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Top 10 Highest Paying Jobs Without a Degree

For several decades, high school students have been told they cannot get a high paying job without getting a bachelor’s degree or higher in college, unless they are one in the lucky 50,000 who become NBA professional players, hit it big in the music world or become big name actors. What are the top 10 highest paying jobs without a degree?

Highest Paying Job

10 Highest Paying Jobs

10. CDL or Pile-Driver Operators

The average pay for a driver with a Commercial Driver’s License is around USD44,500. Pay is higher for those with tractor trailer experience and own their own rigs while having low expenses.

Pile-Driver Operators
Pile drivers drive construction supports into the ground. Pile drivers earn an average wage of 48K per year, with nothing but a high school degree and on the job training. They work at construction sites and oil rigs.

9. Train Engineer

Train Engineer
Engineers are not just the office bound technical gurus in the Dilbert comic strip. Engineers who drive trains earn an average 63K per year. Locomotive trains carry coal, corn and cars across the country. However, you don’t have to work in a major railroad depot to find employment. Train engineers also drive the passenger trains that are sprouting up around the nation, both within cities and between cities and their sprawling suburbs. There are trade schools and programs to gain the requisite skills, and the company may have you run through several hundred hours of simulations before you get to take the train on its first run.

8. Derrickman

Working on an oil rig yields a 45K to 50K salary to start, often with a few weeks of training straight out of high school. For those working in remote areas in North Dakota or West Texas, pay approaches 80K due to supply and demand. Colleges in North Dakota have seen a decline in enrollment because graduates are choosing to make 50K at 18 working in the oil fields rather than go to college.

7. Firefighter

Firefighter’s earn an average income of 45K. Firefighters do face significant risk in their profession. However, the job comes with job security, excellent benefits, and a schedule with several days off in a row often used to support side businesses like restaurants and moving businesses. Firefighters must have at least a high school diploma. They typically attend fire fighting school to learn the particular tasks of the job like how to operate the firefighting rig. One caveat is that some municipalities require firefighters to have Emergency Medical Technician or EMT training, which takes several months to earn.

6. Telecommunication Equipment Installers

You’ve called the phone company to get faster internet installed or set up a cable box. The telecommunication equipment installer who arrives at your door is paid an average 55K per year, and his employment prospects are bright. Installers are sometimes trained on the job, but many can learn their trade in a trade school.

5. Electricians

Electricians do far more than install electrical wiring. Electricians sometimes install wiring for telephones, alarm systems, fiber optic cable and solar panels. Electricians earn an average 48K per year. And unlike many other professions, electricians are paid during their four year apprenticeship. Why go to college when you can get paid while you learn a trade?

4. Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Manufacturing sales representatives sell everything from extrusion equipment to construction equipment. These jobs involve selling manufacturing equipment to other businesses, instead of selling manufactured products to the general public. The equipment is more expensive than retail finished goods, so commissions are better. The median salary for manufacturing sales reps is USD42,000. All that is required is a familiarity with the product. While 42K is an average, as with all sales positions, there is no upper ceiling to one’s income. If you close enough deals, you could literally earn a million dollars. Those who sell technical products like oscilloscopes or scientific lab equipment earn a respectable 73K per year, but employers prefer someone who already have a bachelor’s degree in those positions. This is potentially one of the highest-paying jobs you can get without a bachelor’s degree.

3. Plumbers, Pipe-fitters and Steamfitters

Plumbers earn an average 47K per year. Their expected job growth over the next decade is 26%, and job prospects for new plumbers are even better because this profession has a high average age approaching retirement. Plumbers install new pipes in buildings under construction, fix clogs, repair pipes and install equipment like hot water heaters. Pipe-fitters and steam-fitters install pipes that carry chemicals, steam used for heating or industrial purposes, gases like oxygen or nitrogen and other substances. Plumbers and pipe-fitters generally learn their skills at a trade school or through a union apprenticeship. Those plumber willing to work on holidays or on call make far more than the national average. This is one of the top 10 highest paying jobs that you can get without a degree.

2. Chemical Plant Operators

Chemical plant operators run the equipment at chemical plants that manufacture plastics, paints, medicines and other chemicals. These jobs receive little notice, yet their average pay is over 40K. Training is on the job and you can start right after high school. These jobs are far safer than they were in the past but receive few applications.

1. Dental Hygienist

dental hygienist assistant
The dental hygienist cleans your teeth and assists the dentist in a number of tasks. While the job isn’t glamorous, the pay is a respectable 62K on average. This job requires either an associates degree, state license or both. But 60K plus for an associates degree for a low stress medical job is certainly worth the investment. It is one of the highest paying medical jobs as well.