If you're ready to start your career or make a change from your current job, and you don't want to spend a lot of time and money on school, there are jobs you can get with a high-school education, plus some additional specialized training.
All these jobs pay substantially more than what high school grads generally end up earning. That number is $42,068 per year and is taken from data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the median earnings of a high school graduate.
There are plenty of reasons to be interested in alternatives to jobs that require college. Trillions, to be precise: American student loan debt has now reached roughly $1.74 trillion. Many recent graduates will be repaying their loans for 10 years or more.
- High-paying jobs that don't require a college degree include police officers, commercial pilots, and gaming managers.
- More technical jobs, such as powerline and elevator installers and transportation inspectors, may require specific training.
- Not all jobs that require a college degree will make it a hard rule if you can prove you have adequate experience and can handle the job without too much training.
- Certain jobs that don't require a degree will be working for the government. This can mean substantial retirement and healthcare benefits.
- More than 43.4 million Americans are saddled with student loan debt for college degrees.
1. Police Officer
Although many police officers do have college degrees, the minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma. The recruiting process is fairly competitive. In addition, in order to qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen and be over 21 years of age. Because it's a physically taxing job, you may be required to meet certain physical standards. Once you're hired, you'll probably have to attend police academy training.
Job growth for police officers is expected to be about 7% from 2020 to 2030. There are also opportunities for advancement into the detective and criminal investigator ranks, where salaries can hit six digits in some locations. The median annual salary for a police officer was $66,020.
Although it may pay well, police-force jobs have some of the highest rates of injury and illness among occupations, and there may not be any consistency with your shifts. In fact, many officers work around the clock and it becomes difficult to balance their family life outside of their work.
2. Commercial Pilot
Most major airlines require pilots to have a college degree, but there are a number of options if you don't have a degree. In fact, you can fly charters and work for smaller companies as a cargo pilot, tour pilot, or ferry pilot. You'll need to pass a written Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exam and get a medical certificate, as well as complete 250 hours of flight time that is required to earn your license.
The industry is expected to grow by about 13% between 2020 and 2030. Most vacancies will arise as a result of pilots retiring, as opposed to an increase in the number of positions. The median annual salary for a commercial pilot was $99,640.
3. Gaming Manager
If you love the glitter of casinos and the thrill of gambling, you may enjoy a career as a gaming manager. You don't even need to move to Vegas to get in on the action, although you will need to live somewhere with legal gambling.
Gaming managers are usually moved up from the ranks after a couple of years of on-the-job training in a casino, and no formal education is required beyond a high school diploma. The gaming industry as a whole has a projected growth from 2020 to 2030 of 24%, dwarfing the 8% average for all occupations. The average annual salary for a gaming manager is $89,190.
4. Electrical Powerline Installer and Repairer
You need to be pretty fearless to work as a powerline installer. These are the workers who are called to fix downed or damaged lines after a storm or other disaster. Those who have a manageable fear of heights will find that the pay can be great if you are able to go where others won't.
You don't need a college degree, but you do need to have some advanced math (i.e. algebra and trigonometry) to pass the recruiting process. From there, your employer will put you through an extensive training program. Electrical powerline installers and repairers earn an average of $74,530 per year. The career outlook isn't forecasted to grow between 2020 and 2030, but it isn't expected to shrink either.
5. Elevator Installer and Repairer
Find a good apprenticeship program, and you're on your way to a six-figure income in many locations. You don't need a degree to get in, but you do need competency in advanced math and engineering. Paid apprenticeships usually take about five years and cover things like electrical theory, physics, and technical specs. Once you're done, you'll need to get a license—some may require an exam—in order to work.
The median annual salary for an elevator installer and repairer.
This industry is expected to grow by 6% between 2020 and 2030, with new installation and maintenance expected to drive growth and demand for new workers. Keep in mind that you may be required to work in small, cramped spaces. Because this equipment runs all day, every day, you may be on call 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
6. Transportation Inspector
Planes, trains, ships, and subways all need transportation inspectors to keep people and cargo moving safely. In certain high-freight areas—think Texas and the coasts—demand for transportation inspectors is growing by upwards of 12% from 2020 to 2030.
You don't need a college degree to do the job, but you will need to complete some fairly extensive on-the-job training. Working as a transportation inspector earns an average annual salary of $77,620.
What Is the Highest Paying Job With Only a High School Diploma?
The jobs listed in this article are some of the highest-paying jobs that don't require a college degree. Of course, the highest paying job with or without a degree would be that of the entrepreneur, as their salary and income are nearly limitless.
What Is the Best Job for a High School Student?
Because your earning potential is extremely low, the best jobs for high school students are ones where you can make some money while learning valuable skills. Retail can teach you how to deal with many different types of people and also how to sell. Some jobs, like cooking or landscaping, teach you the value of hard labor in tough conditions. If you know which career path you want to pursue, you could look into receiving low pay to work as someone's assistant.
Is It Bad to Not Have a College Degree?
College is expensive and takes a considerable amount of time and effort. Many students, especially at top-tier schools, are consumed with their course load and are unable to work outside of their studying. Although college graduates have a higher earning potential, the reality is that many find that the extra time gained by not attending college can be well spent on one of the career paths in this article, or starting your own business. Considering that the average four-year cost of attendance living on campus is $101,948 for in-state students, it might make sense for some to not pursue a degree, and jump into the workforce instead.
The Bottom Line
For some, a college degree doesn't make sense. As you can see from this article, you aren't required to possess higher education in order to bring home a respectable salary. Be prepared for a steep learning curve, as you will be expected to learn and adapt quickly on the job when formal training is not available.