Special Report

Highest-Paying Jobs You Can Get Without a Bachelor’s Degree

simonkr / E+ via Getty Images

A college education has long been seen as a practical step toward financial security and upward mobility in the United States – and for good reason. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical full-time worker with a bachelor’s degree earns about 68% more than the typical worker with no more than a high school diploma. 

But despite the clear financial upside, a growing number of Americans are questioning the value of a four-year postsecondary education. A recent Gallup poll found that only 36% of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher education, down from 57% in 2015. Undergraduate enrollment in the U.S. has also been falling steadily, from 18.1 million in 2010, to 15.4 million in 2021. 

Changing attitudes towards college are partially attributable to rising costs. Adjusting for inflation, average annual tuition and fees at a four-year private college climbed from just over $10,000 in the early 1970s to nearly $33,000 in 2020. For many high school graduates, the amount of debt they would need to take on to earn a degree is not worth the potential pay off. (Here is a look at the 50 most expensive colleges in America.)

Still, those who forgo a college education are not necessarily limited to a career in low-wage jobs. There are dozens of employment opportunities for those with an associate’s degree or less that pay as much or more than most of the jobs available to college graduates. 

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program, 24/7 Wall St. identified the highest paying jobs you can get without a bachelor’s degree. Occupations are ranked by their median annual wage in 2022. Jobs classified with an “all other” or “miscellaneous” designation were excluded from analysis. (Note that the median wage is the middle amount, halfway between the lowest and highest wage offered for each job. For the average wage, calculated by adding all the wages offered for each job and dividing by the number of different wages, see the 40 highest-paying jobs you can get without a college degree.) 

Here are the highest-paying jobs you can get without a bachelor’s degree.

Among the 50 occupations on this list, annual median wages range from just over $67,000 to well over $100,000. Just over half of these jobs typically have no formal educational requirements beyond high school – though many prefer candidates with years of related work experience. 

50. Stationary engineers and boiler operators
> Median annual wage, 2022: $67,120
> Total employment, 2022: 31,470
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Long-term on-the-job training

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Source: DSCimage / iStock via Getty Images

49. Railroad brake, signal, and switch operators and locomotive firers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $67,540
> Total employment, 2022: 14,210
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: gorodenkoff / iStock via Getty Images

48. Computer network support specialists
> Median annual wage, 2022: $68,050
> Total employment, 2022: 168,920
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: Southern Drone Group / iStock via Getty Images

47. Railroad conductors and yardmasters
> Median annual wage, 2022: $68,180
> Total employment, 2022: 40,940
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

 

Source: kjerulff / Getty Images

46. Commercial divers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $68,300
> Total employment, 2022: 3,860
> Typical education needed for entry: Postsecondary nondegree award
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: JannHuizenga / Getty Images

45. Transit and railroad police
> Median annual wage, 2022: $69,150
> Total employment, 2022: 3,370
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

 

Source: bruceman / E+ via Getty Images

44. Insurance appraisers, auto damage
> Median annual wage, 2022: $69,380
> Total employment, 2022: 11,430
> Typical education needed for entry: Postsecondary nondegree award
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

43. Fire inspectors and investigators
> Median annual wage, 2022: $69,450
> Total employment, 2022: 14,510
> Typical education needed for entry: Postsecondary nondegree award
> Work experience in related occupation needed: 5 years or more
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: gorodenkoff / iStock via Getty Images

42. Aircraft mechanics and service technicians
> Median annual wage, 2022: $70,010
> Total employment, 2022: 134,070
> Typical education needed for entry: Postsecondary nondegree award
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: None

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Source: Hispanolistic / E+ via Getty Images

41. Respiratory therapists
> Median annual wage, 2022: $70,540
> Total employment, 2022: 129,910
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images News via Getty Images

40. Funeral home managers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $72,110
> Total employment, 2022: 13,680
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: Tero Vesalainen / iStock via Getty Images

39. Claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators
> Median annual wage, 2022: $72,230
> Total employment, 2022: 285,270
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Long-term on-the-job training

Source: Panupong Piewkleng / iStock via Getty Images

38. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $73,140
> Total employment, 2022: 559,050
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: guruXOOX / iStock via Getty Images

37. Electrical and electronics installers and repairers, transportation equipment
> Median annual wage, 2022: $73,630
> Total employment, 2022: 8,530
> Typical education needed for entry: Postsecondary nondegree award
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Long-term on-the-job training

Source: ilkercelik / iStock via Getty Images

36. First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $74,080
> Total employment, 2022: 720,900
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: 5 years or more
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: scanrail / iStock via Getty Images

35. Aerospace engineering and operations technologists and technicians
> Median annual wage, 2022: $74,410
> Total employment, 2022: 9,750
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: wellphoto / iStock via Getty Images

34. Locomotive engineers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $74,570
> Total employment, 2022: 36,440
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: Kateryna Kukota / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

33. Avionics technicians
> Median annual wage, 2022: $75,450
> Total employment, 2022: 20,200
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: Mario Tama / Getty Images News via Getty Images

32. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $75,760
> Total employment, 2022: 6,250
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: 5 years or more
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: curraheeshutter / iStock via Getty Images

31. Gas plant operators
> Median annual wage, 2022: $79,460
> Total employment, 2022: 14,290
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Long-term on-the-job training

Source: eakgrunge / iStock via Getty Images

30. Transportation inspectors
> Median annual wage, 2022: $79,570
> Total employment, 2022: 24,420
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: simonkr / E+ via Getty Images

29. Magnetic resonance imaging technologists
> Median annual wage, 2022: $80,090
> Total employment, 2022: 38,380
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: None

28. First-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $80,150
> Total employment, 2022: 84,040
> Typical education needed for entry: Postsecondary nondegree award
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: Lacheev / iStock via Getty Images

27. Gambling managers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $80,710
> Total employment, 2022: 4,800
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: None

26. Signal and track switch repairers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $81,300
> Total employment, 2022: 6,880
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: 7postman / Getty Images

25. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $81,350
> Total employment, 2022: 81,080
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: panida wijitpanya / iStock via Getty Images

24. Dental hygienists
> Median annual wage, 2022: $81,400
> Total employment, 2022: 214,700
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: Andrey Nikitin / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

23. Electrical power-line installers and repairers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $82,340
> Total employment, 2022: 119,510
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Long-term on-the-job training

Source: photovs / iStock via Getty Images

22. Chemical plant and system operators
> Median annual wage, 2022: $82,670
> Total employment, 2022: 18,710
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: dhdezvalle / iStock via Getty Images

21. Postmasters and mail superintendents
> Median annual wage, 2022: $82,760
> Total employment, 2022: 13,460
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: Jirapong Manustrong / iStock via Getty Images

20. First-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $82,850
> Total employment, 2022: 237,520
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: Art Wager / E+ via Getty Images

19. Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $85,090
> Total employment, 2022: 31,360
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: Mark Kostich / Getty Images

18. Nuclear medicine technologists
> Median annual wage, 2022: $85,300
> Total employment, 2022: 16,910
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: Motortion / iStock via Getty Images

17. Detectives and criminal investigators
> Median annual wage, 2022: $86,280
> Total employment, 2022: 107,400
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: Igor-Kardasov / iStock via Getty Images

16. Ship engineers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $87,300
> Total employment, 2022: 8,650
> Typical education needed for entry: Postsecondary nondegree award
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: Brianna Mancini / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

15. Subway and streetcar operators
> Median annual wage, 2022: $88,260
> Total employment, 2022: 9,120
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: Mark Kostich / iStock via Getty Images

14. Radiation therapists
> Median annual wage, 2022: $89,530
> Total employment, 2022: 15,510
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: krblokhin / iStock via Getty Images

13. Power plant operators
> Median annual wage, 2022: $93,060
> Total employment, 2022: 31,590
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Long-term on-the-job training

Source: milehightraveler / iStock via Getty Images

12. Electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation, and relay
> Median annual wage, 2022: $93,720
> Total employment, 2022: 25,440
> Typical education needed for entry: Postsecondary nondegree award
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: RyanJLane / E+ via Getty Images

11. Athletes and sports competitors
> Median annual wage, 2022: $94,270
> Total employment, 2022: 11,930
> Typical education needed for entry: No formal educational credential
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Long-term on-the-job training

Source: powerofforever / iStock via Getty Images

10. Captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels
> Median annual wage, 2022: $95,210
> Total employment, 2022: 34,940
> Typical education needed for entry: Postsecondary nondegree award
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: Adonis page / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

9. First-line supervisors of police and detectives
> Median annual wage, 2022: $96,290
> Total employment, 2022: 131,860
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: Less than 5 years
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: Nastasic / E+ via Getty Images

8. Makeup artists, theatrical and performance
> Median annual wage, 2022: $96,370
> Total employment, 2022: 2,970
> Typical education needed for entry: Postsecondary nondegree award
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: Paulo Costa / iStock via Getty Images

7. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $98,560
> Total employment, 2022: 169,910
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: 5 years or more
> Typical additional training needed: None

Source: Stephen Maturen / Getty Images News via Getty Images

6. Elevator and escalator installers and repairers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $99,000
> Total employment, 2022: 24,380
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Apprenticeship

Source: cofotoisme / iStock via Getty Images

5. Nuclear technicians
> Median annual wage, 2022: $100,420
> Total employment, 2022: 5,880
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: Photo by David McNew / Getty Images

4. Power distributors and dispatchers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $101,650
> Total employment, 2022: 9,380
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Long-term on-the-job training

Source: AlexeyPetrov / iStock via Getty Images

3. Commercial pilots
> Median annual wage, 2022: $103,910
> Total employment, 2022: 48,750
> Typical education needed for entry: Postsecondary nondegree award
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: SteveAllenPhoto / iStock via Getty Images

2. Nuclear power reactor operators
> Median annual wage, 2022: $115,870
> Total employment, 2022: 5,450
> Typical education needed for entry: High school diploma or equivalent
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Long-term on-the-job training

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Source: Comstock / Stockbyte via Getty Images

1. Air traffic controllers
> Median annual wage, 2022: $132,250
> Total employment, 2022: 21,250
> Typical education needed for entry: Associate’s degree
> Work experience in related occupation needed: None
> Typical additional training needed: Long-term on-the-job training

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