Many high-paying jobs don't require a college degree; you only need a high school diploma to start working in some of these well-paying positions. Many of these jobs even pay more than $100,000 or more per year including roles in security, management, IT, and more.
The Best High Paying Jobs Without a Degree
This list is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ average annual income data. And you can realistically earn more than $100k per year doing these jobs. Some may require more investment on your part, but it is possible.
1. Air Traffic Controller
Average annual salary: $129,750
Air traffic controllers are responsible for the safe and efficient movement of aircraft. They work in air traffic control towers, approach control facilities, or route centers.
While a high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement, most air traffic controllers complete an FAA-approved training program. They must also pass a series of tests administered by the FAA.
In addition to a high salary, air traffic controllers enjoy job security and receive benefits such as paid leave, health insurance, and retirement plans.
The job can be stressful, requiring controllers to make split-second decisions. They also work in high-pressure environments and are subject to strict regulations.
2. Construction Site Manager
Average annual salary: $103,000
Construction managers plan, direct, coordinate, and oversee the activities of workers on the site to ensure they adhere to safety regulations.
A high school diploma is a minimum requirement, but some employers may prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in construction management or a related field. Construction managers must also have several years of experience working in the construction industry.
As a non-degree holder, you may have to start as a low-level construction worker, but you can quickly advance to a management position with the skills and experience you pick up on the job. Many youngsters also eventually become general contractors.
Construction managers often work long hours and may be required to work on weekends. They also work in hazardous conditions and risk being injured on the job.
3. Web Developer
Average annual salary: $107,000
Web developers create and maintain websites and are responsible for the design, layout, and content. They also create and implement web-based applications.
Some web developers are self-employed, while others work for companies specializing in web development or organizations with an in-house web development team.
Benefits of this job include flexible working hours, the ability to work from home, and high earnings potential. However, web developers may work long hours to meet deadlines and may also have to deal with demanding clients.
4. Commercial Diver
Average annual salary: $67,100
Commercial divers work on construction projects, inspect bridges and pipelines, and conduct research underwater. They may also get jobs in the oil and gas or film and television industries.
You can get a job as a commercial diver without a college degree, but you will need to complete a commercial diving program and hold a professional diving certification. You also have to improve your swimming skills significantly.
The job is financially rewarding but also physically demanding and dangerous. Commercial divers work in difficult and often hazardous conditions.
The highest-paying commercial diving careers are saturation diving, off-shore diving, nuclear diving, and HAZMAT diving. You can easily earn $100k+ in these fields.
5. Power Plant Operator
Average annual salary: $94,790
Power plant operators are responsible for controlling and maintaining the machinery that generates electricity. They monitor the plant's equipment to ensure it operates safely and efficiently.
Power plant operators typically need a high school diploma or equivalent, although some jobs may require additional training or experience. Operator positions are usually filled by promotion from within the company, so you may have to start in a lower-level position and work your way up.
Power plant operators work long hours, and although they work shifts, it is not unusual to work overtime. They also have to deal with hazardous conditions.
6. Elevator Installer and Repairer
Average annual salary: $97,860
Elevator installers and repairers install, maintain, and repair elevators and escalators. They work in various settings, including office buildings, residential complexes, and hospitals.
You can become an elevator installer or repairer without a college degree, but you must complete an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships typically last four years; during this time, you will receive on-the-job training and classroom instruction.
Once you have completed your apprenticeship, you can become a journeyman elevator installer or repairer. Journeymen elevator installers and repairers typically earn high wages and have good job security. However, the job can be physically demanding and dangerous.
7. Wind Turbine Service Technician
Average annual salary: $56,260
Wind turbine service technicians install, maintain, and repair wind turbines. They work on off-shore platforms and onshore farms.
This job requires a willingness to learn in a technical school and get on-the-job training. The job is hazardous, and there's a chance of being injured while working on high structures. Despite the risk, the wind energy industry has a commendable safety record.
This job offers high earnings potential, considering the low entry requirements. And as the demand for renewable energy increases, the demand for wind turbine service technicians is also expected to grow.
With additional certifications in workplace electrical safety, tower climbing, and self-rescue, you can easily get job placements and higher pay.
8. Solar Energy Systems Installer
Average annual salary: $50,830
Solar energy system installers, also known as photovoltaic installers, are responsible for installing and maintaining solar panel systems. They typically work on homes and businesses but may also work on utility-scale projects.
Most solar energy system installers have a high school diploma or equivalent. You will have to take some courses to learn about solar energy theory and installation techniques, but much of the training is on the job.
This job is physically demanding, as you often work outdoors in all weather conditions. However, it can be rewarding, and you get to help people save money on their energy bills and reduce environmental pollution.
To be among the highest-paid solar systems installers, you might want to get further training and consistently deliver better quality work.
9. Police Officer
Average annual salary: $66,020
Police officers protect and serve the public. They patrol assigned beats, respond to 911 calls, and investigate crimes. They may also work in specialized units, such as undercover operations, K9 units, or SWAT teams.
To become a police officer, you must be at least 21 at the time of appointment and have a high school diploma or equivalent. You will also need to complete a police academy training program. Once you complete the academy, you will have to complete on-the-job training.
Police work can be dangerous and stressful, but it is also one of the most rewarding and fulfilling careers. You can help people in your community and make a difference.
The only way to grow your salary as an officer is to advance in rank; the higher you go, the more you earn. Focus on doing a great job, and the department will recognize you sooner or later for promotions, and soon you'd be earning $100k per year.
Average annual salary: $50,700
Firefighters combat and extinguish fires. They also respond to emergencies, such as medical calls and car accidents. Firefighters typically work 24-hour shifts.
Before you're allowed to function as a firefighter, you must complete fire academy training and earn certification as a firefighter. Some firefighters may also choose to get certified as emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
Like some of the jobs on this list, it is risky, but with proper training and grit, you should be able to handle it.
Also, you can earn more than $100k annually by taking advantage of your off-days. You can take up side jobs like being an instructor or an emergency technician with your skills.
11. Aircraft Mechanic and Service Technician
Average annual salary: $65,550
Aircraft mechanics and service technicians inspect, maintain, and repair aircraft. They work on both private and commercial planes.
Aircraft mechanics and service technicians have a high school diploma or equivalent. They also complete a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificate program or learn through training in the military.
As a service technician, you must be able to work in confined spaces, such as the inside of an aircraft fuselage. A good understanding of mechanical and electrical systems is a plus.
Earning more money as an aircraft mechanic is relatively easy; go for more courses and get certified to work on higher-tier airplanes. These qualifications will give you access to these planes and a bigger paycheck.
Average annual salary: $60,120
Boilermakers construct, install, maintain, and repair boilers and other large vessels. They also work on pressure vessels, such as tanks and reactors. Boilermakers are physically strong because they lift heavy objects and work in awkward positions.
A high school diploma is sufficient for this role, but you also have to learn through apprenticeship programs, which typically last four years. However, if you want to increase your earning potential to $100k+, you will have to get additional training.
Employers who pay big bucks need to know you can handle complex projects and deliver great work. You may also want to move to a new city because Boilermaker salaries can vary by city.
Average annual salary: $59,880
Plumbers install, repair, and maintain pipes and fixtures, such as sinks, toilets, and water heaters. They also work on drain systems and sewer lines. Wherever there are pipes and fixtures, there is a need for plumbers.
You will go through an apprenticeship program for this role, which takes four to five years to complete. You may also attend a vocational school to earn a certificate or diploma in plumbing.
Plumbers often work in cramped spaces and uncomfortable positions; if you're claustrophobic or fear heights, this job may not be for you.
You will have to network and expand your customer base to earn six figures as a plumber. Also, improve your technical skills so big establishments will have confidence in hiring you for massive projects.
Average annual salary: $60,040
Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical systems and work on the wiring in buildings and other structures.
Not having a bachelor's degree won't stop you from being an electrician; you only need a high school qualification or equivalent. You may also want to back that up with technical training, but that's optional. You should know, however, that most states issue licenses for electricians.
If you want this job, you should understand electrical theory and be familiar with the National Electrical Code.
Being an electrician, like most jobs on this list, allows you to do side jobs and even pass your knowledge to aspiring electricians. Your ability to handle more tasks and instruct paying students (among other things) can earn you a six-figure salary yearly.
15. Real Estate Broker
Average annual salary: $62,010
Real estate brokers buy, sell, and rent properties on behalf of their clients. They also help people find the perfect home or investment property.
Most states require real estate brokers to have a high school diploma or equivalent, complete some real estate courses and pass a state-administered exam.
To be successful in this career, you need to be good at networking and building relationships. You must also be comfortable working long hours, as your clients often want to see properties outside regular business hours.
Typically, the more houses you can sell, the more money you make. Work on closing deals faster by building quality relationships and going above and beyond for your clients.
16. Gambling Manager
Average annual salary: $89,190
Gambling managers oversee the operations of casinos and other gambling establishments. They ensure that all the games are fair and that the customers are happy.
Most gambling managers have a high school diploma or equivalent, and many have a college degree in business administration or a related field. Gambling managers also have several years of experience working in the casino industry.
As a gambling manager, you have to make quick decisions, handle large amounts of money, and manage people.
Gambling managers generally earn good money, but you can consider other casinos or game houses willing to pay more for your services if you want to earn more. You can also organize and manage private games for wealthy people.
17. Head Chef
Average annual salary: $50,160
Head chefs are responsible for the kitchen staff and the overall operation of the kitchen. They develop menus, order supplies, and oversee food preparation.
While many head chefs have a college degree in culinary arts, it is not required. Head chefs learn through experience, working their way up the kitchen ranks.
To be a successful head chef, you must have excellent leadership and organizational skills. You should also handle stress well and have a passion for food.
As a head chef, expertise and experience count if you want to earn the big bucks. So, keep working on your skills and look out for better opportunities. You can also do private catering for parties, weddings, anniversaries, etc.
18. Athletes and Sports Competitors
Average annual salary: $77,300
Athletes and sports competitors participate in organized, competitive sports. They may compete individually or as part of a team.
There is no formal education requirement for athletes and sports competitors, but you must have talent and a significant understanding of the sport. This learning may come through personal or academy training, which may take years.
Keep in mind that athletes are physically fit and maintain their focus in high-pressure situations. They are also available for their teams throughout sporting events or seasons.
Athletes are generally paid well, but if you want to be among the highest paid, you must deliver results. When you do, your value will increase, and teams will be willing to splash the cash to either keep you or sign you.
Average annual salary: $61,980
Radiographers use x-ray machines and other imaging equipment to create diagnostic images of a patient's bones and tissues.
To become a radiographer, you need an associate's degree in radiography or a related field. You must also pass an exam by the state or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Radiographers are detail-oriented and have excellent communication skills. Also, Ensure you have the patience and compassion to work with injured or sick patients who may be in pain.
You can turn this into a job that pays $100k by getting more certifications and gaining experience in the field.
20. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator
Average annual salary: $94,350
Nuclear power reactor operators are responsible for the safe and efficient operation of nuclear reactors. They monitor equipment and make sure that all safety procedures are followed.
Nuclear power reactor operators must meet specific training and experience requirements set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is also crucial to pass a medical exam.
As a nuclear power reactor operator, you must make quick decisions and stay calm in high-pressure situations. And you must renew the training certifications, medicals, and licenses to continue in this role.
You can land a great job without spending four years (and a lot of money) in college. With the right skills and training, you can start your career in a high-paying field without setting foot in a college classroom.
While a college degree may not be a requirement for these jobs, it is always a good idea to further your education and learn as much as possible. With the ever-changing workforce landscape, it is crucial to be adaptable and open to new opportunities.
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Andrew is the founder of Wealthy Nickel where he writes about all things personal finance. He has a passion for helping people pursue financial freedom through saving money, making money, and building wealth. Andrew documents his family’s journey to financial independence through side hustles while raising 2 kids on a single income