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The Best Paying Jobs You Can Get With a High School Diploma

Having a college education dramatically improves one’s chances of finding employment, a recent report released by Georgetown University shows. Also, those with just a high school diploma, according to the report, have had the hardest time maintaining employment during the recession. However, having a college degree, which once basically guaranteed a position, is now no longer a sure thing.

Read: The Best Paying Jobs You Can Get With a High School Diploma

For those who can’t go to college for any reason, there are hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs that only require a high school diploma. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2011 occupational profiles from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify positions that pay the most money, and generally do not require anything more than a high school diploma. We listed the 10 highest paying ones.

College education, in the vast majority of high-paying jobs, is a prerequisite. Of the 185 job categories that earned a median of at least $60,000 in 2011, just 16 did not require at least some college education. The 24 highest-paying jobs all require a bachelor’s degree, and in many cases, a master’s or doctoral degree.

Very few of the 10 highest-paying positions that only require a high school diploma are immediately accessible. Most require years of work at a lower position and a move up the ranks over time. Five of the 10 jobs are supervisor or manager positions.

Many of these jobs are compensated well because of the danger or extremely unfavorable conditions associated with them. Subway operators, paid a median of $63,000 a year, work long and shifting hours underground. Elevator repairers and nuclear power plant operators work in potentially life-threatening positions, and are paid more accordingly.

In order to identify the kinds of positions high school graduates without college degrees may want to consider, 24/7 Wall St. examined the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics database. In some cases, data about the number of workers were not available, and we provided the 2010 employment number. The results were then sorted by wage, in order to identify the 10 jobs that have the highest median annual salary. Along with salary, we also reviewed how much these jobs are expected to grow over the next 10 years.

These are the 10 highest-paying jobs that you can get with a high school diploma.

10. Postmasters and Mail Superintendents
> Median annual income: $62,290
> Total number of people employed: 24,500
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): -6,800

Postmasters and mail superintendents manage the operations and support services of U.S. post offices. They are generally paid well to do so, and the top 10% of postmasters earned more than $84,890 in 2011. However, despite relatively high compensation, jobs in the profession are especially scarce. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of postmasters is expected to have one of the largest projected job declines among all occupations in the U.S., at 27.8%. Job loss rates for other post office professions are expected to be even worse. The number of positions for postal service clerks is expected to decline by 48.2%, while mail sorter jobs are expected to decline by 48.5%.

Also Read: America’s 10 Disappearing Jobs

9. Subway and Streetcar Operators
> Median annual income: $63,820
> Total number of people employed: 6,500
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): 600

Subway and streetcar operators are responsible for transporting passengers in trains, trolleys, streetcars and other vehicles that run on tracks separated from most street and road traffic. Some operator jobs involve manually driving vehicles, and for the jobs that do not, operators must be capable of fully-controlling their vehicle in the event of an emergency. They can be well-paid for these skills, as the top 10% of operators earned over $73,280 in 2011, while the top 25% earned over $69,730. Jobs are limited, however, as the BLS projects just a 9.8% increase in the number of operators between 2010 and 2020, below the projected national rate of 14.3% for all occupations.

8. Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers
> Median annual income: $64,660
> Total number of people employed: 1,202,500
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): -96,100

Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers are responsible for running the facilities that produce the country’s crops, and raise its livestock. They decide what to produce based on a number of considerations, ranging from market factors to soil conditions. Last year, the annual income for such workers ranged from less than $31,980 for the bottom 10% of earners to more than $112,150 for the top 10%. Finding such a job may become extremely difficult. The number of such jobs is expected to decline by 96,100 between 2010 and 2020, more than any other profession other than postal service workers, as increased productivity and rising factor costs put more farmers out of buisness. The BLS estimates that 78.9% of all farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers were self-employed in 2010.

7. Fashion Designers
> Median annual income: $64,690
> Total number of people employed: 21,500
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): 0

Fashion designers create clothing, footwear, accessories, and costumes for customers. They typically study fashion trends, sketch designs, choose materials, and market their finished products. Though any education beyond high school is not required, many designers have a relevant formal education from a two- or four-year college. In 2011, the top 10% of designers made over $127,820, though the bottom 10% made less than $32,700. Finding a job as a fashion designer may be challenging as the number of such jobs is not projected to grow meaningfully between 2010 and 2020. Also, almost 30% of all designers were self-employed in 2010.

6.  First-Line Supervisors of Non-Retail Sales Workers
> Median annual income: $70,520
> Total number of people employed: 422,900
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): 17,100

Supervisors of non-retail sales are responsible for managing sales workers outside the retail sector. They are much better-paid than their counterparts in retail. In 2011, the median annual income for retail supervisors was just $36,480, while 90% of non-retail supervisors made at least $37,120 in annual income. While any education past high school is not necessary for the job, at least five years of prior experience in a related job is typically required. Job growth for the profession is expected to be limited, as the number of supervisors is expected to rise just 4% between 2010 and 2020 — less than one-third the projected national job growth rate for all occupations.

5.  Elevator Installers and Repairers
> Median annual income: $75,060
> Total number of people employed: 19,900
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): 2,300

Elevator installers and repairers are responsible for the installation, maintenance and repair of the cables, motors, and the control systems used in elevators and escalators. There is some risk of injury involved, usually from falls, burns, and shocks. Another downside is that some workers must be on call at all hours. Many have completed a four year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, “apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training.” Elevator installers and repairers are often well-paid, as 75% earned more than $58,430 in 2011. However, apprentices start out making between 30% to 50% of what regular installers and repairers earn.

Also Read: America’s Most Hated Industries

4. Nuclear Power Reactor Operators
> Median annual income: $76,590
> Total number of people employed: 5,200
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): 200

Nuclear power reactor operators  monitor and adjust the various turbines, generators and other systems used to generate electricity from nuclear reactors. Though a high school diploma is often enough to work as an operator, becoming one usually requires completing “rigorous, long-term on-the-job training,” as well as passing a licensing exam. Those completing these prerequisites are frequently well-paid, as the top 25% of workers earned over $88,730 and the top 10% earned over $101,730 in 2011. The number of such jobs is expected to grow just 3.6% from 2010 to 2020, with these few jobs coming from the opening of new nuclear plants — the first since the 1990s.

3.  First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives
> Median annual income: $77,890
> Total number of people employed: 106,100
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): 2,300

First-line supervisors of police and detectives are charged with monitoring and directing the activities of police officers. They supervise the work of uniformed police officers, who enforce laws and respond to calls, as well as of detectives, who investigate and collect evidence of crimes. Though salaries for local police departments are generally low, supervisors can be very highly paid — the top 10% of supervisors made over $126,130 in 2011. The total number of supervisory jobs is expected to rise just 2.1% by 2020, less than the 8.2% increase projected for police officers and the 2.9% increase expected for detectives and criminal investigators.

2. Administrative Services Managers
> Median annual income: $79,540
> Total number of people employed: 254,300
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): 36,900

Administrative services managers manage the supporting functions of organizations. Some handle the purchasing and distribution of equipment and supplies, while others oversee the operations of buildings and grounds. Some managers are very well compensated. In 2011, the top 25% earned over $106,030, while the top 10% earned over $139,170. To become an administrative services manager, education beyond a high school diploma is often not necessary. However, past work experience is needed, with background in purchasing and sales or in warehousing and shipping being especially valuable. The number of administrative services managers is expected to rise by 14.5% between 2010 and 2020, slightly above the projected national figure for all occupations.

1. Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers
> Median annual income: $80,860
> Total number of people employed: 98,600
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): 9,900

Transportation, storage, and distribution managers “plan, direct, or coordinate transportation, storage, or distribution activities in accordance with organizational policies and applicable government laws or regulations.” Though a formal education beyond high school may not be necessary, workers usually have at least five years of previous, related work experience. In 2011, the median annual income for such managers was higher than for biophysicists and biochemists, physical therapists and audiologists — professions that require a doctoral or professional degree. Wages for such managers were especially high for the top 10% of earners who made over $135,860 in 2011.

-By Alexander E.M. Hess and Michael B. Sauter

Also Read: States Cutting the Most Government Jobs

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