Highest Paying Jobs You Can Get Without a College Degree

Rising tuition and student loan debt have recently caused some to call into question the value of a college degree. According to a recent survey from education nonprofit The Hechinger Report, 36% of U.S. adults today believe college is not worth the cost. And as this list of college majors that pay off the least shows, a college degree by itself is not a guarantee of high earnings and job security.

While college graduates earn more than those without a degree on average, there are a number of high-paying jobs that require little more than a high school diploma and on-the-job training. With the right skills, workers in these occupations cam make more than $70,000 a year on average.

To identify the highest paying jobs that do not require a college degree, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed annual mean wage estimates for all detailed occupations (about 800 jobs) from the Occupational Employment Statistics Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor. Annual wage data is from the May 2019 survey. 

From that list of occupations, we reviewed the 25 with the highest average annual wages that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections program, typically required for entry one of the following levels of formal education — a high school diploma or equivalent, no formal education credential, a postsecondary nondegree award, or some college but no degree. In some occupations on this list, while a degree is not required, the majority of workers nevertheless have one.

While they do not require a college degree, many of these jobs may require a state license or additional vocational training. Real estate brokers, for example, must take state-accredited courses and earn a state broker’s license to practice. Ship engineers, makeup artists, and captains of water vessels may be required to undergo training at a vocational school.

Many of the highest-paying jobs that do not require a college degree are physically demanding and may expose workers to a high degree of occupational hazards. Electrical power line installers, signal and track switch repairers, and ship engineers, for example, all report far more injuries per capita than the national occupational injury rate. For more on occupational hazards, see the 25 most dangerous jobs in America.

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