Special Report

10 Best-Paying Jobs for High School Graduates

As the cost of attending college increases each year, some high school graduates may wonder how well they could do without a college degree. While occupations that only require a high school diploma are often low-paying jobs, several pay well above the median wage.

Managers in transportation, storage and distribution — the people who make ordering from, say, Amazon.com possible — earned a median income of $83,890 in 2013. In fact, each of the jobs on this list had a median salary of more than $60,000 annually as of last year, well above the national median wage of $35,080 as of 2013. Based on figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics database, these are the highest paying jobs for high school graduates.

The risks associated with many of these jobs may be one factor driving up pay. Gas plant operators often must come into contact with volatile substances or high voltage equipment that, if handled improperly, could have harmful effects. Alternatively, electrical power line repairers frequently have to fix power lines under extreme weather conditions such as snow, rain or wind.

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High median incomes in these jobs may also be due to irregular work hours. A detective working a case, for example, may need to follow leads that extend beyond the 9-to-5 workday. If a violent storm knocks out power in a region, or if an elevator stops working, repair workers must be ready at a moment’s notice, which may require them to give up time with their families or forgo vacation time.

Union membership is likely another factor driving up incomes in these jobs. High degrees of union membership typically drive up wages as workers have more bargaining power. Of the 10 jobs on this list, at least six had a higher share of workers in unions than the broader American workforce, according to the BLS.

While many of these jobs do not require a college degree, they often do require extensive on-the-job training or experience. Detectives, elevator repairmen and gas and power plant operators all undergo moderate to intense training programs. Other jobs, such as commercial pilots, have strict licensing requirements that candidates must meet before they can be hired.

However, just because these jobs currently only require a high school diploma does not mean that they will forever. In a conversation with 24/7 Wall St., Martin Kohli, chief regional economist for the BLS, said, “The trend now is to require college degrees in occupations that don’t have them.”

In order to identify the highest-paying jobs you can get with a high-school degree, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed wage and employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2013 Occupational Employment Statistics database and job descriptions from the Occupational Outlook Handbook. The jobs that made the list had a median annual salary of at least $60,000 and did not require formal education beyond a high school diploma, according to the BLS. Forecasts for job growth between 2012 and 2022 are from the bureau’s Employment Projections program. We also reviewed job descriptions from O*Net Online database, developed by the Department of Labor. Jobs that were too similar, or which had a high percentage of self-employed workers, were excluded.

These are these are the highest paying jobs for high school graduates.