Not all well-paying jobs require a college degree. There are a variety of meaningful and well-compensated roles for high school graduates of all ages, interests
and personality types. Below, we've included 18 of them — plus their median salaries according to Salary.com
and the training or other qualifications you'll need to get started. Next stop: A successful, fulfilling career.
1. Gas Plant Operator
What they do: Gas Plant Operators monitor, clean, maintain and control compressor, evaporator, scrubber, and refrigeration equipment within a gas plant.
Median salary: $101,396 (2020)
How to become one: Anyone with a high school diploma or its equivalent can apply to be a gas plant operator. However, a one to two year certification or degree from a vocational school can help your application stand out. Often, on-the-job training is required in this role.
2. Hearing Aid Specialist
What they do: Hearing Aid Specialists conduct and analyze hearing tests, then help patients select the best hearing aids for their condition.
Median salary: $83,800 (2020)
How to become one: Hearing Aid Specialists usually must do on-site training, pass a state's practical exam and obtain a license in order to work in their field. In some states, they may be required to undergo a training program at a community college or vocational school in order to apply for a license.
3. Air-Traffic Controller
What they do: Air-Traffic Controllers have the important job of monitoring and directing the movement of aircraft both in the sky and on the ground.
Median salary: $78,358 (2020)
How to become one:
You can become an Air-Traffic Controller with a High School diploma or it's equivalent in a few steps
. You'll need to attend an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) Program, complete a Federal Aviation Administration Training Program, then apply to your dream role!
4. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator
What they do: This role is of hearty importance — Nuclear Power Reactor Operators monitor and control nuclear reactors and affect how much electricity each generates.
Median salary: $74,479 (2020)
How to become one:
You must get a license to become a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator. You do this by meeting training and experience requirements (usually 18 months in a plant), passing a medical exam and passing an NRC licensing exam
5. Elevator Installer and Repairer
What they do: Elevator Installers and Repairers do exactly what you think: They put elevators in buildings and perform routine maintenance on the machinery.
Median salary: $73,565 (2020)
How to become one: For this role, you only need a high school diploma to apply. Most Installers complete a four-year apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are paid training opportunities that you receive by applying. Many states will also require licensure before you become a full-time, licensed Installer.
6. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
What they do: Sonographers like these use equipment to generate images that are used for diagnosing medical conditions. Most often, sonography is associated with pregnancy.
Median salary: $72,510 (2018)
How to become one: To become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, one usually earns an Associate's or Bachelor's degree, or completes a certification program then receives on-the-job training.
7. Food Service/Catering Manager
What they do: Food service managers are in charge of the daily operations of a restaurant or food service company, like a catering company or events space. They direct staff and often fulfill business functions, like administrative and basic accounting tasks.
Median salary: $72,343 (2020)
How to become one: To apply to food service management roles, one need only have a high school diploma and experience in the food service industry. Some applicants may receive additional training at a vocational school or community college.
8. Power Distributor and Dispatcher
What they do: Power Distributors and Dispatchers control electricity as it flows from generating stations to its users.
Median salary: $71,139 (2020)
How to become one: Anyone with a high school diploma can begin applying to these roles without taking additional steps. Usually, extensive on-the-job training comes after being hired.
9. Gaming Manager
What they do: As a Gaming Manager, you are responsible for managing the operations of a casino, including the supervision of floor employees, management of security procedures, customer service and other business functions.
Median salary: $70,100 (2020)
How to become one: Gaming managers usually start in an entry-level position on the casino floor. They complete a training program (often through their employer) and obtain a license. Then, they move up to a manager position after gaining experience and connections. Some people may obtain an Associate's or Bachelor's degree in Business or Management or another, more casino-specific program.
10. Executive Assistant
What they do:
An Executive Assistant
offers support to an organizational leader or group of leaders by managing office tasks, clerical duties and other support functions, like training staff.
Median salary: $68,616 (2020)
How to become one: Usually, anyone with a high school diploma or its equivalent can begin applying to Executive Assistant roles. Be sure to highlight your experience with administrative tasks, your collaboration skills and your attention to detail in your resume!
11. Sales Representative
What they do: Sales representatives sell products or services — anything from softwares to beach vacations — to their customers. They may make sales over the phone, at a store front or by visiting clients.
Median salary: $57,936 (2020)
How to become one: Technical sales representative roles may require a Bachelor's degree. However, for non-technical roles, a high school diploma is often enough to start applying. Some experience in Sales or in the industry you're hoping to be a Sales Representative in may be required or preferred by employers.
12. Media Equipment Worker
What they do: Media Equipment Workers install, maintain and repair audio or visual systems — either in private residences or commercially.
Median salary: $57,250 (2020)
How to become one: If you have a high school diploma, you can become a Media Equipment Worker by applying to roles and completing an on-the-job training. You can also learn the trade and start your own business.
13. Wind Turbine Technician
What they do: These Technicians perform routine maintenance on wind turbines, often by scaling them to inspect or repair equipment.
Median salary: $54,370 (2018)
How to become one:
Many wind turbine technicians complete certificates in wind energy technology at a trade school
or community college. Then, they apply for roles in their area.
14. Postal Service Mail Carrier
What they do: You guessed it! They deliver and collect the mail. Some drive cars, others walk and some do both.
Median salary: $54,189 (2020)
How to become one: Anyone who is over the age of 18 and has a high school diploma can apply to be a Postal Service Mail Carrier. They are often required to do a short training on the job.
15. Transportation Inspectors
What they do: Transportation Inspectors make sure a piece of transportation machinery is working correctly and adheres to regulations. They can work with anything from airplanes to commercial buses.
Median salary: $51,633 (2020)
How to become one:
Transportation Inspectors are required to have a high school diploma. To work with some employers — and to inspect some equipment — further education is necessary. The United States Department of Transportation offers programs and certificates
for various areas of interest that can bolster an application.
16. Claims Adjuster, Examiner and Investigator
What they do: These professionals evaluate insurance claims. They inspect property damage or other claims then decide whether an insurance company must pay and if so, how much.
Median salary: $46,851 (2020)
How to become one: For some Claims Adjuster, Examiner and Investigator roles, you may need a license or experience in the insurance industry. For others, you don't. Consider earning a certificate or degree in claims examining at a local college or vocational school to stand out and understand the licensure requirements in your state.
17. Real Estate Agent
What they do: Real Estate Agents facilitate real estate transactions, including the buying and selling of homes or commercial properties.
Median salary: $42,438 (2020)
How to become one:
Becoming a Real Estate Agent usually requires a few steps
: a short pre-licensing course, passing a the course's final exam, passing your state's examination, then applying for a license. Once licensed, many people who are new to the line of work join an established real estate business or brokerage.
18. Subway or Streetcar Operator
What they do: Subway or Streetcar Operators, well, operate subways or other suburban trains to transport customers.
Median salary: While the median salary is $39,100 in 2020, subway operators in larger cities tend to make much more. For example, the average MTA subway operator in New York City makes $81,000 a year.
How to become one: Operators are often asked to take an exam by their municipality or company after applying to their role of interest. They are often required to have a diploma, a valid driver's license and at least a year of work experience.