Special Report

10 Best-Paying Jobs for High School Graduates

10. Gas Plant Operators
> Median annual income: $63,680
> Total number employed: 13,890
> Projected change 2012 – 2022: -8.8%

Gas plant operators process and distribute gas for utility companies. Cheap, abundant natural gas is likely to provide some demand for gas plant operators, even as jobs at power plants are projected to fall. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that in the coming decades natural gas will exceed coal as the nation’s leading source of electricity. The work of plant operators can be dangerous and stressful, which may explain the relatively high median salary of $63,680 as of 2012. However, with such a high median pay, gas plant operation is one of the better-paying jobs people can take on with a high school diploma.

9. Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers
> Median annual income: $64,170
> Total number employed: 111,350
> Projected change 2012 – 2022: +8.9%

Each year, homes across the United States are hit hard by natural disasters that leave areas without power or phone service for hours or days at a time. Responsibility for fixing damaged wires falls on the roughly 111,000 electrical power-line installers and repairers in the country. In fact, the BLS cites challenging weather conditions as one reason for the high median salary of such workers. More frequent storms in recent years likely influenced estimates of future job growth in this area, which is expected to increase by nearly 9% between 2012 and 2022. However, the expected increase is anticipated to be slower than average, potentially owing to communities opting to bury their power lines. Employers offer extensive training programs to prospective employees, which act as a substitute for tertiary education. Nonetheless, employers expect their workers to have a basic knowledge of algebra and trigonometry.

ALSO READ: America’s Disappearing Jobs

8. Postmasters and Mail Superintendents
> Median annual income: $65,150
> Total number employed: 17,930
> Projected change 2012 – 2022: -24.2%

Postmasters and mail superintendents manage and coordinate the activities of postal workers. A typical postmaster or superintendent made over $65,000 in 2013, and the top-paid 10% took home $84,900 or more. However, postal service jobs in general are expected to decline considerably between 2012 and 2022. In all, employment in postal service jobs is expected to drop by 139,100, or 28%. The number of postmasters and mail superintendents is similarly expected to drop substantially. In recent years, the U.S. Postal Service has cut tens of thousands of jobs as the agency has regularly posted net losses and its financial condition has deteriorated.

7. Transportation Inspectors
> Median annual income: $65,950
> Total number employed: 23,970
> Projected change 2012 – 2022: +11.2%

Transportation inspectors work in industries such as rail transportation, air transport and urban transit systems. Workers in these occupations mostly inspect equipment to ensure that both people and cargo are transported safely. Like many of the jobs on this list, on-the-job training takes the place of formal education. The median salary for transportation inspectors in 2013 was nearly $66,000, with higher-end pay for workers reaching above $112,690.

6. Gaming Managers
> Median annual income: $66,200
> Total number employed: 4,460
> Projected change 2012 – 2022: +7.5%

According to a recent Scotiabank report, the U.S. gaming sector has grown at a relatively slow pace compared to the rest of the world in recent years. Still, the gaming and casino industry is extremely large. The industry employed more than 363,000 people in 2012, according to the American Gaming Association. Gaming managers made up about 4,460 employees in the sector as of last year. Gaming managers direct and oversee the gaming operations within a casino. They often have several years of experience working the slots or table games for a lower pay. Although they must be licensed by a state or regulatory agency, gaming managers typically do not need a degree above a high school diploma to make more than $66,000 annually.

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