In this article, we’ve listed the top 25 highest paying jobs without a degree. There are some interesting positions you may have never heard of before, some that you’ve dreamed of since childhood but thought it was out of your reach, and others that you may have overlooked as practical careers.
While some require just a high school diploma, others may require on-site training, apprenticeships, certificates, or state licensing.
What You May Not Know
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a college degree to have a successful career. Many employers and companies look for skills, experience, and knowledge in the field, while others require specific training or apprenticeship programs. You may not even realize how many high paying jobs don’t require degrees.
Reasons To NOT Get A Degree
Many Americans, unfortunately, cannot afford a college education. Moreover, colleges and universities have been getting steadily more expensive — leaving many young graduates with exorbitant student loan debt before they can get their careers off the ground.
If the high cost of college is holding you back from pursuing a degree and a successful career, consider the more affordable options that are available online. University of the People is a tuition-free online university whose aim is to make college education affordable for everyone. Whether you’re looking to get a degree in Business Administration, Computer Science, Health Science, or Education, University of the People makes it possible to earn your degree without going into debt. In addition, it’s completely online, so students can live anywhere in the world and continue working or raising families while you earn your degree.
It’s Not Always Necessary
Also contrary to popular belief, you do not always need a degree to have a successful career. Many young adults earn their bachelor’s thinking that it is the only way to land a good job. But it’s far from the truth. In this list you’ll see many high paying jobs that require as little as a high school diploma.
If any job on this list may be your dream job, no need to waste years and money on a degree that you don’t need. Instead, work your way toward the career that suits you best.
25 Highest Paying Jobs You Can Get Without A Degree
All median salaries are calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor.
1. Transportation, Storage, And Distribution Manager
- Median salary: $94,530
This high paying role includes the ultimate time-management skills needed to oversee and allocate the shipping of merchandise for companies. They coordinate, plan, and manage all the transportation needed to distribute products. This position does not require any degree — just experience in a related field.
2. First-Line Supervisors Of Police And Detectives
- Median salary: $89,030
Also known as patrol sergeants, police captains, or police sergeants, these important people in the law enforcement crew manage, supervise, and coordinate the activities of the police force. As a police sergeant, your job will be to make sure that all police procedures and activities are going according to the law. This position requires just a high school diploma, or the equivalent, and lots of on-the-job training.
3. Power Distributors And Dispatchers
- Median salary: $85,960
These system operators control the flow of electricity from power plant generating stations to substations and users. They monitor transmission and distribution lines and resolve issues and transmission failures. Applicants will need on-site training and experience. In addition, any work done on power plants that affect the power grid will require specific certification.
4. Commercial Pilot
- Median salary: $78,740
Commercial pilots fly non-scheduled flights such as charter flights, private planes, and aerial tours. A commercial pilot license is earned through flight training schools or by FAA-certified trainers.
5. Detective Or Criminal Investigator
- Median salary: $83,170
Here’s another childhood dream that you can achieve, even without a degree. Detectives and criminal investigators collect evidence and information for criminal cases. They examine records, conduct interviews, keep track of suspect activities and participate in arrests. In order to become a detective or criminal investigator, it is not always necessary to have a degree, but a background in forensics or criminal investigations will be a plus.
6. Powerhouse, Substation, Snd Relay Electrical Repairer
- Median salary: $80,200
These workers, otherwise known as powerhouse electricians, inspect, maintain, and fix all machinery involved in power-generating stations. Most will start off their careers as electricians in order to get into the field.
7. Elevator Installer And Repairer
- Median salary: $84,990
This position includes installing, maintaining, and fixing elevators, as well as escalators, moving walkways, chair lifts, and other sorts of machinery. Apprenticeship programs offered by unions, industry associations, and individual contractors will give potential workers the knowledge and experience to work in this complex field.
8. Power Plant Operators
- Median salary: $79,610
Power plant operators maintain and operate machinery in power plants that generate electricity and distribute power between generators. They control the voltage levels throughout the day as consumer needs fluctuate. Similar to power distributors and dispatchers, operators will need on-site training and experience in order to work in the field.
9. Media And Communication Equipment Worker
- Median salary: $79,700
One way to get your foot in the door of show business is to become an equipment worker. If you’re good with electronics and enjoy working in a fast-paced environment, media and communication equipment workers are needed to install and repair audio and visual electronics and systems in the film industry, as well as businesses and homes. Experience in electrical installation and repairs will be a plus, but you can also receive on-site training.
10. Theater Makeup Artist
- Median salary: $75,730
If you’ve got a creative touch, and would love working in the entertainment industry, this job might be the perfect fit for you. Theater makeup artists need a postsecondary non-degree certificate in order to get into the field, which will provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge and land your first job in the field.
Photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash
11. Patrol Officer
- Median salary: $67,600
This protect-and-serve profession includes patrolling communities and responding to incident reports. As a patrol officer, you can also expect a good deal of work involving writing reports and updating records. Long hours and injuries may be a part of the job as well, but despite this, you probably never expected as a kid that you could be just like your heroes without a degree. Some form of training academy will be necessary for the job, varying according to your country and state. A physical exam/test will also be required.
12. Fire Inspector And Supervisor
- Median salary: $60,200 – $76,330
An extension of the fire-fighting position, fire inspectors determine how fires began and who may be responsible. Fire-fighting supervisors manage the fire department in order to prevent fires and keep the community safe. Both positions require on-the-job training and experience.
13. Aircraft Mechanic
- Median salary: $67,110
Aircraft mechanics maintain and repair aircrafts, much like auto mechanics take care of the maintenance and repair of cars. The position requires a special certificate that is recognized by the FAA.
14. Executive Assistant
- Median salary: $62,920
Executive assistants are a crucial part of any successful office or company. Their tasks include managing schedules, coordinating meetings, taking messages, analyzing documents, preparing reports, and more. If you have an eye for details and organization, and like managing a workspace with lots of moving parts, the executive assistant role may be right for you.
The best way to land this job is to gain plenty of experience. Employers will be looking for skills in management, organization, writing, time management, and communication and people skills.
15. Sales Representative
- Median salary: $63,000
Sales representatives, or manufacturers’ representatives or agents, sell products or services to businesses, government agencies, and other such organizations, as opposed to selling straight to consumers. Sales representatives are expected to have a way with people and the ability to travel, as you will need to attend trade shows and conferences. Additional administrative tasks may include filing expense accounts and analyzing sale statistics.
Most positions do not depend on degrees, but rather experience and skill. To get ahead in this field, you may want to take extra courses that focus on marketing, sales techniques, economics, or communication. Some companies may require training programs which take you through the offices and production plants to learn about the product.
- Median salary: $56,180
An electrician takes care of designing or installing and fixing electrical devices from lighting systems, intercom systems, to electrical and power systems of homes and businesses. The work is intricate and complex, and many find it to be a satisfying challenge. A state-certified apprenticeship program is usually required to learn the trade and the necessary safety involved.
Photo by Anton Dmitriev on Unsplash
17. Structural Iron And Steel Worker
- Median salary: $53,650
Iron and steel workers create the structures for buildings and bridges by installing the beams. Since the work can often be dangerous, apprenticeship programs that teach basic math, sketching, and of course plenty of practical hours on the job, is crucial.
18. Hearing Aid Specialist
- Median salary: $55,650
A hearing aid specialist tests the hearing loss of an individual and determines the best hearing aid for their needs. In addition, they take care of maintenance, fitting, and adjusting of the hearing aids for their clients. Getting the necessary licensing may include a mixture of on-the-job training and a distance learning course.
19. Brick And Block Masons
- Median salary: $56,470
Brickmasons and blockmasons create the structure and brick facades of houses and buildings. Their work requires following building instructions for walls, cutting stones to size, and mixing and applying cement and mortar. Skills are acquired through on-the-job-training and apprenticeship programs.
20. Insurance Sales Agent
- Median salary: $50,940
Insurance sale agents sell all kinds of insurance from auto and home insurance, to life and health insurance. They may also sell things like property damage policies and employee or product liability. Insurance is regulated by the state and therefore insurance sales agents will need to complete continuing education in order to earn and maintain their licenses.
- Median salary: $50,850
These heroes respond to all kinds of emergencies including fires, floods, and accidents in order to save and assist people in danger, which means that firefighters have extensive knowledge of emergency management, and must be licensed as a paramedic as part of their training. In order to become a firefighter, you’ll need to apply to the fire academy of a specific fire department.
22. Real Estate Agent
- Median salary: $50,730
Real estate agents buy, sell, and rent properties for their clients. This requires an understanding of the property markets in each area that you’re working in, as well as an understanding of the area itself, so that you can advise your clients on anything from reasonable prices to the right time to buy or sell a property. A real estate agent also works as the go-between for sellers and buyers by bringing people to the various properties and negotiating prices.
To become a real estate agent, you’ll need to complete coursework in a classroom or online, according to your state, pass your state’s licensing exam, and possibly work under a real estate broker to get some experience before you work independently.
23. Sheet Metal Worker
- Median salary: $50,400
Sheet metal workers assemble, fix, and weld a large range of metal equipment such as heating, cooling and ventilating systems, as well as architectural and structural metal work. They may also work on smaller scales such as countertops and vent hoods for ovens in homes. Sheet metal workers tend to be more technical in comparison to metal jobs in construction work.
Sheet metal workers need many skills, such as good hand-eye coordination, math, and problem solving skills. Apprenticeship programs provide prospective workers with the right knowledge and experience.
Photo by Pavel Chernonogov from Pexels
24. Equipment Operator
- Median salary: $48,160
Equipment operators help build and maintain large structures such as buildings, roads, and bridges that make up the city’s infrastructure. They operate the heavy machinery needed to steer graders, direct asphalt, roll out roads, and much more. Depending on your state’s licensing, you can either attend vocational schools that offer the necessary courses or join an apprenticeship program.
- Median salary: $48,420
Choreographers create and coordinate dance routines for anything from theme parks and casinos to television and Broadway, as well as teaching roles in dance schools. Most choreographers start as dancers and mentor or apprentice under choreographers in order to learn the ropes.
To Wrap Up
Many amazing careers don’t require any college degree. We hope you’ve found something that sparks your interest in this list of highest paying jobs without a degree. If not, hopefully you’ve come away inspired by all the options that don’t require a day of college.
Many careers require specific skills that aren’t acquired through college but experience, mentorship, on-site training, or apprenticeship and licensing programs.