Think there's no money in manual labor or unskilled technical work? Think again.
As it turns out, there are more options than you might expect. We combed through data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to find blue-collar jobs with median annual salaries that are surprisingly high.
The following occupations rival many white-collar jobs in annual pay, each earning well above the U.S. median annual household income of $51,371 in 2012.
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Signal and track switch repairers
Median annual pay: $55,450
Job description: Install, inspect, and repair the equipment involved in signaling and communication systems for the railroad.
How to become one: Most positions require an associate's degree or some college education, though a small number will take just a high school diploma.
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Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers
Median annual pay: $60,730
Job description: These workers control petroleum refining and processing systems, often with different specialties that determine the specifics of their work.
How to become one: This job requires a high school diploma and either an apprenticeship or relevant experience.
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Subway or streetcar operators
Median annual pay: $62,730
Job description: Subway and streetcar operators transport passengers in cities and suburbs. Usually they operate vehicles on above-ground or underground tracks, or on streets.
How to become one: Several months of on-the-job training and a high school diploma are usually required for this job.
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Electrical power-line installers and repairers
Median annual pay: $63,250
Job description: Electrical power-line installers and repairers are responsible for installing and repairing the wiring used in electrical power systems. This can include building poles and transmission towers.
How to become one: Some positions involve formal apprenticeships, and almost all require a lengthy period of on-the-job training.
Median annual pay: $63,680
Job description: Transportation inspectors examine everything from freight and rail vehicles, to the cargo being carried in different transportation devices.
How to become one: Many jobs require only a high school diploma, and typically want some relevant experience.
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Electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation, and relay
Median annual pay: $68,810
Job description: Test, repair, maintain, and inspect electrical equipment in generators, substations, in-service relays, and other types of facilities.
How to become one: The training can involve an apprenticeship and usually requires some college or associate's degree.
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Elevator installers and repairers
Median annual pay: $76,650
Job description: Elevator workers repair, install, assemble, and maintain various types of elevators, freight lifts, escalators, and dumbwaiters.
How to become one: Some states require a license, and almost all installers and repairers learn the job through a formal apprenticeship.
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Power distributors and dispatchers
Median annual pay: $83,034
Job description: Power plant distributors and dispatchers work with electric power systems, which can involve a range of tasks.
How to become one: Some positions require a license or a background check, and most applicants need some education and previous experience.
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