Employment Trends

The 35 highest paying jobs you can get without a bachelors degree


The good news from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is that workers with associate’s degrees or high school diplomas have potential careers to consider that come with a median salary of $55,000! Here are 35 high paying jobs without degrees you can attain.

35. Boilermakers

If your aptitude runs to mechanical and plumbing repairs, you might enjoy assembly, installation, and repair of boilers and other containers.  The median salary is $56,560, you’ll learn on the job as an apprentice. This high paying job without a degree has a projected 8,800 job openings in the next 6 years.

34. First-line supervisors of correctional officers

Have you always had an interest in law enforcement but for whatever reason not pursued the police academy? A supervisory position in a correctional institution may suit you—you’ll work with other officers and jail employers. The median salary is $57,840, training is moderate and on-the-job, and there are 18,000 expected job openings through 2022.

33. Electrical and electronics engineering technicians


This is a great field for those who like to tinker and rebuild. as an engineering technician, you’d be designing, building, repairing, and maintaining electrical components, circuitry, and machinery for your staff colleagues. The median salary is $57,850, you’ll need an associate’s degree, and the right vocational program will help you hit the ground running with a job placement.

32. Real-estate brokers


If you like people (and looking at sale and rental properties in your area!) and have a detail-oriented, organized approach, brokering real-estate transactions (like buying, selling, rentals, and loan arrangements) might be for you. The median wage is $58,350, and there are 16,100 projected job openings in this field.

31. Purchasing agents (except wholesale, retail, and farm products)


Being responsible for the ordering and acquisition of machinery, equipment, tools, parts, supplies, or services for a business or an organization is a crucial role – the median salary is $58,760, your training on the job would be long-term, and there are 61,600 anticipated positions in the works.

30. Computer network support specialists


Everybody loves a competent it person—if coding is your first or second language and you enjoy problem solving and maintenance, this could be a great match. The median salary is $59,090, and there are 39,600 projected job openings through 2022.

29. First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers


If you have experience with construction sites, supervising them and coordinating employees could net you a median salary of $59,700. There are 187,100 anticipated openings in the next few years.

28. Claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators

Put your strong reading comprehension and interest in investigative processes to work as a reviewer of settled claims to against company practices and procedures. The median salary is $59,960, and there are an expected 80,300 jobs in this field.

27. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers

Another excellent option for those who like to tinker and work with people—as a supervisor in this field, you’ll oversee and coordinate a team of mechanics, installers, or repairers. Anticipate earning $60,250 in one of the 152,000 projected openings.

26. Gas-plant operators

If you enjoy maintaining mechanical systems at work, this field would place you with utility companies to control compressors that monitor and support main pipelines. The median salary is $61,140, and in the next few years there should be 4,700 prospective jobs.

25. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians

These engineers and mechanically-minded employees operate and maintain equipment for developing, testing, and producing new aircraft. The median salary for a candidate with an associate’s degree is $61,000. More than 2,000 jobs are projected through 2022.

24. Petroleum-pump-system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers

These positions, which only require a high school diploma or the equivalent, require you to operate or control petroleum refining or processing units. The median salary is $61,850, and there are 15,500 projected job openings through 2022.

23. Web developers

Spend your life online and think you can design a top-notch site that looks and runs efficiently? If you’re willing to get an associate’s degree, consider this career, where the median salary is $62,500 and there are a whopping 50,700 (!!) projected job openings through 2022.

22. Subway and street car operators

You’re the one who the little kids will look at and wave to all day! Oh, you’ll technically be in charge of operating subways or elevated trains to transport passengers for a median salary of $62,730. you’ll need a high school diploma.

21. Postmasters and mail superintendents

You’ll be the planner behind the grand machine of the post office. in this position, you coordinate operations and admin for a post office, or help organize scheduling and duties of post office workers. There are 5,000 projected job openings over the next 6 years, and the median salary is $63,050.

20. Electrical-power line installers and repairers

This job, with comes with long-term on-the-job training, has a median salary of $63,350. It’s in demand, too, because there are a projected 49,900 jobs opening in the next 6 years.

19. Transportation inspectors

You’re one of the final safety checks of anything from equipment to goods to make sure all is safe for long travel. This job comes with a median salary of $63,680, and you’ll need a high school diploma.

18. Gaming managers

Do you look at the chaos of a casino and wonder who makes it run? A gaming manager, that’s who. In this job, you’ll direct and coordinate the workings of a casino. The median salary is $65,220, and you’ll need a high school diploma.

17. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologists

Here’s a great way to be a part of the healthcare industry, help people, and learn the inner workings of a complex system.MRI techs need an associate’s degree and receive a median annual wage of $65,360. There are 11,300 jobs expected to open in the next 6 years.

16. Registered nurses (RN)

Wait for it—there are a projected 1,052,600 (wow!) job openings for RNs expected through 2022! You’ll need an associate’s degree to become a nurse, which can involve anything from patient care to public education about health issues. The median salary is $65,470.

15. Diagnostic medical sonographers

Here’s another great way to enter the healthcare industry in a tech-forward way. In this job, you use equipment to directs sound waves to assesses and diagnose patients. You’ll need an associate’s degree for this position, which comes with a median salary of $65,860. There are  35,300 jobs projected to open in the next 6 years.

14. Power plant operators

Here’s a position that comes with long-term on-the-job training. You’ll learn how to control, operate, and maintain the machines that generate electric power. Only a high school diploma is required, and this job comes with a median salary of $66,130.

13. Funeral service directors

The opportunity to run your own business (if you have the stomach for funeral services) and provide a valuable service to a grieving community could enable you to earn as much as $66,720; you’ll need an associate’s degree (and some business classes wouldn’t hurt). There may be as many 3,200 job openings available and minimal job training.

12. Nuclear technicians

You’ll need an associate’s degree for this important job, in which you’ll assist physicists and engineers nuclear research and production. The median salary is $69,060.

11. Farmers, ranchers, & other agricultural managers

The one is a job with great prospects—150,200 are expected to open through 2022! These positions will require you to take a role in the operation of farms, ranches, greenhouses, aquacultural operations, nurseries, timber tracts, or other agricultural establishments. The median salary is $69,300.

10. First-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers

This is a complicated-sounding way of saying middle management of a corporate sales force; your workload would likely include supervision of daily and weekly workforce activity, sales goals and company revenue. The median salary is $70,060, you’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent degree, and you could have more than 50 thousand job openings to choose from, with no necessary training prerequisites.

9. Nuclear medicine technologists

This job comes with a median salary of $70,180 and requires an associate’s degree. In this position, technologists scan patient’s bodies to create images and administer radioactive drugs to patients undergoing scans.

8. Dental hygienists

Aspiring dental hygienists are required to provide dental cleanings, examine patients for oral ailments, and provide preventative care; they can earn as much as $70k with an associate’s degree (which should include any certifications required). There are more than 113,00 anticipated job openings.

7. Power distributors and dispatchers

These positions involve, as you might expect, coordinating, regulating and distributing electricity or steam, which may involve working in a technical facility or plant. The median salary breaks $71k, you’ll be able to get long-term on-the-job training with your high school diploma or equivalent, and there are more than 3,000 prospective openings.

6. Commercial pilots

Air travel may not be as glamorous as it once was, but being a commercial pilot—flying and navigating aircrafts on non-scheduled (aka fancy private planes) air-carrier routes, or helicopter trips—is a lucrative and exciting career. You’ll need a commercial pilot certificate in addition to a high-school diploma or equivalent, but you could earn as much as $73k in any of the 14k positions available in the next few years.

5. Detectives and criminal investigators


Another job not to go for just because it looks cool on tv—detectives and criminal investigators assist law enforcement and private citizens in tracking down suspected violations of laws, to prevent or solve crimes, or find and recover private property. The median salary is $74k, there will be nearly 28k potential job openings coming, and there’s moderate on-the-job training.

4. Nuclear reactor operators


It is impossible for me not to acknowledge this was Homer Simpson’s job—but i’m sure smart people will find it challenging and exciting, too. If you enjoy technical and mechanical work around nuclear reactors, monitoring and operating equipment and its controls, and recording meticulous data, this could be a great fit. You should also be comfortable facing and implementing emergency procedures. Median salary is nearly $80,000, and you (and the other 2,299 applicants) will receive long-term on-the-job training.

3. Elevator installers and repairers


If you happen to like elevators—or any electric or hydraulic systems maintenance, you could find yourself happy in this job—the $76,650 you could earn with your high school diploma might help too! Typically new repair techs start with an apprenticeship. there are more than 8,000 jobs in the forecast.

2. Radiation therapists


If you’re interested in a career in healthcare without the nearly decade-long investment of time, money, and your sanity, consider a radiation therapy career. You’ll be responsible for checking equipment, observing patients after their treatments, and documentation of sessions. The median salary is $77,560, you’ll need an associate’s degree, and you may find more than 8,400 jobs waiting upon graduation.

1. Air-traffic controllers


Obviously, this is so highly paid because it’s so intense and stressful—you have to be alert and on-task constantly. You’d be monitoring and directing aircraft and earning up to $122,530—the highest of any occupation in which employees don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree. The on-the-job training is long-term and rigorous (but you’ll appreciate it when you can actually save money and retire like an old-school human being).


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About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.

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