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Highest Paying Trade Jobs in the UK

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated 13 Aug 2021
|6 min read

Not everyone feels they’re suited to an office role. If you want a job that’s hands-on, that gives you the chance to work with different people and that gives you a sense of achievement then a job in the trade sector could be what you’re looking for. 

As the skills involved in trade jobs are widely diverse, it’s difficult to give an average salary. Some jobs will start off with a low salary and increase as you become more skilled and others, particularly in management, you can expect to earn a generous salary from the start. 

Related: Top 20 Highest Paying Jobs in the UK

To help you decide what type of trade job to go for, here are the highest paying trade jobs:

  1. Site Manager
  2. Structural Engineer
  3. Electrician
  4. Plasterer
  5. Plumbing
  6. Carpenter

Site Manager

Glassdoor Average Salary - £45,355 

A site manager is sometimes referred to as a construction manager or project manager. A site manager holds a lot of responsibility and they’re effectively in charge of ensuring the build is completed on time and within budget. 

A site manager often acts as the go-between for the client and other construction professionals. They’re tasked with ensuring the client’s specifications are met and to deal with any issues that arise. They may also have to map out when to bring other trades onto the site, decide what materials are needed and most importantly ensure the safety of the people working on the site and the general public. 

You don’t need a qualification to be a site manager. Most tend to work their way up to the role but graduate site managers may choose to gain a chartership through the Chartered Institute of Building

Structural Engineer

Glassdoor Average Salary - £34,626

The role of a structural engineer is two-fold; designing and constructing new buildings and secondly improving the structural elements of existing buildings. 

A structural engineer may work closely with a site manager, and sometimes their responsibilities may overlap, such as liaising with architects or selecting what materials are needed. But, a structural engineer tends to focus more on the technical elements of building, like preparing designs and plans, calculating stresses and loads and signing off on work to guarantee it meets safety standards. 

Most structural engineers hold a degree in civil or structural engineering that’s accredited by the Institution of Structural Engineers. To then obtain a professional qualification from the Institution of Engineers, either as an incorporated engineer (IEng) or a chartered engineer (CEng), you’ll have to complete vocational training with an accredited employer and pass a review. 

Related [6 Tips To Secure A Graduate Scheme


Glassdoor Average Salary - £29,959 

As an electrician, you’ll be installing, testing and maintaining electrical wiring, appliances and equipment in domestic settings (houses and flats) or commercial premises (offices, warehouses). Each day will be different and you may be planning out the wiring framework for a home refit or installing lights in a massive warehouse. 

Safety is imperative so training and gaining a relevant qualification is a must. If you want to work in domestic properties then you only need to qualify as a domestic engineer. If you want to work in commercial, industrial and domestic settings you may need a:

  • Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Electrotechnical Services (for electrical maintenance) 
  • Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems & Equipment (Buildings, Structure and the Environment)
  • Level 3 Diploma in Electrical Installations (Buildings and Structures) if part of an apprenticeship.


Glassdoor Average Salary - £29,120 (based on an average hourly rate - £14p/h workinga 40 hour week)

If you’re a perfectionist and like the feeling of achievement that comes from a job well-done then you could be suited to working as a plasterer. 

Plasterers work inside properties, where they apply layers of plaster to walls so that they’re ready for decorating, and outside where they render external walls so they’re protected from the elements. 

No formal qualification or training is needed to be a plasterer. Some people start out as an apprentice or acquire the skill through on the job training. 

You could decide to set up your own plastering business or work for someone else. Either way, you’ll need to be physically fit as plastering is a demanding job, as well as having a good eye for detail to be able to spot any imperfections. 

Related [7 Top Jobs For The Outdoor Type]


Glassdoor Average Salary - £27,608  

A plumber works on a variety of tasks, like installing and repairing water and gas pipes, fitting fixtures like showers, taps, toilets and also appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines. 

Plumbers work in domestic properties and on commercial sites where they may be responsible for planning and installing the pipework for new builds. If you decide to become a plumber you’ll need to have good verbal communication skills as you’ll be dealing with the public and other trade professionals. You’ll also need to be able to ‘think on your feet’ and come up with solutions to problems quickly and be comfortable organising your time. 

To be signed off as a plumber you’ll need to complete an NVQ Level 2 / 3 in plumbing and domestic heating and pass practical exams. To be qualified as a gas engineer you’ll also need to hold ACS qualifications and be registered on the Gas Safe Register

Becoming a qualified plumber takes time - on average four years and most people get into the trade through an apprenticeship. 


Glassdoor Average Salary - £27,250

If you’re interested in a job that’s hands-on and that also offers diversity in tasks, then you may find carpentry interesting. One day you could be making and repairing timber frames for new houses. And another day you could find yourself installing staircases, doors and window frames. 

Carpenters like other trades are in demand and qualified carpenters often find they earn more than those who don’t hold a qualification. 

There’s a couple of routes you can take to become a qualified carpenter; completing a college course like Level 2 Diploma in Bench Joinery or Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Carpentry and Joinery. Or, you may decide that an apprenticeship is best suited to your situation. 

Related [7 Things To Expect From An Apprenticeship] 

How to land a trade job?

Whatever your background; a school-leaver, a recent graduate, someone who is returning to work following a career break or someone who is pivoting their career, anyone can build a successful career in trades. The route you take into the trade sector may be dictated by which category you fall into and the type of job you want to do. 

School-leavers may find an apprenticeship that combines hands-on training and learning works best for them. A recent graduate may be able to secure a place on a graduate scheme. Whereas, if you have previous work experience in a non-trade related industry you’ll probably have to reskill through a recognised training provider to get qualified. For example, to be a plumber you’ll have to undertake a plumbing course that’s aimed at NVQ Level 2 / 3. 

Find your trade job on Glassdoor.