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31 Highest-Paying Jobs That Don’t Require College Degrees
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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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Think you need a bachelor’s degree to land an important, high-paying job? Think again. There are many exciting and lucrative roles in a variety of different fields that don’t require a four-year degree. The opportunities are out there, as long as you know where to look. In some cases, these jobs even pay six-figure salaries!

To that end, here is a list of some the highest-paying jobs you can get without having a bachelor’s degree.

31 Highest-Paying Jobs Without a Degree

(Note that an associate’s degree is recommended or required for some of these positions. Positions are listed in alphabetical order. Median annual salary and projected job growth data are based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries are averages and can vary significantly due to factors such as experience, location, and many others.)

1. Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician

Median annual salary (2017): $67,240

Education required: associate’s degree or vocational/technical education

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 7%

These professionals generally work in manufacturing plants operating equipment for aircraft and spacecraft. 

2. Air Traffic Controller

Median annual salary (2017): $124,540

Education required: associate’s degree

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 3%

Air traffic controllers are instrumental in getting aircraft off the ground, guiding them through the air and facilitating smooth landings. 

3. Claims Adjuster, Examiner, and Investigator

Median annual salary: $64,690

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: -1%

People in this field evaluate and review insurance claims using investigative processes to determine whether an insurance company should pay.

4. Commercial Pilot

Median annual salary (2017): $78,740

Education required: associate’s degree and commercial pilot’s license

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 4%

Commercial pilots navigate aircraft or helicopters on air carrier routes. (Not to be confused with airline pilots.)

5. Computer Programmer

Median annual salary (2017): $82,240

Education required: certificate or associate’s degree

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: NA

Using their knowledge of computer languages, computer programmers write code for computer programs and apps. 

6. Computer Support Technician or Specialist

Median annual salary (2017): $52,810

Education required: associate degree or coursework

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 11%

In this fast-growing field, specialists assist employees or networks with computer needs, issues, and troubleshooting.

7. Costume Attendant

Median annual salary (2017): $42,620

Education required: none

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: NA

This profession involves selecting and fitting costumes for stage and screen performers.

8. Database Administrator

Median annual salary (2017): $87,020

Education required: associate’s degree (some employers prefer bachelor’s, but experience can compensate)

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 11%

Database administrators or managers organize and ensure the security of company data.

9. Dental Hygienist

Median annual salary (2017): $74,070

Education required: associate’s degree

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 20%

Taking x-rays, cleaning teeth, preparing the room for dentists, and more are just some of the tasks on a dental hygenist’s to-do list.

10. Elevator Installer and Repairer

Median annual salary: $79,480

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 12%

These professionals work with the equipment necessary for elevators, maintaining, installing, and repairing it as necessary.

11. Farmer, Rancher, or Agricultural Manager

Median annual salary (2017): $69,620

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: -1%

People in this occupation work with a variety of farms, ranches, nurseries, greenhouses, and other agricultural domains, managing the operations.

12. Food Service Manager/Catering Manager

Median annual salary (2017): $52,030

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 9%

Food service managers ensure that restaurant operations run smoothly, overseeing and managing staff.

13. Funeral Service Manager

Median annual salary (2017): $78,040

Education required: associate’s degree

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: NA

The responsibilities for funeral services managers include pricing funeral services and equipment and overseeing funeral homes.

14. Gaming Manager

Median annual salary (2017): $72,930

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: NA

Gaming managers work in casinos, planning and facilitating gaming operations and sometimes setting house rules.

15. Gas Plant Operator

Median annual salary (2017): $69,030

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: NA

Gas plant operators control compressors to maintain pressures on pipelines to facilitate the distribution of gas for utility companies.

16. Law Enforcement Detective

Median annual salary (2017): $62,960

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 7%

Protecting and defending citizens, law enforcement detectives investigate crimes or potential crimes and collect evidence.

17. Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Median annual alary (2017): $75,660

Education required: associate’s degree

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 10%

Working in hospitals, clinics, or other medical settings, nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radioactive drugs to patients undergoing imaging scans. 

18. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator / Power Plant Operator, Distributor, or Dispatcher

Median annual salary (2017): $80,440

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: -1%

Professionals in this field perform a variety of tasks including controlling nuclear reactors, starting, stopping, monitoring, and adjusting equipment, implementing emergency measures as needed, and more.

19. Pharmacy Technician

Median annual salary (2017): $31,750

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 12%

Working in pharmacies, hospitals, private practices, and other medical settings, pharmacy technicians work with pharmacists, helping them distribute medications to patients and other medical professionals.

20. Physical Therapist Assistant or Aide

Median annual salary (2017): $46,920

Education required: associate’s degree

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 30%

After injuries, physical therapist assistants or aides help patients recover, regain movement as necessary, and manage their pain.

21. Postmaster and Mail Superintendent

Median annual salary (2017): $74,840

Education required: none

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: NA

These professionals plan many types of support services for the United States Post Office, as well as manage and coordinate the duties of postal workers.

22. Real Estate Agent or Broker

Median annual salary (2017): $47,880

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 6%

Real estate agents and brokers market and sell homes based on their knowledge of real estate market conditions.

23. Power Plant Operator

Median annual salary (2017): $80,440

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: -1%

Professionals in this field control the systems and equipment that generate electric power.

24. Radiation Therapist

Median annual salary (2017):$80,570

Education required: associate’s degree

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 13%

Treating cancer and other illnesses, radiation therapists administer, monitor, and observe patients’ radiation treatments and sessions.

25. Service Delivery Analyst

Median annual salary (Glassdoor 2018): $62,456

Education required: associate’s degree

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 

Service delivery analysts evaluate how services are delivered, use software to track user experiences, and identify areas of potential improvement.

26. Respiratory Therapist

Median annual salary (2017): $59,710

Education required: associate’s degree

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 23%

Professionals with this job care for patients who have difficulty breathing due to conditions such as asthma, premature delivery (in infants), and injury.

27. Ship Engineer

Median annual salary (2017): $73,110

Education required: associate’s degree or coursework

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: NA

Ship engineers facilitate the activities of and supervise the crew who operate ship equipment, such as engines and deck machinery.

28. Signal and Track Switch Repairer

Median annual salary (2017): $68,400

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: NA

Signal and track switch repairers work with the equipment in a railroad system, installing, inspecting, and maintaining systems.

29. Transit and Railroad Police

Median annual salary (2017): $70,280

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: NA

Police officers in this capacity protect property, personnel, and passengers of the transit system. 

30. Transportation Vehicle Inspector

Median annual salary (2017): $72,140

Education required: high school diploma or the equivalent / GED

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: NA

Transportation vehicle inspectors evaluate and monitor the performance of a wide range of vehicles.

31. Website Developer

Median annual salary (2017): $67,990

Education required: associate’s degree (in some cases a high school diploma will suffice)

Project job growth between 2016 and 2026: 15%

This fast-growing, in-demand field involves designing and building websites for clients, including both individuals and businesses.

Where to Find Jobs That Don’t Require Four-Year Degrees

So, where do you find jobs that don’t require four-year degrees? As with jobs that do require a bachelor’s, you will need to use a combination of methods to identify opportunities. Some steps include:

• Discover your talents

Where do your strengths lie? Spend some time evaluating your own passions and considering what you want to do and accomplish in your career. Ask friends, family, former teachers, and others who know you well about your strongest attributes and talents as well. If you are having trouble finding a focus, considering take a career aptitude test to help you better understand which careers are best for you.

• Do your research

Once you have narrowed down your field, look into the requirements needed to find a job suitable for you. While the jobs above don’t require bachelor’s degrees, some do ask for an associate’s degree as a prerequisite. Employers might also want you to have certifications or coursework before beginning the job.

• Gain certifications or attend classes

If the occupation you want requires certifications, look into how you can earn them. Many community colleges or local institutions offer the courses and exams you’ll need, and there are also online options. Even if a certification is not required but could be helpful for the work, it is a good idea to earn it, because it will give you a leg up in the hiring process.

• Volunteer

One way to gain experience in a field is by volunteering. You could identify potential connections and even job prospects this way, as well as learn about the industry and work.

• Network

Every job candidate must network. Start by talking to people you already know. This can lead to other connections; you never know who might know someone who knows someone. Attend general networking events or ones specific to your field. Message potential and established connections on LinkedIn. Ultimately, it’s important to get the word out that you want to do X, and the more people who know, the more who can help you.

• Search on job sites

Job search sites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and, of course, Fairygodboss can help you find plenty of opportunities. Spend some time searching these sites and creating job alerts to let you know about opportunities in your industry

• Gain experience

It’s a bit of a Catch-22, but gaining work experience will make you more marketable for future opportunities. Once you get your foot in the door, make the most of the position by working hard, learning, asking questions, and establishing connections with colleagues. Doing so can lead to other, potentially higher-paying jobs down the road. 

Get in front of recruiters with a Professional Profile on FGB.

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