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The Highest Paying Jobs that Don’t Require a College Degree or Significant Training

There are plenty of lists identifying the top 10 high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree, but it is misleading to suggest a recent high school graduate can easily step into most of those occupations. Many of the jobs that top these lists are supervisory roles that require years of experience in the industry, while others such as elevator installer and repairer may require a lengthy apprenticeship.

The graphic below (based on data from the BLS) shows that lower education requirements for an occupation are often offset by on-the-job training. Seventy-seven percent of occupations that typically need an associate’s degree or higher don’t require on-the-job training, and the same is true for 55% of those that require some college but not a 2-year degree. Only 8% of occupations that typically need a high school diploma or less also don’t require on-the-job training. Instead, 37% require some short-term training, and 41% require moderate-term training.

Typical On-the-Job Training Needed for Competency in Occupations, by Typical Education Needed for EntryTypical On-the-Job Training Needed for Competency in Occupations, by Typical Education Needed for Entry

There are high-paying jobs for workers without a college degree, but most of them require experience or other training. Postal service mail carriers top the list of occupations requiring short-term on the job training along with a high school diploma or less.  First-line supervisors of police and detectives is the highest paid occupation with moderate-term on-the-job training.

Top 10 Occupations That Require a High School Diploma or Less and Short-Term On-The-Job Training
SOC code Occupation Title Median Annual Wage, 2012
43-5052 Postal service mail carriers $56,490
33-3052 Transit and railroad police $55,210
43-5051 Postal service clerks $53,090
43-5053 Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators $53,090
53-7111 Mine shuttle car operators $52,110
53-7033 Loading machine operators, underground mining $48,420
33-3031 Fish and game wardens $48,070
47-5011 Derrick operators, oil and gas $46,900
53-6011 Bridge and lock tenders $45,940
53-7121 Tank car, truck, and ship loaders $44,100
Source: BLS

 

Top 10 Occupations That Require a High School Diploma or Less and Moderate-Term On-The-Job Training
SOC code Occupation Title Median Annual Wage, 2012
33-1012 First-line supervisors of police and detectives $78,270
33-3021 Detectives and criminal investigators $74,300
53-2012 Commercial pilots $73,280
53-6051 Transportation inspectors $63,680
11-9131 Postmasters and mail superintendents $63,050
53-4041 Subway and streetcar operators $62,730
33-1011 First-line supervisors of correctional officers $57,840
49-9097 Signal and track switch repairers $55,450
33-3051 Police and sheriff's patrol officers $55,270
53-4031 Railroad conductors and yardmasters $54,700
Source: BLS

When it comes to jobs that require no college degree and no on-the-job training, BLS has identified only 35 jobs (out of 820 detailed occupations) that fall in that category. However, recent high school graduates cannot easily step into most of those jobs, as they typically require a few years of related work experience in a different occupation. The list is even smaller for occupations that require no college degree, no on-the-job training, and no related work experience—only eight occupations fit those criteria. Of those eight, five fall under an “all other” title, a bucket for occupations that don’t easily fit into one of the Standard Occupational Classification codes.  The highest paid of those occupations, business operations specialists, all other, earned a median annual wage of $65,120 in 2012—much higher than the $34,750 national median wage in 2012.

Occupations That Don’t Require a College Degree or On-The-Job Training
SOC code Occupation Title Median Annual Wage, 2012
13-1199 Business operations specialists, all other $65,120
29-2092 Hearing aid specialists $41,430
29-2099 Health technologists and technicians, all other $40,700
31-9099 Healthcare support workers, all other $32,800
41-9099 Sales and related workers, all other $25,800
41-9012 Models $18,750
35-9031 Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop $18,580
27-2099 Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers, all other
Source: BLS

Research support provided by Patrick Clapp.

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