technicians ranks as first on our list 11 fastest growing blue collar jobs with projected growth that exceeds 100 percent. The fact that wind energy is the fastest-growing source of electricity in the world is the main reason behind this significant increase. In US alone usage of the wind as an energy source grew by 39 percent per year from 2004 to 2009. The growth has continued in following years along with greater public awareness about environmental issues surrounding exploitation of the planet.
Wind Turbine Technicians install, maintain, and repair wind turbines. They work at great highest which may discourage some people from pursuing this career. In order to become WTT you need to attend a technical school and in most cases receive some additional training after signing an employment contract. Wyoming, North Dakota, and Iowa have the greatest number of available jobs for this occupation while top-paying states are Kansas, North Dakota, and Ohio.