Highest Paying Jobs Without a Degree

3 min read

Anthony O'neal
Highest Paying Jobs Without a Degree

In a world where a degree is often seen as a prerequisite for high-paying jobs, it can seem daunting and discouraging to find a high-paying job if you don’t have a degree. However, there are quite a few professionals that may have college degrees or require training, but don’t require a degree.

These jobs range from air traffic controllers to web developers. Certain professions offer substantial financial rewards without the need for a traditional degree. Let’s take a look at each of these jobs in more detail. 

Air Traffic Controller

This type of job is no small feat, but it can be done without a college degree - now there is training involved, but you don’t need a college education. Air traffic controllers play a pivotal role in ensuring the safety and efficiency of air travel. Responsible for coordinating the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air, these professionals manage the flow of air traffic with precision. 

While the job demands intense focus and quick decision-making skills, it pays off as far as salary is concerned.

Median Salary

For this job is typically around $129,000. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, these are the requirements for the job: 

  • United States Citizen
  • Be age 30 or younger
  • Pass a medical exam
  • Mass a security investigation
  • Pass the FAA air traffic pre-employment test
  • Speak English clearly enough to be understood over communication equipment
  • Have three years progressively responsible work experience OR a degree (not required)
  • Be willing to relocate to an FAA facility based on needs

Elevator Installer and Repair

Elevators have truly changed the way we get around, but someone needs to install them and fix them, and thankfully the job requires training and expertise, but no degree. Elevator installers and repairers are the unsung heroes - I’m sure you can agree if you’ve ever thought about an elevator breaking down. This is one of the more physically demanding job titles where you can earn a decent income with just a high school diploma.

While it’s not an easy job, these professionals install, maintain, and repair elevators, escalators, and other lifting equipment. The job requires a combination of technical expertise and physical agility.

Median Salary

For elevator installers and repair is around $99,000, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Requirements may include:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • No prior experience 

Meaning you will get on-the-job apprenticeship training to learn the ins and outs of your responsibilities. 

Nuclear Technician

Nuclear technicians play a crucial role in the operation of nuclear facilities. They work with nuclear engineers and physicists to ensure the safe and efficient functioning of nuclear technology. While specialized training and certifications are required, a traditional degree is often not necessary.

The responsibilities involve monitoring radiation levels, operating equipment, and conducting tests.

Median Salary

For nuclear technicians is $100,420 and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Requirements may include:

  • No prior experience
  • On-the-job training

It’s definitely not a job that is simple or low-stress by any means, but you can get qualified on-the-job training and mang around $100,000 a year!

Web Developer

In the digital age, web developers are in high demand as businesses and individuals seek to establish and enhance their online presence. Web developers design and create websites, ensuring functionality and an optimal user experience.

With the rapid growth of the technology sector, many web developers have found success without a formal degree. Instead, a robust portfolio showcasing skills and experience often carries more weight, and most of the time it can be self-taught. 

The flexibility of remote work and the potential for freelancing contribute to the allure of this high-paying career.

Median Salary

For web developers it is around $78,300 and like I mentioned can be self-taught and extremely successful with the right portfolio and networking. 

Requirements may include:

  • High school diploma
  • Relevant work experience


Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists play a vital role in maintaining the health of your teeth, conducting cleanings, and educating patients on proper dental care. While dentists typically require a degree, dental hygienists often enter the field with an associate degree or certificate, or simply on-the-job training. Most people that apply for these jobs will have an associate degree of sorts or have a certificate from a technical school or vocational school.

Median Salary

For dental hygienists it is around $81,400 with practically no requirements. You don’t need prior work experience, and there may be some on-the-job training depending on where you work.

Requirements may include:

  • High School diploma
  • Relevant work experience or willingness to learn

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Ultrasounds are an incredibly powerful technology that not only allows us to see the process of life being created, but also helps doctors examine internal issues that may not otherwise be noticed. Essentially, they create images of internal body structures. That being said, these medical sonographers require expertise and knowledge, but that doesn’t need to come with a degree. 

With specialized training and certification, individuals can pursue a serious and rewarding career path as a diagnostic medical sonographer.

Median Salary

For a diagnostic medical sonographer is around $78,210 and again there is virtually no degree required and most places will provide the training you need to do the job.

Aerospace Technician

Aerospace technicians are necessary to make sure that planes are safe and working properly - there’s a lot that goes into the building of an aircraft, and these technicians ensure everything’s up to standards.

From routine maintenance to troubleshooting complex systems, these technicians play a vital role in the aerospace industry. With a combination of training and certifications, individuals can access opportunities in this high-tech field. 

The aerospace industry values hands-on experience, making it feasible for individuals to climb the career ladder without a traditional degree.

Median Salary

For aerospace technicians is around $74,410, so there is a huge potential for success and monetary growth within this field if you have a dedication to learn. 

Police Officers and Detectives

These professionals are a critical part of our society and how the law is supposed to be upheld. With that comes a lot of responsibility and a dedication to protecting the citizens of your community. While they are essential it is also a big job, with the potential to have a big payoff.

Most agencies don’t require a degree - even though most have one - all the training and education necessary for the job is provided. Typically the job just requires a high school diploma or equivalent. The sense of duty, responsibility, and the potential for career advancement contribute to the appeal of law enforcement with high earning potential.

Median Salary

For a police officer or detective it is $69,160 and as mentioned above, most of these professionals will have a bachelor’s degree, and some police agencies might require it, but overall you can receive education and training from the agency. 

Executive Assistant

Executive assistants are every business owner's right-hand - providing critical support, managing schedules, handling communications, and ensuring the smooth operation of the executive's office. This role demands strong organizational and interpersonal skills.

While a degree may enhance qualifications, many assistants rise through the ranks based on their experience and capabilities. 

In this type of job it’s more so the quality of your work and dedication to organization than a fancy degree.

Median Salary

For these assistants it is around $63,110. Currently, in today’s remote work climate, you may also see this job position advertised as “virtual assistant”, as most of the duties and responsibilities can be handled remotely. There is still the potential to find in-person work in this field.

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Sales representatives in the wholesale and manufacturing sectors play an important role in connecting businesses with the products they need. These professionals build relationships with clients, understand their needs, and facilitate transactions.

While a degree may be advantageous, in something like communications or sales, many individuals in sales thrive through experience and a proven track record of meeting sales targets. It truly does depend on the company you are working with. 

The commission-based nature of many sales roles allows motivated individuals to achieve high earnings without a formal degree.

Median Salary

For a wholesale and manufacturing sales representative it is around $62,890 with the potential to make more due to the commission model of most of these positions. 

Let’s Recap

The highest paying jobs with no college degree are definitely not limited. There are a lot of professional jobs you can have without the need for a degree - but these jobs are still quite demanding and require other skills that can be proven through experience and past work. 

 From technical roles like nuclear technicians to the dynamic field of web development, individuals can carve out successful and financially rewarding careers through alternative pathways. 

While formal education remains a valuable asset, and even allows you to climb higher in these and other jobs, these examples demonstrate that dedication, skills, and hands-on experience can open doors to lucrative opportunities in the workforce. As the employment landscape continues to evolve, embracing different paths to success can empower individuals to achieve their financial goals and professional aspirations.

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