Going to college isn’t required to snag a high-paying job. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) keeps meticulous records about the careers you can enter without a college degree. Several even pay more than the highest paying associate degree jobs.
The following careers don’t require a college degree (or even any college at all) and pay more than $70,000 per year.
15 Highest Paying Jobs Without a College Degree
- Median base salary: $94,730
- Employment: 131,300
Transportation, storage, and distribution managers follow organizational policies and government regulations as they coordinate the transportation, storage, and distribution of goods. Duties include managing staff, implementing schedule and policy changes, and monitoring operations to ensure staff compliance.
Typical educational and training requirements include a high school diploma or GED and five or more years of related work experience.
- Median base salary: $94,350
- Employment: 6,280
Like the job title implies, nuclear power reactor operators work with nuclear reactors. These professionals typically work at powerplants, monitoring equipment, ensuring equipment is maintained properly, and enforcing and following all safety procedures.
You’ll need a high school diploma or GED and work experience to enter this field.
- Median base salary: $89,030
- Employment: 121,600
First-line supervisors of police and detectives essentially run police departments. This involves supervising subordinates, coordinating criminal investigations, training staff, and resolving personnel problems.
You need at least a high school diploma or GED, several years of related work experience, and on-the-job training to work in this role.
- Median base salary: $86,410
- Employment: 53,000
According to the BLS, power distributors and dispatchers “coordinate, regulate or distribute electricity or steam.” Duties include responding to line failure emergencies, coordinating with engineers and utility workers, and regulating the flow of power. They typically work in the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution industry, the natural gas distribution industry, or in the paper mill industry.
Entry requirements include a high school diploma or GED and long-term on-the-job training.
- Median base salary: $82,240
- Employment: 37,870
Commercial pilots fly fixed-wing aircraft on unscheduled carrier routes or helicopters. Charter pilots, air ambulance pilots, and air tour pilots fall under this job category as well. An airline pilot, which is a pilot that flies regional, national, and international flights, doesn’t fall into this category.
Airline pilots need at least a bachelor’s degree, but commercial pilots need only a high school diploma or GED, extensive training, and a commercial pilot’s license.
- Median base salary: $81,920
- Employment: 103,450
Detectives and criminal investigators work to solve and prevent crimes at the local, state, or national level. Most work for the federal executive branch, state government, or local government. Work for the federal government and average earnings jump from $85,020 across all industries to $108,770.
To become a detective or criminal investigator you need at least a high school diploma or GED along with training. Although you can ultimately end up in this position without going to college, a bachelor’s degree makes it easier.
- Median base salary: $79,780
- Employment: 26,830
Elevator installers and repairers typically work for building equipment contractors, installing elevators in new builds or additions. Elevator repair workers might also work for a local government, college, or university. For this profession, job growth is faster than average with a 10% projected increase in job opportunities over the next 10 years.
To work as an elevator installer or repair, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED and an apprenticeship.
- Median annual wage: $79,610
- Employment: 33,920
Power plant operators run the machinery used to produce electric power. Unsurprisingly, the majority work in the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution industry. However, those who work for the federal executive branch have the highest earning potential with a $91,000 average annual salary.
To become a power plant operator, you’ll need at least a high school diploma or GED, extensive on-the-job training, and a license. Some employers do look for candidates with a bachelor’s degree or vocational degree.
- Median annual earnings: $75,970
- Employment: 13,770
Postmasters plan, direct, or coordinate all aspects of a United States post office. Mail superintendents oversee employees that work in a post office or plant, which includes scheduling workers, resolving customer complaints, and training employees. All work for the United States Postal Service.
You need at last a high school diploma or GED, some work experience, and on-the-job training to move into one of these positions.
10. Gaming Managers
- Median annual earnings: $74,700
- Employment: 4,300
Gaming managers oversee gaming operations in a casino. Duties include removing suspected cheaters, explaining house rules, and resolving customer complaints. The majority work in the gambling industry or traveler accommodation industry in California, Nevada, or Oklahoma.
Some casinos hire gaming managers that only have a high school diploma or GED while others require a college degree. A license from a state regulatory agency and on-the-job training is also required.
- Median annual earnings: $74,030
- Employment: 4,470
Transit and railroad police keep property, employees, and passengers safe on a train or other transit system. Duties include conducting security checks, apprehending trespassers or thieves, and directing security during derailments, floods, or fires. Most of the workers in this occupation (1,620) work in New York State.
You need at least a high school diploma or GED and moderate on-the-job training to work as a transit or railroad police officer.
- Median annual earnings: $73,780
- Employment: 29,990
A transportation inspector inspects goods and equipment being transported by boat, plane, truck, or train to ensure cargo and people are transported safely. This occupation includes aviation inspectors, transportation vehicle inspectors, and freight and cargo inspectors.
Transportation inspectors need at least a high school diploma or GED and moderate on-the-job training.
- Median annual earnings: $73,390
- Employment: 247,570
First-line supervisors in this occupation oversee sales workers (but not retail sales workers). Duties include budgeting, accounting, and supervising and managing employees. Most work for an electronics or appliance store, a credit card company or lender, or a wholesaler of durable goods.
Entry requirements for this occupation include a high school diploma or GED and several years of related work experience.
- Median annual salary: $71,070
- Employment: 14,620
Gas plant operators typically work for utility companies. They operate the equipment used to monitor, manipulate, and distribute natural gas. Other duties include keeping records, cleaning and maintaining equipment, and directing other workers.
If you want to work as a gas plant operator, you’ll need at least a high school diploma or GED and long-term on-the-job training.
- Median annual salary: $70,910
- Employment: 114,800
Electrical power-line installers and repairers install new poles, cables, and wires used to bring electricity to homes and businesses. These employees typically work in the following industries: electric power generation, transmission, and distribution; utility system construction; and local government.
For an entry-level job in this field, you need at least a high school diploma or equivalent, technical instruction, and long-term on-the-job training. Some companies offer apprenticeship programs too.
Which Highest Paying Job Without a College Degree is Right for You?
Don’t choose a career solely based on potential earnings. Earning enough to live off is important, but it’s also important to pursue a career that you’d enjoy and excel in. Click on each of the jobs above to learn more about the duties and responsibilities. Does anything seem interesting to you?
If nothing listed above catches your interest, visit this interactive chart from the BLS to see other career options that don’t require a college degree.
Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates
Here are our top student loan refinance picks for 2019
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
“College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. (1)College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine. (2)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. (3)$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. (4)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 12/14/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.”
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.