Special Report

Highest-Paying Jobs That Don't Require A Bachelor’s Degree

Nastasic / E+ via Getty Images

It may often seem as though a college degree is a prerequisite for any career, and often it is. For generations, it has been hammered home that to get a good job, we need a college education, and although college existed as far back as the 17th century in the United States (Harvard was founded in 1636), it didn’t become something many people did until the 20th century. 

Higher education has long been seen as a practical step toward financial security and upward mobility in the United States, but more and more people are finding it unnecessary to earn a good wage. Yet, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics illustrates how a 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.

Part of this shift in attitude towards earning a college degree is partially attributed 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 payoff. (Here is a look at the 50 most expensive colleges in America.)

Even for those with a four-year degree, a high salary isn’t something guaranteed, and those who decide that university is not for them are not relegated to a life of low-paying careers. There are dozens of employment opportunities for those with an associate’s degree, trade school, or less that pay as much or more than most of the jobs available to college graduates. 

24/7 Wall St. identified the highest-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree by using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program. Occupations are ranked by their median annual wage in 2022. Jobs classified with an “all other” or “miscellaneous” designation were excluded from the 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

The annual median wages among the occupations listed here 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. 

Here are the highest-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

50. Stationary engineers and boiler operators

Source: Hefin Owen / Wikimedia Commons
  • 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

49. Railroad brake, signal, and switch operators and locomotive firers

Source: DSCimage / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

48. Computer network support specialists

Source: gorodenkoff / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

47. Railroad conductors and yardmasters

Source: Southern Drone Group / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

46. Commercial divers

Source: kjerulff / Getty Images
  • 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

45. Transit and railroad police

Source: JannHuizenga / Getty Images
  • 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

44. Insurance appraisers, auto damage

Source: bruceman / E+ via Getty Images
  • 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

Source: kansasscanner / Flickr
  • 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

42. Aircraft mechanics and service technicians

Source: gorodenkoff / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

41. Respiratory therapists

Source: Hispanolistic / E+ via Getty Images
  • 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

40. Funeral home managers

Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • 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

39. Claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators

Source: Tero Vesalainen / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

38. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers

Source: Panupong Piewkleng / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

37. Electrical and electronics installers and repairers, transportation equipment

Source: guruXOOX / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

36. First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers

Source: ilkercelik / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

35. Aerospace engineering and operations technologists and technicians

Source: scanrail / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

34. Locomotive engineers

Source: wellphoto / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

33. Avionics technicians

Source: Kateryna Kukota / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • 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

32. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers

Source: Mario Tama / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • 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

31. Gas plant operators

Source: curraheeshutter / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

30. Transportation inspectors

Source: eakgrunge / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

29. Magnetic resonance imaging technologists

Source: simonkr / E+ via Getty Images
  • 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

Source: nsuan / Flickr
  • 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

27. Gambling managers

Source: Lacheev / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

Source: mtaphotos / Flickr
  • 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

25. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Source: 7postman / Getty Images
  • 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

24. Dental hygienists

Source: panida wijitpanya / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

23. Electrical power-line installers and repairers

Source: Andrey Nikitin / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • 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

22. Chemical plant and system operators

Source: photovs / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

21. Postmasters and mail superintendents

Source: dhdezvalle / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

20. First-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers

Source: Jirapong Manustrong / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

19. Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers

Source: Art Wager / E+ via Getty Images
  • 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

18. Nuclear medicine technologists

Source: Mark Kostich / Getty Images
  • 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

17. Detectives and criminal investigators

Source: Motortion / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

16. Ship engineers

Source: Igor-Kardasov / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

15. Subway and streetcar operators

Source: Brianna Mancini / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • 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

14. Radiation therapists

Source: Mark Kostich / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

13. Power plant operators

Source: krblokhin / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

12. Electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation, and relay

Source: milehightraveler / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

11. Athletes and sports competitors

Source: RyanJLane / E+ via Getty Images
  • 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

10. Captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels

Source: powerofforever / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

9. First-line supervisors of police and detectives

Source: Adonis page / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • 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

8. Makeup artists, theatrical and performance

Source: Nastasic / E+ via Getty Images
  • 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

7. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers

Source: Paulo Costa / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

6. Elevator and escalator installers and repairers

Source: Stephen Maturen / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • 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

5. Nuclear technicians

Source: cofotoisme / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

4. Power distributors and dispatchers

Source: Photo by David McNew / Getty Images
  • 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

3. Commercial pilots

Source: AlexeyPetrov / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

2. Nuclear power reactor operators

Source: SteveAllenPhoto / iStock via Getty Images
  • 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

1. Air traffic controllers

Source: Comstock / Stockbyte via Getty Images
  • 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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