10 Highest Paying Jobs Without A Degree

By Mae Davies / September 27, 2017
highest paying jobs without a degree
It’s been several years now since the last recession, but apparently, the country has still yet to fully bounce back. Hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs.  Most of those jobs may be lost forever.  

Yet, as if against all odds, the country’s economy is seen to be growing recently.  It seems the worst is over, so we believe now is a good time as any for job seekers to resume job hunting.  

To point you towards the right direction, here is a list, in no particular order, of 10 of the highest-paying jobs without a degree in the country right now.

Which Job Defines Success

10. First-Line Supervisor in Sales, but In Non-Retail

Median annual salary: $70,060

Education level: High-school diploma or equivalent

Required skills: Leadership, Critical decision making, Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines, Ability to handle interpersonal conflicts. 

What would you do?

Directly supervise and coordinate activities of sales workers other than retail sales workers.

You would recruit, train, and evaluate staff. This implies planning all work schedules, and assigning members of staff to specific tasks and duties.

You would also communicate and get advice from company management to develop and implement tactics and procedures to increase sales revenues, grow market share and promote your company’s business.

This would usually include a lot of following up with your staff, as you’d be lucky to get very interested, engaged and proactive employees. So you’d have to monitor sales staff performance (yes, spreadsheets, spreadsheets!) to ensure that they meet or even try to meet the goals you set and agreed with each and every member of your team.

This role is a mediators heaven – if you like connecting people to ideas, you could love this type of job. Through attending company meetings you would learn more and more information, which you would then need to translate into tasks for your team. 

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9. Nuclear medicine technologist

Median annual salary: $70,180

Education level: Associate degree

Required skills: Attention to detail. Attention to detail. Attention to detail! And technical skills, of course. 

What would you do?

True, both words ‘nuclear’ and ‘highly specialized’, might put you off trying to train for this role. But have a look at what you would actually get to to do, before moving on with the list. This job might still surprise you.

As mentioned, this is a highly-specialized job in healthcare. You would work closely with the nuclear medicine doctor. You would be preparing and administering radioactive chemicals, known as radiopharmaceuticals upon doctor’s orders.

You’d also operate a scanner to create images of various areas of a patient’s body.

The pressures are quite high, but so are the rewards, and I’m not just talking about a hefty $70 grand annual income, but that of impact on the good of the humankind.

You’d get to work in community hospitals, university-affiliated medical centers and various other public or private health institutions. 

Your careers is also very clearly defined, and you could progress to senior staff technologist, research technologist, technology educator, chief technologist, team leader or move into healthcare administration and even public healthcare research. 

8. Dental hygienist

Median annual salary: $70,210

Education level: Associate degree

Required skills: While you’d get necessary technical skills in your training, there are other skills to consider: Attention to detail, dexterity, stamina, ability to perform routine tasks for extended periods of time. You’d also need to be able to think on your feet. By the way, how do you score on the level of compassion? Because for this job you’d need tonnes of it! 

What would you do?

Now everybody knows that dentists earn a lot. But they also have to study and train on the job for a very long time before they can start their own practice. However, in case of a career as a hygienist it is a different story.  

The main role of hygienist is to – yes, of course, keep your mouth hygiene at check by performing various cleaning procedures. If you were to become one, you wouldn’t spend all your career cleaning teeth, but also examine patients for oral diseases , and provide other preventative dental care, operate scans, for example. 

7. Power distributor and dispatcher

Median annual salary: $71,690

Education level: High-school diploma or equivalent

Required skills: To be keen on monitoring. Big time. And ability and will to solve complex problems. 

What would you do?

To me personally, this job just doesn’t sound too exciting, but my sister found it fascinating. So truly, to each her own!

The main duties of the role include coordinating, regulating or distributing electricity or steam. That’s pretty much it in terms of actual job. However, you would be responsible for public safety and security.

So you’d need to learn all relevant equipment, procedures, policies and be willing to promote effective and safe operations insuring that people, property, institutions and data are properly protected.  

Now that’s a bit of mental burden, if you think of it. I say, you’d need to have nerves of steel for this job, but if this sounds like you – why not give it a read

6. Commercial plane pilot

Median annual salary:$73,280

Education level: Associate degree or at least two years of college experience

Required skills: Maths and physics to know how plane works, spatial awareness and coordination, being able to stay calm under pressure, leadership and discipline. 

What would you do?

In case you didn’t envisage this epic career, have a look at this video showing you what a life as pilot looks like.

On the job you’d be responsible for receiving all information about your route, weather, passengers and aircraft. You would need to create you full flight plan detailing the altitude, route and of fuel. Control your fuel to ensure you have enough for a safe arrival, but not too much to comprise the safety of your passangers and crew.

You would be overlooking the loading and fuelling of your plane. You would manage all safety systems on the plane, which is a huge responsibility and cannot be taken lightly.  

Being a commercial pilot also implies people management, as you would have to brief your entire crew and keep an eye on them every flight.

There is quite a substantial amount of technical knowledge involved for checking navigation, operating systems, dealing with air traffic control centers. Even complying with noice regulations would essentially be your responsibility!

So, I guess, it depends on how well equipped you are to deal with so many moving (literally and figuratively) parts, to see if you could succeed as a pilot! 

5. Detective

Median annual salary: $74,300

Education level: High-school diploma or equivalent

Required skills: Take the Clearer Thinking free test on the way (good) detective mind works. It could save you a lot of time on pursuing this career. 

What would you do?

You would mainly need to apply your critical thinking, logic and reasoning to identify correct solutions and approaches to solving various types of crime. Now, public detectives are usually involved with violent crimes, so I’d consider talking to a psychologist who treats detectives in order to get their view on how suited you could be for the job. 

However,  some detectives also may work on civil cases, reports of missing people and get involved in background checks, which all might be a bit less intimidating that violent crimes. 

You would also need to be good at talking to others to convey information effectively and to gather any missing pieces you are after, without manipulating people and yourself into believing in something that hasn’t been backed up by evidence. 

4. Nuclear-reactor operator

Median annual salary: $74,990

Education level: High-school diploma or equivalent

Required skills: Will to learn a lot about practical application of physics, while be OK with a role of a mechanic and maintaining safety of the entire nearby regions.

What would you do?

My dad had this job for over 30 years, and only later we learned that he should not have worked so long in this highly dangerous environment. So I would recommend reading about health hazards of the job, before picking this career for its financial rewards. 

If you were to work as a reactor operator you’d spend your days mostly moving control rods, managing reactor equipment, implementing operations procedures, conducting tests and recording data. 

You would need to throughly understand  mechanical and electrical systems of the nuclear plant, be up-to-date on all technical specifications, old and new government regulations and the plant’s operating processes and procedures. In other words, you’d need to be learning all the time. 

3. Elevator installer or repairer

Median annual salary:$76,650

Education level: High-school diploma or equivalent

Required skills: Be physically fit for the job, ability to work varied shifts and keep up with the world of ever-evolving electronics! 

What would you do?

As an elevator installer or repairer you’d install, maintain or repair, you guessed it, elevators!

But maintenance and repair workers usually need to know more about electricity, electronics, hydraulics  and complex computerized control systems, than installers because to maintain and repair elevators would mainly imply troubleshooting.

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2. Radiation therapist

Median annual salary: $77,560

Education level: Associate degree

Required skills: Compassion, empathy, careful attention to safety procedures and ability to work in highly strained environment.

What would you do?

As a radiation therapist you’d work with patients being treated for cancer. This right there hits the ‘giving back to the society’ criterion right in. It’s a very noble and needed profession, and given the new cancer statistics, we need more and more radiation therapists.

You would be responsible for keeping good records of patients’ medical information, locating tumors using x-rays and developing treatment plans within the guidelines provided by a senior members of medical oncologic team. 

Because you would work with cancer patients of all ages you must be empathetic to the suffering of others, yet stay professional at all times. Apart from that, you’d also need to be quite fit and strong, as often you’d need to help your patience to move or be able to lift them. 

1. Air-traffic controller

Median annual salary:$122,530

Education level: Associate degree

Required skills: Key aviation safety knowledge and ability to operate under extreme stress. 

What would you do?

It would take you about 3 years to train to get the highest paid job without a degree in the world! But you’d complete your training while getting paid and working! 

Essentially the role is pretty much what it says on a tin. You’d be based on the ground, directing and monitoring planes on the ground and through controlled airspace. Although planes land and depart every minute, you’d have a typical 8-hour shifts 5 times per week, the same as an average office worker. But with a great payout day! 

Obviously there are a verity of different kinds of air-traffic control carriers, but most of them would require you to be able to issue landing and takeoff instructions to pilots, monitor plane movements with a help of radars, computers or visual references, share information about air traffic with other centres, keep pilots up-to-date with any information they may require, and the scariest of all – be ready and willing to appropriately alert airport response team if you encounter or suspect and emergency. 

Another bonus of the job is early retirement. After 20-year career, you could be sipping cocktails in Bahamas with a full pension at the age of 50! 

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About the author

Mae Davies

BA, MA Psychology (and Conflict Resolution), University of Cambridge (2007). With a decade of trial and error in psychology and 33 years of navigating my own complex (that's one word for it!) relationships with family, friends, co-workers and men, I hope I have some useful knowledge and skills to share with my readers about making sense of relationships and trying to become a better person every day.