You might think that if you want to earn over $75,000 a year, you need an undergraduate degree and a pile of student debt, but you’d be wrong. If you’re open to a job in the trades, you can graduate debt-free with a high-paying job.

Even better, with a national skilled trades shortage, you can probably choose your own adventure with an average starting pay upon first certification of $52,030 per year. That’s just for starters, though, because just four years after certification, a tradesperson’s income goes up considerably. Here are the median incomes for some of the top earners.

  1. Heavy-duty equipment technicians

These “mechanics” who work on everything from backhoes to oil drills and CNC machines have the highest median annual salary in Canada’s trades, taking in a reported $107,220, according to Statistics Canada.

  1. Steamfitter/pipefitter

Bringing in a median income of $105,620, a steamfitter or pipefitter lays out and assembles, maintains and repairs piping systems of all kinds, from residential homes to sprawling factories.

  1. Electrician

Take your pick here, because a middle-earning industrial electrician takes home $93,540, while their counterparts in the construction trades earns $83,330. There are niche electrical trades that pay even more, while others pay less. And don’t forget overtime in storm season. Get ready for a shocker, the Ontario government’s “Sunshine List” featured the province’s top electrician salary for 2017 at $238,285.32!

  1. Millwright aka industrial mechanic

Millwrights are responsible for installing, moving, dismantling, assembling and repairing machinery you’d find on construction sites, as well as in factories and power plants, and for this tough-but-rewarding job the median income is $99,320.

  1. Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic

The experts who install your HVAC or change your air conditioning filters are making good money, but those working in the food and restaurant industry may be taking home even more. The career’s median income is $85,720.

  1. Welder

Welding is a tough job, because it takes a toll on the body with all the noise, strain, and heat. But it’s also a job with an incredible shortage of workers, and some say just passing certification and walking onto most job sites could get you hired. Median income is $83,020.

  1. Plumber

Every town in the country needs a mechanic, because every house and business has pipes needing fixing. It’s a physical job and a tough one, but women have been making inroads as plumbers and the future looks good. Plumbing is low-tech, so the industry’s learning curve isn’t always on the rise like in the electrical trades. The median income is $74,200.

  1. Truck and Transit Mechanic

Working on heavy machines always pays more, and the median salary is $76,050. But if the job’s in the north, working on mining trucks that keep the mine running, coupled with the isolation and importance of the job put the pay over six figures.

  1. Auto Mechanic

This is the automotive mechanic for your standard-issue SUVs, sedans, trucks, and other common vehicles, for which there is an ongoing demand for skilled mechanics – especially ones who can be current with emerging technologies. The median income is $60,230, but rates vary with location, as urban mechanics earn more, and other disciplines charge more, like working with imports, high-performance engines, and after-market installations.

  1. Transit Driver

Taking a departure from the trades, bus driving doesn’t pay as high as trades and generally only requires a high school diploma, but it’s a job that can pay $65,000 a year, has room for advancement, and can go even higher. Beginning pay starts much lower than the trades, though, and seniority can take a long time to achieve.

Other Food for Thought

The trades are growing across Canada, particularly in remote locations, and they’re trying to attract newcomers, particularly women and Indigenous women. It’s one part of the economy where women can rely on pay parity, too – meaning they’ll earn what male colleagues earn, in union jobs.

Remember, location and specialty can push already-high salaries even higher. For trades, a “Red Seal” permit pays more, because it’s extra certification. Add that to a tricky location, like an electrician on a ship at sea, and the earning potential is far higher, because there’s lives at stake and they’re on call 24/7. Jobs up north, in isolated communities, pay more but also often provide room and board and even travel benefits. If you’ve got the ambition to take on a career in the trades, why not drop by an upcoming open house to learn more with the Electrical Joint Training Committee? Learn more here