The highest paying trades in Canada

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Last updated August 25, 2021

Earning a living working with your hands, solving problems on the fly, and being the only person on-site who can fix things are some of the most rewarding jobs you can have. Now, as more people opt for a career behind a desk, the demand for skilled tradespeople has skyrocketed, as have their salaries and potential for growth. The trades have rebounded from the initial pandemic fallout, with two per cent more people currently employed than were prior to March 2020.

Statistics Canada compiled data – up to 2017 – on which trade jobs earned top dollar during the year tradespeople earned their certifications.

Skilled TradeSalary - Year of Certification
Heavy duty equipment technician$80,000
Industrial electrician$80,000
Industrial mechanic (Millwright) $76,000
Steamfitter or Pipefitter $74,000
Construction electrician$72,000
Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic$72,000
Truck and transport mechanic$56,000
Sheet metal worker$56,000
Plumber$54,000
Welder$51,000

Each of these trades could have different names depending on the province. For example, it’s a sheet-metal worker in most provinces, but a tinsmith in Quebec. Or in British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, and Yukon it’s truck and transport mechanic, but in Ontario it’s truck and coach technician, or truck and transport service technician in New Brunswick. The best resource to check is red-seal.ca, where you can find a list of trades, and their various names.

Heavy Duty Equipment Technician – $80,000

Heavy duty equipment technicians are among the best-paid trades, taking home nearly $80,000 in the year they are certified. Salaries for these jobs grew more than 12 per cent two years after certification.

These technicians work on some of the largest machinery on job sites, ensuring it’s safe for other operators. Wheels, tires, undercarriages of large vehicles, drive-shaft axles, structural elements, and more require their seal of approval before being used.

They work in industries such as mining, construction, forestry, transportation, and material handling.

So much of what tradespeople do relies on specialty equipment and machinery, and keeping it in working condition is essential.

Explore heavy equipment operator training courses and apprenticeships.

Industrial Electrician – $80,000

Not far behind are industrial electricians, who earn just shy of $80,000 after certification. These jobs saw wages increase more than 15 per cent in the two years following certification.

Industrial electricians are responsible for designing layouts, repairing and maintaining, inspecting, and installing electrical systems. They often have to squeeze themselves into tight spots to fit wiring together, as well as carry several tools with them such as pliers, screw drivers, wire strippers and pipe reamers.

These tradespeople also work with motors, generators, and power-distribution systems, which send electricity to different parts of a building. With an increase in green energy, even industrial batteries are maintained by industrial electricians. Some electric car manufacturers offer large batteries for home use that can charge cars and power other aspects of a home, if needed, but professional electricians are required to get them installed in a garage.

Explore electrician courses and apprenticeships.

Industrial Mechanic (Millwright) – $76,000

Industrial mechanics, or millwrights, earn about $76,000 in the year they’re certified, with a 16 per-cent jump in pay two years later.

Working on machine components such as cooling, hydraulics, fuelling, and lubrication, millwrights essentially keep equipment moving. They’re experts in the use of lathes, milling machines, fabricating with punches, welding gear, and power threaders. They also assist engineers and construction managers to decide the best spot to put the machines required for a job.

Installation of compressed air, water and exhaust ducts, and all manners of pumps, turbines, presses, and gearboxes are just some of their additional responsibilities, which really does keep things in motion. From the name, you might wonder what the difference between a millwright and a standard industrial mechanic is. Simply, millwrights typically assemble and set up the machinery, while industrial mechanics take care of maintenance and repairs on those machines.

Steamfitter or Pipefitter – $74,000

Steamfitters, or pipefitters, earn about $74,000 in the year they’re certified. That number can climb more than 10 per cent after two years.

Steamfitters are responsible for the design, assembly, maintenance, and repair of pipes that carry water, steam, and other liquids or gasses. That means steamfitters must be well versed in safety protocols, design systems, pipe assembly, heating and cooling systems as well as some elements of welding, rigging, and hoisting.

These systems could be implemented in furnaces thanks to the use of natural gas or propane. More specifically, at-home examples include fireplaces and barbecues that have gas lines connected to the house.

Safety is perhaps the most important aspect of being a steamfitter; a dangerous trade because of the pressurized systems they work with.

Explore plumbing courses and apprenticeships.

Construction Electrician – $72,000

Construction electricians earn $72,000 two years after certification, according to the Government of Ontario.

Both construction and maintenance electricians are responsible for planning, assembling, installing, repairing, and all other aspects of electrical systems in many settings from homes to commercial infrastructure. That ranges from creating blueprints and sketches to the actual cutting, bending, and installing of wiring throughout the properties. They also test electrical equipment to ensure it’s up to safety standards.

Elements of heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, and lighting are all incorporated under the umbrella of what electricians are responsible for. Connecting electrical devices through houses requires piping, wires, circuit breakers, and outlets so people can actually use the electricity. Electricians are usually on construction sites at some point during the building’s completion, giving them complete access to the interior of walls and floors.

Explore electrician courses and apprenticeships.

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic – $70,0000

Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics earned slightly more than $70,000 in the year they became certified. That salary skyrocketed more than 20 per cent over two years.

These mechanics work on the machines that make the summer months bearable, in both commercial and residential settings. The work includes everything from the planning and layout stages to pipefitting and full on installation and repairs. In addition, they must maintain these systems to ensure they continue to operate properly. Commercial refrigeration and deep freezers, such as the ones in meat-packing plants and grocery stores are some of the more large-scale examples of refrigeration that this trade is involved with. Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics are required to work in various settings from industrial plants to install cooling systems, to standard homes with outdoor air-conditioning units.

Truck and Transport Mechanic – $56,000

Truck and transport mechanics earned an average of $56,000 the year they were certified. Salaries also rose more than 20 per cent after two years.

Commercial trucks, emergency vehicles and coach busses are all repaired and maintained by these tradespeople. That includes everything from the transmission, clutches, drive shaft, suspension, and steering to the electrical workings on the on-board computer and communication systems as well as standard wheel maintenance. Essentially, a truck and transport mechanic is required to understand how a big rig works and  how to fix it.

These mechanics are also responsible for keeping the vehicle’s cabin in working and comfortable order for the driver.

Explore automotive maintenance and repair course and apprenticeships. 

Sheet Metal Worker – $56,000

Sheet metal workers collected more than $56,000 after becoming certified. Their salaries jumped more than 20 per cent after two years.

Sheet metal workers are responsible for fabrication, assembly, repair and installation of anything to do with sheet metal. That includes air conditioning and furnaces, to full-scale sheet metal structures. Installing heat and cooling ducts, and even sheet metal over insulation in homes, are some of the more recognizable jobs performed by these workers.

In commercial aspects, sheet metal can be used for roofing for easier installation than standard shingles.

And sheet metal workers also build cars, buses and airplanes.

Outdoor work on jobsites and indoor work in shops is standard for these tradespeople.

Depending on the job site, working at heights and lifting heavy equipment such as presses and punches might also be required.

Plumber – $54,000

Probably the most recognizable trade on this list, plumbers earn approximately $54,000 after getting certified. The average salary typically increased 21 per cent over the first two years.

Plumbers install, maintain, design, and repair pipes in commercial and residential buildings. They decide on efficient layouts for piping, where drains run, whether the drainage system will need work down the line and much more. Essentially, if a job deals with water and pipes, a plumber is required to do it.

Even for operations where a plumber is not designing the system, it’s imperative that they can understand the manufacturer’s instructions so that pre-designed systems are safe to use.

Explore plumbing courses and apprenticeships.

Welder – $51,000

Welders earned more than $51,000 after completing their certification. Wages, on average, rose nine per cent two years after certification.

Welders are among the most sought-after tradespeople, recently being ranked among the top five in-demand jobs in Canada.

Fitting pieces of metal together, understanding blueprints and diagrams, using heavy and often dangerous equipment, and close contact with extremely bright lights are all standard for welders.

There are three main types of welding that are required on standard job sites: Arc welding, which uses an electric arc to melt and fuse metals together; gas welding, which is similar but uses heat from flames; and resistance welding, which fuses metals together using pressure.

Each of the three types of welding have their own set of skills required for any tradesperson to grasp before heading to a job site.

Explore welding courses and apprenticeships.

Trades are among the most important jobs in our society, as they help to keep us all moving, safe, housed, and comfortable. Those who undertake these tasks can make competitive wages and find fulfilling careers working with their hands.

Anyone starting a career, or looking for change, should consider a trade due to the high demand and potential for wage growth. As construction is booming, demand continues to grow.

Chris Arnold

Chris Arnold is a journalist whose diverse portfolio includes stories for websites and newspapers ranging from the nitty gritty of Toronto real estate to profiles of Canada’s Olympic athletes. He has written for the Postmedia chain, and regularly produces stories for special GTA sections of the Globe and Mail. As CourseCompare’s Community Manager, Chris is constantly engaging learners through social media to help them make informed decisions about their education, and move forward in their careers with confidence.

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