Special Report

Highest Paying Jobs You Can Get Without a College Degree

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5. Commercial pilots
> Median annual wage: $82,240
> Total employment: 37,870
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +3.8%

Flying a plane requires expertise and experience. Commercial pilots must be certified before they can take to the skies. Most commercial pilots make over $82,000 per year, but some earn much more. The position’s average (as opposed to median) annual wage is $96,530 — the second highest average among all jobs that do not require a college education.

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4. Power distributors and dispatchers
> Median annual wage: $86,410
> Total employment: 11,620
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -2.5%

Power distributors coordinate and regulate the energy generated from electricity or steam sources. Powering the country is an important job, and these workers are well compensated, with most pulling in over $86,000 a year. As power plants and devices both become more efficient, automated, and advanced, the number of distributors and dispatchers needed to manage and regulate power distribution will likely shrink. The BLS projects the number of total power distributors and dispatchers will decline 2.5% by 2026 from 2016.

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3. First-line supervisors of police and detectives
> Median annual wage: $89,030
> Total employment: 116,660
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +6.6%

First-line supervisors of police and detectives are commonly known as sergeants or captains in the police department. Like the detectives they supervise, these law enforcement professionals do not need a college degree, but they have to complete the police academy training and gain experience solving crimes on the job. Most of these supervisors make over $89,000 annually, well more than double the median annual wage for all jobs.

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2. Nuclear power reactor operators
> Median annual wage: $94,350
> Total employment: 6,280
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): -10.2%

Nuclear power reactor operators are not required to have an advanced physics or engineering degrees — or any degree for that matter. They are, however, required to obtain certification that they are competent. Most people in this career earn over $94,000 per year, but the jobs are becoming much less common. About half of Americans oppose nuclear power usage in the United States, and about 10% of reactor operator jobs that existed in 2016 are projected to be gone by 2026.

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1. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers
> Median annual wage: $94,730
> Total employment: 124,810
> Employment growth projection (2016-2026): +6.7%

Of all the jobs that one can reasonably expect to get without a college degree, transportation, storage, and distribution managers are generally paid the best. These managers, often employed by trucking companies, ensure their employer’s goods are shipped and stored in the fastest, cheapest, and most efficient way. The median annual wage for this job is $94,730, as compared to the $38,640 median wage for all jobs. Nearly 125,000 Americans work in this field, and the BLS projects a 6.7% job growth from 2016 to 2026 in this field, nearly in line with projected growth for all jobs of 7.4%.

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