College can be an excellent next step to help you land a high-paying career. But college isn't for everyone, and as the cost of tuition and the average student loan debt continue to rise, many students find themselves looking in another direction.
The good news is that you don't necessarily need a degree to land a high-paying career. There are plenty of non-degree jobs that pay well more than the national average salary, and you may even find yourself earning six figures. Keep reading to learn the top 10 high-paying jobs without a degree.
|Position||Average salary||Job growth rate|
|Transportation, storage, and distribution manager||$105,100||4%|
|Nuclear power reactor operator||$104,470||-16%|
|First-line supervisor of police and detectives||$97,180||5%|
|Power distributor and dispatcher||$93,260||-8%|
|Detective and criminal investigator||$89,300||1%|
|Elevator installer and repairer||$86,200||7%|
|First-line supervisor of firefighting and prevention workers||$83,170||6%|
|Electrical and electronics repairer, powerhouse, substation, and relay||$83,150||-1%|
|Insurance claims adjuster and appraiser||$70,650||-6%|
Pilots are known to have lucrative careers, so you might be surprised to learn you don't need a college degree to enter this aviation career. On average, commercial pilots earn a salary of $110,830, and the field is expected to grow at an impressive 9% over the next decade.
Commercial pilots fly cargo to and from and provide aviation tours.
To become a commercial pilot, you'll have to earn a commercial pilot's license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). You'll also need to earn certification from an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME), which can cost up to $200.
While that might sound simple, it requires significant training—think flight instructors, airplane rentals, and more. Between that and the license itself, expect to pay more than $30,000 upfront. If you have access to a plane or know a flight instructor who'll take you on for cheap, there are ways to cut your costs.
While it's not cheap to get the training required to become a commercial pilot, there are ways to help cover your costs. First, the highest cost you'll pay is for flight rentals for your pilot training. Looking for older and more affordable planes can help reduce your costs.
Another way to reduce your costs is to join a flight club, giving you discounted training rates. Finally, you can apply for scholarships to cover your flight training costs.
Transportation, storage, and distribution managers earn an average annual salary of more than $105,000. The job doesn't require a college degree to get started (though you may first need some experience in a lower-level position in the field). This makes it one of the most lucrative jobs available to non-degree holders. You'll plan, direct, and coordinate your firm's transportation, storage, and distribution activities in this job.
There's no upfront education or training required to become a transportation, storage, and distribution manager. All of your training happens on the job, meaning there are no upfront costs.
Nuclear power reactor operators can earn more than $100,000 per year, all without a college degree. While the field isn't growing, it still offers salaries well above average. In this job, you'll find yourself controlling nuclear reactors with responsibilities such as controlling rods, monitoring reactors, and responding to abnormalities.
There's not much education required to get a job as a nuclear power reactor operator, meaning your costs will be minimal. In most cases, a high school diploma will be sufficient to land an on-site training job. If you want to appeal more to a hiring manager, you might want to complete a vocational program, but it isn't required.
You can expect to spend a few years working as a trainee to become fully qualified.
Other than that, you'll have to complete the licensing exam from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which may require a fee.
Supervising and coordinating the activities of a police force doesn't require a degree. In this job, you'll directly supervise or oversee police officers and detectives on the force. You can earn a median salary of $92,970. The field is expected to grow by about 5% over the next decade.
Because you only need a high-school diploma to become a supervisor of police and detectives, there are no major costs associated with it. Instead, most of your training will happen on the job in your years on the force.
A power plant distributor or dispatcher job doesn't require a college degree, making it an excellent choice if you have a knack for science and math. In this job, you'll control the flow of electricity, monitor and operate converters, and detect and respond to emergencies. You'll usually work with a plant operator. Distributors and dispatchers earn an average salary of more than $93,000.
There are minimal costs required to become a power distributor and dispatcher. There are years of training required, but it happens on the job, so you can start working right away.
Detectives and criminal investigators work for local police forces. But instead of being patrol cops, they work to investigate serious crimes, gather facts and evidence, conduct interviews, and more. Detectives often specialize in a particular type of crime, such as fraud or homicide. You can expect to earn an average salary of about $89,000 as a detective.
Becoming a detective or criminal investigator doesn't require a college degree, and there's no paid training required. Instead, you train for the job by going through your agency's police academy and climbing the ranks, starting as a police officer.
Becoming an elevator installer and repairer requires only a high school diploma, yet you can earn an impressive $86,200 per year. In this job, you'll work to install, maintain, and fix elevators and escalators, usually working for building equipment contractors.
Becoming an elevator installer and repairer requires only a high school diploma, meaning no costs are required to start. The training usually involves a four-year apprenticeship program, but a union, industry association, or employer usually sponsors it. Your state may require you to get licensed, which may require a small annual fee.
As a first-line supervisor of firefighting and prevention workers, it's your job to directly supervise and coordinate the activities of those who fight and control fires. The average salary for this job is $83,170, and the field is growing faster than most.
No college degree is required to become a supervisor of firefighting and prevention workers. In most cases, training will happen on the job.
Electrical and electronics repairers work to install or repair electrical equipment, often in telecommunications, utilities, transportation, and more. There are many types of electrical and electronics repairer jobs, and the most lucrative is for powerhouse, substation, and relay, where you can earn an average salary of $83,150.
To become an electrical and electronics repairer, you won't need a high school degree. However, you may need to attend a technical or trade school. Though the cost will depend on the school you attend, trade school can cost as much as $33,000 or as little as $3,000. You'll also have to go through on-the-job training, but at no extra cost to you.
There are plenty of organizations that offer scholarships specifically designed for students attending a technical or trade school. Additionally, many schools are eligible for federal student aid.
When you think of jobs that don't require a degree, you typically think of blue-collar jobs. So you might be surprised to learn that this fairly lucrative insurance industry job doesn't require a college degree.
As an insurance claims adjuster and appraiser, you work for an insurance company to investigate and evaluate insurance claims and decide whether the company should pay. Professionals in this job can earn an average salary of $70,650.
Because you don't need a college degree to become an insurance claims adjuster or appraiser, the costs associated are minimal. Your training will primarily happen on the job, and you'll work under a more experienced adjuster or appraiser to learn. While some states may require licensing for this role, most don't.
As the cost of college continues to rise, more students may find themselves looking to start careers that don't require costly degrees. And while average earnings may be lower for those with only a high school diploma, there are still plenty of high-paying jobs that don't require a degree.
"Generally, people with more education have higher wages than those with less education," says Elka Torpey, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a career outlook paper report she wrote. "But you don't always need a bachelor's degree to land a high-paying job."
Before you begin applying for jobs, consider what field you might like to go into. While it's possible to find a high-paying job without a degree, you'll probably have the highest earning potential if you choose a particular career path and commit to it.
Next, decide what type of training you might be willing to go through to start your career. While the jobs in this article don't require a degree, some require certificates or training programs, especially if you want to be one of the highest earners in the field.
"Formal education after high school doesn't always involve earning a degree," Torpey wrote. "For some occupations, workers typically need postsecondary education that leads to a certificate or other award, but that does not lead to a degree. The length of these postsecondary non-degree programs varies from a few weeks to 2 years."
Finally, look for ways to dip your toe into the field before finding your first job. Examples could include networking with people currently in the field or applying for relevant internships.
Need more help with finding a high-paying job without a degree? Here are a few resources to help you get started:High-Wage Occupations by Typical Entry-Level Education Vocational Training: A Guide to Non-Degree Education Hot Careers Requiring a Two-Year Degree or Less
Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.
You're about to search for degree programs related to a career that you are researching. It's important to recognize that a degree may be required for a career or increase your chances of employment but it is not a guarantee of employment when you complete your degree.
I understand a degree DOES NOT GUARANTEE A JOB OR CAREER UPON COMPLETION OF A PROGRAM
It’s time to pave the way to your dream career. Use Lantern, a career and education platform, to get the resources you need to succeed. Discover how Lantern can help you
Light up your future using Lantern, an all-in-one resource that guides you through the complex process of getting to your new career, and everything that comes with it.Create a free lantern account
Lantern, an all-in-one education and career resource, is passionate about bringing light to what you need to accomplish your career and educational goals, from helping you find your dream job to managing your funding.Create your lantern account