5 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a High School Education

Source: Erika Rawes

Have you ever played The Game of Life? This board game, which has been around for generations, teaches players the difference in pay between “college careers” and careers that do not require a college education at a very young age. At the beginning of the game, you have the option to either borrow $100,000 (at 25% interest) from the bank to attend college, or immediately start your career.

If you choose the college path, you are able to choose from a pool of higher-paying college careers like doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, or accountant, which pay between $40,000 and $100,000 each payday. If you’re lucky, you end up with doctor or lawyer, which are the two highest-paying career cards. Without college, the highest-paying career card you can pick is the athlete card; the lowest is the salesperson card, in which you’d end up with a payday of anywhere between $20,000 and $60,000.

Mathematically, it is nearly impossible for someone with a “hair stylist” career card to win the game against another player with the “doctor” card. After 17 or so paydays throughout the game, the doctor has received $1.7 million in income, compared to the hairstylist’s $510,000.

On the other hand, a player could go to college and unluckily choose the “teacher” career card (which only pays $40,000), just as a player who skips college could get lucky and choose the “athlete” card, which pays $60,000. College greatly increases your likelihood of winning the game, but it does not guarantee it.

Although Life is only a fictional representation, it does portray realistic concepts. According to the Pew Research Center, the median 2012 earnings of college degree holders between the ages of 25 and 32 are $45,500, compared to only $28,000 for high school graduates in this age group. Over a lifetime, a typical degree holder earns at least $800,000 more than someone without a degree.

So you have a better chance of earning a higher salary with a college degree than you do without it. But that does not mean those without a college degree cannot find high-paying jobs. There are still a variety of careers out there that you can obtain with a only high school education. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In 2012, about one-third of jobs were in occupations that typically require postsecondary education for entry.” Forty percent of jobs were in positions that require a high school diploma or equivalent, and 26% were in positions that require less than a high school education.

Using a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, coupled with supplemental labor statistics data, we’ve ranked a few of the careers you can obtain with only a high school education, in order of their annual salaries.

1. Elevator installers and repairers

Source: Thinkstock

  • Description: These workers install, repair, or fix elevators, escalators, or other lifts.
  • Average annual pay: $76,220
  • 2012 to 2022 growth: 25% (above average)
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Training: Workers generally learn this trade through a five-year apprenticeship program. Each year, the apprentice has at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training.

2. Executive secretaries and administrative assistants

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  • Description: These workers perform clerical and administrative duties. They schedule appointments, draft emails and documents, and organize paperwork.
  • Average annual pay: $51,870
  • 2012 to 2022 growth: 12% (about average)
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Training: Some secretaries and administrative assistants learn their skills through short-term on-the-job training. Others receive career training from an offsite location, like a temporary placement agency. Although some secretary positions are entry-level, executive secretaries are usually required to have years of work-related experience. Executive secretaries and assistants may start off working in lower-level positions, which pay around $30,000 to $35,000, and then move up to a higher-paying, executive-level assistant position.

3. Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons

Source: iStock

  • Description: These workers use bricks, blocks, or other natural and manmade materials to build fences, walkways, and other structures.
  • Average annual pay: $50,700
  • 2012 to 2022 growth: 34% (above average)
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Training: Generally, brickmasons learn their trade through a three- to four-year apprenticeship. According to the BLS: “For each year of the program, apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Apprentices learn construction basics such as blueprint reading; mathematics, including measurement, volume, and mixing proportions; building code requirements; and safety and first-aid practices.”

4. Occupational health and safety technicians

Source: Thinkstock

  • Description: These technicians collect data on health and safety conditions in the workplace. The data are generally handed over to safety specialists for analysis. The technician may work alongside the safety specialist to conduct various safety tests, measure hazards, etc.
  • Average annual pay: $50,390
  • 2012 to 2022 growth: 11% (about average)
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Training: Most technicians receive on-the-job training. Some technicians gain experience by taking on tasks related to this occupation, like volunteering to assist with annual inspections.

5. Gaming supervisors

Source: Thinkstock

  • Description: Gaming supervisors ensure the casino runs smoothly. They make rounds around the casino floor to make sure each area is properly staffed and everyone is acting in accordance with casino policies and practices.
  • Average annual pay: $48,940
  • 2012 to 2022 growth: 8% (below average)
  • Minimum education: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Training: States and casinos have varying requirements. Gaming supervisors generally must be licensed.

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