The Best-Paying Construction Jobs in the U.S. [2021]

It’s already been a busy year for construction, thanks to surges in new housing development and renovations, as well as changes to businesses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. These factors will likely accelerate already strong growth projections for the industry made prior to 2020. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), construction employment was projected to grow at a faster pace than average between 2019 and 2029—adding 4% more jobs, compared to 3.7% for other industries. Among the jobs anticipated to be most in demand are solar photovoltaic installers (up 50.5%), tile and stone workers (up 8.6%), and electricians (up 8.4%).

Those and other construction occupations tend to be financially rewarding relative to the level of education required for entry. The vast majority of construction jobs require no formal education or a high school diploma, yet they pay $906 per week—nearly as much as the $938 median weekly earnings of someone with an associate’s degree from college. The median earnings for high school graduates is $781 a week, while those without a diploma make $619.

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While construction workers are generally paid well, their paychecks vary widely depending on where they work. The West Coast (including Alaska and Hawaii), pockets in the Midwest, and several Northeast states all pay construction workers higher hourly wages than the rest of the country. Hawaii and Illinois, for example, have a median hourly wage above $34, while Alaska and Massachusetts are around $30 per hour. Meanwhile, several states across the South pay as low as $18 per hour for construction work.

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The type of construction work is also a major factor in how well employees are paid. Many of the higher rates fall to areas of specialization, like elevator installers, boilermakers, and pile driver operators. However, general construction supervisors, inspectors, and more common tradespeople like electricians can also earn higher pay rates.

To find the best-paying construction jobs, researchers at Construction Coverage analyzed the latest data from the BLS. Occupations were ranked according to their median hourly wage. Researchers also included median annual wages, total and projected 10-year employment numbers, and the percentage of workers that are self-employed for each occupation.


Here are the best-paying construction jobs in the United States.

The Best-Paying Construction Jobs

Mason

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10. Brickmasons and Blockmasons

  • Median hourly wage: $26.48
  • Median annual wage: $55,080
  • Total employed nationally: 59,940
  • Projected 10-year employment growth: -6.4%
  • Percentage of workers that are self-employed: 26.8%

Masons construct walls, sewers, and other structures using traditional clay bricks and various types of blocks or tiles, including concrete, cinder, and glass. Most masonry work involves the mortar that binds the bricks or blocks together, though some landscaping projects use mortarless materials.


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Construction worker

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9. Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

  • Median hourly wage: $27.08
  • Median annual wage: $56,330
  • Total employed nationally: 417,440
  • Projected 10-year employment growth: +4.3%
  • Percentage of workers that are self-employed: 8.3%

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair the structures that carry liquids or gases from one place to another. There are more than 400,000 workers nationally, and they can specialize in a range of work, from common household plumbing to more advanced industrial systems.

Track laying equipment

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8. Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operators

  • Median hourly wage: $27.10
  • Median annual wage: $56,370
  • Total employed nationally: 17,590
  • Projected 10-year employment growth: +3.4%
  • Percentage of workers that are self-employed: N/A

These railroad workers specialize in laying track for trains and related equipment, as well as maintaining and repairing both the track and its underlying ties. While these jobs pay well, the opportunities to find one are limited.

Electrician

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7. Electricians

  • Median hourly wage: $27.36
  • Median annual wage: $56,900
  • Total employed nationally: 656,510
  • Projected 10-year employment growth: +8.4%
  • Percentage of workers that are self-employed: 5.0%

Electricians connect wired devices to the systems that power, communicate, or control them. The work involves installation, maintenance, and repair of electrical power, phone, internet, cable, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, farms, and industrial locations. This is one occupation that pays well, can be done almost anywhere, and is projected to grow significantly over the next decade.


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Taper

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6. Tapers

  • Median hourly wage: $28.58
  • Median annual wage: $59,450
  • Total employed nationally: 16,320
  • Projected 10-year employment growth: -4.0%
  • Percentage of workers that are self-employed: 17.8%

Tapers have a specialized role in the process of finishing interior walls before they’re painted or wallpapered. While full-time tapers are not very common, the job pays well for those who have the skill and available work.

Inspector

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5. Construction and Building Inspectors

  • Median hourly wage: $30.22
  • Median annual wage: $62,860
  • Total employed nationally: 113,770
  • Projected 10-year employment growth: +3.2%
  • Percentage of workers that are self-employed: 6.8%

Construction and building inspectors employ an in-depth understanding of blueprints, building codes, and local rules and regulations to make sure projects are completed properly, safely, and legally. Inspectors usually need to have related experience and be licensed or certified, but they are in demand wherever there is construction activity.

Pile driver

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4. Pile Driver Operators

  • Median hourly wage: $30.47
  • Median annual wage: $63,370
  • Total employed nationally: 3,820
  • Projected 10-year employment growth: +4.4%
  • Percentage of workers that are self-employed: 2.2%

Pile driver operators drive pilings into the ground for the construction of structures like retaining walls and foundations for buildings and bridges. There are fewer than 4,000 employed nationally, but opportunities are projected to grow. 

Boiler maker

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3. Boilermakers

  • Median hourly wage: $31.42
  • Median annual wage: $65,360
  • Total employed nationally: 14,020
  • Projected 10-year employment growth: +0.9%
  • Percentage of workers that are self-employed: N/A

Boilermakers put together and maintain the steam boilers that heat buildings or generate electricity. The job can involve construction and assembly of the tanks, fittings, valves, regulators, and more, as well as testing, cleaning, and repairing them. While this is one of the best-paying construction jobs, there aren’t many positions available.

Construction supervisor

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2. First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers

  • Median hourly wage: $32.61
  • Median annual wage: $67,840
  • Total employed nationally: 614,080
  • Projected 10-year employment growth: +4.8%
  • Percentage of workers that are self-employed: 8.0%

First-line supervisors are the leaders who actively coordinate and direct the work at construction or extraction sites. They are responsible for planning and preparing the day’s work so it unfolds smoothly. There are more than 600,000 jobs nationally—a number projected to grow in the years ahead.

Escalator maintenance

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1. Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers

  • Median hourly wage: $42.57
  • Median annual wage: $88,540
  • Total employed nationally: 24,730
  • Projected 10-year employment growth: +6.6%
  • Percentage of workers that are self-employed: N/A

Elevator and escalator installers are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing the elevators, lifts, escalators, and moving walkways typically found in hotels, office buildings, malls, and airports. There are certainly risks involved with working in tight spaces and elevator shafts, but these workers are highly compensated for their time.

Detailed Findings & Methodology

To find the best-paying construction jobs, researchers analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics and the BLS’s Employment Projections program. Occupations were ranked according to median hourly wage. Researchers also included median annual wages, total and projected 10-year employment numbers, and the percentage of workers that are self-employed for each occupation.

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