The 11 Highest-Paying Jobs Without a Degree
Working one of these high-paying jobs can put you on the road to success, even if you don’t have a college degree.
Contributing Writer at Tally
October 25, 2021
According to a report from the United States Census Bureau, 32.1% of Americans age 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree. While college can potentially be a great career step, it’s not for everyone.
If you’re one of the roughly two-thirds of Americans without a college degree, it’s still possible for you to make a great living and build generational wealth.
In this article, we provide a list of the 11 highest-paying jobs without a degree requirement. We also outline some of the other steps you can take to help increase your chances of success.
The 11 highest-paying jobs without a degree requirement
It is still possible to find a high-paying job even without a college education. Some of the jobs on this list might require going to a technical school or vocational school; some may require a postsecondary non-degree award (like an EMT certification); but for others, you can take an entry-level position, get on-the-job training and start gaining work experience right out of high school.
Here is a list of the 11 highest-paying jobs that do not carry a degree requirement. All job-growth figures reported below come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
You can likely gain an entry-level position with just a high school diploma, though you may eventually need to go to a fire academy for job training. You may also need to hold an EMT certification.
The median salary for firefighters is $52,500 per year. Expected job growth over the next 10 years is 8%.
As a commercial pilot, you may find yourself doing anything from transporting cargo to putting out wildfires. In addition to your high school diploma, you will also need a commercial pilot’s license.
The median annual salary is $130,440 per year. Expected job growth over the next 10 years is 13%, which is faster than average.
Power plant operator
Power plant operators make sure the plant runs smoothly and that power is provided where needed. You don’t need any additional credentials to work as a power plant systems operator, and you will learn a lot through in-role job training.
The median annual wages equate to $89,090 per year, but breaking into this role could be tough as these jobs are expected to reduce by 14% in the next 10 years.
Wind turbine technician
As the nation shifts to wind-based energy as a source of power, the need for wind turbine technicians will increase. You will likely need to earn a postsecondary non-degree award for this role.
The median salary is $56,230 per year, and the expected job growth over the next 10 years is 68%.
Air traffic controllers
If you live near an airport, you may want to consider becoming an air traffic controller — someone who directs air traffic.
There are a few different paths that you can take to become an air traffic controller. Perhaps the most direct is obtaining an associate or bachelor’s degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program.
However, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, it is possible to secure a job as an air traffic controller without a degree. The minimum work/education requirements for the role are “three years of progressively responsible work experience, or a bachelor’s degree, or a combination of post-secondary education and work experience that totals three years.”
Pay is lucrative with a median salary of $130,420 per year. The expected job growth rate is 4%.
As a claims adjuster, you will work for an insurance agency to investigate claims and other insurance situations. You’ll be doing a lot of investigating, so if you have a background in law enforcement, as a police officer, or as a criminal investigator, you may be well suited for this role.
The median pay is $68,130 per year. Jobs in this field are expected to decline by 3% in the next 10 years.
Makeup artists can earn a lot of money, especially in the theatrical or performance fields.
The median salary is $106,920 per year. Expected job growth over the next decade is also solid, with an anticipated 37% growth rate.
Transportation, storage and distribution managers
As a distributor, you play a critical role in the supply chain process, ensuring that products make it to their final destination on time.
The median salary is $96,390 per year. The BLS does not cite growth rate statistics for this role.
Elevator installations can be challenging, which is why companies are constantly on the lookout for qualified help. The job can be demanding as you may need to be on call to assist with repairs.
The median annual earnings are $88,540 per year, and the anticipated growth rate over the next 10 years is 6%.
Electrical power-line installers
Working as an electrician typically yields rather good pay, but working specifically as an electrical power-line installer could pay even more. In this role, you’ll install and maintain components of the power grid, and you’ll work with engineering technicians to diagnose problems.
The median pay is $68,030 per year. Job growth isn’t expected over the next 10 years, though the BLS projects 23,300 job openings per year due to turnover.
Real estate agents
As a real estate agent, you are responsible for brokering transactions. This could mean you handle not only the buying and selling of homes but renting properties as well.
The median salary is $51,220 per year, though you work largely on commissions. This means that you may have the power to earn more than your base salary, depending on the transactions you broker. Job growth is expected to be 4% over the next decade.
Other things you can do to ensure success
Planning a stable career can have long-term benefits. For instance, paying bills is much easier when you have a paycheck that you can depend on. This, in turn, could allow you to budget and put more money into savings or retirement. So, what does it take to ensure long-term success?
Figure out your long-term career goals
To be successful in your career, it’s important to have goals that you’re working toward. These should be a part of your long-term vision and plan.
While it’s good to take a job that pays well, also consider if it’s a job that you’ll want to be doing in 10, 20 or 30 years. If you’re happy and motivated by your work, it will show in your performance, and you will increase your chances of success.
Manage your finances and save money
A stable career provides a bit of financial flexibility. A steady income allows you to budget your finances and potentially save money.
Start by building a rainy day or emergency fund to help cover unexpected expenses that arise. Then, you can move toward saving for retirement and investing.
Stay out of debt
A steady income also allows you to be smarter about the debt you take on. For instance, maybe you only take on debt for your mortgage, but you do not take on high-interest credit card debt for everyday expenses.
High-interest credit card debt compounds. Once you start missing payments and your balance begins to grow, paying it off becomes more and more difficult. Controlling your debt will put you in an excellent position for long-term success.
Create a plan for success
Just because you don’t have a college degree, it doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. There are multiple jobs that pay well and don’t carry degree requirements.
Though it can be enticing to take a job strictly for the money, if you love your job, it will show in your performance. Strong job performance can lead to long-term job growth, earning you promotions and raises.
For long-term success, you also want to make sure your finances are in order. One way to do this is by managing your debt with Tally†. Tally is a credit card payoff app that can help you make on-time payments and pay down high-interest credit card debt.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.