Key findings

  • Based on pay, job growth, and ease of entering the occupation, electricians are the best home improvement contractor jobs in 2022.
  • Solar photovoltaic installers are poised to see 52% job growth in the next 10 years, the third fastest-growing occupation in America.
  • Landscape architects are on average the best-paid contractors with an estimated $70,630 in annual earnings.
  • Insulation work has the lowest barrier to entry among home improvement contractor occupations, requiring only a high-school diploma and a short on-the-job training. 
  • Carpenters have the largest and most-established industry among contractors with nearly 700,000 employed in the occupation.

As if the continuing COVID pandemic and the Great Resignation weren’t enough of a challenge for the U.S. economy and workforce, another trend that has been unravelling in the background is the growing shortage of skilled trade workers. By some accounts, 68% of tradespeople struggled to hire new workers, as the demand for work done by carpenters, painters, and electricians has doubled or even tripled since the start of 2021. 

While the skilled labor shortage affects many industries, in this study we take a look at home improvement contractor jobs and see which of them make for the best career choice, given how much they pay, how easy it is to become one, and what the job prospects look like.

Best Overall: Electricians

Taking all the factors together, electricians come out on top as the best all-around home improvement contractor occupation. Good earning potential, excellent job growth prospects, and an established industry behind it, all helped put this job on top of our list.

Behind electricians are plumbers and ironworkers. Both are occupations that pay well, have good future outlooks and, unlike electricians, are easier to enter as they don’t necessarily require quite as much professional training.

Carpenters and plasterers complete our top five with slightly more modest pay and job prospects, but still relatively accessible occupations for someone looking to get into home improvement contracting.

Check our interactive table below to see where the 25 contractor jobs compare on various factors.

Best for Earnings: Landscape Architects

If money is your primary objective and you don’t mind spending four years getting a degree, then landscaping could be a good choice. Of the 25 contractor occupations we looked at, it’s the one that pays the most at $34/hour or $70,630 a year.

If you’re after a job that doesn’t require a college degree, then becoming a plumber, an electrician, or a taper could be a better option. Requiring either a high school diploma or a vocational school certificate, these jobs pay $27-$28 hourly or between $56,000 and $59,000 a year.

Best for Future Demand: Solar Photovoltaic Installers

While it’s a relatively new and small industry, residential solar installations have gone through the roof in recent years, according to CNBC. This is likely one of the reasons why the Bureau of Labor Statistics has jobs in solar installation to increase by 52% in the next decade, making it the 3rd best occupation by growth potential in the U.S.

Afraid of heights or not so keen on climbing roofs? No worries. Two occupations, whose work is much more grounded, are poised to see a double-digit growth between now and 2030. Floor layer jobs are set to increase by 12% and jobs in tile and stone settings – by 11.5% in the next 10 years.

Best for Ease of Entry: Insulation Workers

If you’re looking for a job that doesn’t require multiple credentials and long-term training, insulation work could be the occupation for you. Typically requiring a high school diploma or equivalent and only short-term on-the-job training, it’s the easiest home improvement contractor occupation to get into.

Other contractor jobs with relatively low barriers to entry are plasterers & stucco masons (no formal education required, but longer on-the-job training), terrazzo workers (high school diploma + apprenticeship), and tile and stone setters.

Best for Industry Size: Carpenters

Carpentry may not be the fastest-growing career, but it’s certainly a popular one with an estimated 699,000 carpenters in the U.S. At such a scale, this occupation is more likely to have dedicated professional associations, unions, and advocacy groups supporting the development of this profession.

Skilled trade jobs ought to appeal to Americans, as they’re reevaluating their choices when it comes to career and employment in the post-pandemic world. Good pay, solid job prospects, accessibility, and the potential to branch off into self-employment can be an opportunity to earn a decent living outside the confines of the white-collar office environment. 

Need more skilled labor career inspiration? Check out this green jobs report for 2022!

Sources and Methodology:

List of contractor occupations: HouseBeautiful, Storee

Occupational pay and employment: BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics

Educational, Experience, and Training Requirements: O*NET Database

Projected Growth: BLS Employment Projections

To compile the overall ranking, we assigned each occupation a score, which has a maximum of 100 points and is based on a selection of five factors, which were weighted as follows:

  • Pay (annual median salary): 30 points
  • Earning potential (90th percentile salary): 10 points
  • Industry size (employment): 15 points
  • Growth (projected job growth by 2030): 25 points
  • Ease of entry (i.e., education, training, and work experience required): 15 points