Top 19 Highest Paying Jobs/Careers (Without a College Degree)

In today’s ever-changing job market scenario, a 4-year college degree does not always guarantee a job. However, the converse is also true; it doesn’t mean you cannot get a job without a college degree. The most common question here is this: Can you really get a high-paying job without actually graduating with a formal college or university degree?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. Many people decide to get a job without actually taking the longer path of college education and still land up with some of the highest paying jobs. In fact, there are people who, without a bachelor’s degree, still earn much more than those who have one. Today, there are several professions that allow you to earn a great income without a university degree.

So, what do you really need to get a high-paying job without going through a 4-year college? To start with, what you need is a deeper understanding of the choices available to you. Once you have a list of potential career options, you need to pick up specific skills as required in the job market. There are several job options that prefer, and sometimes require, skill over education and work experience. “Middle skill jobs,” also called “new collar jobs” are those which do not really need 4-year college degrees but require hard skills necessary for the job.

You can find skill-based jobs in a wide range of industries such as information technology, manufacturing and healthcare, among many others. Organizations such as schools, hospitals, IT and manufacturing companies, etc. have started looking for and hiring people with the right kind of skills rather than those with the “right degree.”

In this article, we will discuss a few of the highest-paying job opportunities which do not always require a formal college degree. To get these jobs and be successful in them, what you may require is vocational training or trade school, which you can attend for two years or less. These vocational or technical schools specialize in enabling you to acquire the skills required by putting you on a more defined and focused path that will help you succeed in the job market.

Computer Programmer

A computer programmer usually creates, writes and tests codes which allow computer applications and programs to function properly. As a computer programmer, you need to know various computer languages such as C++, Java, Python, etc. You can work for any kind of computer-based company such as a system design firm, financial organization, software publisher and many others. Since most of the work is done on the computer, a programmer job offers a lot of flexibility and also allows you to telecommute.


To be eligible for the job of a computer programmer, you do not necessarily require a bachelor’s degree; an associate degree or extensive coding experience is usually sufficient. You can also get certified online in a particular programming language; these certifications tend to open up many exciting job opportunities. According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), the median salary of a computer programmer is around $70,000 per annum.


Database Manager

The database manager, or database administrator, helps store and organize the data of a company by making use of specialized software. The job of a database manager is to ensure that all the organization’s information is secure and easily available to employees looking to access it. If you are interested in pursuing a role like this, you can work in almost any type of industry. However, most database managers are employed by computer system design companies.


It is true that some organizations may need you to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in MIS (management information systems) to be employed as a database manager. Today, however, if you have a very strong foundation in the subject and are proficient in database languages like SQL (Structured Query Language), you can get a great job and earn an average salary of around $80,000 per annum according to the BLS.


Computer Support Specialist

The job of a computer support specialist is to provide organizations, businesses and people with their system hardware/equipment or software. They work with companies’ IT teams as well as individual computer users and help resolve technical issues. Computer support specialists can offer their services and help online, via phone or in person.


Typically, as a computer support specialist, you do not require a college degree. However, what you do need is extensive computer knowledge and good communication skills. You may need to take up a few IT or computer courses or have an associate degree. However, some organizations may require the computer support experts to undergo a certification program as well. As per the BLS, a computer support specialist earns around $52,000 per annum.


Computer Security Analyst

The job of the computer security analyst, all called an information security analyst, is to protect the computer systems and networks of any organization. Although many companies do exclusively hire people with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science, some others do not rely too heavily on formal college education. All they require is for the computer security analyst to have excellent skills in programming and IT security. According to the BLS, on an average, a computer security analyst can earn around $92,000.


Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers are also called ultrasound technicians; they are usually employed by diagnostic labs, hospitals and doctors’ offices. In this role, the employee is required to work with the medical practitioner and produce ultrasound images of patients. To be employed as a diagnostic medical sonographer, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in sonography. However, you can also get a 1-year certificate program or an associate degree in the subject. Today, as an ultrasound technician, you can earn an average salary of around $65,000 per annum according to the BLS.


Tool and Die Maker

Tool and die makers are responsible for setting up and operating mechanical systems that manufacture tools. There is no specific degree required to get a job in this field and you can learn via vocational courses, technical colleges and apprenticeship programs. You can also learn on the job, in any manufacturing set-up. If the job involves the use of computer-controlled machinery, however, you may require more IT experience or coursework. Today, the average salary of a tool and die maker in the manufacturing industry is around $44,000 per annum.


Computer Systems and Network Administrator

True to its title, the job of a computer systems and network administrator is essentially to install and operate computer systems for various businesses. Most employers in this field strongly prefer good computer skills and at least a post-secondary certificate. As per the BLS, the average salary per annum of a computer systems and network administrator is around $70,000 – $80,000.


Pharmacy Technician

As a pharmacy technician, your job will primarily involve assisting the pharmacist in dispensing medicines to patients and/or doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Drug stores and pharmacies as well as private hospitals and clinics seek employees in these roles. Typically, for the job of a pharmacy technician, a 4-year pharmacy degree is not required and you can mostly learn via on-the-job training. However, these days, you can get a certificate in pharmacy technology by completing a program offered by technical or vocational schools. It takes just a year, sometimes less. As a pharmacy technician, you can earn an average per annum salary of around $30,000.



Also known as radiologic technicians, radiographers perform diagnostic imaging like X-rays. Radiographers usually work under medical practitioners and take images as required by the physicians. They also work closely with medical professionals and help them evaluate these images. Radiographers usually work in labs, hospitals, doctors’ offices, outpatient care centers and diagnostic centers. Usually, to get a job as a radiographer, you need an associate degree in radiology or in MRI technology and these programs usually take around 1.5-2 years to complete. You can also take a 1-2 year certificate program to be a radiographer. The average salary of a radiographer is around $60,000 per annum.


Service Delivery Analyst

In this role, your goal is to ensure that your clients always receive high-quality service. A service delivery analyst tracks the quality of user experience and looks at ways to improve it. Usually, software is used to track the efficiency of the services delivered. This means a service delivery analyst generally requires very strong computer skills, although this requirement could fluctuate depending on the industry.


A service delivery analyst does not necessarily require a 4-year degree. However, they should have industry experience of at least 2-3 years and a thorough knowledge of the different software used (although this can be picked up on the job). As a service delivery analyst, you can earn an average salary of $62,000 per annum.


Business Owner

If you are looking to be your own boss instead of working as an employee, you could consider setting up your own business. To do this, all you require is a high school degree. You can explore countless avenues, like wholesaling, for instance. Keep in mind, however, that you need to spend enough time on research and stay patient at all times. You definitely don’t require a college degree to own a business, and can make an average of around $50,000 per annum from self-employment.


Nuclear Power Reactor Operator

In this role, the operator runs the system which directs the heat generated by nuclear reactors to operate steam turbines in order to produce electricity. Nuclear generators are complex and dangerous, and nuclear power reactor operators are required to follow extremely strict protocols and stringent regulations. This is probably why the job of a nuclear power reactor operator is quite high-paying; you can earn an average of around $90,000 per annum in this role.


To get a job as a nuclear power reactor operator, a high school diploma is sufficient; however, an associate degree or certificate in power plant technology can also be useful. You require intensive on-the-job training as a power plant operator, power distributor or dispatcher. A post-secondary qualification in mechanical engineering and physics can be an added advantage. You need to get a license via the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and you must pass examinations and go through comprehensive training. As a nuclear power reactor operator, you need problem-solving abilities and attention to detail. You also need to be highly dependable.


Storage, Transportation and Distribution Manager

It is the job of storage, transportation and distribution managers to ensure that goods are moved and stored safely, quickly and efficiently. Storage, transportation and distribution require the management of complex systems and the know-how of how to manage these systems.


In this role, you need to coordinate with various people and processes and meet tight deadlines. Typically, for a job in this field, you need hands-on experience in supply chain operations, transportation or logistics. A basic course in business administration is an added bonus. You also need to be proficient in (SCM) supply chain management software and have a working knowledge of OSHA. Most employers in this field seek industry certifications and strong communication skills. As a storage, transportation and distribution manager, you can earn up to $90,000 average per annum.


First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detectives

Usually holding the title of captain, sergeant or commander, first-line supervisors oversee the ranks of police or detective officers. Based on the size of the department, the supervisors may have patrol duties too. However, the main duty of the first-line supervisor involves officer training within the department and handling new initiatives like active shooter situations, counter-terrorism, etc. In addition, first-line officers are responsible for department discipline.


To become a first-line officer, you need several years’ experience as a patrol officer; you may also need to write and pass an exam, receive certification or complete advanced police training. You may be required to pass a course in emergency management, law, public administration or forensics. To be a first-line officer, you need strong communication skills, investigative skills and sound judgment. You can earn around $90,000 per year as a first-line officer; while it is among the highest-paid jobs, it can be quite stressful too.


Air Traffic Controller

The job of an air traffic controller is to monitor flights and direct air traffic. When you are on duty, you need to monitor several flights all at once. To ensure minimum delay and maximum safety for all flights, you must follow strict procedures. Air traffic controllers are usually employed by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and job openings in this field are quite competitive.


You do not require a bachelor’s degree for the job of an air traffic controller; however, there are many schools that offer FAA-approved programs. If you do not have any military experience, you need to attend the FAA academy or receive an associate degree from the AT-CTI (an air traffic collegiate training initiative). Apart from aeronautical and technical skills, you also need good stress management skills. As an air traffic controller, you can earn an average of around $120,000 per annum.


Power Distributor and Dispatcher

The job of a power distributor and dispatcher is very similar to the job done by a nuclear power reactor operator. Although the scope of the power distributor and dispatcher is more limited. As a power distributor, your job mainly involves controlling the steam input and electricity in a traditional power plant. The job requires you to monitor various operations and resolve any issues that may arise. The job of a power distributor and dispatcher requires a blend of classroom, as well as on-the-job training and you require coursework in electrical engineering or power plant technology.


It is an added plus if you have prior experience as a power plant monitoring technician or if you have held other positions in a power plant such as a surveying or engineering technician or a power systems operator. If you want to get a job as a power distributor and dispatcher, it may help if you have knowledge in industrial control software, database knowledge or knowledge of robotics and an average yearly pay of a power distributor and dispatcher is around $80,000 per year.



Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists are usually part of the core team that helps patients suffering from cancer; they work with radiologists, nurses and other oncology specialists. The main job of the radiation therapist is to administer radiation therapy and treatment to cancer patients using high-tech medical equipment. The job involves moving the patients, helping them wear protective gear, etc. To get a job as a radiation therapist, you need a state license that includes a certification from the ARRT (American Registry of Radiologic Technologists).


As a radiation therapist and a healthcare professional, keep in mind that you will be working closely with patients suffering from various stages of cancer. To succeed in this role, you require a good blend of both technical as well as interpersonal skills. The average salary of a radiation therapist is around $80,000 per annum.


Elevator Installer and Repairer

The job of an elevator installer is extremely important, especially for a building under construction. It requires the transportation of workers, materials and tools to all floors being constructed so that the wiring, plumbing, framing, carpeting, drywalling, etc. can be done. On a construction site, the elevator is the most important element; it is instrumental in keeping all work on track. In this role, you must ensure that all elevators are in proper working order and that they are installed in compliance with the building codes.


To get a job of an elevator installer and repairer, you do not require a formal degree; a high school diploma is sufficient. However, previous experience in similar job roles – like construction, refrigeration or HVAC – can definitely serve as an added advantage. To get the job as an elevator installer and repairer, some states may require that you have a formal license via the National Association of Elevator Contractors. To excel in this role, you require mechanical aptitude with good motor and communication skills. As an elevator installer and repairer, you can earn a yearly average salary of around $78,000.


Detective and Criminal Investigator

Catching criminals and convicting them are the two main components of police work and as a patrol officer, your job is to catch the criminals. Meanwhile, the job of the detective and criminal investigator is to build a case to prove the guilt of the suspected criminal. They usually do this via interrogation of the suspect and interviews with the witnesses, victims and others associated with the case.


Detective and criminal investigators also take part in arrests and raids if required. They also look for and collect evidence to finally prepare a case against the suspect and present it to the prosecution. Usually, the patrol officer is promoted to the ranks of a detective and criminal investigator; they may serve under probation for a period after graduating from the police training academy.


To get the job of a detective and criminal investigator, you are usually required to pass an examination and have several years of experience in the field of law enforcement. You also need sufficient exposure to criminal investigations and an associate degree in forensics or criminal justice. Average yearly salaries of the detective and criminal investigators are usually around $78,000 per year.


While it is still the norm to graduate with a 4-year bachelor’s degree before seeking a full-time job, the trend is slowly shifting. You do not necessarily need formal a bachelor’s or master’s degree to be successful in a high-paying job. An associate’s degree, work experience and online certifications are all accepted in lieu of a formal college diploma. You just need to find out what skills you need to excel in your field, and then start developing them. Once you have chosen the field you are passionate about, you can start building your career from scratch.











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