Conventional wisdom says you need a college degree to earn a good paycheck.
But often enough, conventional wisdom can be wrong, and that's the case with a college diploma and a high-paying career. The fact is, there are plenty of high-paying jobs that don't require a college degree or sometimes even a high school degree, and we have 25 good examples below to make that case.
Try these jobs on for size.
1. Brick Masons
Brick layers are in high demand as the U.S. economy expands, with annual average salaries around $51,000. You only need a high school education to get steady work as a brick mason. Typically, the job involves laying and binding building materials, especially brick, concrete blocks, cinder blocks and mortar. Brick layers can work for a construction or landscaping firm, or start their own business.
2. Costume Attendants
Costume attendants can enjoy the footlights and glamour of stage and screen, and earn good money doing so. Annual average salaries are around $53,000, and more in large urban areas like New York City and Los Angeles, where demand is highest. The job usually requires a high school graduation and involves selecting and fitting show-business professionals before and during a performance.
3. Catering Managers
A career in the food services management sector is fast-paced and fun, and often, you get to bring the leftovers home with you. No formal training is required, although a high school education is usually needed. The average annual salary is around $54,000, and the job involves planning and directing catered food and beverage occasions, in the private and public sector. Just be prepared to work weekends.
4. Gas Station Operators
Gas station operators aren't in as high demand as they used to be, given the trend toward electric vehicles, but while figures vary, there are about 150,000 gas stations operating in the U.S., as of 2017. The pay is good, at $57,000 annually, but the job does require some knowledge of gasoline, natural gas, butane, and of basic car repair, as well. A high school education is required.
5. Real Estate Agents
Selling houses has become a popular career choice for the growing number of real estate agents in the U.S. - 1.3 million strong in 2017. The job requires a high school education, pays about $58,000 annually (or more, in high-income markets). Expect to know as much as possible about homes, property sites, real estate contracts, and general condition of sales. The more you know in the real estate market, the more houses you'll sell.
6. Boiler Makers
Professional boilermakers, who build, install, and repair boilers that contain liquids and gases only need a high school diploma or equivalent. Annual salary stands at about $62,000 and the only on-the-job training needed is an apprenticeship in the art of boiler making and maintenance.
7. Computer Support Technicians
Computer tech support professionals are in high demand, with plenty of projected job opportunities in the next five years. The median annual wage is $63,000. It is helpful, although not required, to have an associate's degree in some form of computer technology.
8. Auto Insurance Appraisers
As long as drivers keep banging their vehicles into one another, the demand for auto insurance damage appraisers will be strong. You only need a high school degree, but any training in auto repair and an intuitive knowledge of understanding the impact of damage on vehicle performance and appearance is highly recommended. The median annual wage for auto insurance appraisers is $63,000.
9. Website Developers
Creating and designing websites for private or commercial usage remains in high demand in 2018, and a high school degree is enough (although an associate's degree is helpful) in establishing a career in the website development trade. Pay is decent, at an average of $66,000, and you can either work for a company as its web specialist or hang a shingle of your own and build your own client list.
10. Casino Managers
Working as a professional casino gaming manager can be a pressure-packed line of work, as you're working with the public, and with the public's money on the line. You don't need a college degree to do so, but more likely, you'll start as a casino dealer or in lower-level management and work your way up to a managerial post. Annual income is $69,000 and demand is on the rise as legalized gambling is approved across the U.S., and more casinos are opened, or expanded.
11. Transportation Vehicle Inspectors
Professional transportation inspectors check and monitor vehicle performance, from basic sedans to larger, more sophisticated commercial/cargo trucks and vans. Only a high school diploma is required, but a background in vehicle construction or repair is highly recommended. Income is on the upswing (at an average of $72,000 annually) as the economy improves and more commercial vehicles are on the nation's highways.
12. Dental Hygienists
Working in the dental trade is stable and reliable - as long as people have teeth and downplay dental hygiene, dental hygienists will have plenty of business. The line of work includes taking x-rays, cleaning teeth, and setting the table for the actual dentist to come in and fill cavities, install crowns, and other high-level dental work. The annual income is solid, at $73,000, and an associate's degree in dental hygiene is usually required.
13. Mechanics and Repair Managers
You don't need a degree, or even a high school diploma to manage mechanics and repair professionals. Median annual salary is almost $65,000 and industry growth rate is expected to grow by 7.1% through 2026. The ideal break-in point is to earn a job as a mechanics specialist for a few years, then be promoted to a manager.
14. Claims Adjusters
An insurance claims adjuster can earn, on average, $64,900, and there's no need for a high-school degree (although a high school or college degree can help.) On the job training is minimal and employment growth projection through 2026 isn't exactly robust, at minus 1.4%.
15. Subway Operator
A subway operator can not only earn a decent wage, at an average of $66,420, but since most subway and streetcar operators work for the public sector (mostly in large urban areas) benefits can be ample, as well. There's little job training to become a subway operator, and employment growth is projected to reach 4.1% in the next eight years.
16. Petroleum Pump Operator
Job satisfaction is high with petroleum pump operators - at 80%, according to industry figures. A high school diploma is recommended, but only 5% of U.S. pump operators have a college degree. Average salary for pump operators stands at $67,000, with job growth rising at a 2.8% annual clip.
17. Train and Track Switch Repairers
While there is no formal need for a college or high school degree for becoming a switch operator, some knowledge of computers and electronics is highly useful, especially in figuring out why system/track electronics, wiring and machines are on the fritz. Industry growth is growing at a 1.3% rate, and the average salary for signal and track switch repairers is $68,400.
18. Postmasters and Main Superintendents
A post office manager doesn't need a high school diploma, but does need deep communication and logistics skills, as the adage that the mail must go out is no fable - it's reality. Pay is good, with an average salary of $75,000, but with the rise of digital technology, including emails, texts, and private carrier delivery, demand for postal managers is at a weak minus 20% through 2026.
19. Electronics Repair Professionals
On-the-job training is definitely needed to become an electronics repair specialist - likely five years of credible training. Pay is ample at $78,400 and demand is strong for electronic repair professionals, with a growth rate of 3.7% over the next several years.
20. Commercial Pilots
Commercial pilots require at least a high school diploma or equivalent and must earn a commercial pilot's license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Flight school training is a prerequisite to becoming a commercial pilot. Growth rate for pilots is good, at 3.8%, and the median annual wage is about $79,000.
21. Elevator Installers and Repair Technicians
There's high demand for elevator installers and repair professionals - average salaries range at $80,000 annually. It's an under-represented profession, as only 22,000 elevator repair and installation professionals were in business in 2017. That's why career growth rate is robust, at 12.1% through 2026.
22. Law Enforcement Detectives
Detectives and criminal investigators don't need a college degree to ply their trade, but it is a specialized line of work, requiring patience, diligence, keen intuition, and a bulldog mentality. Annual salaries are ample, at $80,000, and the industry career growth rate is 4.5%, meaning that demand is strong in the detective trade.
23. Nuclear Power Reactor Technicians
A career in the nuclear power trade as a reactor operator is easier to obtain than one might think. Training is thorough, but you don't need a college degree to qualify. The job basically amounts to starting and stopping reactor equipment, monitoring and adjusting controls, and implementing emergency procedures, as needed. Demand is low, at minus 10% through 2026, as nuclear power plant usage is relatively low. Annual income is high, at $93,000.
24. Radiation Therapists
Radiation therapists work in the cancer treatment field, providing radiation treatment, operating the necessary machinery and monitoring the patient's reaction to the radiation treatment. While an associate's degree in radiation therapy is recommended, it's not mandatory - although a degree will help you get the state licensing needed to practice in the radiation field. The demand is high for radiation therapists, with a 22% growth rate expected through 2022. Annual pay is about $80,000.
25. Air Traffic Controllers
Working in the air traffic control field can come with high levels of stress as it involves guiding aircraft loaded with people and cargo safely through the air and landing on the ground with no mishaps. Perhaps that's why the pay is so good, at $122,000 annually. The job often requires and associate's degree, and long-term training in the field.