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The 10 Highest Paying Jobs with No College Degree

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Portrait of African American Man Standing in Office

There was once a time where going to college was THE path to take to a middle income or even high income life. These days might not be completely gone as research still shows college graduates on average earn more money, it has never been easier to make a great living without needing a college degree. 

For reference, the median American worker earns an estimated $54,132 a year. 

Let’s start with the #10 highest paying non-degree job and work our way down to the #1 job.

10. Structural Iron and Steelworker

We’re starting off the list with a pretty intense and high stress job, but it ranks at #10 on the list of high earning jobs without a college degree. Structural iron and steelworkers create the forms of buildings and bridges by installing iron or steel beams. To get into this field, an apprenticeship of 3 or 4 years is often required with each year having at least 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of on the job experience. You have to be at least 18 years old and physically able to do the work in order to qualify for an apprenticeship. 

The median income of a structural iron and steelworker is $58,550 with the top 25% earning $76,920 and the bottom 25% making $45,670 in 2021. When it comes to job satisfaction, structural iron and steelworkers report below average upward mobility, high stress level, and average work/life balance. 

9. Brickmanson and Blockmanson

This is another construction job that made it on the list of high earning jobs that don’t require a college degree. Brickmanson and Blockmansons use bricks and structural stone blocks to build walls, often exterior walls, for both residential and commercial properties. There are training programs at technical colleges to acquire the skills for this job but on the job training is also sufficient to become a mason. Through apprenticeship programs, those interested in this field can learn about building codes, safety practices, how to read blueprints, and more. 

The median income of a Brickmason and Blockmason is $59,340 with the top 25% making $76,070 and the bottom 25% earning $47,110. The job satisfaction is rated as average in this field with both stress level and work/life balance being above average. 

8. Hearing Aid Specialist

Ok, this is one job you might have never heard of, but it’s actually a rewarding and well paying career. A hearing aid specialist evaluates a person with hearing loss and fit them with the best aids for their particular level of hearing loss. For this field, you can go to school to obtain a degree in hearing instrument fitting and dispensing, but you can also get on the job training. The International Hearing Society also offers a self-led distance learning course. You can get a mentor who can offer you hands on experience and guide you through the state license requirements, which all states have different requirements for. 

The median income for a hearing aid specialist is $59,500 with the top 25% making $75,910 and the bottom 25% bringing in $39,130. Both job upward mobility and work/life balance are ranked as average for this job while the stress level is below average. 

7. Plumber

Plumbers are often cited as one of the best trade jobs available without a college degree and that’s for a good reason. Plumbers develop plans for where pipes and fixtures should be during the building of a structure as well as troubleshoot any piping related problems afterwards. 

The most traditional path to becoming a plumber is to have an apprenticeship under a licensed plumber and complete the required hours of on the job training. Plumbers also need a license to operate independently which is granted after years of practical experience and passing of an exam that tests one’s technical knowledge. 

The median income for a plumber in the US is $59,880 with the top 25% earning $77,890 while the lowest 25% of earners bringing home $46,590. Upward mobility is ranked below average, while the stress level is average and the work/life balance was rated above average for this job.  

6. Electrician

If there is one area all DIY lovers absolutely fear is electrical work. That’s why electricians are greatly appreciated and compensated well, according to this ranking. Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical systems in residential and commercial properties. In order to join this field, there is a training program that lasts 4 to 5 years both on the job and classroom training. Most of these programs only require a high school program although you can earn an associate degree in applied science in electrical construction before joining the training program. Of course, all electricians need to be licensed by their state to operate. 

The median income for electricians is $60,040 with the top 25% of earners making $77,350 and the bottom 25% making $46,900. The work/life balance and upward mobility are ranked below average while stress level is rated as above average for this job, not such a great combination. 

5. Sound Engineering Technician

Sound Engineering Technicians are responsible for the audio during any event that requires professional audio setup. They set up audio equipment and monitor them during a performance, event or recording. 

To become a sound engineer, you can either go to college to earn a degree in that field or get on the job training like many have done to land jobs. You can get internships or voluntary work in the field to make connections and build your skills. 

The median income for a sound engineering technician is $60,500 with the top 25% making $79,730 and the bottom 25% making $42,100. Both upward mobility and stress level are ranked as average while the work/life balance of this field is rated as above average. 

4. Sales Representative

Sales representative is a field that is wide with very diverse income levels. A sales rep sells services and goods to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations, so this field is different from the field of sales people that sell goods directly to consumers.  You know a great sales rep when you see one so it’s not hard to imagine what type of traits are required to become successful in this highly competitive field. There is no formal training required to get into this field but you might have the upperhand if you have previous experience or educational background in that specific field. 

The median income for a sales representative in the US is $61,600 with the top 25% earning $85,610 and the bottom 25% making $45,800. The job satisfaction ratings for this field is not the best with upward mobility ranking as average, stress level ranking above average, and work/life balance being rated as low. 

3. Flight Attendant

Calling all travel enthusiasts to the front of the line for this one! Flight attendants interact with flight passengers to ensure passengers are comfortable and passenger safety guidelines are being followed. A high school diploma is required to enter this field and previous customer service experience is preferred. 

The median income for a flight attendant is $61,640 with the top 25% earning $76,920 and the bottom 25% making $48,780. Upward mobility is ranked below average for flight attendants while stress levels and work/life balance are both rated as above average. 

2. Executive Assistant

As the title states, executive assistants are assistants to high-level executives. They manage schedules, make travel and meeting arrangements, and whatever else the executive needs assistance with. 

The requirements to become an executive assistant varies depending on the needs of the executive, but most don’t require a college degree, although proficiency in specific skills might give you an advantage. 

The median income for executive assistants is $62,060 while the top 25% earned $78,110 and the bottom 25% brought home $48,720. Upward mobility, stress level, and work/life balance are rated average across the board for this job. 

1. Patrol Officer

If you’re all about serving your community while improving law enforcement, why not consider becoming a patrol officer? This is one field nobody gets into lightly as it likely has the highest stress level of any field on this list. Each jurisdiction has its own requirements for entering the patrol office training program and most of them do not require a college degree. There is a training academy all offices have to go through where you will learn legal codes, first aid, use of firearms, and more. 

The median income for a patrol officer is $64,610 with the top 25% making $81,850 while the lowest 25% earned $50,630. Upward mobility is ranked as above average for this field but the work/life balance is definitely below average as you can imagine.