16 Best Jobs for Working With Your Hands

A Carpenter Cuts Wood: Carpentry is One of the Best Jobs for Working With Your Hands

Working with your hands day in and day out can be incredibly satisfying. While many of your peers might only use their hands to wrap sandwiches, work cash registers, or put items in boxes, there are many jobs available that involve creating things using your hands – and yes, your brain has a role to play, too.

From building, repairing, and lifting to constructing, fabricating, and installing, there are many activities that you can do with your hands and that someone will pay you to do. To help you get a sense of the types of careers available for people who like working with their hands, we’ve put together a list of 16 excellent, highly rewarding professions.

In addition to job overviews, you will find salary information for each of these jobs. For construction careers on this list, we reference the National Center for Construction Education and Reseearch (NCCER) 2022 annual career survey. Other figures come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Carpenter

As a carpenter, you can perform a variety of tasks using your hands. Carpenters primarily build and repair wooden structures, so they spend lots of time taking measurements, making cuts, and hammering and fastening materials together.

Your compensation as a carpenter depends on the nature of your employment. Some carpenters work for construction companies or general contractors. Others are self-employed. Keeping in mind that pay can vary considerably based on one’s type of employment, carpenters earn between $60,000 and $61,000 per year on average.

2. Sheet Metal Worker

Ever wonder who fashions custom ductwork, restroom partitions, and roof flashing? In many cases, a full-time sheet metal worker performs those functions!

Sheet metal workers spend most of their day measuring, cutting, and fashioning sheet metal using their hands. They earn about $61,776 per year, on average.

3. Tower Crane Operator

You will need special training to learn to operate a crane. In many cases, someone who already works in the construction industry can combine on-the-job experience working with heavy equipment with focused crane operator training to begin moving heavy materials with a crane.

Crane operators are critical to many large construction projects, and they’re usually very well compensated for their expertise. They earn an average of $77,792 per year.

4. Ironworker

If you want to work with steel to assist on big projects, you should consider becoming an ironworker. As an ironworker, you will help construct bridges, roads, and buildings using heavy pieces of steel.

Demand for ironworkers is projected to grow at a healthy pace over the next several years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Per NCCER data, ironworkers earn an average of $63,680 per year

5. Auto Mechanic

Everyone who owns a car needs an auto mechanic! Experienced auto mechanics are constantly in demand and can earn a very good living.

Average salaries might seem low because entry-level or “rookie” technicians at chain repair shops and dealerships tend to earn less than more experienced mechanics. Don’t let that fool you, though – independent and senior level mechanics can command high pay for the great work they do. Mechanics have median earnings of $46,880 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

6. Mason

Would you like to work with bricks and concrete? That’s what masons, also known as masonry workers, do on a daily basis.

Masons construct walkways, sidewalks, and walls using concrete, bricks or a combination of both. As a mason, you will spend nearly all of your time outdoors working with your hands to create useful structures that people depend on. Masons usually enter the profession as an entry-level construction worker or a construction apprentice. From there, they can gain experience and start specializing in masonry work.

Masons in the US earn an average of $57,646 per year.

7. Electrician

At Construction Ready, we’ve noticed a great demand for electrical workers in recent years. Electricians are in demand, and they’re usually paid very well for their efforts and skills.

Electrical work differs greatly depending on your employer. Many contractors focus on residential and commercial projects– think wiring up buildings, creating new connections in existing structures, or making repairs. Other electricians work for utility companies or contractors who focus on infrastructure. These electricians install and service power lines. And yes, you will probably have to work from up high in a cherry picker!

Electricians can expect to earn between $59,000 and $65,000 per year, depending on the type of work they do.

8. Framer

Framers are responsible for constructing the “skeletons” of homes and commercial buildings. They install wood framing to support a variety of structures, and their expert attention and skills are critical on all types of construction sites.

As with electricians, framers are very in demand. At Construction Ready, many of our graduates go on to become framers at construction companies that pay well and offer good benefits. On average, framers in the US earn $52,495 per year.

9. Firefighter

In addition to the most obvious thing firefighters are trained to do – put out active fires and rescue  people – they’re trained first responders. EMT firefighters respond to the scenes of many types of accidents and can apply CPR, perform first aid, and deliver emergency medical attention.

On a daily basis, you will work with your hands even if you don’t respond to any emergencies. Firefighters must work hard to maintain a variety of specialized equipment, which involves daily cleaning, organizing, and testing of different tools and materials.

Firefighters in the United States earn a median salary of $50,700 per year.

10. Drywall Installer

If you’ve ever tried to hang or repair drywall yourself, you probably understand why so many people hire others to do that work! And if you’ve ever worked with drywall and thought, “Hey, I would enjoy getting better at this so I could do the work better and faster,” you might just make a great drywall installer.

Like other tradespeople, drywall installers can work with general contractors, construction companies, or independently. They can also focus on residential or commercial clients.

For their efforts, drywall installers earn an average of $54,773 per year. However, independent drywall professionals can earn much more than that. As a business owner, you can take on more projects, set your own prices, and even hire a crew to work for you.

11. Heavy equipment operator

There’s a lot of heavy equipment on construction sites! From bulldozers to diggers to hydraulic truck cranes, construction contractors need skilled professionals to operate these machines properly and safely.

Heavy equipment operators earn an average of $62,910 per year. To become one, you should try to get an entry level construction job and develop your expertise from there. As you gain experience working with other heavy equipment operators, you will eventually be permitted to use these machines independently.

12. Plumber

Plumbers are in demand, no matter the state of the economy. Even during economic dry spells where there’s less building activity, people need their water to run and their pipes to drain.

After getting your first construction job, you can focus on plumbing, gain experience, and eventually be given responsibility over increasingly complex plumbing projects. Plumbers are in high demand and are rewarded with some of the best pay among all tradespeople. On average, plumbers in the United States earn $73,720 per year.

13. HVAC Technician

Like plumbers, HVAC technicians are always in demand. HVAC, of course, stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Even in times of economic recession, people need their furnaces and air conditioners to work.

HVAC technicians earn an average of $65,231 per year. They perform specialized mechanical tasks and need training in refrigeration and the maintenance of natural gas equipment. As with other construction professions, the best way to get into HVAC work is to get an entry-level construction job and start gaining exposure to HVAC tasks. You can also attend a community college program and earn an associate’s degree or certification in HVAC.

14. Chef or Head Cook

Do you enjoy cooking? Chefs spend much of their day working with their hands in busy commercial kitchens.

Becoming a chef takes passion, hard work, and dedication. You don’t typically get to be one right off the bat. Instead, you must spend years cooking in a restaurant and developing your expertise. As you progress in the profession, you might start creating your own signature recipes, which you can draw from to get jobs at busy eating establishments or even open your own restaurant.

It’s tough to nail down salary figures for chefs since there are so many different culinary environments in which chefs can work. That being said, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists median pay for US chefs at $51,160.

15. Concrete Finisher

Concrete finishers spend much of their time working with their hands on ground-level projects. Whether it’s pouring concrete, shaping a curb, or ensuring a sidewalk is smooth and flat, concrete finishers play an important role in optimizing the aesthetics of our built environment.

Like other areas of construction, concrete finishing is a specialized profession. You become one through a combination of on-the-job experience and training. They earn an average of $58,046 per year.

16. Welder

As a welder, you will spend a lot of time working with your hands. In addition to actually joining metal parts together using heat – we’ve all seen pictures and footage of sparks flying in front of masked welders – you will spend a lot of time studying blueprints, selecting metal materials, and measuring them.

Welders in the US are in high demand and can earn a great living. On average, they earn between $62,000 and $73,000 per year. Pipe and combo welders are at the higher end of the earning spectrum compared to structural welders and fabricators.

The best way to get jobs working with your hands

Many of the jobs on this list are construction professions. In the construction industry, the best way to get started is to get an entry-level job with a construction company and start developing your expertise in one or more areas. From there, you can begin earning a great living by working with your hands.

But many construction jobs require training – even entry level ones! How do you get trained?

At Construction Ready, we offer a fully funded, 20-day program that prepares people of all ages and backgrounds for jobs in the construction industry. The program receives funding from private and government sources, so students pay nothing! As part of the program, you get to interview with construction companies that are hiring. 97% of our graduates already have jobs lined up before the training is over!

To learn more about Construction Ready or sign up for training, contact us today!

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