What Are the Highest Paying Jobs without a Degree?

Many people believe that the only way to achieve a high-paying job is by obtaining a college degree. However, there are actually a number of occupations that offer competitive salaries without the need for a four-year degree, including:

  • Air traffic controllers
  • Power plant operators
  • Medical field
  • Construction
  • Salespeople

Air Traffic Controllers

Air traffic controllers manage the movement of planes to ensure that they stay at safe distances from one another. They work in approach control facilities and route centers, among other places.

  • When an airplane is about to take off, the controller clears it for takeoff and tells the pilot when to start the engine.
  • Once the plane is in the air, the controller gives the pilot instructions on which heading to fly and when to climb, descend, or turn.
  • The controller also keeps track of other aircraft in the area and warns pilots of any potential conflicts.
  • In addition, controllers may provide information about weather conditions and airport facilities.
  • They may also relay messages from pilots to ground personnel.

The job is demanding and stressful, requiring split-second decision-making and precise attention to detail. Given the importance of their work, it’s no surprise that air traffic controllers are well-compensated.

The average air traffic controller salary is $122,530 per year, making it one of the highest-paid occupations in the United States. Given the elevated level of responsibility associated with the job, it is not surprising that air traffic controllers are so well compensated.

Power Plant Operators

Power plant operators are responsible for generating electricity and ensuring that the power grid runs smoothly.

  • They oversee the generation of electricity at power plants, regulating the flow of power to meet demand.
  • Power plant operators work with a variety of equipment, including turbines, generators, and other electrical equipment.
  • They must be able to safely operate this equipment and troubleshoot any problems that arise.
  • In addition to generating electricity, power plant operators also monitor the power grid and make sure that it is running efficiently.
  • They may need to make adjustments to the grid to accommodate changes in demand or weather conditions.

Power Plant Operators Receive on the Job Training

Although a college degree is not required to work as a power plant operator, most employers prefer candidates who have at least some postsecondary educations. Power plant operators typically need to complete on-the-job training, which can last up to several months. During this time, they learn how to operate the equipment and control the systems that generate electricity.

After completing training, power plant operators typically earn an annual salary of $60,000-$70,000. Although a college degree is not required to work as a power plant operator, those who have a degree may have an advantage when it comes to getting hired or promoted. In addition, those with a degree may be able to earn a higher salary.

Medical Field

There are a number of high paying medical jobs that do not require a four year degree. Many of these positions are in high demand, and can be found in a variety of settings, from hospitals to private practices.

Some of the most popular positions include medical billing and coding, pharmacy technician, and medical assistant. These positions offer great pay and excellent benefits, making them an attractive option for those looking to enter the medical field without incurring a lot of debt.

Medical Billing and Coding Jobs Are Increasing in Demand

Medical billers and coders earn a median salary of $40,350 per year, and the top 10% earners bring in over $64,000 annually. While on-the-job training is often required to learn the specific software used by a medical practice, there are plenty of online courses and certification programs that can give you the skills you need to start your career. And with the aging Baby Boomer population driving up demand for health care services, there’s never been a better time to enter the field.

Pharmacy Technicians Earn Up to $22 per Hour

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for pharmacy technicians was $15.26 in May 2018, and the top 10% earned more than $22.00 per hour. There are many opportunities for advancement for those who are willing to put in the extra effort, and many employers are willing to offer on-the-job training to help employees improve their skills.

Medical Assistants Can Make $50K+ per Year

Medical assistants are an essential part of the healthcare team, providing support to doctors and nurses while also interacting with patients. While their duties vary depending on the specific setting, they typically perform administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments and handling billing, as well as clinical tasks such as taking medical histories and measuring vital signs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for medical assistants is $34,800. However, experienced medical assistants can earn much more than that, with some jobs paying upwards of $50,000 per year. With the demand for medical assistants expected to grow by 23% over the next ten years, now is an excellent time to consider a career in this growing field.


Although a college degree can open the door to many high-paying jobs, there are also a number of well-paid careers available to those without a four-year degree. For example, construction workers are in high demand and can earn a median salary of $33,450 per year. If you’re interested in working with your hands and don’t mind getting dirty, then a career in construction could be a good fit for you.

Electricians and Plumbers Train Under More Experienced Pros

Electricians are also in high demand and can earn a median salary of $52,720 per year. Although electricians need to complete an apprenticeship program, they do not need a four-year degree.

Finally, plumbers earn a median salary of $50,620 per year and do not need a four-year degree. If you like working with your hands and are interested in plumbing systems, then becoming a plumber could be the right career path for you. With dedication and hard work, it is possible to progress into a leadership role and earn an even higher salary.


While a college degree may give you a leg up in the job market, there are still plenty of high-paying sales jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. In fact, many employers value experience and proven skills over formal education when it comes to sales positions. If you’re motivated, driven, and good with people, you may be able to score a great sales job without a college degree.

Some of the best sales jobs for people without degrees include insurance sales, real estate sales, and car sales. Other high paying sales jobs can be found in the technology sector, where sales representatives earn high salaries for selling innovative new products.

You Don’t Need a Degree to Find a High Paying Job

While a college degree may give you a leg up when applying for jobs, it’s certainly not the only path to success. In fact, there are many high-paying jobs near you that don’t require a four-year degree. For example, jobs in the skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work often pay very well, and most only require on-the-job training or a two-year associate degree.

Similarly, jobs in technology and healthcare can also be quite lucrative, and many of these positions only require specialized certification or training. So, if you’re looking for a high-paying job, don’t discount the possibility of non-traditional paths. With some research and effort, you may be surprised at what you can achieve.


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