[ The Money Side of Lifeā„¢ ]

Hands-On Work: 10 lost skills that pay the bills

By brass Staff on August 31st, 2010 •

In the age of tweets and web businesses, it’s easy to forget that not all jobs involve a mouse and keyboard. Here are ten hands-on jobs that might seem like lost skills, but can be a way of life and a good paycheck.


Wiring an outlet might not seem like a big deal, but electricians are usually required to complete a four-year apprenticeship program. Employment is expected to increase 12% by 2018 (about average for all occupations) and the mean hourly wage is $23.98.

Tuning in

Musical instrument repairers and tuners keep instruments playing the sweetest music possible. Job prospects are excellent because many workers will be leaving the field soon. Repairers and tuners earn a mean hourly wage of $17.28 and are trained through apprenticeships or trade schools.

No hobo

Try working on the railroad all your livelong days. Railroad transportation includes everyone from locomotive engineers to signal operators. Skills are learned on the job and employment is expected to increase 9% by 2018. Hourly wages range between $21.12 and $25.59.

American hero

Some kids actually do grow up to be firefighters. Firefighters are trained at a department’s training center or academy. Employment is expected to grow faster than average in the next decade and the mean hourly wage is $21.97.

The undertaker

Undertakers didn’t disappear with the last John Wayne movie; they just changed the job title to funeral director. It’s not a dying industry, and for a mean hourly wage of $28.27, embalming a corpse doesn’t look so bad. Funeral directors need two to four years of college.

Plumb in’ it

Ignore the stereotype, buy a belt, and fit some pipe. Most plumbers start as apprentices, or go to technical schools or community college. Demand for plumbers is outpacing supply, and hourly wages are between $20.65 and $26.27.

Mr. or Mrs. fix it

Home appliance technicians help keep the heat on and the dishes clean. There are more jobs than workers, and techs make a mean hourly wage of $17.16--not bad for a career that’s learned on the job and requires no higher education.

Bright lights

It’s not the bright lights of Hollywood, or even Vegas, but a welding torch does give off a nice glow. Welders learn the trade at tech schools and community colleges, and job prospects look good for the next decade. Expect to earn between $14.73 and $16.34 an hour.

Grease monkey

Keeping a vehicle’s belts adjusted and carburetor combusting requires a skilled technician. Mechanics are usually trained in vocational programs and find better job prospects if certified
by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Hourly wages range from $14.90 to $20.07.

With the grain

Carpentry work ranges from installing cabinets to building bridges. If wood is involved, carpenters are needed. Learn carpentry on the job, in a school, or by apprenticeship--the more training, the better the job prospects. Employment should grow 13% by 2018 and the mean
hourly wage is $20.64.

Sources: bls.gov