Average Salary: $52,910
The road to becoming a Master or Journeyman Electrician is long: it starts with a high school diploma or GED, followed by a four- or five-year apprenticeship with on-the-job training and lessons in electrical theory, mathematics, electrical codes, and mathematics. Most states require you pass a licensing exam before you begin working independently, and specialized training in soldering, fire alarms, and elevators might also be necessary.
The top-paying metropolitan areas for this occupation are Vallejo, Calif., New York City, and Fairbanks, Alaska.
Average Salary: $44,330
Carpentry is one of the oldest construction professions as well as one of the most versatile. You could choose to work on a smaller scale, building frameworks for residences, or on a slightly larger scale, insulating a high-rise office building, or even on a colossal scale, fortifying trusses for bridges. Carpenters exposure to all components of a construction project make them one of the more secure professions within the industry, although they, too, could be employment victims of the fickle economy. Those with the best employment chances have completed an apprenticeship and preferably can speak both Spanish and English.
The best-paid workers are employed in some pretty scenic places, like Honolulu, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, Calif.
Average Salary: $34,170
The pros: With little to no experience, a general construction laborer or helper could get hired to do odd tasks on a site, and just about every construction site needs workers to assist with loading and unloading materials, making measurements, digging ditches, operating equipment, and clean-up. Now the cons: General construction laborers often don't have any formal education requirement or licensing to start work, so the spectrum of "experience" someone has working in this field is immense. The most seasoned and multifaceted have the best opportunities, while the rookies could get the shaft. The pay scale is also low, starting around $9 an hour in 2011, the BLS reports. But this occupation could be a great springboard into another branch of construction, and some of the time spent working under a master electrician, plumber, or carpenter could count toward the practical hours needed in a skilled trades apprenticeship.
The best-paid general construction workers are employed in Massachusetts. The BLS reports that in 2011, workers in Boston, Leominster, and Framingham, Mass., made at least $53,000 annually.