Help Rebuild America’s Backbone With These 12 Careers (No College Required)
President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan could mean thousands of high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree.
So what are the most promising careers in infrastructure?
Using 95 careers highlighted by several Brookings Institute studies on infrastructure, we analyzed U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the scope of each industry, the forecast for job growth and, of course, wages to bring you the 12 best jobs in infrastructure.
Median pay: $52,720
Job growth through 2024: 13.7%
Electricians install and maintain all the electrical components in a variety of buildings and infrastructure. They have to have the electrical knowhow, but they also have to be able to read blueprints and consult with builders.
You can get a head start on an apprenticeship with the Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training program from the Homebuilder’s Institute. Elmore suggested checking out your local union — that’s what he did 38 years ago.
2. Construction Laborer
Median pay: $33,430
Job growth through 2024: 12.7%
This is kind of a broad category, but considering the importance of these workers to big infrastructure projects, it’s definitely a promising career. There’s also a very low barrier to entry: No high school degree is required.
These careers are a good jumping-off point because they generally assist other craft laborers, giving you a good frame of reference when deciding which specialty to pursue.
The Laborers’ International Union of America is a good starting point for information about this career.
3. Captain, Mates or Pilot of a Water Vessel
Median pay: $72,680
Job growth through 2024: 17.2%
“Considering all the waterways and ports in the U.S., I would say those jobs are promising,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America.
That means you could be driving, supervising or helloing out on a tugboat helping to expand a port, or even work in the tourism industry as a ferry boat captain.
This one has a really wide ranging salary profile — between $34,950 to $134,390 — and requires more schooling and a certification from the U.S. Coast Guard. Wikipedia has this nifty list of maritime colleges to give you a good starting point.
Oh, and you might even snag a job as awesome as hanging out with sharks like this captain did.
4. Plumber, Pipefitter or Steamfitter
Median pay: $51,450
Job growth through 2024: 11.5%
Like electricians, plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters are a classic infrastructure specialty that will always be in demand.
Think about it — what does every house or building have? Pipes.
Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters repair, maintain and, at the outset of probably every construction project in the U.S., install pipes that carry water or sewage, gas or other essential utilities.
Experienced plumbers are involved in the actual blueprint process, helping builders at the beginning of the planning process.
5. Bus and Truck Mechanic or Diesel Engine Specialist
Median pay: $45,170
Job growth through 2024: 12%
These specialists can work in a wide range of sectors, from local garages to state governments. You’ll probably need a commercial driver’s license to test out the vehicles you’re working on.
The National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence issues the required certification for workers in this field, and the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation has resources on a school near you.
6. Construction Equipment Operator
Media pay: $45,170
Job growth through 2024: 10%
I’m one of the few people who asked for a Bobcat every year for Christmas, because there’s nothing cooler to me than the guys who get to dig, crush and fling rocks and dirt around in construction machines.
These workers operate bulldozers, digging and loading machines and piled rivers — you’ve probably heard the bang, bang, bang of one of these if you live near a city.
It also happen that people in these jobs can make as much as $80,000 annually in an industry that’s growing 3% faster than average.
The International Union of Operating Engineers has provided a list of accredited schools to get you started on this career path.
7. Electrician’s Helper
Median pay: $29,350
Job growth through 2024: 18%
The growth in the number of electrician’s helpers demanded over the next decade is the highest on this list. That’s no surprise given the amount of work journeyman electrician Danny Elmore recently told us about and how attractive the industry is.
“Duties include using, supplying or holding materials or tools, and cleaning work area and equipment,” according to the BLS. This is mainly what you’ll be doing as an apprentice.
Again, Elmore suggested looking into your local electrician’s union for apprenticeship opportunities. You can find even more information from the website of the National Electrical Contractors Association.
8. Septic Tank Servicers and Sewer Pipe Cleaners
Median pay: $36,430
Job growth through 2024: 16.3%
All right, all right. I know what you’re thinking.
It may not be the most glamorous gig, but it is one of the fastest growing occupations, according to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s like many of the careers discussed above — essential for practically any infrastructure work.
There are a variety of jobs that go along with this industry, so don’t expect to have to suit up to clean sewage if you don’t want to. According to career website O*Net OnLine, a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Labor, these duties include driving trucks to transport crew and materials, preparing and keeping records of the actual work and measuring excavation sites.
There’s no specific school or apprenticeship program, so you could probably start by reaching out to local septic tank or sewer contractors to see if they’re hiring.
Median pay: $38,410
Job growth through 2024: 11.4%
Yet another pipe-centric job on the list, pipe layers are workers who actually make room for all of those sewer, drains and water mains through digging trenches and helping lay down some of the larger lines.
This job requires a high level of physical fitness, according to several job postings on ZipRecruiter.
“Like others in the various construction trades, a pipelayer will have to spend several years working as an apprentice under a more experienced journeyman pipelayer before being able to work on their own or train apprentice pipelayers,” according to career website Sokanu.
10. Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs
Median pay: $24,300
Job growth through 2024: 13.1%
The median salary is so low for this job because it’s becoming more and more of a popular side gig with the explosion of services like Uber and Lyft — 20% of drivers were part time as of the latest available U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2014.
“Employment of taxi drivers and chauffeurs is projected to grow 13% from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations,” according to the BLS. “An increase in ride-hailing services, that utilize electronic hailing through smartphone apps, should contribute to employment growth.”
11. Plumber, Pipefitter or Steamfitter Helper
Median pay: $29,030
Job growth through 2024: 13.4%
There’s not much more to say about this one that wasn’t covered in the plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters or electricians helpers entries above, but again, this is another overlooked career that’s going to grow at nearly double the amount of all careers as a whole in the next decade.
The United Association can get you started on this career path.
12. Paving, Surfacing and Tamping Equipment Operator
Median pay: $38,970
Job growth through 2024: 9.2%
As a paving, surfacing and tamping equipment operator, you run the big machines that are used to lay down and flatten concrete, resurface streets, parking lots and airport runways, or spread stones and gravel, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s a more specialized version of the heavy equipment operator job discussed earlier, and the International Union of Operating Engineers is your best bet as a starting point if you want to make this your specialty.
Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He stills dreams of owning a Bobcat someday.