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Top Paying Construction Jobs as an Independent Contractor

The construction sector is essential in ensuring that commercial, residential, and industrial structures are safe. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the construction industry employs about 7.5 million workers across the United States.1

Worker demand in construction is consistently growing, with approximately 415,000 job openings as of March 2022. Independent contractors across a variety of construction jobs can take advantage of the growing construction industry and boost their earnings.

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1. Construction Managers

Construction managers, also called general contractors or construction superintendents, plan, coordinate, and supervise construction projects during the entire process. They work closely with clients and workers to ensure that projects are completed on time and according to plan. Construction managers may sometimes contract teams of construction managers to assist with large projects.

A bachelor’s degree in construction, business, engineering, or a related field is typically required to work as a construction manager, although some progress into the position after years of experience. Construction managers make about $98,890 per year.2

2. Elevator Installers and Repairers

As of 2021, elevator installers and repairers earn a median salary of $97,860.3 The BLS projects about 2,500 job openings each year until 2032.4

Elevator installers and repairers install, maintain and repair elevators, escalators, and similar equipment. They must be physically fit as their jobs often involve working in cramped areas, lifting heavy items, and standing for prolonged periods. Some work on call for 24 hours at a time.

To become an elevator installer or repairer, individuals typically complete a four-year apprenticeship program. Most states require installers and repairers to be licensed, but they may also pursue specialized training to advance their role or earnings.

3. Civil Engineers

Civil engineers work in offices and at construction sites to design, supervise and maintain construction projects. It’s their job to design innovative and adaptive infrastructure for residential, commercial, and industrial projects.

Their daily tasks include analyzing plans, calculating construction costs, overseeing, and analyzing site testing and using design software to create plans compliant with government standards.

Civil engineers need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or civil engineering technology. To get a PE license, their degree program must be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Civil engineers earn an average salary of $88,050.5

4. Boilermaker

Boilermakers manufacture, install, maintain, and repair boilers and similar equipment that hold liquid or gas. Boilers, tanks, and vats are used to heat fluids to generate electric power and heat or to process chemicals, beers, oil, or other goods.

This job can be physically demanding and sometimes hazardous. Boilermakers often work in extreme weather conditions, cramped and poorly ventilated areas or at great heights.

Many boilermakers work full-time and work away from home for extended periods of time but may also experience periods of unemployment without contracts. This trade usually requires a four-year apprenticeship, but not all states require boilermakers to be licensed. The median salary of boilermakers is $64,290.6

5. Construction and Building Inspector

Usually hired by governments, engineering firms or construction companies, construction and building inspectors review building plans and conduct on-site inspections to ensure compliance with building and safety regulations. Inspectors may focus on certain types of inspections, such as electrical, plumbing or building inspectors. They check projects several times as they progress, providing feedback and an overall examination at completion.

Some employers require construction and building inspectors to possess a bachelor’s degree in engineering or architecture. These workers can also advance their career with certificates or courses in blueprint writing, mathematics, and business management.

Most inspectors work regular business hours, but contractors may work evenings and weekends. Their median salary is $61,640.7

6. Electrician

Electricians install, maintain and repair electrical systems in residential, commercial, and industrial spaces. These systems include power, communications, lighting, and control systems. Much of their work involves reading blueprints and using hand and power tools to troubleshoot and resolve electrical problems.

Many electricians begin their careers in technical school and then graduate to four- or five-year apprenticeships. Most states require electricians to be licensed, and electricians may be required to take continuing education courses to keep up with industry changes.

The BLS projects employment to grow by nine percent from 2020 to 2030, with 84,700 job openings each year. Electricians earn a median salary of $60,040.8

7. Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install, maintain and repair piping fixtures and systems, but each role has distinct responsibilities. These professionals follow blueprints to install pipes that carry water, gas, and other substances as well as test and troubleshoot for any issues. Plumbers focus on plumbing and septic systems, while pipefitters and steamfitters work with systems carrying chemicals, acids, and gas.

Most states require these professionals to be licensed, and other certifications may be required to work on hazardous systems. The median wage for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters is $59,880.9

8. Ironworkers

Ironworkers build and install iron and steel components for buildings, bridges, roads, and other structures. They use tools such as shears, rod-bending machines, torches, and welding equipment to cut and weld structural and reinforcing iron and steel. Most work is related to new structures, but ironworkers sometimes help with demolition or rehabilitation of older structures.

Many workers learn their trade through an apprenticeship, on-the-job training, or a combination of both. Ironworkers earn a median salary of $57,160 and may advance to supervisory or management positions over time.10

9. Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate and install products made from thin metal sheets, such as steel or aluminum, used in ducts, rain gutters, signs, and siding. These workers select the appropriate sheet metal according to building plans, then fabricate and install parts using tools and equipment such as computer-controlled saws, lasers, and shears.

The BLS projects slower employment growth than other occupations but estimates about 13,100 openings for sheet metal workers from 2020 to 2030.11 As of 2021, sheet metal workers earn an average salary of about $53,440.12

10. Construction Equipment Operators

Construction equipment operators drive, maneuver, and maintain heavy machinery. They operate equipment such as bulldozers and road graders, move building supplies, excavate construction sites, and grade land. Construction equipment operators may focus on specific responsibilities, such as paving and surfacing or crane operation.

These workers usually work full-time, but they may have irregular hours or seasonal work. Formal education isn’t always required, but apprenticeships or training may help workers advance their career faster. The average salary for a construction equipment operator is $48,290.13

11. Carpenters

Carpenters build and install structures made of wood, plastic, drywall, fiberglass, and other materials. They build many important components of residential, commercial, and industrial construction projects, including framing, cabinets, and furniture. Some carpenters specialize in specific types of carpentry, such as rough or fine carpentry.

This career is ideal for people who enjoy a fast-paced and physically demanding environment and creative and meticulous tasks. Carpenters can build experience through apprenticeships, but others gain skills through on-the-job training. The average salary for carpenters is $48,260 per year.14

12. Masons

Masons, also known as masonry workers, use bricks, concrete, and other stones to build structures such as walkways and walls. Their daily tasks involve reviewing blueprints, laying out patterns or forms according to plans and installing masonry walls.

Brickmasons focus on building and repairing structures made of brick and similar materials. Cement masons pour, level and finish concrete for projects including sidewalks and beams. Stonemasons work with natural or artificial stone, while terrazzo workers create decorative walkways and other surfaces.

Job openings are declining by two percent as of 2021, but the BLS projects about 24,600 openings every year from 2020 to 2030. Masons earn an average salary of $48,080.15