Blue Collar Jobs that Pay Six Figures

Blue Collar Jobs that Pay Six Figures

By: Daniel Steingold | June 26, 2016

It is typically thought that one needs to have— at minimum— a four-year degree and wear a suit and tie to approach making a six figure salary.

Fortunately, that doesn’t need to be the case. A number of professions, many of which specialized manual labor, do not require either of these common prerequisites.

In an era with rapidly rising tuition costs and mounds of student debt, the quest for alternative ways to live comfortably has become even more imperative for many.

This post is intended to guide and inform those who are considering pursuing a high-paying blue collar job, shedding light upon career opportunities that don’t cost six figures in tuition and four years of your life. A university education is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Police Officers

Largely because of the responsibility and danger inherent to the position, police officers can make a good salary.

While not all police officers make six figures, a number do— NYPD officers can make up to $131,000 annually in base salary. After factoring in overtime and additional benefits, a significant number of officers make even more.

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While a degree is often not needed to be a cop, a clean record is absolutely necessary. Some misdemeanors over five years old will not prevent one from putting on a badge, but it is still wise for those aspiring to be cops to fully abide by the law.

A large factor in determining pay for police officers lies in the geographical area in which they work. An officer in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles will make more than one in Idaho.

Police officers are frequently criticized, injured, and even targeted, making it a high-risk, but often rewarding career.


Although most bartenders make a meager salary, there are clearly delineated paths for a bartender to make six figures.

First of all, tips are the name of the game in bartending: they are usually abundant in both amount and scope. Excellent bartenders in popular areas and venues can make hundreds of dollars in tips in a single night, which can add up over the course of a year.

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It should also be mentioned that more popular venues will generally pay their bartenders better. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) pegs an average bartender’s salary at only $18,900 a year, excluding tips, higher-end establishments can pay significantly more.

Most bartenders should expect to make between $45,000 and $73,000, tips inclusive, but there is definitely the potential to reach six figures.

And you’ll never have to read Shakespeare or look like you’re going to prom.

Contractors and Construction Managers

Contractors, who hire subcontractors to do the work on a construction project, generally make anywhere between $32,000 and $110,000, depending upon the scale of the project in question.

Construction managers can make significantly more— the BLS estimates that they bring home between $82,790 and $144,520 a year. It is important to note that while a bachelor’s degree isn’t always needed— although it certainly doesn’t hurt— substantial experience and skill is necessary, along with specialized certifications and credentials in many cases.

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Being a construction manager demands being available around the clock, as managers work for themselves more often than not. Like many of the other positions on this list, it’s not for everyone.

A broad base of expertise in not only construction, but in being familiar with legal regulations and codes, technical material, and time management skills is imperative for a construction manager. Contractors must be extremely good with the three Ps: people, problem solving, and project management.


Contrary to what some might believe, being a farmer can be very financially lucrative. This is particularly the case for those living in Midwestern states, or along the east and west coasts.

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Although farming has not been spared casualties by automation, the simple fact is that food is something that humans need to survive. Until something replaces eating on a large scale, farmers will continue to have a job.

The average salary for farmers and ranchers is a solid $70,110 a year on average, which can rise up to $119,530, according to the BLS.

Farmers in California make the highest mean salary at about $93,630 a year.

These are just four careers that don’t require a college degree, but pay well. Other positions not mentioned include dental hygienists and air traffic controllers.

College can ultimately help cultivate the critical thinking skills required for the modern workplace, but it is not the only path, despite 40 percent of Americans possessing a degree. A strong work ethic and genuine desire to grow can easily outweigh any formal education.

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