27 High Paying Jobs Without a Degree

William Koper

Let’s be honest: not everyone is in a financial position to pay for a 4-year degree from an accredited college or university. Popular belief in the modern era is that if you want to get a stable, high-paying job, that’s what is required of you – that high school diploma just won’t cut it anymore. In fact, in today’s fast-paced, driven world, where turnover is high and skilled workers are in demand, on-the-job training, trade schools, and certificate programs may make more sense than a traditional college degree.

Employers are beginning to agree; at the end of the day, they’re seeking talented candidates that stand apart from the rest. However, with everyone going to college and getting a degree, the talent pool is looking more monotonous all the time. While a college degree can help your chances of getting a job, a degree alone is no longer enough to attract interest from potential employers.

In fact, there are many expanding and challenging high-paying jobs without a degree requirement. While there is some training involved, employers in these fields take into deep consideration one’s skill level, competencies, and commitment.

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Is It Possible to Get a High-Paying Job Without a Degree?

If you don’t think college is for you, there’s no need to panic. These days, there are plenty of opportunities to get a high-paying job without a degree in a variety of stable and growing industries. Oftentimes, these jobs provide benefits, such as insurance and paid vacation, in addition to handsome salaries.

To aid you in your search, we here at Financial Professional have compiled a list of high-paying jobs without a degree requirement, at least in the traditional sense. Some require an associate’s or two-year degree, while others accept trade school or certificates, and a few even offer on-the-job training. To help offset the costs of any formal schooling required, it may be possible to work part-time and/or have your employer pay for your tuition, provided it is career centered.

The following list of careers is only projections, with each figure reflecting the annual average salary that can be expected for each position. In most cases, after several years of technical experience operating within these positions, compensation increases well above the average salary.

Listed salary statistics were pulled from The Bureau of Labor Statistics and provide projections from May of 2016. Therefore, these figures are subject to change (and likely have by a small margin already) due to inflation, industry growth, location, and other financial factors.

Without further ado, let’s dive right in.

First Up: STEM Trades

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator

The pay: $91,370

The outlook: Stable; little projected job growth – about 260 job openings per year.

The training: High school diploma or equivalent; on-the-job training; licensing through the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission required

The details: Nuclear power reactor operators are responsible for operating and monitoring nuclear reactors. This includes following protocols, troubleshooting, and running a system with a massive electrical output. The job pays well primarily because of the inherent danger involved. Mistakes are costly, so attention to detail is crucial to success – and life. It’s a good idea to have some prior experience as a power plant dispatcher or operator before you try your hand (fry your hand?) at this position.

Nuclear Monitoring Technician

The pay: $79,140

The outlook: Stable, about one percent growth

The training: Associate degree; on-the-job training

The details: Nuclear monitoring technicians are responsible for monitoring nuclear radiation levels and tracking the results of nuclear experiments. Furthermore, this position aids physicists and engineers in their general and specific duties. It’s an important job with the ultimate designation of reducing the risk of toxic exposure to radiation. Primarily, this job takes place behind a desk surrounded by sensors and equipment for data analysis (read: a computer), though site visits are occasionally mandatory. Previous experience with nuclear technology, including military or healthcare experience, is a big help in getting a job and carrying out duties.

Engineering Technicians


The pay: $62,190

The outlook: Stable; little projected job growth

The training: Associate degree

The details: Electrical engineering technicians are responsible for developing, testing, and repairing electrical equipment. For example, electrical engineers may work on computers, navigational tools, health monitoring devices, communication devices, and more.


The pay: $54,480

The outlook: Steady growth; about five percent annually

The training: Associate degree

The details: Mechanical engineering technicians are responsible to aid mechanical engineers in developing engines, tools, and industrial machines. This job involves plenty of science, math, and data analysis, both required as background knowledge and in daily use.


The pay: $49,980

The outlook: Growing quickly; about nine percent job growth expected

The training: Associate degree

The details: Civil engineering technicians are responsible for helping civil engineers design bridges, highways, utilities, land development projects, and other essential infrastructure. Primary duties take place in an office, but site visits may be required.

Power Plant Operator**

The pay: $78,370

The outlook: Stable; little change expected

The training: High school diploma or equivalent; long-term on-the-job training

The details: Power plant operators work in a conventional power plant, controlling the distribution of steam and electricity. The job duties follow those of a nuclear power reactor operator without the extreme risk (though there are still some). To do this job well, candidates need to be responsive and reliable. Though a degree isn’t required for this job, knowledge of electrical engineering or industrial control software goes a long way.

The Handy(wo)men


The pay: $52,750

The outlook: Growing! About nine percent job growth is projected by 2026

The training: High school diploma or equivalent; apprenticeship

The details: Electricity makes the world go ’round (technically, magnetic fields do, but). Electricians are responsible for wiring buildings for electrical power, installing and maintaining lighting, and installing and repairing communications systems. This job requires either or both indoor and outdoor working conditions. Apprenticeships typically take place on the job, while vocational schools offer certificate and licensing training programs.


The pay: $43,600

The outlook: Steady growth; about 8 percent annually

The training: High school diploma or equivalent; apprenticeships with combined technical and on-the-job training

The details: Carpenters are responsible for building and repairing both indoor and outdoor projects on scales from backyard sheds to city skyscrapers. For those who enjoy working independently, this may be a great fit – many carpenters run their own businesses.

HVAC Mechanic

The pay: $45,910

The outlook: Growing very quickly—about 15 percent job growth

The training: On-the-job training and apprenticeship

The details: HVAC technicians are responsible for fixing heating and A/C systems as well as other appliances. This job often requires travel between locations in varying climates. Patience and problem-solving skills go a long way.


The pay: $51,450

The outlook: Growing very quickly—16 percent job growth

The training: Apprenticeship or trade school; local license usually required

The details: Plumbers are responsible for the installation and repair of pipework, such as is found in housing units, stores, office buildings, and more. This is guaranteed to be a growing field in almost any financial climate, as construction and building maintenance demands a constant flow of work.

Medicine and Nursing (Some Education Required)

Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse

The pay: $44,090

The outlook: Growing very quickly—12 percent job growth

The training: Postsecondary non-degree educational program (typically takes about one year)

The details: Like registered nurses, practical or vocational nurses work with patients in healthcare settings. However, these jobs are primarily geared toward basic care, patient comfort, and record keeping. This job requires significantly less training than a registered nurse position.

Registered Nurse

The pay: $68,450

The outlook: Growing very quickly—15 percent job growth!

The training: Associate degree or diploma from the nursing program; licensing is required

The details: Registered nurses provide and coordinate care for patients in healthcare settings. There are dozens of opportunities available outside traditional hospital settings, such as schools, doctors’ offices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes – even the military.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

The pay: $64,280

The outlook: Growing extremely quickly! 17 percent growth—much faster than average

The training: Associate degree or postsecondary certificate; professional certification often required

The details: Diagnostic medical sonographers are considered healthcare technicians, and as such require some schooling, but still less than a traditional 4-year program. Medical sonographers are responsible for operating imaging equipment that utilizes ultrasound technology to help doctors diagnose and treat patient conditions.

Dental Hygienist

The pay: $72,190

The outlook: One of the fastest-growing jobs on our list at 20% growth!

The training: Associate degree; licensing required

The details: Dental hygienists have one of the best career outlooks overall year after year. Job duties include cleaning teeth and checking patients for signs of oral diseases, such as gingivitis.

This is an incredibly patient-oriented career, so it helps to be comfortable with people.

Medical Laboratory Technician

The pay: $50,930

The outlook: Growing quickly—13 percent job growth

The training: Associate degree or a postsecondary certificate

The details: Medical lab techs are responsible for collecting fluid and tissue samples from patients, as well as performing certain diagnostic tests. Most medical laboratory technicians work in hospitals, but there is some independent lab work available.

Radiation Therapist

The pay: $80,160

The outlook: Growing very quickly—13 percent job growth

The training: Associate degree; state licensing and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification often required

The details: Radiation therapists are responsible for the administration of radiation treatments to cancer patients. This is a crucial aspect of a cancer treatment team, and as such is a tough and competitive job that requires tact and excellent communication skills.

Problem-Solving, Degree-Free

Detective/Criminal Investigator

The pay: $78,120

The outlook: Growing—about seven percent job growth

The training: Associate degree and/or some college coursework preferred; graduation from a training academy; additionally, experience as a police or patrol officer recommended

The details: Detectives and criminal investigators are responsible for building cases against suspected criminals by gathering facts and collecting evidence. Despite TV portrayals, this isn’t a glamorous job with constant high-profile nabs – it’s physically demanding work with long hours and frustrating run-around. However, it can be incredibly rewarding for the right mindset.

Paralegal/Legal Assistant

The pay: $49,500

The outlook: Growing quickly—15 percent job growth

The training: Associate degree or certificate in paralegal studies

The details: Paralegals and legal assistants are responsible for helping lawyers with research, documentation, and administrative duties. Requirements for the job include dependability and the willingness to take on challenging and fast-paced environments. Furthermore, attention to detail is crucial to succeeding in this field.

Public Transportation and Travel

Air Traffic Controller

The pay: $122,410

The outlook: Stable; little job growth expected

The training: Associate degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative; long-term on-the-job training including Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exams

The details: This is perhaps the highest paying job without a degree you can get – and for good reason. Air traffic controllers are responsible for monitoring and directing aircraft to ensure the safe passage of each plane, which can be incredibly stressful. Additionally, the field itself is hyper-competitive. Aeronautical skills and the ability to work well under pressure also come in handy.

Commercial Pilot (Non-Airline)

The pay: $105,720

The outlook: Stable; little job growth expected

The training: High school diploma or equivalent; on-the-job training; commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

The details: Commercial pilots fulfill a variety of duties. They are responsible for nonscheduled routes and charter flights, aerial tours, and medical service and evacuations. Many commercial pilots are also responsible for ongoing work such as flight maintenance and scheduling. Training for this job includes flight school and extensive practical hours – particularly for those without a military background – and the hours are long and typically atypical. However, this is one of the most highly compensated jobs on the list.

Transportation/Storage/Distribution Manager

The pay: $89,190

The outlook: Growing—about seven percent job growth

The training: High school diploma or equivalent; five years of on-the-job experience usually required; industry certification usually required

The details: Transportation and distribution managers are responsible for moving goods of all descriptions around the country. This job requires excellent attention to detail, as there is a lot of coordination of people and processes to manage at once. The best way to break into this position is to start in logistics, transportation, or supply chain operations and learn on the job. The ability to operate supply chain management (SCM) software is also required.

Transportation Inspector

The pay: $72,220

The outlook: Stable—average job growth expected

The training: High school diploma or equivalent; on-the-job training

The details: Transportation and equipment inspection ensures planes, trains, subways, and buses perform to standard. Options include freight inspection, rail inspection, or other niche vehicle inspection.

Geeking Out

Web Developer

The pay: $66,130

The outlook: Growing very quickly—15 percent job growth!

The training: High school diploma or associate degree’ prior knowledge of programming required

The details: Web developers build and maintain websites and web applications from start to finish – including look, technical aspects, and sometimes, content. Depending on the specific kind of web development or prior technical knowledge, formal education may not be required. However, experience in the field is helpful. Web developer skills translate well across a variety of industries and technical needs.

IT (Information Technology) or Computer Support Specialist

The pay: $52,160

The outlook: Growing quickly—11 percent job growth

The training: Computer know-how and continuous on-the-job training to keep up with new software; associate degree sometimes required

The details: IT and computer support specialists are responsible for helping individuals, offices, and corporations troubleshoot their computer equipment. Problem-solving skills and patience (both with technology and with people) are essential. It’s common to work atypical schedules, such as nights and weekends; however, daytime hours are also in abundance.

Network Systems Administrator

The pay: $79,700

The outlook: Growing at an average rate—about six percent job growth

The training: Some postsecondary education or an associate degree is usually required

The details: While IT specialists are troubleshooters, network systems administrators handle the daily needs of organizations’ data communications systems. Responsibilities include becoming an expert in the installation and support of hardware and software networks as well as troubleshooting where IT techs fall short.

The People-People

Real Estate Sales Agent

The pay: $46,410

The outlook: Growing steadily—about six percent job growth

The training: High school diploma or equivalent; real estate license earned through short-term courses and an exam; ongoing professional development on the job.

The details: Real estate agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Real estate sales agents are technically self-employed and work in conjunction with a real estate broker. This job has the potential for lots of variety and growth.

Flight Attendant

The pay: $48,500

The outlook: Growing quickly—10 percent job growth

The training: High school diploma or equivalent; moderate on-the-job training; certification from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required

The details: Flight attendants are responsible for passenger needs, safety, and comfort on aircraft, from half-hour to half-day flights. For those who love to travel, this is an excellent way to get those airline miles in. However, this job comes with crazy schedules and little time at home.

High-Paying Jobs Without a Degree Do Exist!

We hope you’ve gleaned some valuable information (or at least inspiration) from our list of the most stable and fastest-growing job industries for a variety of career paths. While this list of high-paying jobs without a degree requirement is by no means comprehensive, it does cover many of the bases and reminds us that even if you choose not to go to college, you can still learn through hands-on experience in the job field of your choice.

It may take some time and patience, as with everything, but as you develop your specialized career skills, you’ll make your way to a high-paying salary in no time! (Or several years, whichever comes second).

Questions or comments on our selection of high-paying jobs without a degree? Let us know in the comments below!

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William Koper