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Every day, millions of Americans rise up to the challenge of fixing our nation’s aging infrastructure – from the civil engineers who fix our highways to the construction workers who build shiny new airports.
Good news: These Americans will continue to have lots of jobs in the future.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, our nation’s employment is projected to grow by 11.5 million jobs (or 7 percent) from 2016 through 2026, and a big chunk of that will comprise infrastructure jobs such as civil engineer, hydrologist or construction worker.
Infrastructure jobs tend to offer more equitable wages compared to all occupations nationally, paying over 30 percent more to workers at lower ends of the income scale, according to Brookings Institution.
Workers who build and repair our water and sewage systems, dams, highways, roads, bridges, tunnels, railroads, industrial buildings, and warehouses earn significantly higher wages at the 10th and 25th percentile relative to all workers in the US.
These not only include specialized occupations that pay above-average wages such as nuclear engineers, civil engineers and hydrologists, but also other occupations such as solar panel installers, electricians, and wind turbine technicians, which play a key role in supporting the economy of the local area.
We love to celebrate these folks.
Here is our take on some of the best infrastructure jobs, but obviously it is subjective. (Note: Average salary data has been collected from various sources such as Glassdoor, Indeed, etc.)
1. Project Manager
Salary: $118,000 (experienced)
A lot rides on the Project Manager, a position responsible for the overall direction of a team of engineers. The PM is responsible for completing the project within time and budget, conforming to all contractual agreements and technical specifications. You need to have the technical chops to understand civil site designs such as traffic flows and wastewater collections, as well as the communication skills to interact with the project owners, since you’ll be the point of contact for all parties.
2. Civil Engineer
Average Salary: $88,000 (experienced)
An infrastructure civil engineer is involved with the maintenance, design, and creation of water and sewage systems, dams, highways, roads, bridges, tunnels and railroads, responsible for the technical aspects of the project. You will need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and a strong math and science background to succeed in this career. The position entails working on site at the construction project, and also in the design office to prepare the details of the project. Civil engineers typically work with other engineers, supervisors, contractors, forepersons, and other workers involved in the project.
3. Project Designer
Average Salary: $66,790
A Project Designer typically works with an integrated team of architects, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects and master planners to develop architectural design and project drawings for the engineers. This role requires a mastery of the appropriate software and specific design principles. In this position, you will guide and manage the project design activities to ensure those are on schedule and on budget, and also provide design guidance to project staff.
Average Salary: $66,265
Infrastructure projects, in many cases, involve complex hydrological issues such as impact of flooding that require advanced scientific, hydrological and mathematical methods to resolve them. A hydrologist, typically armed with a civil engineering degree, not only understands the issues but also has the technical expertise to prepare documentation and supervise staff. In this position, you will prepare and coordinate all hydrological studies, including calculation and analysis as needed, from conception through approval of project.
5. Construction Project Manager
Average Salary: $110,263
Charged with oversight for all phases of construction, a Project Construction Manager coordinates workers, material, and equipment – ensuring that specifications are being followed and work is proceeding on schedule and within budget. In this position, you will not only work on projects, developing budgets, estimates and cost analyses, but also cultivate clients by initiating contact with persons with influence on projects. In many cases, you will negotiate contract terms, developing project plan and schedule for completion utilizing available resources.
Average Salary: $78,000
This is among the highest paying trade-school jobs, with an experienced electrician making as much if not more than an architect or engineer. Electricians can have long apprenticeships – up to four years – and require licensure to do their jobs. In this position, you will read blueprints, install, maintain and repair wiring, controls, and electrical components. In typical infrastructure projects, you will need experience with high voltage switchgear, commercial lighting systems, line and low voltage wiring associated with commercial HVAC systems.
7. Truck Driver
Average Salary: $65,000 (experienced)
Truck drivers rank among the largest infrastructure occupations; more than 60 percent of these folks have a high school diploma or less. And they tend to earn relatively high salaries, especially those who are experienced in specialized sectors such as the energy or construction industry. In this position, you likely will need to have a valid Class A CDL license to be able to transport products across states and locations in tractor-trailers, as the project demands. Other requirements are a satisfactory vehicle driving record and an ability to lift up to 50 pounds.
8. Wind Turbine Technician
Average Salary: $56,000 (experienced)
Wind Turbine Technicians install, inspect, troubleshoot and repair wind turbines, along with their internal components such as programmable controllers, gearboxes, and drive, structural, and electronic equipment. You will review manuals, blueprints and schematic diagrams to determine the tasks, tools, equipment and parts needed to maintain a highly automated system. You will work closely with the site operations manager on a daily basis to trouble shoot and repair electrical and mechanical equipment used in wind generators, including complicated mechanical and hydraulic issues on variable pitch and variable speed wind turbines.
9. Solar Photovoltaic Installer
Average Salary: $50,000 (experienced)
With solar energy gaining foothold as a reliable source of energy, economist say there will be a surge in the demand for Solar Photovoltaic Installers. Even today, there is expanded employment opportunity for those who install solar panels in residential and commercial buildings. This position requires you to meet industry standards and install solar systems in compliance with all electrical and local building codes. Note: This is not for people with vertigo since it involves climbing ladders and working on roofs, often sloping ones, in all weather conditions.
10. Construction Worker/Maintenance
Average Salary: $35,000 to $50,000
A Construction Worker or Maintenance Worker position has a low-barrier to entry, meaning folks without a four-year- college degree could apply for it. Typically, all you need is a valid driver’s license, the ability to lift weights and operate basic tools and equipment on a project. Although this position typically has a high turnover rate, resulting in an enormous replacement need, it pays a competitive salary and offers quick advancement to retain top talent.