A new report by the career-guidance website CareerCast found that there are plenty of high-paying jobs — including commercial pilot and registered nurse — that don’t require four years of college. They do, however, require specialized training.
“There’s no question that college graduates with four-year degrees are very likely to earn almost $1 million more in compensation through the course of their careers,” says Tony Lee, publisher of CareerCast. “However, for the many people who are unable to earn that degree because of the costs, financial obligations, or other reasons, it’s still possible to have a very rewarding, challenging, fulfilling career that pays well.
“These jobs offer great opportunities for those job seekers,” he said. “To land one of these jobs, you’ll need to compensate with good old-fashioned hard work and some post-high-school training,”
CareerCast evaluated 200 professions across a variety of industries and skill levels to determine the highest-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. It gathered data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, trade-association studies, and other sources.
10. Communications Equipment Mechanic
Annual Median Salary: $54,530
Education Required: Postsecondary nondegree award
Many trade schools and junior colleges offer vocational programs designed to teach the skills necessary to become a communications equipment mechanic. The BLS reports that completion of one of these programs typically comes with either official certification or an associate’s degree.
9. Aircraft Mechanic
Annual Median Salary: $55,230
Education Required: FAA-accredited Aviation Maintenance Technician School
These schools teach those working to become aircraft mechanics the skills necessary for the job. Passing an FAA exam is a requirement.
8. Respiratory Therapist
Annual Median Salary: $55,870
Education Required: Associate’s degree and state licensing
Programs for training and certification in respiratory therapy exist throughout the country. Anyone trying to become a respiratory therapist must be certified by the National Board for Respiratory Care.
7. Police Officer
Annual Median Salary: $56,980
Education Required: High-school diploma or equivalent and graduation of police academy
Aspiring police officers must pass rigorous physical fitness tests, take extensive training in law enforcement, and graduate from a police academy to serve.
6. Electrical Technician
Annual Median Salary: $57,850
Education Required:Associate’s degree
Postsecondary schools offer vocational programs geared toward those learning to be electrical technicians. These programs teach skills like circuitry and computer repair.
5. Retail Buyer
Annual Median Salary: $60,550
Education Required: High-school diploma
While requirements may vary depending on the hiring company, an entry-level applicant can work as a buyer with a high-school diploma. After gaining experience, one can find advancement opportunities by earning certain certificates, including a Certified Purchasing Professional and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager credential.
4. Web Developer
Annual Median Salary: $62,500
Education Required: Associate’s degree
3. Registered Nurse
Annual Median Salary: $65,470
Education Required: Associate’s degree and state nursing license
According to the BLS, nurses can launch their careers either with a bachelor’s degree in nursing science, an associate’s degree in nursing, or certification from an accredited nursing program. No matter the chosen route one takes, all nurses must receive state-issued licensing and pass the National Council Licensure Examination.
Annual Median Salary: $69,300
Education Required: High-school diploma or equivalent
While training to be a farmer is largely gained on the job, the BLS reports that “farm and land management has grown more complex,” which has prompted more farmers to pursue bachelor’s degrees. The BLS also reports, however, that government programs exist to help aspiring farmers gain training and a foothold in the industry.
1. Commercial Pilot
Annual Median Salary: $73,280
Education Required: High-school diploma or equivalent; commercial pilot’s license from the FAA and Airline Transport Pilot certificate
Whereas airline pilots typically need a college degree in addition to their FAA pilot’s licensing and ATP certification, commercial pilots — who fly aircraft for reasons such as charter flights, rescue operations, firefighting, and aerial photography — can begin their careers with a high-school diploma and the proper licensing and certification.