Special Report

The Highest Paying Jobs You Can Get Without A College Degree

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20. Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers
> Avg. annual wage: $77,610
> Total employment: 40,480
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): -0.5%

Petroleum pump system operator ranks as one of the 20 top paying jobs for people without college degrees. Monitoring and directing the operations of petroleum pump systems pays an average annual wage of $77,610, and the job typically requires prospective workers to have no more than a high school diploma and moderate on-the-job training.

Overall employment in the U.S. is projected to increase by 3.7% from 2019 to 2029. The number of petroleum pump system operators, however, is going to dip by 0.5%, according to BLS projections.

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19. Postmasters and mail superintendents
> Avg. annual wage: $79,660
> Total employment: 13,880
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): -21.6%

Postmasters and mail superintendents oversee operations at U.S. post offices. These workers earn an average of nearly $80,000 per year, well above the average annual wage of $56,310 for all workers.

Physical mail has steadily been replaced by online correspondence, while other delivery companies such as UPS and FedEx are now providing many of the same services . In addition, the USPS is facing a major budget crunch due to significant budget cuts and burdensome legislation. These factors largely explain why the number of postmasters and mail superintendents is projected to drop by 21.6% from 2019 to 2029.

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18. Ship engineers
> Avg. annual wage: $81,110
> Total employment: 7,480
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +0.0%

Ship engineers are responsible for coordinating the activities of the ship’s crew and maintaining the ship’s engines and other machinery. It is one of just 18 jobs that pay an average annual wage of over $80,000 without requiring a college degree.

Though the job does not require a college degree, it stands out from most other jobs on this list because prospective workers typically need to get a mariner’s license from the Coast Guard before they are considered for a job as an engineer.

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17. Transportation inspectors
> Avg. annual wage: $81,320
> Total employment: 27,360
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +2.3%

Transportation inspectors are responsible for inspecting vehicles and transported cargo, including on trains and in trucks. These inspectors earn an average annual wage of $81,320 — $25,000 higher than the average annual wage across all jobs in America.

Transportation inspectors are most commonly employed by the government, either at the local or federal level. However, private rail transportation and auto repair businesses also employ thousands of these inspectors.

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16. Real estate brokers
> Avg. annual wage: $81,630
> Total employment: 44,610
> Projected employment change (2019-2029): +2.6%

Real estate brokers oversee real estate transactions, sell and rent property, and arrange loans. They earn an average of $81,630 per year. Though the average is high, particularly among jobs that don’t require college degrees, the median is much lower, at $60,370. This indicates that a small percentage of real estate brokers earn very high wages.

Most real estate brokers work on commission, meaning they take a percentage of the sale price — usually around 6% to split between any agents or brokers involved in the deal. Brokers working in areas with expensive real estate can therefore earn very high wages, skewing the average salary higher.