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, here are six high-paying jobs you can get with a high-school education—or high school, plus some additional specialized training.
- Police officer
- Commercial pilot
- Gaming manager
- Electrical powerline installer and repairer
- Elevator installer and repairer
- Transportation inspector
All these jobs pay substantially more than what high school grads generally end up earning. That's $40,612, annualizing weekly data from 2020 data sets from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the median earnings of a high school grad in 2020.
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 $1.71 trillion in 2020. According to a 2020 report from EducationData.org, the average student loan debt in 2020 was $37,693, with the total number of borrowers reaching over 45.3 million. Many recent graduates will be repaying their loans for 10 years or more.
All salary figures for the jobs below are from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and are current as of May 2020.
- 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.
- More than 45.3 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 5% between 2019 and 2029. 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 $67,290.
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.
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, a tour pilot, or a 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 to earn your license.
The industry is expected to grow by about 5% by 2029. 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 $93,300.
3. Gaming Manager
If you love the glitter of casinos and 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, but no formal education is required beyond a high school diploma. The gaming has projected growth from 2019-2029 at 9%. The average annual salary for a gaming manager in May 2020 was $75,470.
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.
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 earned an average of $68,030 per year as of May 2020.
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 7% between 2019 and 2029, 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. And 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 2019 to 2029.
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 $78,400.