The term "blue collar" is frequently bandied about by those in leadership, conjuring jobs done outdoors in Carhartt apparel that pay anemic wages.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines blue collar and service occupations as including "precision production, craft, and repair occupations; machine operators and inspectors; transportation and moving occupations; handlers; equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers; and service occupations." The American Heritage Dictionary has a more descriptive take, defining the term as "Of or relating to wage earners, especially as a class, whose jobs are performed in work clothes and often involve manual labor."
But many varied professions fall under the umbrella of "blue collar" work, and many of them--particularly in the energy, construction, and transportation industries--pay in the high-five-to-six figures range. To get a sense of some of the best paying blue collar jobs, Forbes took a look at the most recent Occupational Employment and Wages data from the BLS, reflecting May 2013 salary and employment data, excluding work that's management or supervisory-focused.
Among the highest paid blue collar workers, according to the BLS, are transportation inspectors, who make a mean annual salary of $68,280. Defined by the BLS as professionals who "inspect equipment or goods in connection with the safe transport of cargo or people," the category includes rail transportation and other vehicle and freight inspectors.
In 2012, the top-paying metropolitan area for transportation inspectors was Arlington-Forth Worth, Texas.
Also high on the list are oil and gas rotary drill operators, with a mean annual salary of $61.110. The BLS describes this responsibilities of this job as to "set up or operate a variety of drills to remove underground oil and gas, or remove core samples for testing during oil and gas exploration." In 2012, Midland, Texas was the most lucrative place to hold this job.
Inspectors in the construction industry also make the list. Construction and building inspectors, defined as those who "ensure that construction meets local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications," earned a mean annual salary of $56,430 as of May 2013. With 12% growth--roughly the average across all titles and industries--the profession is expected to add 12,500 jobs by 2022.
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