The 10 highest-paying jobs you can get without a college degree all pay more than $79,000 (2024)

Landing a job that will pay you more than $75,000 a year doesn't require an MBA. In fact in many cases, it doesn't necessarily require a bachelor's degree.

Forget four-plus years of college studying and thousands in student loans, there are dozens of occupations that reward them workers for skills gained outside the classroom.The key is knowing where to find these roles and how to prepare for them.

CNBC Make It analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find the 10 occupations that pay workers the largest salaries and don't require college coursework, an associate's or a bachelor's degree as a qualification for employment. Of course, that doesn't mean you're done learning after high school. Many of these roles demand extensive on-the-job training, certifications, or licenses.

Each of these top-paying roles will earn a worker more than $79,000 a year — that's double the typical annual earnings of someone with a high school diploma, which is about $37,024 a year, according to the BLS.

If you want to earn into the high five figures without a college degree, consider one of these 10 occupations:

10. Media and communication equipment workers

marrio31 | E+ | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $79,580
Projected job growth through 2026: 8 percent

In-demand in the movie and film industry, these workers install, maintain and repair audio and visual systems in businesses and homes. They also typically train customers in how to use the equipment appropriately.

Breaking into this role requires only a high school diploma, though those with experience in electrical installation and repair or those with a certification in a related field may find it easier to get hired. Workers will need short-term on-the-job training.

9. Power plant operators

Monty Rakusen | Cultura | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $79,610
Projected job growth through 2026: 1 percent

Power plant operators control and maintain the machinery used to generate electricity and distribute power among generators. They must also correct voltage and flows to meet changing consumer demands depending on the time of day.

Becoming a power plant operator typically requires a high school diploma as well as several years of on-site training and experience. You may also need to obtain a certification through the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's System Operator Certification Program, if your work could affect the power grid.

8. Elevator installers and repairers

Median annual wage: $79,780
Projected job growth through 2026: 12 percent

These workers install, fix, and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways, chairlifts and other lifts. Elevator repairers typically earn a little more as their job requires a greater knowledge of electronics, hydraulics and electricity than do installers, since a large part of maintenance and repair work is troubleshooting.

Becoming an elevator installer or repairer starts with a four-year apprenticeship program sponsored by a union, industry association or individual contractor. To enter such a program, you'll need a high school diploma. Even after the program, on-going training is required and 35 states, currently, require an installer or repairer to be licensed.

7. Powerhouse, substation, and relay electrical and electronics repairers

Huntstock | Brand X Pictures | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $80,200
Projected job growth through 2026: 4 percent

Also known as powerhouse electricians, relay technicians or power transformer repairers, these workers specialize in inspecting, maintaining and repairing all electrical equipment used in power generating stations, substations and in-service relays.

Becoming one will require a high school diploma, though many employers prefer applicants who have also taken courses in electronics at a community college or technical school. In addition to such schooling demands, workers in this field usually start their career as an electrician in order to gain the experience needed for this role.

6. Detectives and criminal investigators

Long Beach police homicide detective examines the clothes of a teenager who was shot and killed.

MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images | Digital First Media | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $81,920
Projected job growth through 2026: 5 percent

These types of law enforcement officers collect evidence and gather facts for criminal cases. They conduct interviews, examine records, observe the activities of suspects and participate in raids and arrests. They typically specialize in one type of crime such as homicide or fraud and work on a case until an arrest and trial are completed or the case is dropped.

To become a detective, you'll need at least a high school diploma, although many federal agencies and some police departments do require some college coursework or a college degree.

5. Commercial pilots

Photographer taking photos with camera out of seaplane window while flying in Southeastern U.S.

VW Pics | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

Median annual pay: $82,240
Projected job growth through 2026: 4 percent

These pilots handle unscheduled flight activities, such as aerial application, charter flights and aerial tours. Some, known as corporate pilots, transport company executives. They are also typically responsible for other non-flight duties such as scheduling flights, arranging for maintenance of the aircraft and loading luggage.

To become one, you'll need a commercial pilot's license and high school diploma. Most commercial pilots complete their training with independent FAA-certified flight instructors or at schools that offer flight training.

4. Power distributors and dispatchers

Thossaphol | iStock | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $86,410
Projected job growth through 2026: -3 percent

Also known as systems operators, these workers control the flow of electricity as it travels from generating stations to substations and users. They monitor current converters, voltage transformers, and circuit breakers over a network of transmission and distribution lines as well as resolve problems such as transformer or transmission line failures.

To become a power plant distributor or dispatcher, you'll need a high school diploma combined with several years of onsite training and experience. Those whose work could affect the power grid may require certification through the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's System Operator Certification Program.

3. First-line supervisors of police and detectives

A Boston police captain is pinned by her daughter after being promoted.

Boston Globe | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $89,030
Projected job growth through 2026: 7 percent

More commonly known as patrol sergeants, police captains or police sergeants, these law enforcement workers earn a premium thanks to their management role directly supervising and coordinating the activities of a police force. It is their responsibility to ensure that cases and procedures are conducted correctly according to the law. They may also train new staff.

To graduate to this level, an officer needs a high school diploma as well as plenty of on-the-job training.

2. Nuclear power reactor operators

Monty Rakusen | Cultura | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $94,350
Projected job growth through 2026: -10 percent

These workers control nuclear reactors. They adjust control rods to affect how much electricity a reactor generates and monitor reactors, turbines, generators and cooling systems.

Nuclear power reactor operators typically only need a high school diploma, though the role does require extensive on-the-job training. Workers usually start as equipment operators working under more senior employees and also receive formal technical training to prepare for their license exam from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

1. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers

Halfpoint Images | Moment | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $94,730
Projected job growth through 2026: 7 percent

These managers oversee the allocation and shipping of merchandise in the most cost and time-efficient manner. They plan, direct and coordinate all transportation of goods to ensure correct distribution.

To enter this role, you'll typically need a high school diploma and at least five years of experience working in a related field.

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The 10 highest-paying jobs you can get without a college degree all pay more than $79,000 (2024)


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9 jobs that pay $100K per year without a degree
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What is the highest paid job without college? ›

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How to make 80k a year without a degree? ›

What Is the Highest-Paying Job Without a Degree?
  1. Commercial Pilots: $121,430.
  2. Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers: $94,560.
  3. First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives: $91,090.
  4. Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers: $85,950.
  5. Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers: $84,990.

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3 jobs that can pay $200k a year
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Can you make 6 figures without a degree? ›

The steady tech job growth has created many opportunities to earn a six-figure salary. Although these career paths don't require a Bachelor's degree, you'll still need to show that you have the skills and experience for each role. All salary data is sourced from Indeed unless otherwise noted.

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Top 10 Highest Paying Jobs in USA (Inc Salaries)
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What is the average income of someone without a college degree? ›

As of Jun 22, 2024, the average annual pay for the No Degree jobs category in Los Angeles is $45,908 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $22.07 an hour. This is the equivalent of $882/week or $3,825/month.

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