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17 Highest Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a Bachelor’s Degree

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Let’s be real – the idea that a four-year college degree is the only path to a well-paying, rewarding career is outdated and often plain wrong. While there are certainly professions that require a traditional university education, there’s a whole world of high-earning, dynamic careers that value skills, experience, and the right drive.

If you’re eager to start earning sooner, prefer hands-on learning, or just want to explore alternative paths beyond the usual college route, this list is your launchpad. We’re not just talking about “decent” jobs here – we’re diving into careers with serious earning potential, challenging responsibilities, and the opportunity to make a real impact.

1. Air Traffic Controller

Flight controller working
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Median Annual Salary: $138,550

Air traffic controllers are the safety masters of the skies. They coordinate aircraft movement in and around airports, provide take-off and landing instructions, and monitor aircraft positions to maintain safe distances. The demand for qualified air traffic controllers is consistently high. This field rewards meticulousness, clear communication, and superior decision-making skills.

You don’t need a degree, but you will need to pass a competitive pre-employment test. Accepted candidates then go through a rigorous training program at the FAA Academy.

2. Radiation Therapist

Cancer treatment in a modern medical private clinic or hospital with a linear accelerator. Professional doctors team working while the woman is undergoing radiation therapy for cancer
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Median Annual Salary: $87,550

Radiation therapists play a crucial role in cancer treatment. They use complex medical equipment to administer targeted radiation doses to patients as part of their care plan, working closely with oncologists and medical teams. With rising cancer rates, the need for skilled radiation therapists is increasing, making it a rewarding profession where you can directly impact patients’ lives.

While this job technically requires a degree, it only takes two short years, and most of it can even be done at a community college or online. An associate degree in radiation therapy is required, combining classroom learning with hands-on clinical experience. Certification and training is also necessary.

3. Commercial Pilot

Pilot showing his thumb up
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Median Annual Salary: $99,640

Imagine your office being in the cockpit with ever-changing views! Commercial pilots fly passengers for airlines, charter companies, or cargo operations on scheduled routes. Air travel remains a dominant form of transportation globally, creating continued demand for pilots. It’s an adventurous, travel-filled career for those with strong technical skills and the ability to handle responsibility.

You’ll need a commercial pilot’s license and accumulate specific flight experience hours. Flight schools and academies provide a structured way to gain skills and meet hour requirements.

4. Real Estate Broker

Side view of happy broker and woman with keys shaking hands n
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Median Annual Salary: $62,010

Real estate brokers are deal makers. They help clients buy, sell, and rent properties, acting as negotiators and advisors throughout the process. As long as people need housing, there’s work for real estate brokers! Success in this field relies heavily on people skills, market knowledge, and an undeniable drive to succeed.

Requirements vary by state but typically involve licensing courses and an exam. Building a large client base and developing a strong reputation as a reliable broker takes time and business acumen.

5. Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

Technician give command in power plant control center
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Median Annual Salary: $95,470

These skilled technicians manage complex systems that generate and distribute electricity crucial to a functioning society. They monitor equipment, adjust power loads, and respond to emergencies to ensure a constant flow of electricity. Demand for knowledgeable technicians is rising with increasing reliance on electricity and a push towards alternative energy sources. It’s a role that thrives on careful analysis and problem-solving skills.

Specialized training is usually required through technical schools, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training offered by utility companies. Some positions require certification as well.

6. Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers

Lift machinist repairing elevator in lift shaft
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Median Annual Salary: $88,540

They install, maintain, and repair elevators, escalators, and other moving walkways. This job combines mechanical and electrical skills as technicians work with complex systems and safety regulations. As urbanization grows and buildings reach new heights, the need for safe and efficient vertical transportation increases. It’s a physically demanding yet skilled trade with potential overtime and good pay.

Most learn through a four-year apprenticeship program that blends on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Licensing might also be required in your location.

7. Nuclear Technicians

Concentrated handsome technician looking attentively at his Product Manuals while in data
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Median Annual Salary: $86,230

Nuclear technicians play a crucial role in harnessing nuclear power. They monitor equipment, perform tests, and assist in operating power plants and research labs, handling radioactive materials with a focus on safety. While a controversial power source, nuclear energy remains part of the energy mix, and with new technologies on the horizon, skilled technicians are vital. This field values meticulous attention to detail and a calm demeanor for working in high-pressure environments.

No 4-year degree is required here. An associate degree in nuclear technology or a related field is often a starting point, along with on-the-job training. Certification might be required for specific roles.

8. Construction Managers

Engineering and construction managers discussing project blue pr
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Median Annual Salary: $98,890

Construction managers are the project coordinators of the building world. They oversee everything from planning to budgeting, securing permits, managing workers, and ensuring projects are completed on time and within budget. The construction industry is vast and constantly growing. Skilled managers are crucial to a successful build, commanding respect and competitive salaries. This position is for organized problem-solvers who excel at communication.

While a bachelor’s degree is helpful, experience reigns supreme. Many start as tradespeople and gain experience, earning certifications or project management degrees while working.

9. Police Officers and Detectives

Sitting male detective looking at the clue and making notes
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Median Annual Salary: $68,350

Police officers uphold the law, protect lives and property, conduct investigations, and make arrests. Detectives delve deeper, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and piecing together clues to solve crimes. Law enforcement is a demanding career, but also vital for community safety. It attracts those with a sense of duty, resilience, and the ability to handle high-stress situations.

Requirements vary by department but typically involve a high school diploma, passing extensive physical and psychological exams, and graduating from a police academy. Detectives often start as uniformed officers and gain experience.

10. Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Smiling handsome electrician checking electrical box with multimeter
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Median Annual Salary: $69,830

These technicians are the hands-on partners of engineers, assisting in designing, testing, and troubleshooting electrical and electronic equipment. They work in various industries, from manufacturing to research and development. Rapid technological advancements drive the need for skilled technicians to support engineers. It’s a field valuing problem-solving, hands-on skills, and a desire to learn the inner workings of complex systems.

An associate degree in engineering technology is often preferred. On-the-job training and industry certifications further enhance expertise.

11. Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumber installing pipes
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Median Annual Salary: $59,880

They are the experts in installing and maintaining the complex systems that transport water, steam, gas, and other liquids essential for buildings and infrastructure. As long as we have running water and modern buildings, the need for skilled plumbers never wavers. It’s physically demanding work but highly paid and offers opportunities for specialization or owning your own business.

Most enter through apprenticeship programs that combine classroom learning with paid on-the-job training. Licensing is standard practice after completing an apprenticeship.

12. Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners

Judge gavel with scales of justice, male lawyers working having at law firm in office. Concepts of law.
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Median Annual Salary: $64,890

Court reporters are the word capturers of the legal system. They use specialized equipment, often stenotype machines, to transcribe spoken proceedings in trials, depositions, and hearings, creating official records. Simultaneous captioners do similar work for television broadcasts and live events, ensuring accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing. Accurate court records are crucial for legal processes, and the demand for live captioning increases as accessibility becomes a priority. It’s a role requiring focus, precision, and lightning-fast typing skills.

Training programs at technical schools or community colleges specializing in stenography and real-time captioning are common routes. Certification might be necessary, depending on your state.

13. Boilermakers

Portrait Master goldsmith working in his workshop
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Median Annual Salary: $67,040

Boilermakers are highly skilled craftsmen who build, install, and repair massive boilers and tanks found in power plants, factories, and refineries. Their work is tough and involves welding, rigging, and working in confined spaces. Boilers are essential for power and process industries. The demand remains stable for skilled boilermakers who can handle the physicality of the work.

Most boilermakers enter the field through apprenticeship programs, which provide hands-on training, classroom instruction, and earn-while-you-learn opportunities.

14. Sales Representatives

buying a car
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Median Annual Salary: $62,890

Sales reps are relationship builders and deal closers. They present products or services to potential customers, negotiate terms, and close sales. The specific field (real estate, technology, medical devices, etc.) can significantly impact earnings. As long as businesses need to sell goods and services, there’s a demand for skilled sales representatives. This career path is for those with persuasive skills, resilience, and a drive for results. Earnings potential can be very high for top performers.

For some positions, employers might prefer a bachelor’s degree, but the right combination of personality and sales skills often trumps formal education. Many learn on the job, honing their craft through experience, self-study, and company-provided training.

15. Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

Claims Adjuster is review the accidental car for insurance
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Median Annual Salary: $73,100

These professionals work for insurance companies, assessing claims and evaluating damages to determine compensation. They investigate suspicious claims, interview witnesses, and work with lawyers and other professionals. Insurance is a vast, ever-present industry, so claims professionals are always needed. This job suits analytical minds with good investigative and communication skills.

Many enter the field with a high school diploma, receiving on-the-job training and mentorship. Some companies might prefer a bachelor’s degree. Industry certifications can lead to advancement opportunities.

16. Subway and Streetcar Operators

Train driver in cabin
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Median Annual Salary: $80,110

They operate subway trains or streetcars, ensuring passengers are transported safely according to designated routes and schedules. It’s a job with a high degree of responsibility. In cities with extensive transit networks, operators are vital to keep people moving. The demand might fluctuate based on location and individual transit networks.

Transit agencies usually provide on-the-job training after a rigorous hiring process. Physical exams and a clean driving record are often required for consideration.

17. Gaming Managers

Group happy friends make bets gambiling at the roulette table in the casino.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Median Annual Salary: $80,370 

Gaming managers oversee the daily operations of casinos or sections within them. They supervise staff, ensure games run smoothly, handle customer issues, and manage finances. The casino industry remains a huge draw for many. It’s a fast-paced environment with the potential for high-stress situations. Excellent people skills, business savvy, and a knack for problem-solving are essential traits. 

Previous experience working in a casino and climbing the ranks is common. Some might gain a leg up with an associate or bachelor’s degree in hospitality or a related field.

15 Signs It’s Time to Find a New Job Yesterday

bored man at work yawning tired
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Quitting a job may feel like breaking off a relationship. Plus, an employee might always be plagued with the worry that it might not be the right time. Jobs can be hard to find, and letting one go isn’t easy. However, there are times when we need to let go of our jobs for our sanity or career advancement.

15 Signs It’s Time to Find a New Job Yesterday

12 Jobs That Are Safe from AI Takeover

old men gathering happy nice to meet you hand shake
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Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. From the algorithms recommending your next Netflix binge to self-driving cars, it’s reshaping how we live and work.

Everyone’s burning question is, “Will AI take my job?” For example, many industries, including tech and writing, have experienced massive layoffs primarily due to AI automation.

12 Jobs That Are Safe from AI Takeover

12 Traits of Unsuccessful People Who Never Do Anything with Their Lives

lazy man on the couch sleeping
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Scared of lagging behind or staying in the same position? Well, let’s talk about it! In this article, we’ll find 12 common traits of unsuccessful people who never do anything with their lives so that you won’t be one of them. 

12 Traits of Unsuccessful People Who Never Do Anything with Their Lives

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