Special Report

10 Best-Paying Jobs for High School Graduates

5. Power Plant Operators
> Median annual income: $68,100
> Total number employed: 39,810
> Projected change 2012 – 2022: -10.8%

Power plant operators earned a median pay of $68,100 in 2013 managing the systems that distribute and generate electric power over an area. Although workers with college or vocational degrees are preferred, only a high school diploma is necessary because the operator undergoes extensive on-the-job training both in the classroom and the plant. Operators often work in shifts because power plants operate around the clock. It is likely that pay for this position is high due to the negative aspects of working variable hours, especially late night shifts.


4. Commercial Pilots
> Median annual income: $74,470
> Total number employed: 37,340
> Projected change 2012 – 2022: +9.4%

Despite larger airline companies often requiring a bachelor’s degree, smaller companies that offer planes for charter, photos or tours are often eager to hire licensed pilots who have logged the requisite number of hours. To obtain a flying license from the Federal Aviation Administration also requires medical, written and flight exams. Future pilots can gain experience by going to flight school or by hiring independent instructors. The BLS anticipates that the number of commercial pilots will increase 9% by 2022, making it one of the faster growing jobs on this list. A typically commercial pilot earned nearly $75,000 in 2013, with the top 10% of pilots bringing in more than $136,000.

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3. Detectives and Criminal Investigators
> Median annual income: $76,730
> Total number employed: 109,960
> Projected change 2012 – 2022: +2.0%

Detectives typically begin their careers as police officers. Becoming a police officer usually involves physical exams, a written test and oftentimes a drug test, in addition to training at a policy academy. While many police officers and detectives have a college degree, the minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma. For those who are able to become detectives and criminal investigators, the pay is often quite high. The median annual income in the profession was $76,730 in 2013, and the top-paid 10% earned more than $125,000.

2. Elevator Installers and Repairers
> Median annual income: $78,640
> Total number employed: 21,270
> Projected change 2012 – 2022: +24.6%

Elevator installers and repairers do not need a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. However, they do need years of apprenticeship. As part of the five-year program to become an elevator installer and repairer, every year apprentices “must have at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training,” the BLS notes. In that time, apprentices study electrical theory, math and physics, among other subjects. The majority of states also require licensing. Workers who complete these requirements are well compensated. A typical installer or repairer earned more than $78,000 in 2013, and some earned more than $100,000.

1. Transportation, Storage and Distribution Managers
> Median annual income: $83,890
> Total number employed: 102,610
> Projected change 2012 – 2022: +4.9%

Transportation, storage and distribution managers are responsible for much of the infrastructure that businesses rely on to ship goods domestically and internationally. The shipping and storage industry is very important for global trade and commerce. A high level of management skill is required to plan and direct the logistics involved around warehousing and shipping. Even though a minimum requirement for this job is a high school diploma, most people holding this title have a bachelor’s degree. However, for those able to land the job, the pay is quite high. The annual median wage is more than $83,890, and for some, notably in oil transportation, annual pay can exceed $140,000.