What’s the Highest Paying Trade in Ontario in 2024?

Many of our prospective students ask some version of the question, “what is the highest paying trade in Ontario?” We understand the impulse behind this – many people want to go into a field where they can make the most money. University students ask the same question, “what subject should I study to get the highest paying job?” The best answer in both cases is not so much about choosing a specific field or trade, but which opportunities a person decides to pursue. I’ll have more to say  in a later blog about university choices but for now let’s look at some of the different trades options.

The Four Main Trades Sectors:

There are currently thousands of open jobs in the majority of trades in Ontario, and across the country. The majority of these trades fall into one of four categories: Construction; Industrial/Manufacturing; Transportation, or; Service. As a general rule, average salaries are lower in the service trades like hairstyling, cooking and network cabling (or the rather esoteric “horse harness maker”). Annual earnings in many service trades are often in the $40,000- $60,000 range even for people with many years of experience. 

In contrast, in construction trades like plumbing, electrical and HVAC, people often earn six figures a year while they are still an apprentice or shortly after becoming journeypersons. The same is true for many industrial and transportation technicians as well. Heavy equipment, and truck and coach technicians in the transportation sector, along with millwrights and welders in industrial/manufacturing trades are able to earn over $100,000 a year within a few years of becoming a qualified journeyperson. 

If you Google the highest paying trades in Ontario in 2024, you’ll get a range of answers. Some sites will tell you electricians make the most money, with an average salary of just over $90,000. Other sites, including some of the major job boards (Indeed, etc), will list millwrights, truck drivers or HVAC technicians at the top. So which one of these is right? Frankly, that is the wrong question.

What Difference Does a Dollar (or Two) Make?

You could spend a great deal of time in the rabbit hole trying to figure out which trade pays a dollar more an hour than the others, which internet site uses the best data, which one uses the best estimation methodology, or has the largest sample size. But the fact is, that is a waste of your time. All of the job sites use a similar methodology based on data collected from their own job banks, and none of these are any better or worse at estimating the average salaries of different tradespeople. They reach different conclusions because they use different data.

More importantly, these estimates are not meaningfully different from each other, or between the top-paying trades. Most sites peg the average hourly rate for electricians, plumbers, HVAC techs, truck and coach mechanics, millwrights and others at around $48-$51 per hour across the province. Is it wise to choose a trade based on a difference of $1-2 in the hourly wage? The clear answer is No, and here’s why.

Get Qualified, and Make the Most of Your Trade

I would urge you to be cautious about going into a trade based primarily on the average wage you see on the internet for two reasons. First, you need to become a licensed journeyperson in any of these trades before making $48/hour or more is even possible. If you don’t finish an apprenticeship in any of these trades you’ll be stuck making $25/hour for your career. So pick a trade where you have the greatest chance of finishing your apprenticeship. In other words, not finishing your apprenticeship in a trade with a $51/hour average wage is much worse than getting certified in one with a $48/hour rate. 

 Second, how you approach your chosen trade, and which opportunities you pursue, will have more impact on your annual income than some slightly higher average hourly wage in another trade. There is a critical shortage of licensed tradespeople in all of these high-wage trades, so you’ll always have an opportunity to work overtime or on-call. Working a few extra hours each week can greatly increase a person’s annual income. The impact will be far greater than a couple dollars on an hourly rate. Doesn’t mean you have to do this for the rest of your life, but if you want to earn more money, this is one of the best ways to do that.

There’s More to Life Than Money…

It is certainly worth knowing the highest paying trade in Ontario, especially in 2024 when inflation and the general cost of living is so high across the province. However, there can be more to life than money, so it is important to choose a trade that interests you, or gives you other things besides money. I’m not saying “follow your passion”, or “find your passion” because that is nonsense. I’m saying try to choose a trade that is likely to sustain your interest.

Even if you don’t believe that there’s more to life than money, you should still pick a trade that interests you. The reason is that most people who get into the trades don’t spend their entire careers on the tools. Lots of plumbers, electricians, millwrights and welders hang up their tools to get into sales, estimating, project management, equipment and supplies, or business ownership. 

Sometimes they do this because they can make more money, but many of them pursue these other opportunities because they are interested in the field, and this gives them the confidence to try something new. It is worth remembering that if you open your own HVAC business or start managing large electrical projects, the hourly wage for HVAC techs or electricians on some internet sites no longer applies. So why choose a trade now based on a number that might not apply to you in a few years? 


Starting out in a trade, especially a compulsory trade like the ones we support at Trade Smart College, opens up a huge range of career possibilities. If you’re willing to work hard and you make some good decisions, you will probably have more opportunities than most university graduates. This is because there are far fewer people in Ontario in 2024 with a journeyperson’s ticket than with a university degree, and there are thousands more open jobs for journeypersons than for university grads. If you just want to make money, you can do that in any compulsory trade without obsessing over which one has the highest average wage right now. If you think there’s more to life than money, you’ll find that in the trades as well.

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