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Top 20 Highest Paying Jobs Without a Degree

Jobs without a degree

Successful industry professionals don’t work in mysterious ways to earn their good fortunes.

They do not always work in traditional ways to accomplish their goals, either.  From high school on, there is often pressure to pursue higher education, get the bachelor’s, the master’s or doctorate degree that leads directly to that top-salary career.  American culture thrives on this idea, and quite a few markets do require associate or bachelor degrees for entry-level positions.  However, this doesn’t meet the mark for everyone, and can halt individuals from pursuing perfectly accessible, essential work. 

The time, energy, and cost of degrees does not have to obstruct a successful, lucrative professional path.  Though statistics show that higher education permeates a higher pay-grade, the numbers do not delineate that earning a degree is the right choice for everyone.  An undergraduate degree can take up to four years to complete and cost thousands of dollars, putting most students in debt.  Thankfully, there are plenty of other opportunities for those seeking to enter the workforce sans-bachelor’s.

While this article will highlight the top careers without a degree requirement, it will also compliment GetEducated’s mission to inform consumers about alternative methods of education, often offered online, designed for working adults, and provide information on other options to increase career success in a competitive marketplace.

Read on to learn more about the top 20 highest paying jobs without a degree requirement.

Alternative Routes of Education

Certificates 

Certification can both accompany a degree and stand on its own as a valuable career asset.  The world of certification is more diverse than that of academic degrees.  Most are designed for specific career goals, some are organization-endorsed certifications, many certificates carry academic credits, some could lead to licensure, and most can take less than one or two years to complete.

Postsecondary Non-Degree Awards

Postsecondary non-degree awards are another diverse category of certification without a degree.  These awards are presented once postsecondary education/training has been completed, which can take anywhere from two weeks to two years.  Many non-degree awards can be utilized in the field of healthcare and other highly lucrative industries.

Technical Education

Career and technical education is designed to impart vocational training applicable in a variety of industries.  This could lead to a diploma or certification in a specific area of interest.  These programs can be earned through technical and vocational schools or two- to four-year colleges and universities.   

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship programs provide industry-recognized credentialing through combined components of paid employment and education.  Today, an industry-recognized apprenticeship program (IRAP) or registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs) are high-quality opportunities for individuals interested in nationally-recognized credentials in a wide range of fields. 

Licensure

Licensure varies from state to state, as a state-granted, mandatory certification.  Several careers require licensure  for clinical practice or areas of counseling, professional electrical work, and more.  Licensed practitioners will have completed required examinations and are professionally bound to ethical codes in their fields.  An educational certificate can lead to licensure, providing academic hours or credits required for state exams, though earning a certificate is not a mandatory part of the licensure process.

Top 20 Highest Paying Careers Without A Degree

1. Transportation & Distribution Manager
Entry-level Education: High school diploma
Median Income: $94,730
Job Growth: 6%
Transportation and distribution managers plan, direct, and coordinate a variety of activities related to the transportation, distribution, and storage of various materials and products. This career offers a strong median salary, and the job growth is right around the national average. To work in this management position requires at least a high school-level education. However, working up to five years in the industry is necessary for advancement, but no on-the-job training is required.

2. Power Plant Operators
Entry-level Education: High school diploma
Median Income: $85,950
Job Growth: -16%
This science and engineering career hosts experienced professionals planning and directing the operations of power plants, ensuring plants not only produce power, but provide that power to the appropriate locations and clients. The career provides a high median salary, but the obvious negative is the job reduction. Between 2019 and 2029, the demand for this career is expected to drop by 16%, and there will be fewer jobs. However, with long-term, on-the-job training, a high school graduate can enter one of these highest paying jobs without a degree.

3. Commercial Pilot
Entry-level Education: High school diploma & Commercial Pilot’s license
Median Income: $86,080
Job Growth: 9%
Commercial pilots may be found operating aircrafts which put out fires, crop dust fields, tote cargo, host tours, and more.  These professionals do not require a college degree to charge money, but will need a commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration before conducting business, which can take up to two months to complete.  The job outlook for commercial pilots is strong, as the career is expected to grow by 9%, resulting in over 45,000 jobs by 2029. The growth in demand for commercial pilots will come from many corners, including a need for ambulance flights.

4. Elevator Technician
Entry-level Education: High school diploma & Apprenticeship
Median Income: $84,990
Job Growth: 7%
Considering the significant risks involved in elevators, the demand for top-quality elevator installers and repairers is high. Even without a college education, these professionals are well paid, and strong growth is projected thanks to an increase in multi-use facilities.  Most people will work as an apprentice for at least four years to receive the mathematical, mechanical and scientific knowledge required to work on elevators.  Working elevator technicians require constant training and development as technology and industry progress.

5. Fire-Fighting Supervisors
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $77,800
Job Growth: 5%
Firefighter supervisors manage and direct the concerted efforts of first-line fire prevention workers. These professionals direct and increase the overall safety of communities nation-wide. With an above-average income and consistent job growth, this is an appealing opportunity for anyone with the right experience and training. Less than five years of experience is generally required to reach the supervisory position, as well as moderate on-the-job-training in order to be hired.

6. Claims Adjusters
Education: High school diploma
Median Income: $66,540
Job Growth: -6%
These professionals are responsible for investigating insurance claims, fraud, and people involved with insurance situations. Companies prefer to hire people with investigative experience, which means former police officers and detectives are commonly employed in this field. Working in the automotive-claims sector may require a post-secondary degree.

7. Theatrical and Performance Makeup Artist
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $75,730
Job Growth: 7%
Working in theater and entertainment as a makeup artist offers a strong income. A postsecondary certificate along with experience and on-the-job-training can increase the competitive nature of a job candidate. The outlook for this career over the next several years is above the national average, making this a solid entry-level option in our list of the highest paying jobs without a degree.

8. Aircraft Mechanic
Education: Technical education
Median Income: $64,310
Job Growth: 5%
Aircrafts need routine maintenance and regular repairs, and these tasks fall on the shoulders of aircraft mechanics, one of the many jobs that don’t require a degree. Employees in this career can utilize technical education, a certificate, and some post-secondary education could be required. However it is possible to enter this career with a high school diploma and utilize on-the-job training to become recognized by the FFA.

9. Fire Inspectors
Education: High school diploma; Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $60,230
Job Growth: 8%
Typically, a high school education is sufficient to become a forest fire inspector and prevention specialist. Fire inspectors normally bring previous work experience as firefighters, require on-the-job training, and often will have completed the same technical education as EMTs. Considering the higher income, this is an excellent job without a degree requirement. Some specific positions in fire science, engineering and chemistry can require a degree, but there are many positions that can be had without a four-year college education.

10. Electronics Installation & Repairers
Education: Technical education; Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $59,080
Job Growth: -1%
Entering the field of electronic installation and repair can take only a high school diploma. Moving up to a valuable salary may require further education, as most employers prefer applicants with previous work experience or technical training. Due to the decline of the market, holding a certificate or non-degree award can boost an application and enhance chances of hiring. Hands-on training and some work experience is critical, as the salary level qualifies this career as one of the highest paying jobs not requiring a bachelor’s degree.

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11. Court Reporter
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $60,130
Job Growth: 9%
To ensure the accuracy of reviews of court procedures, court reporters type word-for-word transcripts of a trial or legal proceeding. They read back information by judges and transcribe television or audio evidence. The job requires some training and technical education, and most states require licensing. This allows for a sizable income without having the cost of a major college education. Depending on the program it can take between two to five years to complete this training.

12. Telecom Industry Technician
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $57,910
Job Growth: -3%
The telecommunications industry needs intelligent, knowledgeable professionals to install, maintain, and repair equipment. While this is a high-tech position, a high-cost degree is not required. A postsecondary non-degree award can provide knowledge in computer networking, telecommunications, and electronics needed to excel in one of these jobs with no degree. Often, postsecondary education can lead to a certificate or an associate’s degree in related areas, expanding opportunity in a competitive market.

13. Merchant Marine
Education: Certificate
Median Income: $57,330
Job Growth: 0%
The education levels required for this high paying career without a degree vary between no formal training to a bachelor’s from a merchant marine academy. This depends on factors such as working on a ship hosting a U.S. flag, sailing on a ship traveling in the open ocean, piloting, and more. Moving up in this career requires rigorous on-the-job-training, endorsements, and work experience. The U.S. Coast Guard provides a website of approved training programs leading to credentials required for most every seaman.

14. Wind Turbine Technician
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $52,910
Job Growth: 61%
As the world diversifies its energy options, wind energy has become a more frequent source of power. Wind turbine technicians professionals understand how to inspect, repair, and maintain wind turbines, and are familiar with a variety of systems, including hydraulics, electronics, and mechanics. Most wind turbine technicians, also known as windtechs, must attend a technical school and complete certification focusing on the wind energy industry. With a wildly high job outlook and decent salary level, wind turbine technicians hold one of the most high paying jobs without a degree requirement.

15. Computer Support Specialist
Education: Certification
Median Income: $54,760
Job Growth: 8%
As computers and mobile devices are becoming more common and intuitive, there remains a high demand for professionals providing assistance to users. Although many in this position will have a two- to four-year degree in computer science, information science, and other related areas, postsecondary classes can provide eligibility for numerous positions. The 8% growth for this career field will be driven by a variety of factors, including companies using complex systems and networks to assist and drive operations.

16. Tool & Die Maker
Education: High school diploma
Median Income: $45,750
Job Growth: 3%
These professionals set up and operate machine tools that create precise metal parts. Extreme accuracy and precision is essential in this career, which brings a solid median salary. Typically, employees are trained on the job, although earning credentials through a community college or vocational school is beneficial in a job with an outlook resting at the national average. Some positions could require as much as two years worth of education, although complete degrees are rarely required.

17. Firefighter
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award; Certificate
Median Income: $50,850
Job Growth: 6%
Entry-level positions in this field only require a high school diploma. Typically, firefighters must also pass fire academy training and hold an EMT certification. Firefighters are well paid, with the top 10% earning over $92,000 annually. Professional firefighters need to complete a medical exam and drug screening, as well as regular fitness tests to continue in this field. With a faster than average career outlook and a rewarding salary, firefighting is an excellent option for one of the highest paying jobs without a degree requirement.

18. HVAC & Refrigeration Technicians
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award; Apprenticeship
Median Income: $48,730
Job Growth: 4%
Heating and air conditioning systems require highly specialized experts, but despite the complexities, this is one of the highest paying jobs without a degree. Becoming an HVAC professional requires long-term on-the-job training, often in the form of an apprenticeship. Most employers prefer applicants holding trade school education and a certificate. In some states, technicians must be licensed.

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19. Broadcast & Sound Technicians
Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median Income: $45,510
Job Growth: 9%
Sound engineers set up and operate electrical sound equipment for TV, radio, film, recording studios, and more. The growth in this career comes from a variety of areas, including the use of audio equipment by companies and schools. Some careers in this field may require an associate’s degree, but most only require a non-degree award. Internships and on-the-job training can be beneficial to the aspiring broadcast technician and engineer, so while searching for a program, seek out those offering hands-on experiences.

20. Bookkeeper
Education: Postsecondary education
Median Income: $41,230
Job Growth: -6%
No previous experience is needed to become a bookkeeper, yet postsecondary classes in software, mathematics and computer science can support a better qualified applicant in a declining market. Bookkeepers produce financial records, organize documents, and check financial accuracy in a variety of industries. Some job candidates, assuming they have the right skills, could be hired holding only a high school diploma.

Enhance Your Earnings, Job Security & Enjoyment with Top-Quality, Alternative Education

The top earning jobs without degrees are often the most essential or upcoming careers in today’s rapidly expanding, competitive marketplace.  Choosing not to earn a degree doesn’t decrease the amount of research it takes to find a profession that fits, and often still requires some amount of postsecondary or technical education to enter, excel, and succeed.  Those willing to take on certification courses, get licensed, and train could end up saving lives, owning their own businesses, supporting the U.S. economy and living comfortably with the satisfaction of a hard-day’s work.

GetEducated hosts information on the diplomas, certificates, and vocational education available to working adult students who want to move forward.  Earning these credentials online is a valuable option for those balancing work, family, and education.  Often these accreditations can lead to higher academics in the long run, considering the salaries reached without a degree could better supplement this goal.  Truly, the opportunities are endless for those seeking jobs without a degree.

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