7 “Dirty Jobs” for Hands-On Workers

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An article by contributor Rachael Murphey.

Do you enjoy getting your hands dirty? Are you a problem solver? Do you like taking things apart and seeing exactly how they work? Does the thought of sitting at a desk all day make you squirm? If you answered yes to these questions, then a hands-on career might be right up your alley. The best part about hands-on, “dirty jobs” is that there are plenty of them to go around. Here is a list of seven that can not only provide healthy wages, but require less than a Bachelor’s Degree as well.

Appliance Repair Technician

The average day in the life of an appliance repair technician involves repairing, adjusting or installing all major types of home appliances. This can include kitchen appliances, washer/dryers and with specific certifications, and HVAC appliances as well. Disassembling the appliances and diagnosing issues are also a big part of the job. Finally, appliance repair technicians generally also manage the billing and collecting payments for their performed work orders. The current median pay is $40,940 after vocational training is completed.

Automotive Mechanic

If you enjoy working on cars, or just enjoy cars in general, the auto mechanic might be a great choice for a career path. Their standard duties include completing basic automotive care and maintenance such as oil changes, tire rotations and tune ups. They also complete basic repairs/replacements such as worn parts, wheel bearings or brake systems. There is also specific certifications available which focus on areas such as powertrain, electrical systems or HVAC. The median starting pay is currently $35,790 after on-the-job training is completed.


The average electrician typically spends their day installing, routing and maintaining wiring electrical control and lighting systems. Maintaining safety standards are also very important and this is completed by inspecting and ensuring the integrity of connections, transformers and circuit breakers. This is all completed by utilizing a large variety of electrical testing devices. The electrician must also be very detail-oriented due to the importance of following technical diagrams or blueprints. This is all completed at both home and commercial buildings. The median starting pay of an electrician is $49,840 which is obtained after passing a state certification. The knowledge and skill required to pass this certification can be obtained through a vocational school, or apprenticeship which are offered by some employers.


The chef is for someone who has a passion for cooking and preparing food for others to enjoy. The role of a chef can take one of three forms: Line chef, Sou chef or Head Chef. The line chef is responsible for preparing meals, checking the freshness of food and ingredients and maintaining sanitation practices while following kitchen safety standards. The Sou chef supervises and coordinates the activities of line chefs. They are also responsible for inspecting kitchen supplies and equipment while maintaining their functionality. The Head chef oversees this entire process while planning menus to ensure proper serving sizes and quantities. The Head chef is also responsible for developing new recipes to keep their customers coming back and maintaining their interest. A line chef can earn a position after a high school diploma, but the Sous and Head chef generally require formal culinary degree. The Line chef can expect an average salary of $24,530, the Sou chef can expect $42,480 and the Head chef can expect $74,120.

Commercial Driver

If you enjoy the open road and like to travel, the role of a commercial driver would be a great fit for you. The commercial driver is responsible for delivering goods in a timely manner while operating a tractor-trailer style truck. Routes can often include traveling across multiple states and driving upwards of 10 hours per day. Aside from driving, duties may include loading/unloading cargo, keeping the trailer clean and invoicing orders. The education required involves earning a specific CDL driver’s license after completing training at a trade school. Some companies may ask that you own your own truck as well. The current average salary is $40,490.


The Plumber is responsible for installing and ensuring the proper sealant of household and commercial pipes, drainage systems and plumbing material. These systems are generally connected to kitchens, bathrooms or other systems which transfer water, gas, steam or air such as sprinkler systems or sewage pipes. Aside from installing these systems, the Plumber also performs repairs when the sealants fail. Similar to the Electrician, the Plumber must be able to follow details on blue prints and technical diagrams. After completing either an apprenticeship or completing vocational training, the average starting pay is $45,635.


By utilizing your hands and powerful welding equipment, you can create and manufacture a wide variety of metal products and structures. Using welders, cutters, shapers and measuring tools, Welders fuse and mold metal to fulfill orders from customers. The Welder must also be very familiar with reading blue prints and drawings to ensure exact details are being met. The large variety of products are services available make this career very lucrative. The current starting average salary of a Welder is $37,590.

With the price of colleges becoming so expensive, they are inflating faster than the cost of living. Because of this, more and more people are looking for other options. A great option is trade school which has large demands for graduates. All of these hands-on careers can be obtained by attending a trade school for less than one year, making them both affordable and practical.

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Rachael Murphey is a recent graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder. She writes on entrepreneurship, finance, and personal success. She currently lives in Denver with her dog Charlie.

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