25 Highest Paying Jobs With No Degree Required + How to Get Them

Chang Fu
December 1, 2020

While some people take the weight of tens of thousands in student debt as an obligation, others don’t have the luxury to enter into an entry-level job that pays entry-level wages with looming high monthly student loan repayments. The Department of Education reports that a standard payment plan for borrowers with between $20,000 and $40,000 in federal student loans will take 20 years to pay off. Alternatively, high school graduates are flocking to industries without strict degree requirements to avoid the financial help completing one may require.

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Trade jobs, postsecondary non-degree certificates, or even just a high school diploma can lead to jobs that offer salaries nearly double that of an entry-level job requiring a four-year degree. 

While some of the higher paying trade jobs will require a substantial investment on licenses and lengthier courses, others can be started immediately, with an optional certification that can increase overall pay. Many of those certifications can be earned for as little as a few hundred dollars — creating the opportunity to pay with an installment loan in lieu of a larger student loan. With this in mind, we’ve carefully curated 25 high-paying jobs, no degree required.

Table of Contents:

  1. Median Pay $80,000 or More 
  2. Median Pay $60,000 to $79,999
  3. Median Pay $40,000 to $59,999
  4. How to Land the Job

Jobs That Pay 80k a Year Without a Degree

Jobs with an average salary of $80,000 or more don’t always require a master’s degree and 10 years of experience. Surprisingly, jobs that are near a six-figure salary can be found in the most unexpected places. Next time you ride in an elevator, consider that the installer is making nearly $85,000 per year.

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  1. Commercial Pilot
    • Median pay: $121,430 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma + license
    • Est. cost: $80,995
    • Est. time to qualify: 1,500 hours of experience
    • Projected growth: 5% increase
  2. Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Manager
    • Median pay: $94,560 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: Varies by CPDW program, estimated $250
    • Est. time to qualify: 5 years of experience in a related field
    • Projected growth: 4% increase
  3. First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detectives
    • Median pay: $91,090 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma + license
    • Est. cost: Varies by state, estimated $5,000
    • Est. time to qualify: 5 years of experience in a related field
    • Projected growth: 5% increase
  4. Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairer
    • Median pay: $84,990 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma + license
    • Est. cost: Varies by state, estimated $310
    • Est. time to qualify: 240 minutes for C-11 exam
    • Projected growth: 7% increase

Jobs That Pay 60k a Year Without a Degree

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American household makes $65,712 — including dual-earning households. Now imagine making $60,000 to $79,999 from a single income. From working on a farm to becoming a patrol officer, it’s more attainable than you might think. 

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  1. Subway and Streetcar Operator
    • Median pay: $67,880 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: N/A
    • Est. time to qualify: Immediate
    • Projected growth: 5% increase
  2. First-Line Supervisor of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers
    • Median pay: $67,460 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: Voluntary certifications vary, estimated $75 to $550
    • Est. time to qualify: 10 to 30 hours for OSHA training
    • Projected growth: 3% increase
  3. First-Line Supervisor of Construction Trades
    • Median pay: $66,210 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma + license
    • Est. cost: Varies by state, estimated $5,184
    • Est. time to qualify: 5 months for certification
    • Projected growth: 5% increase
  4. Police and Patrol Officer
    • Median pay: $65,170 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: Varies by state, estimated $5,000
    • Est. time to qualify: 6 months for Police Academy
    • Projected growth: 5% increase
  5. Wood Patternmaker
    • Median pay: $64,880
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: Varies, estimated $50 per month for apprentice dues
    • Est. time to qualify: 1 to 2 years of apprenticeship
    • Projected growth: 5% decrease
  6. Boilermaker
    • Median pay: $63,100 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: Varies, estimated $17,400
    • Est. time to qualify: 3 to 4 years for Certificate III in Engineering
    • Projected growth: 1% increase
  7. Stationary Engineer and Boiler Operator
    • Median pay: $62,150 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma + license
    • Est. cost: Varies by state, estimated $175
    • Est. time to qualify: 3 years of experience and NCEES exam
    • Projected growth: 2% increase
  8. Farm Labor Contractor
    • Median pay: $61,910 per year
    • Education requirements: N/A
    • Est. cost: N/A 
    • Est. time to qualify: Immediate
    • Projected growth: 10% increase
  9. Construction and Building Inspector
    • Median pay: $60,710 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma + license
    • Est. cost: Varies by state, estimated $1,000
    • Est. time to qualify: 1 to 2 weeks for a license
    • Projected growth: 3% increase

Jobs That Pay 50k a Year Without a Degree

Many entry-level positions at corporations requiring an undergraduate degree are lucky to receive a salary between $40,000 and $59,999 — and those come with the prerequisite of student debt. Oftentimes, you don’t need a degree to make the same amount at jobs that can be started immediately after graduating high school.

50k-jobs-no-degree
  1. Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Manager
    • Median pay: $58,760 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma + certification
    • Est. cost: Varies by certification, estimated $150 to $300
    • Est. time to qualify:  1 to 7 days depending on the program
    • Projected growth: 0% increase
  2. First-Line Supervisor of Transportation Workers
    • Median pay: $57,840 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: N/A
    • Est. time to qualify: 2 to 3 years of on-the-job training
    • Projected growth: 5% increase
  3. Food Service Manager
    • Median pay: $55,320 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: Varies by voluntary certification, estimated $1,495
    • Est. time to qualify: 3 years for Foodservice Management Professional designation
    • Projected growth: 1% increase
  4. Aircraft Cargo Handling Supervisor
    • Median pay: $55,110 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: N/A
    • Est. time to qualify: 1 to 2 years of on-the-job training
    • Projected growth: 5% increase
  5. Chef and Head Cook
    • Median pay: $51,530 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: Varies by program, estimated $335
    • Est. time to qualify: 3 years for Executive Chef certification
    • Projected growth: 6% increase
  6. Real Estate Broker and Sales Agent
    • Median pay: $50,730 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma + license
    • Est. cost: Varies by state, estimated $125 to $700
    • Est. time to qualify: 4 to 6 months
    • Projected growth: 2% increase
  7. First-Line Supervisor of Landscaping Workers
    • Median pay: $50,020 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: Voluntary certifications vary, estimated $450 to $585
    • Est. time to qualify: 6 months to 3 years for certification
    • Projected growth: 11% increase
  8. Heavy Equipment Operator
    • Median pay: $48,160 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: Varies by program, estimated $4,000 to $15,000
    • Est. time to qualify: 8 weeks for a certificate program
    • Projected growth: 4% increase
  9. First-Line Supervisor of Housekeeping and Janitorial Workers
    • Median pay: $40,780 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: N/A
    • Est. time to qualify: 3 years of on-the-job training
    • Projected growth: 8% increase
  10. Highway Maintenance Worker
    • Median pay: $40,730 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: N/A
    • Est. time to qualify: Immediate
    • Projected growth: 5% increase
  11. Loan Interviewer and Clerk
    • Median pay: $40,540 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma
    • Est. cost: N/A
    • Est. time to qualify: 1 to 2 years of on-the-job training
    • Projected growth: 0% increase
  12. Exercise Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor
    • Median pay: $40,390 per year
    • Education requirements: High school diploma + certification
    • Est. cost: Varies by certification, estimated $699 to $2,199
    • Est. time to qualify: 10 to 12 weeks for certification
    • Projected growth: 15% increase

How To Get a High-Paying Job With No Degree

Jobs that don’t require a college degree may make their hiring decision based on hard skills or extensive work history. Even at the start of your career, there are ways to stand out from the competition with vocational training, certifications, or apprenticeships–while staying financially literate and avoiding high tuition costs. Set attainable resolutions, know your goals, and use the tips below to land one of these lucrative careers in less time with less capital than it takes to earn a college degree.

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  1. Be proactive with your job search: Prior to gaining real-world experience, you should know your career goals. Search job listings in your desired field and see what skills and licenses they require prior to applying. Save the original job posting and look back at it frequently to realign your goals as necessary. 
  2. Build a foundation: Once you know what’s required in your field of interest, seek out certifications, courses, and apprenticeships to gain the hard skills necessary to land the job. 
  3. Know your skills and showcase them: You likely have other skills you’ve gained from life experiences that can be used to your advantage in your job search. For example, if you’re seeking a career as a transportation, storage, and distribution manager, the job listing may require organization and assigning work to employees. Think about that skill in a real-world context and how you may have been doing that already. Were you a corporal in the military? Did you manage volunteers? Customize each resume you’re going to submit and highlight any skills listed in the job description, no matter how unorthodox the experience. 
  4. Learn about the company: Do your research before submitting an application. Before the first call with the recruiter or manager, you should have a baseline knowledge about the company you’re applying to, its products or services, their values, and any recent news or company updates. 
  5. Practice for your interview: Always practice before your interview. Re-read the job description, know your resume backward and forward, practice answering standard interview questions with a friend, prepare questions for your interviewer, and be confident in your skills. 

You don’t need a degree from a four-year institution to earn a decent salary and say goodbye to overdraft fees and living paycheck-to-paycheck. On the high-end, a nearly six-figure salary is possible with certifications and apprenticeships. If you’re at a juncture in your career path, consider using an installment loan to help pay for certifications or vocational training.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 1, 2, 3 | Federal Student Aid

Chang Fu

Chang is an avid writer, among other things, at Possible. He grew up loving reading and writing, creating his own poems and even a book he's now hidden in an old closet, unpublished. His financial experience at a large bank along with his passion for technology to help underserved communities inspires him to write for Possible.

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