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You’ve got the work ethic, creativity, and professionalism to excel in your chosen profession. But is that enough to score a high-paying job? Do you need a college degree as well? 

Not necessarily.

Sure, a number of well-compensated professions require a college degree—sometimes several! You’re not going to become a surgeon or lawyer without furthering your education.

Still, there are many jobs that pay well and don’t mandate a college degree. And whether those jobs are right for you merely depends on your interests, work experience, and willingness to tackle some on-the-job training.

Check out these high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree. Your future career might have made the list.

 

High-Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree


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College isn’t for everyone—and that’s OK! While older generations might have warned you that you won’t get paid well without a college degree, that simply isn’t true for everyone. A number of high-paying jobs will let you in with a high school diploma and/or a little prior work experience.

What am I considering a “high-paying” job?

All of the jobs in this list pay more than the annual mean wage for all occupations: $65,470, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). All of the wages listed, as well as estimates for the number of people employed in each position, come from the BLS May 2023 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, which is the most recent data available.

The professions here are listed in reverse order of 2023 mean annual wage.

10. Explosives Workers, Ordnance Handling Experts, and Blasters


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  • 2023 mean annual wage: $65,600
  • 2023 employment: 4,610

Want to feel like a character in an action film? Explosives workers, ordnance handling experts, and blasters set and detonate explosives to demolish structures or loosen, displace, and remove other materials. In less technical terms, they blow stuff up. (Perhaps less exciting: They sometimes also perform specialized storage, handling, and even accounting tasks.)

For formal education, a high school diploma, or equivalent, is generally expected. Workers then have long-term, on-the-job training. Some states require an occupational license for these roles.

Often, these workers are employed by the federal, state, and local governments. Interestingly enough, you’ll also see a good chunk of these roles hired by merchant wholesalers of nondurable goods.

Considering blasting into this career? The states with the highest concentration of these jobs are West Virginia, Wyoming, and Oklahoma. 

Related: 10 Best 401(k) Alternatives [If You Can’t Get One Through Work]

9. Media and Communication Equipment Workers


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  • 2023 mean annual wage: $65,880
  • 2023 employment: 235,240

An important behind-the-scenes role, media and communication equipment workers install, maintain, and fix any issues with audio and visual systems. You don’t want an Oscar-worthy take to go unrecorded due to a technical error—and these workers make sure that doesn’t happen.

Usually, the entry-level education requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent. Once hired, workers receive short-term on-the-job training.

As you might have guessed, the highest level of employment for this profession comes from the motion picture and video industries. These workers are also commonly hired by educational institutions and radio and television broadcasting stations. Prospective workers might want to seek employment in the states with both the highest concentration and greatest nominal number of these jobs, which are California and Florida.

Related: 50+ Best Money-Making Apps That Pay You Real Money

8. Food Service Managers


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  • 2023 mean annual wage: $69,580
  • 2023 employment: 246,070

Food service managers are the oil that helps all the moving parts of a restaurant or other food and beverage establishment work together smoothly. Common tasks of these managers include hiring and training employees, ordering food and other supplies, scheduling staff, and managing budgets.

A high school diploma is usually a satisfactory amount of formal education. However, you are expected to have some experience in the food industry before securing a role as a food service manager. Before advancing to a managerial position, people often rack up several years of experience as a server, cook, or other types of staff member. For upscale establishments, some additional experience or education may be preferred.

Restaurants and other eating places is, by far, the industry that hires the most food service managers, but the special food services and traveler accommodations industries hire many as well. This isn’t the type of job you likely need to move for, either, as you can find food service managers across the country. But if you’re looking for the states with the highest concentration of these jobs, those are Nevada, South Dakota, and California. 

Interestingly, BLS doesn’t have data available for these positions for Texas. According to several Texas news outlets, such as the Texas Standard and KXAN Austin, the food service industry is currently the largest private employer in the state. So it’s a safe assumption that Texas has a good number of food service manager positions.

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Related: High-Paying Remote Jobs

7. Real Estate Sales Agents


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  • 2023 mean annual wage: $69,610
  • 2023 employment: 197,720

Even if you’ve never worked with real estate sales agents, you likely know they help clients buy, sell, or rent properties. The day-to-day isn’t always the same, but it often involves tasks such as studying property listings, showing properties to clients, and drawing up contracts.

The minimum education required is typically a high school diploma or equivalent. Additionally, every state requires real estate agents to be licensed. To get the license, you need to complete licensing courses, but this doesn’t need to be done at a college, and it won’t take years. Courses in a physical classroom often take four to six months; people who take an online course can finish it much faster.

After gaining real estate experience as a sales agent, some people obtain a broker’s license. Real estate brokers can work independently or even employ agents of their own. Those who reach the broker level have a mean annual wage of $86,130, according to BLS data.

As you might expect, the real estate industry has the highest level of real estate agents. It’s also common to see jobs within the residential building construction industry or with federal, state, or local governments (excluding state and local government schools and hospitals and the postal service). The states with the highest concentration of these roles are Florida, Arizona, and Delaware.

Related: 7 Best Banks for Real Estate Investors + Landlords

 

6. Flight Attendants


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  • 2023 mean annual wage: $70,980
  • 2023 employment: 126,020

Some people consider being a flight attendant a dream job because they can receive free flights as part of their benefits. Of course, they also have to deal with unruly passengers, and it’s not a great fit if a little bit of turbulence makes you anxious. But at least they earn a good wage.

The job itself typically involves monitoring the safety of passengers in aircrafts, reviewing safety information, and responding to any emergencies. These workers also serve food and beverages.

A high school diploma, or equivalent, is the usual entry-level education needed, though customer service experience might also be necessary. One uncommon requirement: Flight attendants need to have a valid passport. New employees receive moderate-term on-the-job training and must receive Federal Aviation Administration certification. And even after they’re certified, they’re typically required to receive additional training over time.

As one could likely surmise, these workers are in air transportation industries, with scheduled air transportation being most common. Have you ever taken a plane from a smaller airport and transferred to a larger airport before reaching your final destination? You probably stopped at an airline hub within a big city. Some states have more major airport options, and those states unsurprisingly have more jobs available.

The states with the most flight attendants are California, Florida, and Texas. The states with the highest concentration of these jobs are Nevada, Colorado, and Illinois.

Related: 9 Monthly Dividend Stocks for Frequent, Regular Income

5. Lodging Managers


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  • 2023 mean annual wage: $76,790
  • 2023 employment: 41,980

When you stay at hotels or other facilities with accommodations, lodging managers have a significant impact on your experience. These workers are responsible for inspecting the hotel for appearance and cleanliness, hiring staff and monitoring their performance, coordinating front-desk activities, and setting budgets, among other duties.

While some lodging managers break into the field with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality or hotel management or an associate’s degree or certificate in hotel management, those aren’t the only paths into this profession. Some places will hire you with just a high school diploma and some work experience in the hospitality realm. 

If you want to get into this profession, you’ll very likely work within the travel accommodation industry. However, another common industry for lodging managers is RV parks and recreational camps. Think this job could be a great fit for you? 

Big states like California, Texas, and New York, unsurprisingly have the greatest number of these jobs, but Wyoming, Maine, and Montana have the highest concentrations of these roles.

Related: 11 of the Highest-Paying Blue-Collar Jobs

4. Subway and Streetcar Operators


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  • 2023 mean annual wage: $77,370
  • 2023 employment: 14,860

Helping you get where you need to go, subway and streetcar operators transport passengers by running subway or elevated suburban trains that don’t have a separate locomotive or electric-powered streetcar. Some may also collect fares.

A high school diploma, or equivalent, is usually a sufficient level of formal education. Employees receive moderate on-the-job training. 

The vast majority of these workers are employed by local governments. This type of work isn’t easy to come by in every state. The states with the highest concentration of these jobs are Maryland, Massachusetts, and California, based on BLS data. But it’s important to note that data from many states is missing—for instance, New York, which one would assume to have a fair number of these workers given New York City’s extensive subway system, is not represented in the data.

Related: Federal Tax Brackets and Rates

3. Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives (Except Technical and Scientific Products)


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  • 2023 mean annual wage: $80,490
  • 2023 employment: 1,288,920

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers (which sell large quantities), manufacturers to governmental agencies, or other businesses. To secure sales, they teach the benefits of the products, answer questions, and sometimes negotiate prices. They also often find leads and prepare contracts.

As you might have guessed from the header, the BLS specifically breaks out this type of role. There are two distinct sub-categories of wholesale and manufacturing sales reps—those that sell technical and scientific products, and those that sell everything else. Here, we’re focused on the latter.

Typically, a high school diploma is sufficient education for entry into this field, since we’re specifically discussing people who don’t sell technical and scientific products. (For those selling technical or scientific products, employers usually want workers to hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field.) After an applicant is hired, many companies have their own formal training programs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest employers of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives who didn’t sell technical and scientific products were merchant wholesalers of durable goods, merchant wholesalers of nondurable goods, wholesale trade agents and brokers, and machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers. The midwest has the highest concentration of these jobs, with Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Minnesota among the leaders.

Related: Pensions Aren’t Dead Yet: 15 Jobs With Pensions

2. Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers


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  • 2023 mean annual wage: $85,900
  • 2023 employment: 120,170

Electrical power-line installers and repairers install or repair cables or wires that electrical power or distribution systems use. They may also be responsible for erecting poles and transmission towers. (Note: electrical and electronics repairers related to powerhouses, substations, and relays are excluded from this employment category.)

To enter the profession, you’ll typically need a high school diploma (or equivalent) and at least one year of high school algebra. (The BLS notes you might also need to earn a qualifying score on an aptitude test, pass a substance abuse screening, and/or pass a fitness test.) Apprenticeships are common in this field. While not required, prospective workers can set themselves apart by going to a community college for a one-year certificate or two-year associate’s degree. 

Most commonly, these jobs involve work with companies that generate, transmit, and distribute electric power, though you’ll also find a high level of employment for this role within the utility system construction industry.

Workers can find this type of employment in any state. The states with the highest concentration of these jobs are South Dakota, Mississippi, and Wyoming.

Make sure you sign up for The Weekend Tea, WealthUp’s free weekly newsletter that over 10k monthly readers use to level up their money know-how.

Related: 5 Best Fidelity Retirement Funds [Low-Cost + Long-Term]

1. Gambling Managers


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  • 2023 mean annual wage: $98,270
  • 2023 employment: 4,590

Gambling managers plan, direct, and/or arrange gambling operations, which can include developing and adjusting the “house rules” over time.

In terms of educational requirements, this job typically only asks for a high school diploma. However, you’re expected to come in with some related knowledge or work experience. If you don’t know the difference between blackjack and roulette, this might not be a good fit for you.

New employees with this role usually need to work with more experienced workers for a few months to a year or have had an apprenticeship. You also need a license for the state you work in, but obtaining the license is usually a simple process.

Unsurprisingly, companies in the gambling industry hire the most gambling managers, though it’s also common to find these jobs within the traveler accommodation industry. And you really won’t be shocked to find that Nevada, which boasts the gambling havens of Las Vegas and Reno, has both the highest concentration and greatest number of jobs for gambling managers.

But if Sin City and the rest of Nevada don’t appeal to you, you might have some luck in other states, including Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

 

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Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper has been a professional writer since 2016 and has worked with WealthUp (formerly Young & the Invested) since 2019.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, she was still immersed in words through previous roles as a library specialist and teacher. Her background in education helps her take complex topics and turn them into easy-to-understand text.

Hannah holds a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. When she isn’t writing, Hannah is usually found playing with her niece and nephew, traveling, or brewing more coffee.