Highest Paying Jobs Without A College Degree

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Is it possible to find a high-paying job when you don’t have a college degree? Would you be surprised to learn that there are dozens of jobs paying well above $50k that don’t require you to be a college graduate?

Highest Paying Jobs Without A College Degree

I was surprised, but it’s true. Here are the highest-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree.

Says Who?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has all kinds of useful information about the American job market. Some of the more interesting data they track includes types of jobs, the median pay for those jobs, and how many of those jobs exist.

The cost information website HowMuch.net analyzed the latest data for 2017 and created this handy chart.

The Results…

The higher on the chart a job is shown, the more it pays. The number of dots next to the job title helps represent how many people are employed at that type of job.

25 highest paid jobs without a college education

I hadn’t even heard of some of these jobs before. For some I did recognize, I certainly wouldn’t have guessed they didn’t require a college education.

The Top 5 Highest Paying Non-Degree Jobs

  1. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator ($91,170)
  2. Transport Manager ($89,190)
  3. Police Supervisor ($84,840)
  4. Power Distributor ($81,900)
  5. Elevator Installer ($78,890)

A nuclear power reactor operator doesn’t require college? Who’d have guessed?

The average elevator installer makes almost $79k? Nice!

Of course you can also see that some of these positions don’t employ very many people in the US. Two that stick out on the chart as employing a lot of people, while paying way above average salaries, are: Non-Retail Sales Supervisors and Claims Adjustors. Someone totally set against college but looking for good pay might consider those career options.

Raising Resilient and Resourceful Kids

Is College Worth It?

The combined total of these jobs employ only about 1% of the American workforce. So they’re likely in high demand. They aren’t totally out of reach – obviously since there are a million plus working in these areas. But it would be very competitive to land one of these positions.

The majority of full-time salaried positions in the US do require (or at least favor) a college degree. So don’t be too quick to write-off this option.

As a parent you might want to consider doing some financial planning now for your child’s college.

If someone can graduate without student loan debt, it’s a sure-thing to be “worth it”. On the other hand, graduating with a ton of debt for an average paying job could really set a young person behind financially.

Besides parental planning, another great option to help avoid student loans is to leverage scholarships.

5 Critical Things You and Your Child Need to Know About Applying for Scholarships

In Closing

Yes, there are some really great-paying jobs available for someone without a college degree. They’re competitive though and only employ a small percentage of the American workforce.

Your best best is to get a degree. Do a bit of research in advance to understand the job prospects and pay first. Make sure you’re focusing efforts in an area that you will both enjoy and make a decent living doing.

Were you surprised about this list of non-college jobs? Are you working in any of those jobs now and willing to share tips for others?


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  1. Tom @ Dividends Diversify November 14, 2017 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Totally agree that’s is best to get your degree. Do it in a financially responsible way, get the most from the education you choose to pursue and leverage the degree into career opportunities. I think if more students approached education in this manner there would be less debate about the value of a degree. Tom

  2. Grant @ Life Prep Couple November 15, 2017 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Nice to know you can make a very nice living for yourself without a college degree. You know without having to start a business or own a real estate empire.

    The college degree keeps getting more and more expensive but when it comes to engineering, science, technology and most medical type degrees it is still very much worth it. The problem is those degrees are hard and most people seem to prefer the easy route and get degrees in dance or psychology. Nothing wrong with studying that stuff just don’t waste your money getting a degree in it because there is almost zero demand.

  3. Martin November 16, 2017 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Interesting to see. I would have thought nuclear power reactor operator would require a degree (makes me worry slightly). I always look into graduate jobs which pay the best so this is relatively eye opening. Thanks!

  4. Erik @ The Mastermind Within November 20, 2017 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    I made some decent choices by doing math and learning programming to get to where I am now, but if I were to go back in time, I could consider not going to college and pursue one of these paths. If you can get to a level where you are making $50k at age 19, you will be able to take advantage of compounding much earlier than many other people.

    Thanks for sharing Brad.

    • Brad Kingsley November 20, 2017 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      “If you can get to a level where you are making $50k at age 19, you will be able to take advantage of compounding much earlier than many other people.”

      That’s so true and a great point! Thanks for sharing Erik!

  5. Damn Millennial November 21, 2017 at 4:10 am - Reply

    I always wonder about sales based jobs as well. If someone were to just skip college and seek an opportunity to sell something they could get into I think they could do great. The average wage for those types of jobs is always low but I don’t think it paints a realistic picture. Thanks for sharing, did you go to college?

  6. Tom @ Dividends Diversify November 21, 2017 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    I like the mention by Mr. Millennial regarding sales jobs. I’m a proponent of education but sales, more than any other, is pay for performance. In other professions and jobs, contributions are more difficult to measure. Those professions tend to set up more barriers to entry like lawyers and accountants to ensure quality. Tom

  7. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply November 21, 2017 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    I agree that for most people, a degree is still the way to go. Although generally, I think acquiring a skill is really what is important. I don’t think the list including high paying jobs where you could acquire the skill from vocational training which is something a lot people ignore. Sometimes college isn’t just for some people but whatever you do…make sure you have an employable skill

    • Brad Kingsley November 22, 2017 at 11:18 am - Reply

      Very True Andrew. In fact, some of the best employees I had working for me in the past were self-learners rather than college-educated. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  8. Zach @ Four Pillar Freedom January 9, 2018 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    That chart is awesome, super useful in highlighting exactly which professions pay well without a college degree. My dad used to be a postmaster back in the day and that $71k estimate is spot on. Thanks for sharing this!

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