Welcome to our ranking of the 30 highest paying jobs you can get without a degree! Affordable Schools is usually committed to helping readers find low-cost colleges. However, we know that college isn’t right for everyone. It’s perfectly okay to veer off the traditional route of getting a four-year bachelor’s degree after graduation. There are many high yield jobs available with only a diploma or the GED equivalent. In 2018, the Census Bureau reported that only 33.4 percent of Americans have a baccalaureate. An estimated 47 percent of U.S. residents have at least an associate degree. That means the majority of the workforce didn’t attend college. The U.S. News & World Report shows that the average tuition cost of $10,116 at public and $36,801 at private universities could be why. Financial obstacles, family responsibilities, and full-time jobs are common reasons for skipping college. Plus, some fields require on-the-job training instead of academia. Let’s explore 30 well-paid jobs without a college degree.
30. Solar Photovoltaic Installer
Average Annual Salary: $46,010
Solar photovoltaic installers are green energy pioneers who make capturing rays of sunshine possible. PV installers assemble eco-friendly solar panels on roofs to help combat climate change. Their daily tasks include designing PV systems, cutting solar panels, connecting electrical wiring, testing panel efficiency, and performing upkeep. Solar photovoltaic installers only need a high school diploma or GED and job training. The 8,950 PV installers nationwide receive pay between $30,180 and $63,580. Market demand for PV installers will skyrocket 63 percent by 2028.
29. Diesel Service Technician
Average Annual Salary: $49,150
Diesel service technicians are automotive experts who keep heavy vehicles ready for the road. These mechanics focus on fixing semis, buses, dump trucks, and other equipment with diesel engines. Daily tasks include doing diagnostic tests, inspecting auto systems, remedying malfunctions, replacing worn-out parts, and meeting safety standards. Diesel service technicians learn on the job after high school or GED completion. The 264,860 diesel engine specialists report earnings of $31,200 to $72,180. Hiring of diesel service technicians is increasing 5 percent.
28. Wood Patternmaker
Average Annual Salary: $51,760
Wood patternmakers are skilled carpenters who carve the models for producing castings. These woodworkers practice extreme precision in chiseling out sectional patterns or mock-ups to manufacture products. Their duties include reading blueprints, drawing detailed outlines, cutting shapes with saws, trimming excess wood, and sanding for smoothness. Wood patternmakers forgo a college degree for hands-on apprenticeships. The 700 wood patternmakers earn $28,060 to $76,860 each year. Ten-year growth in carpentry jobs will spike 8 percent.
27. Construction Equipment Operator
Average Annual Salary: $51,890
Construction equipment operators are master maneuverers who drive big machines to aid building projects. These operating engineers safely control bulldozers, excavators, cranes, and other equipment. Common responsibilities include lifting levers, pushing pedals, turning wheels, moving machinery, and cleaning or repairing their apparatuses. Entry only requires a high school diploma or an equivalency exam. The 365,300 construction equipment operators have yearly earnings of $30,450 to $82,280. Employment of operating engineers will jump 10 percent.
26. Flight Attendant
Average Annual Salary: $52,660
Flight attendants are friendly stewards of the skies who make trips from destination A to B enjoyable. These airline staff are responsible for the safety and comfort of all passengers on board. Their daily duties include greeting fliers, taking tickets, assisting with baggage, demonstrating emergency protocol, serving snacks, and performing first aid. Flight attendants only need a high school diploma and background check for FAA certification. The 119,000 U.S. flight attendants bring home $26,860 to $79,520. Faster-than-average job growth of 10 percent is predicted.
Average Annual Salary: $53,560
Choreographers are creative artists who plan step-by-step sequences for entertaining dance routines. They show dancers in movies, Broadway shows, fine arts schools, and other productions how to perform. Their job entails putting moves together, teaching the steps, selecting background music, choosing costumes, and leading rehearsals. Choreographers typically take dance lessons throughout their high school career. Most of the 5,090 choreographers make between $21,340 and $97,620. Job openings in the dance world will only increase 1 percent by 2028.
24. Water Transportation Worker
Average Annual Salary: $54,400
Water transportation workers are merchant mariners who guide vessels through smooth or stormy seas. These sailors take command to navigate ships carrying passengers or cargo safely from port to port. Required tasks include steering the ship’s wheel, logging routes, regulating speed, following boating laws, inspecting equipment, and leading the deck crew. Water transportation workers need at-sea experience rather than formal education. The 83,400 mariners reap profits of $27,260 to $118,260. Water transportation employment will likely fall 2 percent.
23. Hearing Aid Specialist
Average Annual Salary: $55,650
Hearing aid specialists are entry-level audiology technicians who strive to cure hearing loss. These allied health practitioners fit patients’ ears for mechanical devices that improve listening abilities. Day-to-day duties include delivering hearing tests, creating ear molds, suggesting different device types, and demonstrating proper usage. Hearing aid specialists have one of the highest paying jobs without a degree. The 1,300 specialists provide hearing instruments for $28,410 to $88,590 yearly. Hearing aid specialists can expect rapid 19 percent job growth.
22. Wind Turbine Service Technician
Average Annual Salary: $58,000
Wind turbine service technicians are eco-friendly electricity generators who derive power from gusty breezes. Windtechs install and oversee the maintenance of huge windmills to cleanly create energy. Their tasks include assembling turbine parts, connecting transmission systems, collecting usage data, troubleshooting errors, and doing routine inspections. Wind turbine service technicians enter this trade with a diploma or GED and on-the-job training. The 5,580 windtechs are compensated $37,780 to $83,560. Booming demand will drive employment up 57 percent.
Average Annual Salary: $58,150
Plumbers are pipe professionals who install and repair the intricate systems that move fluids through any structure. These tradespeople make it possible to fill toilets, tubs, tanks, and other fixtures with water. Responsibilities include laying pipelines, tightening fittings, welding connections, stopping leaks, replacing dangerous lead pipes, and abiding by building codes. Becoming a plumber requires an apprenticeship rather than college courses. The 438,070 plumbers have median wages of $32,100 to $93,700. Openings for plumbers will expand by 14 percent this decade.
20. Structural Steel Worker
Average Annual Salary: $58,170
Structural steel workers are metal masterminds who form strong frames for erecting buildings and bridges. These construction site staff install steel columns, rods, beams, and girders to reinforce a solid foundation. Daily duties include following blueprints, unloading heavy steel parts, positioning steel with cranes, welding metal joints, and overseeing demolitions. Finishing a high school diploma or GED plus an apprenticeship is required. The 77,410 steel workers are paid $32,240 to $93,760 per year. Opportunities for structural steel work will rise 11 percent.
19. Real Estate Sales Agent
Average Annual Salary: $59,630
Real estate sales agents are house hunters who help clients purchase or sell properties for maximum profits. Realtors study local market trends to negotiate the best deals that boost their commission. Their tasks include setting list prices, hosting open house events, presenting sale offers, writing up contracts, and preparing deeds. Real estate sales agents age 18+ can take the licensing exam immediately after high school. Most of the 147,960 realtors in America earn $23,130 to $109,490 annually. A bright outlook predicts 7 percent more real estate agent jobs.
18. Executive Administrative Assistant
Average Annual Salary: $59,400
Executive administrative assistants are organized C-suite secretaries who perform clerical tasks for company bigwigs. They provide high-level support to keep the offices of top executives, including CEOs, running smoothly. Duties include scheduling meetings, reviewing mail, writing memos, conducting research, proofreading papers, filing reports, and billing clients. Executive assistants don’t need a college degree, just secretarial experience. The 570,530 executive assistants boast earnings of $36,950 to $89,310. Note that employment will fall 7 percent though.
17. Electronics Installer and Repairer
Average Annual Salary: $61,460
Electronics installers and repairers are tech-savvy troubleshooters who get powered digital devices working properly. They often specialize in certain electronics like mobile phones, security systems, or sound equipment. Day-to-day tasks include inspecting electrical hookups, disassembling electronics, diagnosing problems, implementing fixes, and retesting functions. High school graduation and on-the-job training are sufficient preparation. The 11,680 electronics installers and repairs make $37,070 to $88,980. Minimal job growth of 3 percent is forecasted through 2028.
16. Subway and Streetcar Operator
Average Annual Salary: $62,970
Subway and streetcar operators are people movers who safely drive rail-guided transit vehicles. They take commuting passengers from station to station on a timely schedule. Their responsibilities include opening doors, taking fares, operating controls, abiding speed limits, watching tracks for hazards, announcing delays, and reporting mechanical issues. Subway and streetcar operators have another of the highest paying jobs without a degree. The 8,850 U.S. operators have income of $37,310 to $82,100. Transportation careers are poised for 4 percent growth.
15. Railroad Engineer
Average Annual Salary: $63,370
Railroad engineers are long-distance runners who transport people and products hundreds of miles on land. These locomotive conductors drive trains on tracks to safely reach destinations far and wide. Their tasks include checking tickets, gassing up the engine, using dash controls, monitoring passenger well-being, braking fast in emergencies, and contacting dispatch teams. Railroad companies like Amtrak often have brief non-degree training programs. The 42,360 railroad engineers are rewarded $44,690 to $95,330. Demand for railroad workers will decrease 2 percent.
14. Sales Representative
Average Annual Salary: $63,050
Sales representatives are persuasive pitchers who sell goods to organizations on behalf of their manufacturing clients. These retail workers exceed sales quotas by sealing the deal on big business purchases. Daily duties include finding sales leads, attending trade shows, presenting product features, answering customer inquiries, negotiating prices, and drawing up contracts. Sales representatives can vend non-technical products with only a diploma or GED. The 1.73 million sales reps report earnings of $25,290 to $113,310. The job outlook shows a 2 percent uptick.
13. Advertising Sales Agent
Average Annual Salary: $63,360
Advertising sales agents are media marketing gurus who sell clients space for promotional pieces. These sales reps often specialize in print, Web, radio, or television media to help businesses attract attention. Their role includes soliciting new accounts, calculating cost estimates, providing ad samples, creating media kits, and suggesting sales tools. Entry-level advertising sales jobs require a high school diploma or GED and informal training. The 133,110 agents nationwide generate $24,670 to $114,810 yearly. Openings for advertising sales agents will drop 2 percent.
12. Police Patrol Officer
Average Annual Salary: $64,490
Police patrol officers are uniformed law enforcement personnel who protect communities from threats. These cops watch for signs of illegal actions and defuse dangerous situations when called. Their hefty responsibilities include running traffic radar, responding to incidents, controlling crowds, issuing tickets, observing suspects, and arresting law breakers. Aspiring patrol officers age 21 and over with a diploma or GED must pass the police academy. The 662,390 police patrol officers are paid $35,020 to $100,610 each year. Employment of cops will boost 5 percent by 2028.
11. Insurance Sales Agent
Average Annual Salary: $66,990
Insurance sales agent are policy promoters who sell people financial coverage in case bad things happen. They connect customers to medical, property, life, and car insurance that suits unique needs. Duties include attracting a client base, explaining policy details, advising on coverage changes, comparing carriers, renewing policies, and selling annuities. Insurance sales agents can be licensed in most states with simply a high school diploma. The 386,320 agents enjoy income of $27,180 to $125,190. Insurance sales jobs are growing quickly by 10 percent.
10. Claims Adjuster and Examiner
Average Annual Salary: $67,540
Claims adjusters and examiners are investigative sleuths who pore over the details of insurance claims. They defend insurance companies against fraud by ensuring claims are wholly accurate. Day-to-day tasks include inspecting damaged property, reading health records, checking police reports, reviewing policy coverage, and approving or denying benefits. Claims adjusters and examiners made our list’s top 10 highest paying jobs without a degree. The 287,730 insurance appraisers receive $39,620 to $98,660. Demand for adjusters and examiners will fall 4 percent.
9. Oil Refinery Operator
Average Annual Salary: $70,630
Oil refinery operators are petroleum pumpers who run equipment that extracts Earth resources to make gasoline. They keep the oil supply flowing to fuel our cars, trucks, boats, lawn mowers, and other machines. Daily roles include analyzing oil samples, monitoring processing units, regulating compressors, checking valves, maintaining refinery tools, and reporting leaks fast. Oil refinery operators don’t need formal education beyond high school or a GED. The 38,930 U.S. refinery workers make $44,000 to $98,480. Jobs in petroleum production are rising 7 percent.
8. Transportation Inspector
Average Annual Salary: $75,330
Transportation inspectors are compliance checkers who can lower the risk of malfunctions and deadly accidents. They closely assess the inner workings of buses, trains, planes, ships, and other modes of transit. Duties include examining engines, flagging equipment errors, monitoring communication systems, reporting infractions, and investigating crashes. Transportation inspectors earn industry-specific training rather than a degree. The 29,990 inspectors bring home $28,870 to $123,980 apiece. Hiring of transportation inspectors will speed up by 4 percent.
Average Annual Salary: $77,040
Postmasters are motivated mail superintendents who oversee the daily operations of post offices. These federal workers coordinate the activities that get our letters and packages delivered on time. Their role includes hiring mail carriers, supervising clerks, abiding postal regulations, handling customer complaints, and creating distribution routes. Postmasters with a high school diploma or GED must pass an exam and brief job training. The 13,960 postmasters in America receive $62,810 to $92,340. Postal service employment is dropping 21 percent overall.
6. Elevator Installer and Repairer
Average Annual Salary: $79,370
Elevator installers and repairers are lauded lift mechanics who keep vertical transportation systems moving up. They often work on elevators plus escalators, chairlifts, dumbwaiters, boat lifts, and similar equipment. Duties include wiring control panels, testing brakes, greasing parts, troubleshooting computer controls, doing preventive maintenance, and certifying system safety. Elevator installers and repairs complete their 2,000 hours of paid training on the job. The 26,830 U.S. workers earn $40,850 to $121,200. Ten-year job growth of 10 percent is expected.
5. Farmer and Rancher
Average Annual Salary: $79,940
Farmers and ranchers are agricultural cultivators who maintain acres of fertile land for harvesting profitable crops. These growers raise fruit, vegetables, and livestock to produce nutritious food we eat. Daily tasks include seeding soil, herding sheep, milking cows, mending fences, training horses, purchasing farm equipment, making trade deals, and recording finances. Farmers and ranchers don’t have to fulfill any formal education requirements. Most of the 4,700 farmers generate $35,440 to $136,940 yearly. Poor market conditions are causing a 1 percent job loss.
4. Gaming Manager
Average Annual Salary: $83,460
Gaming managers are conscientious casino leaders who circulate the floor to ensure guests are satisfied. These gambling supervisors are responsible for enforcing casino rules and the law. Their daily duties include training staff, monitoring dealers, addressing security breaches, responding to customer complaints, and checking money exchanges. Gaming managers broke the top five highest paying jobs without a college degree. The 4,300 such managers make $47,150 to $134,490. Job growth in gaming entertainment services will reach 7 percent by 2028.
3. Detective and Criminal Investigator
Average Annual Salary: $85,020
Detectives and criminal investigators are law enforcement sleuths who solve cases for justice. They lead formal inquiries for police departments to apprehend offenders who’ve broken laws. Common tasks include interviewing witnesses, collecting evidence, following paper trails, getting warrants, consulting forensic experts, questioning suspects, and testifying at trials. Detectives can work their way up the police force with a diploma or GED. The 103,450 criminal investigators are paid $43,800 to $138,860. Positions for detectives will expand by 5 percent.
2. Commercial Pilot
Average Annual Salary: $89,350
Commercial pilots are cockpit commanders who lift fixed-wing aircraft off the ground for unscheduled flights. They are hired for private charters, aerial tours, cargo transports, rescues, and more. Daily duties include inspecting planes, checking fuel supplies, submitting flight plans, radioing to air traffic control, navigating the skies, and landing the crew safely. Commercial pilots earn FAA licensure in short-term flight schools rather than college. The 38,490 commercial pilots reap $43,570 to $152,180 annually. Openings for pilots will jump 8 percent this decade.
1. Nuclear Reactor Operator
Average Annual Salary: $95,310
Nuclear reactor operators are power plant workers who run machines that produce electivity via nuclear fission. These energy distributors make sure that all turbines and generators function correctly. Their role includes adjusting control rods, testing cooling systems, monitoring energy flows, reading gauges, detecting technical glitches, and responding to warning signs. Nuclear reactor operators can get an NRC license without college-level courses. Median wages for the 6,280 operators are $68,200 to $127,370 per year. Jobs at power plants are declining by 6 percent.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that high school graduates have median full-time pay of $718 weekly. Income increased to $1,189 per week for bachelor’s graduates. On average, a bachelor’s degree boosts lifetime earnings by $625,000. Bachelor’s holders traditionally make 84 percent more than workers who didn’t attend college. It’s true many top-paying, six-figure jobs are reserved for bachelor’s or professional degree graduates. Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to succeed without college though. Jobs with a GED or high school diploma can provide significantly more than the $32,600 mean. We’ve found these jobs in diverse fields, including construction, real estate, criminal justice, and manufacturing. These professions are sometimes even more lucrative because workers aren’t saddled with the average debt of $37,172. Consider pursuing the above 30 careers without going to college.
This concludes our ranking of the 30 highest paying jobs you can get without a degree.
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