If you don't have a college degree, you may wonder if it's possible to land a high-paying job. Fortunately, there are plenty of career paths that are lucrative enough that don't require a diploma.
20 Best-Paying Jobs Without a Degree
Finding a high-paying job can be challenging, even with a college degree. But if you have a high school diploma or an equivalent certification, or you spent time in college but didn't obtain a degree, you may feel like there's no hope. The good news is there are several great job paths you can pursue, many of which pay $80,000 or more annually.
For this analysis, we took a look at income information and job requirements gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Note, however, that our list doesn't include those who run small businesses, which can be a very lucrative career path that doesn't require a degree.
Here are the top 20 jobs that you won't need a four-year college diploma to get.
1. Transportation, Storage and Distribution Managers
Median salary: $96,390
As a transportation, storage or distribution manager, your job is to plan, direct and coordinate activities within those areas. It can also include logistics management.
You typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and five or more years of related experience to reach this level.
2. Commercial Pilots
Median salary: $93,300
A commercial pilot is a pilot that doesn't fly for a passenger airline. Examples of what you might do include being a jump pilot, charter pilot, agricultural pilot, ambulance pilot and more.
To become a commercial pilot, you'll need a high school diploma or equivalent and a commercial pilot's license.
Note that if you want to become an airline pilot, which has a median annual salary of $160,970, you'll likely need a bachelor's degree.
3. First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives
Median salary: $92,970
As the job title suggests, your work would be to directly supervise and coordinate activities of law enforcement officers in a local police department.
To become a police and detective supervisor, you'll need a high school diploma or equivalent, plus on-the-job training and work experience.
4. Power Plant Operators, Distributors and Dispatchers
Median salary: $89,090
Power plant operators, distributors and dispatchers manage the systems that produce and distribute electricity.
This job typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent certification, but it includes extensive on-the-job training. You'll need an additional license if you want to be a nuclear power reactor operator.
5. Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers
Median salary: $88,540
As you might imagine, this job involves installing, maintaining and fixing escalators, elevators, moving walkways and similar equipment. You may end up working in cramped spaces and sometimes high up in elevator shafts. If you're a repairer, you may be on call 24/7.
You typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and an apprenticeship to get this job. In most states, you also need to be licensed to do the work.
6. Petroleum Pump Systems Operators, Refinery Operators and Gaugers
Median salary: $78,840
This career involves operating and controlling the petroleum refining process. Some workers specialize in controlling pumps and manifold systems, gauging and testing oil in storage, or regulating oil flow in pipelines.
You need a high school diploma or equivalent; there's no work experience required, though there is moderate on-the-job training.
7. First-Line Supervisors of Non-Retail Sales Workers
Median salary: $78,560
Supervisory duties may include budgeting, accounting, personnel management and other aspects involved in coordinating and supervising sales workers that aren't in the retail space.
You need a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify, but you'll also typically need some work experience (roughly five years or less).
8. Transportation Inspectors
Median salary: $78,400
Transportation inspectors are tasked with inspecting goods and equipment to ensure the safe transport of people and cargo. It can include rail transport inspectors, freight inspectors and more.
You'll need a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify. There's no work experience required, but there is moderate on-the-job training.
9. Postmasters and Mail Superintendents
Median salary: $78,060
Working for the U.S. Postal Service, you'll be responsible for planning, directing and coordinating the operations of a post office. It can also include administrative, management and support services.
You can obtain this job with a high school diploma or equivalent. There is some on-the-job training, and you may also need some work experience, though typically less than five years.
10. Signal and Track Switch Repairers
Median salary: $76,210
Working with the railroad system, your job would involve inspecting, testing, maintaining and repairing various equipment, such as signals, track switches, electric gate crossings, section lines and more.
You don't need work experience or anything above a high school diploma or equivalent, but there is a moderate amount of on-the-job training involved.
11. Gas Plant Operator
Median salary: $72,970
You'd be involved in distributing and processing gas, primarily for utility companies, by maintaining specified pressure on main gas pipelines.
You don't need anything more than a high school diploma or equivalent, and there's also no work experience required in a related field. However, there is long-term on-the-job training involved.
12. First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers and Repairers
Median salary: $70,240
As the job title suggests, you would supervise and coordinate the activities of mechanics, installers and repairers. Employers in this field include car repair shops, factories and other places where industrial equipment is used.
You don't need on-the-job training or anything beyond a high school diploma or equivalent, but you'll typically need some work experience (less than five years).
13. Subway and Streetcar Operators
Median salary: $69,440
This job entails transporting passengers by subway or streetcar and may also include handling fare payments.
You can obtain this job with a high school diploma or equivalent, and there's no work experience required. There is, however, moderate on-the-job training.
14. Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners and Investigators
Median salary: $68,130
Working for an insurance company, your job would be to evaluate insurance claims. This typically involves working outside of an office, inspecting buildings, vehicles and other insured property.
You can typically get an entry-level position with a high school diploma or equivalent, but some positions may require a bachelor's degree or at least some work experience in the insurance industry.
15. Farmers, Ranchers and Other Agricultural Managers
Median salary: $68,090
Your job would involve running a farm, ranch or other agricultural establishment that produces crops, livestock or dairy products. While some of your work may be in an office, much of it is performed outdoors and can be physically demanding.
You don't need anything above a high school diploma or equivalent to become a farmer, rancher or other agricultural manager, but you will need work experience.
16. Line Installers and Repairers
Median salary: $68,030
Your job would be to install and repair telecommunications cables, which can include fiber optic cables and electrical power systems. The job can be physically demanding and could require working at great heights with high-voltage electricity.
You need just a high school diploma or equivalent to get into the career, but you'll generally need technical instruction and long-term on-the-job training, which may include an apprenticeship.
17. First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers
Median salary: $67,840
Your job would be to supervise and coordinate workers in the construction of buildings above ground and extraction of various materials from below ground.
You'll need a high school diploma or equivalent to get this job. You could rise up to the supervisory level with less than five years of work experience.
18. Gas Compressor and Gas Pumping Station Operators
Median salary: $67,840
In this position, you'd operate a gas-, steam-, electric motor- or internal combustion-engine-driven compressor, or transmit, compress or recover various gases, such as natural gas, butane, nitrogen and more.
You can get the job with a high school diploma or equivalent and no work experience, but there is moderate on-the-job training involved.
19. Police and Detectives
Median salary: $67,290
Police officers are tasked with protecting people and property, while detectives and criminal investigators collect evidence and facts with the goal of solving crimes. The work can be physically demanding, stressful and dangerous, and it can require working round-the-clock shifts.
Education requirements start at a high school diploma or equivalent, but you may be required to have a bachelor's degree for some positions. You'll also need to complete a training program with an academy, as well as on-the-job training.
20. Railroad Workers
Median salary: $64,210
Railroad workers' duties can vary and can include driving trains, controlling switches and signals and train coordination. You only need a high school diploma or equivalent but expect several months' worth of on-the-job training.
How to Find the Right Job for You
With so many options, it can be difficult to know which career path is right for you. Start by thinking about your interests and how you want to spend your time. While a higher-paying job can be nice, it may ultimately not be worth it if you don't enjoy the work.
Consider speaking with people who work in the industry or position you're considering and asking about their experience. Also, start looking for job openings and ask questions during the interview processes to get more information to determine which is a good fit for you.
This process can take time, and in some cases, you may decide to switch careers in the future. But the good news is that you don't have to worry about spending the time or money on a college degree in order to make a good living.