The highest-paying jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree
The highest-paying jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree
Accessibility to college isn't always an option. Financial limitations or a desire to follow a different path can all be reasons why pursuing a postsecondary degree might not work. Currently, less than half of the population over the age of 25 has a Bachelor's degree and that number decreases as the education level increases.
Employers might ask for proof of a college degree before applying for some jobs, but the opportunities available to those with experience alone are plentiful. And the pay isn't too shabby, either. If you're in the market for a new job but you don't have a college degree, check out these high-paying jobs that rely on other factors outside of a degree.
In 2018, the median annual wage for a power distributor was $83,020. A power distributor is responsible for controlling the systems that produce power. Depending on the company, day-to-day work can range from maintaining power in homes to guaranteeing city lights are on full display. A high school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training are necessary for this position.
If you've ever seen a helicopter or cargo plane in the sky, you've seen a commercial pilot at work. These navigators of the sky were paid a median annual wage of $82,240 in 2018. To pursue this occupation, you'll need a high school diploma or equivalent and a Federal Aviation Administration commercial pilot's license.
A computer programmer might seem like an occupation that is only attainable with a college degree, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers also hire workers with an associate's degree or extensive experience in the field. Computer programmers write code that keeps computers and software programs running smoothly. In 2018, the median annual wage for this role was $84,280.
Elevator installer or repairer
The role of an elevator installer or repairer is not for the faint of heart. Workers are often in tight, cramped spaces or suspended at great heights, and repairers are generally on call. But the hard work comes with great pay: The median annual wage was $79,780 in 2018. Elevator installers and repairers complete apprenticeships, and 35 states request a license.
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Gaming managers work in casinos and oversee the day-to-day function of the business while guaranteeing guests and players alike are enjoying their time. The median annual wage for the position was $83,460 in 2017, but in states like Nevada, a gaming manager can earn an estimated annual wage greater than $100,000. Customer service skills and previous experience in the industry are necessary for this position.
Postmasters are responsible for guaranteeing your mailman makes it to your door each and every day with your mail in hand. They are employed by the federal government to plan and direct the daily services of the United States Postal Service while assigning day-to-day work to employees. Postmasters earned an average annual wage of $77,040 in 2018. If you're hoping to pursue this career, you'll need a high school degree or its equivalent and relevant experience.
Postal service worker
OK, maybe working as a postmaster sounds like a bit much. But if you're still hoping to get in the snail mail game, there's another opportunity for you. Postal service workers collect, sort and deliver the mail. Postal service clerks work in the post office, while mail carriers are the friendly faces we see at our doorsteps, rain or shine. A high school diploma or equivalent and a written exam are the only requirements for this role. Postal service workers earned approximately $58,760 in 2018.
Theatrical and performance makeup artist
If you've ever been to a play and wondered how the actors remained luminous throughout the entirety of the show in spite of the bright lights and constant motion, you can credit a makeup artist. This occupation takes time and skill, but a high school diploma and the completion of a cosmetology program at a state-licensed school can land you the gig. In 2016, the mean annual wage was $71,590.
A correctional officer oversees individuals that have been arrested and are awaiting trial or are serving time in prison. The median pay for this occupation is approximately $44,400, and a high school diploma or equivalent is necessary to qualify.
Air traffic controller
Air traffic controllers have very important jobs. They coordinate the movement of aircraft and guarantee a safe distance is maintained before and after takeoff. It's a tough role that requires constant concentration and care. An associate's degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program is necessary to land the job. Air traffic controllers earned a median of $124,540 in 2018.
Funeral service worker
A funeral service worker might not sound like the most uplifting position, but the role comes with the opportunity to help a grieving family find a sense of peace. Funeral service workers manage the details of a funeral and are employed by funeral homes and crematories. There are many requirements for the job, but a college degree isn't needed. Funeral service workers must be 21 years or older, have an associate's degree in funeral service, train in the field and pass a state licensing exam. The average median salary in 2018 was $57,580.
Railroad workers can drive trains, coordinate train activities or control signals in the rail yard. They also ensure that trains run safely and on schedule. On-the-job training and a high school diploma or equivalent are what's needed for this role. In 2018, railroad workers earned a median wage of $61,480.
A customs broker is an individual licensed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to help importers and exporters meet Federal requirements. Less than 15,000 people have this job in the United States. To become a customs broker, you must be a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old, pass a licensing exam, submit a broker license application and "possess good moral character." The mean annual wage for this role in 2018 was $76,960.
Transportation managers are responsible for safely transporting people and cargo by air, rail, ocean or highway. An associate's degree in Logistics or Supply Chain Management and certification in the industry is a plus when being considered for the opportunity. The mean annual wage for individuals in this field was $102,850 in 2018.
Private detective and investigator
Popular television shows like "Magnum, P.I." shed a fictional light on what life as a private detective and investigator might be like, but you can explore this occupation for yourself even without a college degree. Investigators do exactly what their name implies: They dig up legal, financial and sometimes personal information. Most private detectives and investigators have a high school diploma and years of experience under their belt, along with a license in the field. In 2018, the median pay for this job was $50,090.
Transportation inspectors review rail, freight and aircraft equipment to ensure the safety of cargo or people during transit. A high school diploma is necessary for the role, but transportation inspectors generally begin at a lower position, such as a maintenance employee, and work their way up the employment ladder. The mean annual wage was $75,330 in 2018.
Gas plant operator
A gas plant operator works with utility companies to control gas compressors and maintain pressures on pipelines. The top-paying states for a gas plant operator are California, North Dakota, Massachusetts, Washington and Maryland, with California having the highest annual mean wage at $101,610. A high school diploma or its equivalent and experience in the field are all you'll need to land this gig.
During major power outages due to events like storms, electrical line installers are the individuals you see working on tall poles to get things running smoothly again. The job requires being comfortable working at great heights and with high-voltage electricity, both of which can be extremely dangerous. Line installers are paid an average of $65,880 a year. A high school diploma or equivalent is needed to apply for this role.
Track switch repairer
If you've ever ridden on a complex train system with multiple lines crisscrossing 24 hours a day, you can thank a track switch repairer for your safety. Track switch repairers install, inspect, test and, of course, repair, the electric signal equipment for railroads. Workers in California make the most in this role with an annual mean wage of $80,380, but the average wage across the nation is still good at $65,750.
A police officer's job description can be found on every Los Angeles Police Department vehicle: to protect and to serve. Police officers must have a high school degree, undergo rigorous physical training, graduate from a training academy and receive on-the-job training. The average salary for cops in the United States was $63,380 in 2018.
Claims examiners earned an average wage of $65,670 in 2018. They evaluate and verify insurance claims for validation before payment is distributed. Entry-level positions as a claims examiner require a high school diploma or its equivalent and previous work experience.
Petroleum pump operator
The average petroleum pump operator earned $68,190 in 2018. Day-to-day responsibilities include operating pumping systems, testing the oil in storage tanks and maintaining the pipeline oil flow. A high school diploma or associate's degree is typically what's needed to land this job.
Boilermakers in the United States earned a median annual wage of $62,150 in 2018. And the typical entry-level education needed for the position is a high school diploma or equivalent. Boilermakers install, maintain and repair large containers holding liquids and gases.
The individual in uniform you sometimes see leaning out of a small window watching passengers board a train is a subway operator. They take passengers to their desired locations both above and underground while controlling the train's speed and following traffic laws. In 2018, subway operators earned an average annual wage of $68,170.
Stationary engineers work in schools, airports, hospitals, breweries and any other facility where mechanical systems must be maintained. They also renovate and repair boiler systems. In 2018, the average salary was $60,440.
Oil drill operator
Oil drill operators use drills to extract underground oil and gas and remove samples for testing. U.S. oil drill operators earned about $56,740 in 2018 with Alaska offering the highest wage at $80,470.
The people in charge of driving electric rail vehicles carrying passengers or freight are called locomotive engineers. Annually, U.S. locomotive engineers earned a mean wage of $66,920 in 2018. Locomotive engineers in Washington made the most with an annual mean wage of $87,450. A degree isn't necessary, but a strong work ethic is required.
Chemical plant operator
Chemical plant operators manage the production in a chemical plant. They oversee day-to-day work and maintain the steady function of machinery, systems and chemical processes. Ohio topped the list with the highest-paying annual mean wage in 2018 as employees earned more than $78,000. On average throughout the country, chemical plant operators earned a mean annual wage of $61,570. Experience in chemical operations and an associate's degree are typically necessary to pursue this career.
Real estate agent
In 2018, the median annual wage for a real estate agent in the U.S. was $50,300. They work with clients to find properties to rent, sell or own. All real estate agents must complete a select number of hours in a real estate class and pass a licensing exam.
Contruction equipment operator
You know them by their bright orange and yellow vests. Construction equipment operators control the heavy machinery used in building roads and other structures. The average wage is $46,990 a year, and all that's needed to qualify is a high school diploma or equivalent, or an apprenticeship.
Ironworkers install iron and steel to construct and support infrastructure. Ironworkers typically have a high school diploma or equivalent, but most learn either through an apprenticeship or on the job. In 2018, ironworkers earned a median annual wage of $52,770.
Crane and tower operator
Crane and tower operators earned an annual wage of $58,160 in 2018. A day on the job usually requires operating tower and cable equipment to move heavy materials at construction sites, warehouses or mining companies. Here's a fun fact: Louisiana has the highest concentration of jobs in crane and tower operations.
Telecommunications line installer
A telecommunications line installer repairs and installs telecommunications cables. Employees in this role took home a mean annual wage of $56,340 in 2018. Much like a line installer, a high school diploma or equivalent is all that's needed to apply for this role.
Rail car repairer
The mean annual wage for rail car repairers in 2018 was $56,380. A high school diploma or equivalent and training in the field is necessary to successfully repair or overhaul the mine and mass transit cars repairers are required to fix.
Millwrights are required to follow detailed blueprints to install and move heavy machinery and equipment. Texas employs the most millwrights in the U.S., but if you're hoping to make the most coin, head to New Mexico. The state pays the most with an annual mean wage of $72,040. A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary to land this job.
Computer support specialist
When users experience technical problems with a device, computer support specialists provide assistance to get users back on track. Because technological problems can happen any day and at any time, this job occasionally requires employees to work odd hours and weekends. Postsecondary experience in the field or an associate's degree qualifies candidates for the role. The median annual salary in 2018 was $53,470.
Though they work side by side with dentists - a title that comes with years of schooling - an associate's degree in dental hygiene is the only thing necessary to become a dental hygienist. They are responsible for cleaning teeth and examining patients for oral diseases. In 2018, the average U.S. salary of a dental hygienist was $74,820.
Web developers create and design websites. In the U.S., a web developer earns more than $69,000 a year on average. The educational requirement to pursue this career depends on the company, but an associate's degree and experience in graphic design can be just as good as a college degree when applying.
Transit police officers in the U.S. earned about $74,450 in 2018. Their list of duties include monitoring and protecting transit employees and passengers while maintaining the safety of the property. A high school diploma and training qualifies candidates for the job.
Food service manager
If food is your passion, this career could be perfect for you. Food service managers maintain the daily operation of restaurants or any other establishment that serves food to guests. A high school diploma and years of experience in the foodservice industry are required. In 2018, a U.S. food service manager made approximately $54,240.
Water transportation worker
Water transportation workers operate the vessels responsible for delivering cargo and transporting passengers. In 2018, U.S. water transportation workers made $54,400 annually and a little over $26 an hour on average. There is no formal education requirements for the position, but some workers are trained in U.S. Coast Guard-approved programs.
This occupation might sound like a leap if you've never considered working in the farming industry, but agricultural managers are responsible for more than you may think. They hire, supervise and budget for farms while also assisting in operating establishments that produce the products that end up on our dinner tables. In 2018, an agricultural manager earned an approximate annual salary greater than $67,000. A high school diploma and five years or more of experience in the agriculture business is required for this role.
Plumbers are household superheroes who rarely receive credit for their work. They install and repair pipes carrying liquids and gases that might cause permanent damage to homes. On average, plumbers earn an annual salary of $53,910. An apprenticeship or a certificate from a technical school is needed to qualify for this role. Some states also require plumbers to be licensed.
Advertising sales agent
If you've seen an ad for a business or product pop up on your favorite site, an advertising sales agent is the person who made it happen. Their daily work includes selling advertising space. A high school diploma is typically necessary for an entry-level position, along with skills in sales. In 2018, advertising sales agents made more than $51,000 a year.
Nuclear medicine technologist
A nuclear medicine technologist might sound like an occupation that requires years of schooling, but individuals with an associate's degree qualify for this position as well. Nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radioactive drugs to patients before imaging. The average salary for this role is more than $76,000 annually.
Diagnostic medical sonographer
Diagnostic medical sonographers are the individuals in hospitals who prepare and operate imaging equipment that capture any internal issues patients may have. A postsecondary certificate or associate's degree is enough to qualify candidates for this role that pays on average more than $67,000 a year.
Radiation therapists need an associate's degree before assisting doctors with treating patients with cancer or other diseases that require radiation treatment. A radiation therapist earned an average salary greater than $82,000 in 2018.
Athlete or sports competitor
We all can't be Michael Jordan, but sports competitors earned on average a little over $50,000 in 2018 and the job does not require a college degree. The spread is quite wide in terms of pay. The lowest 10% earned less than $19,000 while the highest 10% of earners made more than $208,000.
If you love to travel, becoming a flight attendant is a great way to earn a nice salary while touring the country. This occupation requires flexibility because of the inconsistent timing of flights. In 2018, flight attendants earned an annual salary of $56,000. If you're hoping to pursue a career as a flight attendant and you want to know what day-to-day life might be like on the job, here are a few things your flight attendant won't tell you.