Highest Paying Jobs You Can Get Without a College Degree

June 14, 2018 by Mike Sauter

Source: Minerva Studio / iStock

Though a postsecondary education improves one’s chances of finding a high-paying job, college enrollment has been declining in the United States in recent years, likely due to rising tuition costs. However, though a bachelor’s degree greatly increases an individual’s earnings potential, there are still many high-paying jobs that do not require higher education but instead value experience, training, and skill.

While the median income of a typical American adult with at least a bachelor’s degree is $52,782, the median income of those with a high school diploma is just $31,600 per year. Some jobs that do not require a college education, however, pay well more than the median across all education levels.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed Bureau of Labor Statistics occupation data to find the 50 highest paying jobs that do not require a college education.

Some of these jobs are in management roles and higher-ranking positions, accessible to those who worked their way up from low-level positions at jobs that do not require a degree, such as law enforcement or sales. Many of these jobs require years of on-the-job experience or training, and some require specific credentials or licenses.

None of these 50 jobs requires a bachelor’s degree, and yet they all make at thousands more than the typical American worker’s wage of $37,360. The median income of 10 jobs on this list is more than double the national median.

Click here to see the highest paying jobs you can get without a college degree.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Source: Viktoriia Fokina / iStock

50. Railroad brake, signal, and switch operators
> Median annual wage: $57,260
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 19,300
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -1.6%

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Source: U.S. Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo / Wikimedia Commons

49. Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators
> Median annual wage: $57,260
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 106,700
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -16.5%

Source: AntonioGuillem / iStock

48. Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants
> Median annual wage: $57,410
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 685,300
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -17.4%

Source: ablokhin / iStock

47. Rail car repairers
> Median annual wage: $57,460
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 22,300
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +5.2%

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Source: fotolism_thai / iStock

46. Pile-driver operators
> Median annual wage: $57,650
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 3,700
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +14.6%

Source: tenmay / iStock

45. Roof bolters, mining
> Median annual wage: $58,450
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 3,700
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -5.2%

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Source: U.S. Air Forces

44. Postal service clerks
> Median annual wage: $58,550
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 79,000
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -12.1%

Source: Thinkstock

43. Property, real estate, and community association managers
> Median annual wage: $58,670
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 317,300
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +10.3%

Source: Thinkstock

42. First-line supervisors of production and operating workers
> Median annual wage: $58,870
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 621,400
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -0.3%

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Source: Thinkstock

41. Construction and building inspectors
> Median annual wage: $59,090
> Typical on-the-job training needed: 5 years or more
> Total employment: 105,100
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +10.0%

Source: Thinkstock

40. Fire inspectors and investigators
> Median annual wage: $59,260
> Typical on-the-job training needed: 5 years or more
> Total employment: 12,300
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +7.3%

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Source: Thinkstock

39. Makeup artists, theatrical and performance
> Median annual wage: $59,300
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 4,800
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +12.5%

Source: Thinkstock

38. Stationary engineers and boiler operators
> Median annual wage: $59,890
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 35,700
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +4.8%

Source: Thinkstock

37. Railroad conductors and yardmasters
> Median annual wage: $60,300
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 41,800
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -2.1%

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Source: Thinkstock

36. Locomotive firers
> Median annual wage: $60,360
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 1,200
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -78.6%

Source: Thinkstock

35. Electrical and electronics installers and repairers, transportation equipment
> Median annual wage: $60,840
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 13,900
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +2.9%

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Source: Thinkstock

34. Locomotive engineers
> Median annual wage: $60,990
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 38,800
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -2.8%

Source: Thinkstock

33. Aircraft mechanics and service technicians
> Median annual wage: $61,020
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 132,000
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +4.9%

Source: wademcmillan / iStock

32. Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
> Median annual wage: $61,050
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 684,200
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +7.0%

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Source: Thinkstock

31. Insurance appraisers, auto damage
> Median annual wage: $62,100
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 17,600
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +4.9%

Source: Thinkstock

30. Chemical plant and system operators
> Median annual wage: $62,170
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 33,200
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -9.2%

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Source: Thinkstock

29. Boilermakers
> Median annual wage: $62,260
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 17,200
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +9.0%

Source: Thinkstock

28. First-line supervisors of correctional officers
> Median annual wage: $62,500
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 45,200
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -7.8%

Source: Thinkstock

27. Gas compressor and gas pumping station operators
> Median annual wage: $62,810
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 3,900
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +3.4%

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Source: Cineberg / Getty Images

26. First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
> Median annual wage: $64,070
> Typical on-the-job training needed: 5 years or more
> Total employment: 602,500
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +12.6%

Source: kali9 / Getty Images

25. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers
> Median annual wage: $64,780
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 462,200
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +7.1%

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Source: Thinkstock

24. Claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators
> Median annual wage: $64,900
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 311,100
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -1.4%

Source: Thinkstock

23. Subway and streetcar operators
> Median annual wage: $66,420
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 12,800
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +4.1%

Source: Thinkstock

22. Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers
> Median annual wage: $67,770
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 41,800
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +2.8%

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Source: Thinkstock

21. Signal and track switch repairers
> Median annual wage: $68,400
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 10,000
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +1.3%

Source: curraheeshutter / Getty Images

20. Gas plant operators
> Median annual wage: $69,030
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 17,300
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +0.0%

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Source: Shinyfamily / Getty Images

19. Electrical power-line installers and repairers
> Median annual wage: $69,380
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 120,900
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +13.9%

Source: valentinrussanov / Getty Images

18. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
> Median annual wage: $69,620
> Typical on-the-job training needed: 5 years or more
> Total employment: 1,028,700
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -0.8%

Source: MBPROJEKT_Maciej_Bledowski / iStock

17. Transit and railroad police
> Median annual wage: $70,280
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 4,900
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +6.3%

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Source: Thinkstock

16. Captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels
> Median annual wage: $70,920
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 38,800
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +8.8%

Source: Thinkstock

15. First-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers
> Median annual wage: $71,650
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 405,200
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +4.9%

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Source: Thinkstock

14. Transportation inspectors
> Median annual wage: $72,140
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 28,200
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +5.9%

Source: Thinkstock

13. Gaming managers
> Median annual wage: $72,930
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 4,500
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +2.5%

Source: Thinkstock

12. Ship engineers
> Median annual wage: $73,110
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 10,100
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +6.5%

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Source: Thinkstock

11. Postmasters and mail superintendents
> Median annual wage: $74,840
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 14,200
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -20.9%

Source: Thinkstock

10. First-line supervisors of fire fighting and prevention workers
> Median annual wage: $76,170
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 59,100
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +7.2%

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Source: Thinkstock

9. Power plant operators
> Median annual wage: $77,180
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 36,100
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +1.3%

Source: Thinkstock

8. Electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation, and relay
> Median annual wage: $78,410
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 23,400
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +3.7%

Source: Thinkstock

7. Commercial pilots
> Median annual wage: $78,740
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 40,800
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +3.8%

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Source: Thinkstock

6. Elevator installers and repairers
> Median annual wage: $79,480
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 22,100
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +12.1%

Source: Thinkstock

5. Detectives and criminal investigators
> Median annual wage: $79,970
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 110,900
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +4.5%

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Source: Thinkstock

4. Power distributors and dispatchers
> Median annual wage: $82,510
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 11,600
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -2.5%

Source: Thinkstock

3. First-line supervisors of police and detectives
> Median annual wage: $87,910
> Typical on-the-job training needed: Less than 5 years
> Total employment: 104,700
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +6.6%

Source: Thinkstock

2. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers
> Median annual wage: $92,460
> Typical on-the-job training needed: 5 years or more
> Total employment: 115,500
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +6.7%

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Source: Thinkstock

1. Nuclear power reactor operators
> Median annual wage: $93,370
> Typical on-the-job training needed: None
> Total employment: 7,000
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -10.2%

Detailed Findings

Many of the positions on this list require a body of knowledge not covered in the typical college curriculum. A textbook on how to carry out the duties and responsibilities of a police or fire chief, for example, would be a poor substitute for real-world experience gained on the job. In lieu of a bachelor’s degree, most police chief positions and other high-paying jobs in such non-academic fields require years of experience, training, and advancement through the ranks.

In high-paying professions for which there are no degree-granting programs associated with the discipline — gaming manager and commercial airline pilot, for example — there often is a professional association that offers an alternative form of credentialing. To work as a captain, mate, or pilot of a water vessel, candidates must have a license administered by the U.S. Coast Guard.

In some cases, the duration of the certification process is nearly as long as the four-year college experience. To apply for a nuclear power plant operator’s license, for example, candidates must have at least three years experience working in a power plant, and they must have spent at least six months at the plant in which they seek employment.

While not a formal requirement, employers in some fields may prefer candidates with some college experience. For example, college-level courses in electronics and electrical engineering may provide a beneficial foundation for on-the-job training in electrical repair positions. Approximately 41% of all police detectives and criminal investigators have taken some college courses without graduating.

While these higher-paying jobs do not require a college degree, like a great deal of blue collar work, these jobs appear to be disappearing. Of the 50 jobs on this list, 16 are projected to shrink between 2016 and 2026. All but nine of the 50 will either decrease in total employment or increase less than the national 7.4% growth rate over that period.

Methodology

To identify the highest paying jobs that do not require a college degree, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed annual median wage estimates for all occupations from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor. Wage data are from the May 2017 survey. The typical education needed to enter the 50 occupations listed — high school diploma or equivalent, no formal education credential, postsecondary nondegree award, and some college but no degree — came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014 Employment Projections program. The share of workers 25 and older that completed each major tier of education — no formal education through a doctoral or professional degree — also came from the BLS Employment Projection Program. Full- and part-time occupations are counted across all employment types, including federal, state, and local governments, as well as all private establishments. The Employment Projections program includes self-employed workers. The OES excludes self-employed workers.