11 High-Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree

woman on a computer

There are plenty of high-paying jobs that don’t require a degree. | iStock.com/Rawpixel Ltd

When did humans become cattle? We’re herded down the same path, through the same funnel of fences, to the same final destination with no real opinion in the matter. When it comes to a career and life after school, it can often feel like we’re on autopilot, running the same course as everyone else: first high school, then college, then full-time employment.

In fall 2016, 20.5 million students attended college, while only 7.2 million attended two-year institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. With student-loan debt as high as it is — Americans owe over 1.3 trillion — and unemployment rates still fluctuating, many are choosing to go against the grain even as mom and dad push for a college degree.

It’s often said those without bachelor’s degrees will have a hard time finding employment, but that’s simply not true for every industry. With the help of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we’ve created a list of jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree to break into the field. Better yet, each of these positions comes with an average annual salary of $70,000 or more. Read on to see whether your dream job makes the list. We’ve also included tips on where to find job openings.

11. Postmasters

woman signing receipt of delivered package

Postmasters do not need college degrees. | iStock.com/comzeal

  • Median annual wage (2015): $70,640
  • Education required: High school diploma
  • Work experience: Less than five years
  • On-the-job training: Moderate

Postmasters and mail superintendents support all management and administrative aspects of their assigned post office. Their annual wage is quite respectable, but it might require a move as the highest salaries are in major metropolitan areas. States with the highest concentration of jobs include Alaska, Vermont, and Montana.

Where to find employment: Almost all employment opportunities are gained through the United States Postal Service. Begin your search on its careers page, and follow the company on popular job boards, such as Indeed or CareerBuilder, for up-to-date information.

10. Transportation inspectors

Jacobite steam train traveling across a viaduct in Scotland

Train moves along the tracks. | iStock.com

  • Median annual wage (2015): $70,820
  • Education required: High school diploma
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: Moderate

Transportation inspectors cover a range of job titles, including rail inspectors and freight inspectors. The typical inspector makes around $70,000, but those in the 90th percentile earn annual wages upwards of $115,000. Considering the location of most rail lines, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the majority of these workers reside in Delaware, Wyoming, and Montana.

Where to find employment: Most transportation inspector job openings are with state transportation departments.

9. Funeral service managers

men shaking hands

Funeral managers make decent wages. | AMC

  • Median annual wage (2015): $70,890
  • Education required: Associate’s degree
  • Work experience: Less than five years
  • On-the-job training: None

Funeral service managers direct the pricing and services for funeral homes. Those who fall within the 90th percentile earn upwards of $142,000 annually for their services. Although they are not morticians, undertakers, or funeral directors, their job still requires management skills and a professional demeanor in a sometimes morbid industry. But, on the bright side, the cycle of life tells us these workers will never run out of a job.

Where to find employment: Most manager positions are with private funeral companies near your location. Online job boards will be your best resource for openings in this field.

8. Dental hygienists

Dentist repairs tooth of his female patient

Hygienists make over $70,000 annually. | iStock.com/LuckyBusiness

  • Median annual wage (2015): $72,330
  • Education required: Associate’s degree
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: None

We might try to avoid seeing you more than once a year, but don’t let that stop you from considering the dental hygienist career path. The job outlook for hygienists is expected to increase a massive 19% by 2024 as research continues to support the importance of oral health. You’ll need a knack for small talk, as you’ll be the one in the colorful scrubs cleaning, examining, and educating patients on dental care. All states require hygienists to have a license.

Where to find employment: There are many job boards dedicated to dental hygienists. The best place to begin your job hunt will be websites, including iHireDental, the American Dental Hygienists Association, and Dental Post.

7. Commercial pilots

pilot sitting on a plane

Pilots only need a high school diploma to begin their careers. | David McNew/Getty Images

  • Median annual wage (2015): $76,150
  • Education required: High school diploma
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: Moderate

Commercial pilots fly aircraft for trips, including charter flights, rescue operations, carrier routes, and aerial photography. On the other hand, airline pilots transport people and cargo. Many children dream about becoming a pilot one day. That should make their parents quite happy, considering the average wage and ample opportunities for advancement. Commercial pilots can begin their careers with a high school diploma, while airline pilots typically need a bachelor’s degree. However, all paid pilots must have at least a commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration and an Airline Transport Pilot certificate.

Where to find employment: In addition to common job boards, there are other boards dedicated to pilot positions only. The Pilot Career Center website is a perfect resource for pilot listings.

6. Detectives

inspector gadget

Inspector Gadget didn’t need a college degree to do his job. | Netflix

  • Median annual wage (2015): $77,210
  • Education required: High school diploma
  • Work experience: Less than five years
  • On-the-job training: Moderate

Our addiction to crime TV shows might have glorified detective work, but the hours are demanding and the work is dangerous. Detectives and criminal investigators have one of the highest injury rates of all occupations, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. To work as a detective, you must be older than 21 and complete a training academy before working through a period of on-the-job training. The top-paying locations are Washington, D.C., Alaska, and New Jersey.

Where to find employment: You’ll find most employment opportunities listed on official county government websites or specific city police pages.

5. Radiation therapist

Doctor Strange

Health care is a stable industry for those without a bachelor’s degree. | Marvel Studios

  • Median annual wage (2015): $80,220
  • Education required: Associate’s degree
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: None

Those looking for job stability should look no further than the growing health care industry. Radiation therapists administer radiation that treats cancer and other diseases. Most work in hospitals or physicians’ offices. California, New Jersey, and Oregon are the states that pay the highest. Radiation therapists must be licensed in most states through a national certification exam.

Where to find employment: You’ll find open positions on LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster, but another avenue worth exploration would be medical recruiting agencies in your area.

4. Elevator installers

Woman in uniform repairing something with screwdriver

The job outlook for elevator installers is going up. | iStock.com/shironosov

  • Median annual wage (2015): $80,870
  • Education required: High school diploma
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: Apprenticeship

As the name suggests, elevator installers work — you guessed it — to install and repair elevators, escalators, and moving stairways. No claustrophobia allowed here because these workers are expected to climb into tight spaces in order to get to the root of the issue. The job outlook is a bright one. It’s expected to rise 13% faster than the national average by 2024. And only 35 states require a license.

Where to find employment: Many installers are hired through the union apprenticeship program. For more information on apprenticeships, visit the Department of Labor, or browse the International Union of Elevator Constructors.

3. First-line supervisors of police/detectives

true detective

Monitoring detectives is hard work, but the salaries are worth it. | HBO

  • Median annual wage (2015): $82,090
  • Education required: High school diploma
  • Work experience: Less than five years
  • On-the-job training: Moderate

As a first-line supervisor for police and detectives, you’ll actively direct members of the police force. The majority of employment opportunities are with the local government, but those who join the state or federal forces can make upwards of $117,000 annually. California is the top-paying state for front-line supervisors, advertising an annual wage of $132,240.

Where to find employment: Similar to detective work, the best place for open supervisor roles would be on the official city and county websites in your area of choice.

2. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers

man works in warehouse

Transportation managers make a hefty salary. | John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

  • Median annual wage (2015): $86,630
  • Education required: High school diploma
  • Work experience: Five years or more
  • On-the-job training: None

Transportation managers oversee and direct distribution activities, much like a logistics manager would do. These employees can work in almost any industry, but the most common are company enterprises, federal government, and rail transportation. It’s not unusual for those employees to earn six-figure salaries. To be successful in this field, you will need a considerable amount of related work experience. Prior knowledge supervising, managing, or training others will certainly provide you a leg up.

Where to find employment: Because this type of work is common across all industries, many private companies and public enterprises will advertise open positions on popular online job boards. This will be the best place to start your search.

1. Air traffic controller

airport

Air traffic controllers make six-figure salaries. | iStock.com

  • Median annual wage (2015): $122,950
  • Education required: Associate’s degree
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: Long-term

Air traffic controllers work in control towers, approach control facilities, or route centers to coordinate the movement of aircraft and ensure they remain at safe distances. Night, weekend, and rotating shifts are common. Those in the 75th percentile can make about $150,000, and those in the 90th percentile can earn an annual salary of about $172,000. However, their work can be stressful and requires full concentration at all times.

Where to find employment: Not only is the Federal Aviation Administration loaded with facts about certification requirements and training opportunities, but it also lists an abundance of air traffic controller positions.

Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.

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