Highest paying construction jobs working as an independent contractor

Highest paying construction jobs working as an independent contractor

Kim Mercado
By Kim Mercado
Jan 4, 2023
10 min read

Are you thinking about pursuing a career in the construction industry, or are you an independent contractor looking to increase your earning potential? If so, there are plenty of jobs to choose from, with opportunities ranging from unskilled labor to highly specialized artisanal skills.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities in the construction field are expected to grow by 4% by 2031, equaling 252,900 new jobs. And good news, the median salary for construction workers is $48,210 (as of May 2021), which is higher than the median wage for all occupations of $45,760.

We’ve put together a list of the eleven highest paying construction jobs. Our list is based on the annual salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to help you identify opportunities that might be a good fit. 

Interested in learning more about construction job opportunities? Check out our special report on the best U.S. cities for construction work.

Highest paying construction jobs

It’s important to remember that the amount you can earn may be higher or lower than what is listed with the professions in this article. Construction worker salaries for any job vary based on various factors, including your skill level, how much experience you have and your area’s job market. 

All of the jobs included in this list require a high school diploma or equivalent. No jobs require a college degree. But you need to complete an apprenticeship program to work in every profession except construction and building inspector.

1. Elevator installers and repairers ($97,860)

With a median salary of $97,000, elevator installers and repairers top our list of highest paying construction jobs. By 2031, opportunities are expected to grow by 3% — a little slower than the average of 4% expected for overall job growth.

But if you’re not comfortable in small spaces, this profession might not be your best bet. Elevator installers and repairs often work in small, enclosed areas, such as crawl spaces, machine rooms and elevator shafts.

It’s also important to consider that job opportunities can be limited in smaller communities without many multi-story buildings. But if you live within commuting distance of a major metro area, you’ll likely find more opportunities. 

This job title is a little misleading because professionals in this field don’t just install, repair and perform routine maintenance on elevators. They also work on escalators, moving walkways and chair lifts. They’re responsible for ensuring the equipment is safe, working correctly and up to code.

Many states require elevator installers and repairers to have a license.

2. Boilermaker ($64,290)

Boilermakers install and repair boilers, vats and other large containers that hold liquid or gas. They test and inspect the machines to ensure they’re working correctly, clean the equipment, and repair and replace components. 

Boilermakers often work at construction sites and may travel away from home for extended periods. It’s also physically demanding, sometimes working in cramped conditions.

While boilermakers earn a good living, opportunities in this field may be limited. Job growth is projected to decline 5% in the next decade. However, there are still about 1,100 openings for this job projected each year on average.

3. Construction and building inspector ($61,640)

Construction workers and building inspectors are some of the highest-paid contractors in the construction industry, with a median salary of nearly $62,000. 

This isn’t the job for you if you’re just getting started. Typically, it requires several years of related work experience. But if you’ve worked in the industry for a while, it could be a good opportunity for you to boost your earning potential. 

Many state and local authorities require construction and building inspectors to have a license or other certification. Professionals in these jobs monitor construction projects to ensure that buildings, streets, bridges, sewer systems, and other structures are up to code. They make sure construction adheres to zoning regulations and meets the contract’s requirements. 

They typically must submit their findings to project stakeholders and regulatory agencies when the project is complete.

Public interest in the safety and quality of construction will continue to create demand for inspectors. There are also more opportunities if you can perform a variety of inspections, including different building codes and housing codes.

4. Electrician ($60,040)

If you’ve ever needed to install a new overhead light or replace old wiring in your home, you’re probably familiar with the type of work electricians do. They are typically responsible for installing and maintaining the electrical systems, lighting and control systems in residential and commercial buildings. 

If you’re looking for a high-paying contract job with plenty of opportunities (approximately 79,900 openings projected yearly), this might be a good fit. From 2021-2031, the expected job growth for electricians is 7% — almost twice the expected growth rate for all occupations. 

Most states require you to get an electrician license. Together with electrician insurance, these are the first steps to a successful career.

5. Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters ($59,880)

These professionals install and repair pipes, fixtures and related systems that transport water, gas and additional materials through houses and other buildings. They also clean out drains to prevent back-ups and other issues.

Employment for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters is expected to grow 2%, a little slower than average for all occupations. But despite slower growth, about 48,600 jobs for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are projected each year, on average.

Plumbers must be licensed and carry plumber insurance in most states. Many also attend vocational or trade school. 

6. Ironworkers ($57,160)

Ironworkers install iron and steel components during the construction of new buildings, roads, bridges and other structures. They also reinforce existing structures and assist with the demolition of older buildings.

This job can be physically demanding, sometimes working at great heights. However, if you’re interested in getting into this work, you often only need a high school diploma and can learn on the job or through an apprenticeship.

The construction of large projects, such as high-rise buildings, is expected to drive employment. Similarly, infrastructure maintenance and replacement of old buildings, roads and bridges will also contribute to job growth. From 2021-2031, ironworkers' expected job growth is 4% — average for all occupations.

7. Sheet metal workers ($53,440)

Sheet metal workers make or install products constructed from thin metal sheets, including steel, aluminum and alloyed metals. 

They’re responsible for choosing the right type of sheet to use based on each job’s requirements. Projects they work on include heating and cooling ducts, outdoor pipes, gutters and flashing. 

There won’t be as many opportunities for sheet metal workers compared to other jobs on this list. Job growth in this profession is only projected to be about 1% over the next decade. However, almost every building requires sheet metal for ducts and other structural systems, so you might be able to find a niche in your community.

8. Drywall installers, ceiling tile installers and tapers ($48,350)

Drywall and ceiling tile installers place drywall panels over the walls and ceilings, mostly indoors in buildings. These panels cover insulation, electrical wires, and pipes and help dampen sound. Tapers prepare the drywall for finishing.

Like many construction-related jobs, the work can be physically demanding, and you need an eye for precision as you’re working on interiors. However, formal educational credentials are usually not required for this job, making it easier to enter.

While there is a 3% growth projected from 2021-2031 (slower than average for all jobs), there will be more than 10,900 openings for drywall contractors projected annually.

9. Construction equipment operators ($48,290)

We’ve all seen the heavy equipment used on job sites. Construction equipment operators round out our list of highest-paying construction jobs. These workers drive and control the machinery used to build structures, roads and buildings. 

Operators sometimes have irregular schedules, often working at night. Job growth is expected to be 5%, which is a little faster than average for all occupations.

10. Carpenters ($48,260)

Carpenters cut, shape, install and repair walls, floors, door frames and other structures made of wood, plastic, fiberglass and drywall. 

Carpenters are an integral part of many construction projects, including bridges, commercial buildings, residential properties and more. Currently, employment opportunities for carpenters are projected to grow 2% from 2021 to 2031.

They are often required to have carpenter insurance due to the risk of injury and property damage.

11. Masonry workers ($48,040)

If carpenters work mostly in wood, masons work in stone. Masons use brick, block, stone, and concrete to build structures. And it’s not just buildings and foundations; masonry workers also build walkways and sidewalks, walls, and decorative finishes (think granite countertops and fireplaces).

Masonry workers typically learn their trade through apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Similarly, many technical schools offer masonry programs. Depending on the state you work in, you may be required to have a masonry license and mason insurance.

The demand for masons largely depends on the overall demand for new buildings and road construction. Currently, overall employment of masonry workers is projected to decline 2% through 2031. However, as brick and stone are very popular for interiors and exteriors, there will always be demand for this type of work and building materials.

How NEXT helps protect your business

We specialize in creating customized insurance packages to protect you and your business. We offer a single contractor’s insurance policy that combines general liability and professional liability coverage to provide the protection you need.

If you have a vehicle you drive for work, we’ve got commercial auto insurance to keep you protected. If you need workers’ compensation insurance to get a license or meet a client’s requirements, we can help you with that, too. 

You can get a quote, see your customized insurance options, and get your certificate of insurance online in just a few minutes. If you have questions, our licensed, U.S.-based insurance professionals are ready and waiting to help.

Start your free instant quote today.

Highest paying construction jobs working as an independent contractor


kim mercado
About the author
Kim Mercado is a content editor at NEXT's blog, where she writes and edits posts for small business owners. She enjoys helping entrepreneurs solve their business challenges and learn about insurance. Kim has contributed to Salesforce, Samsara and Google.

You can find Kim trying new recipes and cheering the 49ers.

How to get catering clients: 6 proven ways to help your food business grow

How to get catering clients: 6 proven ways to help your food business grow

Small business checklist for the end of the year: 7 tasks to do now

Small business checklist for the end of the year: 7 tasks to do now

NEXT Insurance partners with industry giants: Allstate & Allianz X and raises $265M

NEXT Insurance partners with industry giants: Allstate & Allianz X and raises $265M

What we cover
Chat with Us

Mon – Fri | 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. CT

© 2024 Next Insurance, Inc. 975 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94304, United States
Better Business Bureau
Issuance of coverage is subject to underwriting. Not available in all states. Please see the policy for full terms, conditions and exclusions. Coverage examples are for illustrative purposes only. Your policy documents govern, terms and exclusions apply. Coverage is dependent on actual facts and circumstances giving rise to a claim. Next Insurance, Inc. and/or its affiliates is an insurance agency licensed to sell certain insurance products and may receive compensation from insurance companies for such sales. Policy obligations are the sole responsibility of the issuing insurance company. Refer to Legal Notices section for additional information.

Any starting prices or premiums represented before an actual customer quote are not guaranteed and are representations of existing premiums of active policies as of December 6, 2023. To the extent permitted by law, applicants are individually underwritten, not all applicants may qualify. Individual rates and savings vary and are subject to change. Discounts and savings are available where state laws and regulations allow, and may vary by state. Certain discounts apply to specific coverages only.