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Written by Krystin MorganKrystin Morgan

13 of the highest-paying trade jobs in the UK

17 min read
13 of the highest-paying trade jobs in the UK
When you’re choosing a career path, money matters. We have you covered. This guide will talk through high paid trades for you to consider, what it takes to succeed, and how much you can earn.

Throughout the past few years, there’s been a decline in the number of UK citizens working in the trades — but not a shortage of jobs. According to the House of Lords Library, in 2022 the number of UK employees belonging to a trade union fell by 200,000 year over year. This builds on a steady decline since the 1990s. 

This means that if you want a job that lets you work with your hands — and pays a great salary — you might want to consider a job in the trades. With so many different types of roles to choose from, it’s hard to know which are the best trades to consider.  

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If you’re ready to look into a job in the trades, this blog post will point you in the right direction. We’ll cover the following:

  • High paid trades in the UK
  • Skills required for each job on the list
  • Average income for each job
  • What to consider before joining a trade.

The highest-paying trade jobs in the UK

The trades have something for almost everyone, as long as you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty and work hard. Understanding which are the best paid trades can inform your decision about which to pursue. 

First, what are the trades, exactly? Trade is a term that can be applied to various roles, often those that require working with your hands or doing more physical labour. Trades typically do not require a university education but may require some advanced training specific to the role. 

While most trade jobs pay well, some provide a better living than others. Let’s take a look at 13 of the highest-paying trade jobs in the UK, the required skills, and the average pay. 

1. Construction manager

Construction managers oversee construction projects for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Typically, becoming a construction manager requires experience in the industry as a construction worker or similar. 

This role lets you oversee every step of the construction process, from the plan and schedule to budget and safety concerns. With a high level of responsibility, the role also brings a high salary. 

What skills do you need?

  • Expertise in maths
  • Business management
  • Collaboration and communication skills
  • Leadership skills

How much does a construction manager earn?

According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a construction manager in the UK is £53,651 per year. Of course, your pay will depend on your specific experience, training, and expertise. 

2. Electrician

An electrician maintains a building’s electrical system, so the day-to-day work might include installing, testing, and repairing all manner of electrical devices and equipment. As we experience continued technological and environmental changes, many electricians are also delving into the world of renewable energy and fibre optics. 

What skills do you need?

  • Machine expertise
  • Maths knowledge
  • Technical skills
  • An eye for detail
  • Problem solving skills

How much does an electrician earn?

An electrician in the UK can expect to earn about £36,178 per year, according to Indeed.com. Electricians in higher cost-of-living areas like London may earn more, as will electricians with more experience. 

3. Plumber

A plumber maintains a building’s water system, taking care of the piping, showers, sinks, toilets, and any other item that uses the water supply. 

What skills do you need?

  • Construction knowledge
  • Maths expertise
  • Customer service
  • Initiative

How much does a plumber earn?

Plumbing pays well, with the average plumber in the UK earning between £20.00 and £21.63 per hour. 

4. Bricklayer

The job of a bricklayer is exactly how it sounds — implementing brick into a structure. This could be done as part of a new build or a repair job.  

What skills do you need?

  • Construction knowledge
  • Attention to detail
  • Collaboration
  • Ability to read plans and construction details

How much does a bricklayer earn?

Bricklayers may earn up to £38,000 per year according to Indeed.com with an average around £30,114 per year. 

5. Carpenter

Carpenters work with wood, whether building structures, frames, or furniture. This can include cutting and shaping wood, developing and fitting staircases or walls, assembling furniture, installation of shelving or cupboards, and more. 

What skills do you need?

  • Construction and building knowledge
  • An eye for detail
  • Maths skills
  • Working well with your hands

How much does a carpenter earn?

According to Hampshire Training and Assessments, which provides training and guidance for those in the trades, a carpenter averages a salary of £40,421 per year. New carpenters may start out closer to £17,00 per year and earn more with experience. 

6. Plasterer

A plasterer Plasterers mix plaster by hand or with equipment, prepare surfaces as needed, and apply the plaster. Plasterers work with structural pieces like walls or ceilings but also design aspects like cornices or ceiling ornamentation. 

What skills do you need?

  • Understanding of construction and building best practices
  • Attention to detail
  • Working well with your hands
  • Collaborating with others

How much does a plasterer earn?

Plasterer salaries range from £19,000 per year at the entry level, all the way up to £34,000 per year for more experienced plasterers, according to the National Careers Service

7. Building inspector

Building inspectors are important parts of our everyday safety, as they take responsibility for ensuring a building is structurally sound and safe to use. Using their knowledge of construction principles, they assess the safety of construction and uncover any risks.  

What skills do you need?

  • Construction knowledge
  • Safety focus
  • Eye for detail
  • Strong decision-making abilities

How much does a building inspector earn?

An experienced building inspector can earn an average of £50,000 per year, according to the National Careers Service, making it one of the best paying trades in the UK. 

8. Lift technician

Most of us take lifts and escalators frequently without thinking much about them — but there’s an entire crew making sure they are set up and working correctly. Lift technicians execute routine assessments of lifts and escalators, discover problems, and handle repairs. This job may require responding quickly to emergencies, ensuring compliance with safety regulations, and drafting reports about risks and compliance.

What skills do you need?

  • Ability to repair machinery
  • Knowledge of construction
  • Problem solving skills
  • Attention to detail

How much does a lift technician earn?

Per Indeed.com, lift technicians earn an average of £36,439 per year. The National Careers Service shows an average of £40,000. 

9. Mechanic

A mechanic can focus on different types of machinery, from motorbikes to cars to heavy plant machinery. Mechanics handle maintenance, repair, and testing of machines and engines. 

What skills do you need?

  • Ability to repair machines
  • Problem solving skills
  • Ability to work with your hands
  • Knowledge of physics

How much does a mechanic earn?

Per Indeed.com, mechanics average £37,200 per year in earnings. This can vary depending on the level of experience and the type of mechanic work you’re performing. 

10. Scaffolder

A scaffolder sets up scaffolding on buildings or other structures, which enables workers and passers-by to remain safe. They spent their days working with scaffolding from start to finish, from unloading it to creating a base to fixing it to the building. When a job is complete, they’ll take down the scaffolding as well.

What skills do you need?

  • Construction knowledge
  • Physical fitness
  • Ability to operate equipment
  • Knowledge of safety and security

How much does a scaffolder earn?

The National Careers Service says scaffolders can make an average of £40,000 per year, with entry-level scaffolders starting around £19,000.

11. Landscape designer

Landscape design is a great choice for you if you have an eye for design and like working with nature. Also known as landscape architects, these trades workers focus on designing and managing outdoor areas like gardens and parks. 

What skills do you need?

  • Design sense
  • Spatial awareness
  • Physical fitness
  • Maths skills

How much does a landscape designer earn?

Per the National Careers Service, landscape architects bring in between £20,000 to £45,000 per year. Indeed reflects an average of £34,414 per year. 

12. Aircraft technician

Much like building inspectors and lift technicians, aircraft technicians play a big part in our day to day safety. Working as an aircraft technician or engineer means building, fixing, and maintaining aircraft. 

What skills do you need?

  • Engineering knowledge
  • Ability to use and repair machines
  • Attention to detail
  • Maths skills

How much does an aircraft technician earn?

An experienced aircraft technician may earn up to £43,000 per year, according to the National Careers Service.

13. Structural engineer 

Last but not least on our list is the structural engineer. These workers design and build large buildings like hospitals or sports arenas. Using computer software, you might develop engineering plans, assess materials, and try to understand how different parents of a building may be affected by stress. You may use computer models to forecast how a structure might respond to weather or other impacts — or try to work out why a problem has occurred.

What skills do you need?

  • Engineering knowledge
  • Maths skills
  • Construction knowledge
  • Computer skills

How much does a structural engineer earn?

An experienced structural engineer may earn up to £55,000 per year, according to the National Careers Service. This makes structural engineering one of the highest paying trade jobs.

Many high-paying jobs do not require a four-year college degree
Many high-paying jobs do not require a four-year college degree

Is working in the trades worth it?

There are many reasons that working in the trades may be worth it for you, but it depends on several factors.  

  • Earning potential and cost of living: Whether the trades are right for you depends on your income requirements and cost of living. While many of the highest paying trades allow you to do quite well, they may not pay as high as some other roles.
  • Job market and stability: The UK job market for the trades is quite good, but of course demand can fluctuate based on economic conditions and local construction needs. Overall, though, many trades offer stable work as they cater to essential needs and safety.
  • Education and certification: You may need to invest in your education before entering a new trade. This can come at a cost, but such education is widely seen as an investment in your future earning potential.

Ultimately, if you like to work with your hands and use your analytical skills to uncover and solve problems — and you don’t like sitting at a desk all day — a job in the trades could be exactly what you’re looking for. 

Key takeaways

  1. Working in the trades is great for those who like to do physical work and solve problems. It can be hard to decide on the best trade to learn in the UK, but we provide 13 options.
  2. The highest paid trades often require expertise with numbers, machinery, or construction and can require additional certifications.
  3. It’s worth it to enter a trade if it lines up with your requirements for income and stability.
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