15 Highest Paid Trades in California | Updated

A trade job might be a good choice if you like hard, hands-on work. Jobs in this field usually pay well for the specialized skills they need. They require vocational schooling or training.

It’s not a bad idea to go to college, but not everyone should. Careers in the trade give you useful and practical skills, less student loan debt, and the chance to learn while you work. Plus, there is always a need for trades.

Are you applying to trade schools or looking into trade jobs in your area? Learning about the wide range of highest-paid trades in California can help you choose one that fits your interests.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the highest-paid trades in California and their required skills. You would also find the salary of each one and reasons you should consider a trade job. Let’s dive right in.

Why Should You Consider the Highest-Paid Trades in California?

#1. With these jobs, you gain experience.

Some people don’t do their best work in the classroom. They don’t do well on tests and prefer to learn on the job.

They’d rather get out into the “real world” and get experience to put on their resumes instead of going to school.

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#2. In skilled trade jobs, apprentices start working on projects right away and get valid certifications.

They don’t compete for internships that don’t pay. They are already on the floor, learning from people who know what they are doing.

#3. The highest-paid trades in California have reasonable pricing.

Since college is so expensive, many people don’t even think about going. The College Board says that the average cost of tuition for an in-state student at a public college is about $10,000 per year.

College costs more if you are out of state or go to a private school.

#4. Many students graduate from a trade school or community college with little or no debt after getting an associate degree.

It has a low price, more scholarship opportunities, and grants and loans that are easy to apply for.

#5. Trades take half as long to master.

While students in a four-year college are still in school, trade school students have already finished school and begun making money.

#6. You get to be good at what you do.

Many people leave college with a degree in one field but end up working in another. Why spend $40,000 to $160,000 on a degree and then take any job?

With a trade skill, you’ve learned what you need to know. This allows you to start your own business or apply for a specific job and probably get it.

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What are the Types of highest-paid Trades in California?

You can choose from many trades when deciding what to do for a living. Here are some trade jobs you might want to think about, broken down by industry:

Mechanical trades

The people who work in mechanical trades use a wide range of heavy and light machinery. Most of the time, they fix the machines instead of running them.

Some examples in this field are:

  • HVAC installer
  • Machinist
  • Locksmith
  • Elevator mechanic
  • Auto mechanic
  • Machine Installer

Construction trades

This trade includes many building jobs, such as flooring, masonry, carpentry, and plumbing. Some of these jobs may need people with strength, coordination, and stamina.

Here are some examples from the building business:

  • Carpenter
  • Electrician
  • Painter
  • Mason
  • Carpet installer
  • Welder
  • Plumber
  • Landscaper
  • Dredger
  • Fencer
  • Heavy equipment operator
  • Pile driver

Industrial trades

Jobs in this trade deal with both technology and making things. These trade jobs involve building, planning, and finding solutions to problems.

Some examples of industrial trades are the following:

  • Ironworker
  • Steam engineer
  • Freight engineer for cargo
  • Installer and fixer of phone lines
  • Asbestos worker
  • Paving equipment operator
  • Metal fabricator
  • Boilermakers

Medical trades

Medical trades include a wide range of jobs in health care that anyone can learn in about two years.

You might work with patients, technology, or other medical staff as a medical tradesperson.

Here are a few examples from the field of medicine:

  • Therapist for breathing
  • Phlebotomist
  • Clinical Laboratory Technician
  • Paramedic
  • Dental assistant
  • Medical assistant

Cooking and Beauty Trades

Most of the time, these trade jobs are more creative and require different skills than manual labor.

Here are some examples from each field:

  • Hairstylist
  • Nail tech
  • Beauty Therapist
  • Makeup artist
  • Food technologist
  • Esthetician
  • Chef
  • Baker
  • Pastry artist
  • Restaurant manager

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15 Highest-Paid Trades in California

The highest paid trades in California are-

#1. Construction managers

Median Annual Salary: $88,540

Construction managers oversee public, commercial, residential, and industrial building projects. This is one of the highest-paid trades in California. They are also known as project managers and general contractors. 

Construction managers are in charge of projects from beginning to end. Their jobs include:

  • Making estimates.
  • Setting up schedules for subcontractors.
  • Dealing with problems.
  • Giving reports to clients.

Managing a construction project requires business, leadership, technical, and communication skills.

A lot of construction managers work for themselves. The rest work in residential buildings, nonresidential buildings, heavy and civil engineering construction, and other industries. 

Graduates of trade schools for construction management learn how to manage construction workers, put together budgets, and read blueprints and other technical documents.

#2. Elevators and Escalators Fixer

Median Annual Salary: $88,540

Repairers and installers of elevators and escalators fix, maintain, and put in elevators and escalators. Reading blueprints, replacing broken parts, testing equipment, and checking for safety are all part of the job.

Most of the time, these professionals are repair, installation, or maintenance experts.

They need to know how machines work and how to fix them. They also need to be strong and keep going for a long time. A four-year apprenticeship with a union, employer, or industry group is often the first step in these careers.

Apprentices learn how to read blueprints and about how electricity works. They also about the parts of elevators and escalators and safety.

Getting a professional certification from the National Association of Elevator Contractors. Or the National Association of Elevator Safety Authorities International could help you move up in your job.

It is one of the highest-paid trades in California.

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#3. Radiation Therapists

Median Annual Salary: $86,850

Radiation therapists treat people with cancer and other diseases with radiation therapy. They talk to patients about their treatment plans, use machines to treat them, keep track of their care, and watch for bad reactions.

Radiation therapists work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and clinics. They need technical and social skills, work hard, and pay close attention to details.

In trade school, students learn about pathology, treatment planning, oncology, and radiation physics. Most states require a license to work as a radiation therapist, one of California’s highest-paid trades.

Radiation therapists can move up in their careers by getting certified and getting more training to become medical dosimetrists. They can figure out how much radiation to give cancer patients.

#4. Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Median Annual Salary: $79,590

Nuclear medicine technologists work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, labs, and clinics. They also help doctors make radiopharmaceutical drugs and give them to patients. Also, part of the job is explaining procedures to patients, using imaging equipment, and keeping patient records.

In a trade school, students who want to become nuclear medicine technologists get lab, clinical, and classroom experience. They learn how to follow the rules, how to protect themselves from radiation, and how to make and give radioactive drugs.

Most people who work in nuclear medicine try to get a certification. But each state has different rules about licensing. It is one of the highest-paid trades in California.

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#5. Dental Hygienists

Median Annual Salary: $77,090

Dental hygienists work under the supervision of a dentist. They provide preventive care and look for signs of dental disease. They use different tools to remove plaque, take x-rays, and put fluoride on teeth. They also teach patients how to take care of their teeth. It is one of the highest-paid trades in California.

Most trade schools for dental hygienists take three years and teach students in the classroom, in the field, and in a lab. There are also classes in anatomy and physiology, periodontics, radiography, and how to deal with patients.

They can move up in their careers by getting a bachelor’s degree. They may also move from taking care of patients directly to roles in management.

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#6. Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians

Median Annual Salary: $67,550

These people help engineers make computers, medical monitoring devices, and navigational tools that use electronics and electricity.

They usually build electrical instruments, draw diagrams, use machine tools to make parts, and do preventive maintenance.

 Technicians in electrical and electronics engineering work in manufacturing, R&D, engineering services, and for the federal government.

Students learn how to read blueprints and engineering instructions, write reports, and keep track of data in trade school. They take classes in chemistry, circuitry, programming languages, and physics.

Technicians in electrical and electronic engineering need to be good with their hands and be able to think logically. It is one of the highest-paid trades in California.

#7. Aircraft and Avionics Technicians/Mechanics

Median Annual Salary: $66,680

Technicians and mechanics who work on aircraft and avionics equipment maintain and fix them. It is one of the highest-paid trades in California. Some inspect planes based on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules. 

Aircraft mechanics find electrical and mechanical problems, fix aircraft parts, and test parts using diagnostic equipment. Technicians with avionics test electronic instruments, assemble instrument panels, fix parts, and keep records.

Some of the biggest employers are companies that make parts for aerospace, companies that help with air travel, airlines, and the federal government. Employees usually work near major airports in airfields, hangars, and repair stations.

Most mechanics and technicians who work on aircraft and avionics equipment go to a trade school approved by the FAA and earn an associate degree.

Aircraft mechanics either get certified by the FAA or work for a certified person.

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#8. Boilermakers

Median Annual Salary: $65,360

Boilermakers put together, fix, and take care of boilers and other large containers used in buildings, ships, and factories. It is one of the highest-paid trades in California.

Typical tasks include reading blueprints, checking boiler systems for leaks, replacing broken parts, and cleaning vessels.

The hard work is usually done outside in all kinds of weather. To keep from getting hurt on the job, you must be physically strong and follow safety rules. Boilermakers build utility systems and non-residential buildings, fabricate metal products, and do plumbing, heating, and air conditioning work.

Through a four-year apprenticeship, boilermakers learn technical skills and get an education. They learn how to use the tools of a boilermaker, how to follow safety rules, how to read and draw blueprints, and how to install things. 

Workers who already know how to weld, fit pipes, or work with sheet metal may be able to shorten their apprenticeships.

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#9. Construction and Buildings Inspectors

Median Annual Salary: $62,860

Inspectors of construction and buildings ensure that building projects follow building codes, zoning laws, and other rules.

They spend a lot of time inspecting work sites’ buildings, bridges, roads, and water systems. They also look at the plumbing, electrical, and heating/cooling systems.

Some of the other things they do are approve building plans, check plumbing and electrical systems for problems, and send notices to buildings that don’t follow the rules.

Home inspectors, electrical inspectors, building inspectors, and plans examiners are all types of construction and building inspectors. They work for local or state governments, engineering services, construction companies, or are self-employed.

Students in trade programs for construction and building inspection learn how to read building codes and do inspections. It is one of the highest-paid trades in California.

#10. Electrician

Median Annual Salary: $56,900

Electricians fix, maintain, and install systems in buildings that use electricity for power, lighting, communication, and control. Most apprentices spend four or five years learning their trade. Some people take a technical program that teaches them the basics of electricity, how circuits work, and how to stay safe.

Apprenticeships for electricians include paid training on the job and technical instruction. If an electrician finishes a trade program, they might be able to get a shorter apprenticeship.

They learn how to set fire alarms, solder, follow electrical code rules, and read blueprints. There are apprenticeships for electricians through unions and groups of contractors.

After a certain number of hours in the field, electricians move from “journey workers” to “master electricians.” It is one of the highest-paid trades in California.

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#11. Licensed Practical Nurse

Median Annual Salary: $62,750

This is one of the highest-paid trades in California. They make detailed notes to update their patients’ charts and let the doctor and nurse in charge know about any changes.

They can work in many places, such as hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and private homes. LPNs may have to work longer than eight-hour shifts and be in good shape to give hands-on patient care.

#12. Home Inspector

Annual Median Wage- $59,060

Home inspectors’ main job is to check the outside and inside of a newly built or already-owned home to ensure it is safe to live in. They go to school to learn about the home’s heating, plumbing, electrical, and building systems. Upon graduation, it is one of the highest-paid trades in California.

They also need to know how different kinds of homes are built and their strengths and weaknesses. Home inspectors must be physically fit to move up and down ladders and through crawlspaces.

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#13. Plumber

Median Annual Salary: $57,329

Plumbers’ main jobs are to put in and fix water and gas lines. They also connected things like bathtubs, sinks, toilets, dishwashers, and washing machines to water lines. It is one of the highest-paid trades in California.

Plumbers need to think critically about the pros and cons of each solution. They also need to be strong to lift tools and equipment.

Plumbers do more than just install and fix pipes and appliances. They also get things out of the sinks and drains, check the water pressure, and estimate how much repairs will cost.

#14. Landscape designer

Median Annual Salary: $54,710

Landscape designers work on outdoor residential or garden design projects. They have one of the highest-paid trades in California. They aim to choose plants and other things that look nice and fit in with the environment.

Depending on where they are, their designs may include plants, water features, paths, sculptures, or other things.

Landscape designers may use native plants, pebbles, and rocks in drier climates. Those in temperate climates may mostly use trees, shrubs, and other plants. They ensure good drainage and advise on how to take care of the area.

#15. Breathing Therapists

Median Annual Salary: $56,903

Respiratory therapists help people who are having trouble breathing. They check for and treat lung problems and care for people of all ages. They may also help if someone is drowning, has a heart attack, or is in shock.

A respiratory therapist’s job is to hook up ventilators for patients who can’t breathe independently. They ensure that patients are getting the right amount and oxygen flow.

They assess a patient’s breathing needs by giving diagnostic tests. Giving the right treatments and breathing exercises to help people breathe better. This is one of the highest-paid trades in California.

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Most people think you need to go to college if you want a stable job. Most parents, teachers, and future bosses think getting an undergraduate degree is the key to success. But that’s far from the truth.

These highest-paid trades in California would have you earning so much before people are even done with college. A skilled trade job gives you the same benefits as a white-collar job, but you don’t have to pay for a degree to get it. There are many options, from making things out of metal to working with plumbing and HVAC.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which trade job pays the most?

Radiation therapists
Nuclear medicine technologists
Dental hygienists
Electrical and electronics engineering technicians
Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians
Construction and building inspectors, and

What are the most quick-to-learn skilled jobs?

Technician of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. HVAC technicians maintain, repair, and install heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units in homes and businesses. It is the easiest trade job to learn.

How do you start to learn a trade in California?

Get through high school. Most trade jobs require a high school diploma or GED as the least amount of education.
Choose a job. Choose an educational program.
Get a job as an apprentice.
Get your license.
Become a journeyman.

Is learning a trade in California worth it?

Yes. U.S. News & World Report says that in 2020, an entry-level sheet metal worker made an average of $52,100 per year. A person who is a master at a trade can ask for even more money. Most college graduates make less than $50,000 a year.

What jobs pay $100,000 per year?

Commercial Pilots.
Web Developers and Digital Interface Designers.
Computer Programmers.
Animators or Multimedia Artists.
Writers or Editors.
Sound Engineering Technicians.
Sales Representatives.
Detectives or Criminal Investigators.



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