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Highest paying construction jobs working as an independent contractor

Kim Mercado image
By Kim Mercado
Aug 18, 2021 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 high-paying construction 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 2029, equaling 296,300 new jobs. The median salary for construction workers is nearly 16% higher than the median salary for all jobs. 1

We’ve put together a list of the nine highest-paying construction jobs. We based our list on 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 ($88,540)

With a median salary of $88,000, elevator installers and repairers top our list of highest paying construction jobs. By 2029, opportunities are expected to grow by 7% — well above 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 ($65,360)

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. Because the work is physically demanding and workers may be exposed to noxious fumes, this job is ones of the highest paying construction jobs.

While boilermakers earn a decent living, opportunities in this field may be limited. The expected job growth is only 1%, which is slower than average for all occupations.

3. Construction and building inspector ($62,860)

Construction workers and building inspectors are some of the highest-paid contractors in the construction industry, with a median salary of nearly $63,000. 

If you’re just getting started, this isn't the job for you. 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. Opportunities for this job are projected to grow 3%, which is an average rate of growth for all occupations. There are also more opportunities if you can perform a variety of inspections, including different building codes and housing codes.

4. Electrician ($56,900)

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, and communications, lighting and control systems in residential and commercial buildings. 

If you’re looking for a high-paying construction job with plenty of opportunities, this might be a good fit. From 2019-2029, the expected job growth for electricians is 8% — 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 ($56,330)

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.

The expected employment growth for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters is 4%. Plumbers must be licensed and carry plumber insurance in most states. Many also attend vocational or trade school. 

6. Ironworkers ($53,210)

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.

The construction of large projects such as high-rise buildings will drive employment. Similarly, infrastructure maintenance and replacing old buildings, roads and bridges will also contribute to job growth. From 2019-2029, ironworkers' expected job growth is 5% — faster than average for all occupations.

7. Sheet metal workers ($51,370)

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. Projected job growth in this profession is 1% over the next nine years. 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. Carpenters ($49,520)

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

They are an integral part of many construction projects, including bridges, commercial buildings, residential properties and more. Currently, employment opportunities for carpenters are projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029.

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

9. Construction equipment operators ($49,100)

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 4%, which is about average for all occupations.

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Sources

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Construction and Extraction Occupations (May 2020)

Kim Mercado image
By Kim Mercado
Kim Mercado is the managing editor of NEXT's small business blog.
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