The 39 highest-paying jobs you can get without a bachelor's degree

  • Not all jobs require a four-year college degree or higher to earn a large salary.
  • We looked at jobs where the typical education requirement is less than a bachelor’s degree. 
  • The following are the 39 highest-paying jobs where you don’t need a four-year degree to pursue them.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

39. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers

What they do, according to O*NET: They plan, direct, or coordinate the management or operation of farms, ranches, greenhouses, aquacultural operations, nurseries, timber tracts, or other agricultural establishments. 

Median annual wage in 2020: $68,090

Number of people employed in 2020: 5,670

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

38. Claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators

What they do, according to O*NET: They review settled claims to determine that payments and settlements are made in accordance with company practices and procedures.

Median annual wage in 2020: $68,270

Number of people employed in 2020: 287,150 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

37. Aerospace engineering and operations technologists and technicians

What they do, according to O*NET: They operate and maintain equipment used in developing, testing, and producing new aircraft and spacecraft.

Median annual wage in 2020: $68,570

Number of people employed in 2020: 11,900 

Education required: Associate’s degree

36. Subway and streetcar operators

What they do, according to O*NET: They operate subway or elevated suburban trains with no separate locomotive, or electric-powered streetcar, to transport passengers.

Median annual wage in 2020: $69,440

Number of people employed in 2020: 11,250 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

35. Transportation equipment electrical and electronics installers and repairers

What they do, according to O*NET: They install, adjust, or maintain mobile electronics communication equipment.

Median annual wage in 2020: $70,200

Number of people employed in 2020: 10,390 

Education required: Postsecondary nondegree award

34. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers

What they do, according to O*NET: They directly supervise and coordinate the activities of mechanics, installers, and repairers.

Median annual wage in 2020: $70,240

Number of people employed in 2020: 475,000 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

33. All other lighting technicians and media and communication equipment workers

This is a catchall occupation that includes lighting technicians and various media and communication equipment workers.

Median annual wage in 2020: $70,980

Number of people employed in 2020: 21,860

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

32. Locomotive engineers

What they do, according to O*NET: They drive electric, diesel-electric, steam, or gas-turbine-electric locomotives to transport passengers or freight.

Median annual wage in 2020: $71,870

Number of people employed in 2020: 37,110

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

31. Transit and railroad police

What they do, according to O*NET: They protect and police railroad and transit property, employees, or passengers.

Median annual wage in 2020: $72,580

Number of people employed in 2020: 3,800 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

30. Gas plant operators

What they do, according to O*NET: They distribute or process gas for utility companies and others by controlling compressors to maintain specified pressures on main pipelines.

Median annual wage in 2020: $72,970

Number of people employed in 2020: 14,990

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

29. Funeral home managers

What they do, according to O*NET: They plan, direct, or coordinate the services or resources of funeral homes.

Median annual wage in 2020: $74,200

Number of people employed in 2020: 10,010

Education required: Associate’s degree

28. Magnetic resonance imaging technologists

What they do, according to O*NET: They monitor patient safety and comfort and view images of area being scanned to ensure quality of pictures.

Median annual wage in 2020: $74,690

Number of people employed in 2020: 39,270

Education required: Associate’s degree

27. Electrical power-line installers and repairers

What they do, according to O*NET: They install or repair cables or wires used in electrical power or distribution systems. 

Median annual wage in 2020: $75,030

Number of people employed in 2020: 114,930

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

26. Gambling managers

What they do, according to O*NET: They plan, direct, or coordinate gambling operations in a casino.

Median annual wage in 2020: $75,470

Number of people employed in 2020: 3,240

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

25. Diagnostic medical sonographers

What they do, according to O*NET: They use special imaging equipment that directs sound waves into a patient’s body to assess and diagnose various medical conditions.

Median annual wage in 2020: $75,920

Number of people employed in 2020: 73,920

Education required: Associate’s degree

24. Ship engineers

What they do, according to O*NET: They supervise and coordinate activities of crew engaged in operating and maintaining engines, boilers, deck machinery, and electrical, sanitary, and refrigeration equipment aboard ship.

Median annual wage in 2020: $75,990

Number of people employed in 2020: 7,480

Education required: Postsecondary nondegree award

23. Signal and track switch repairers

What they do, according to O*NET: They install, inspect, test, maintain, or repair electric gate crossings, signals, signal equipment, track switches, section lines, or intercommunication systems within a railroad system.

Median annual wage in 2020: $76,210

Number of people employed in 2020: 7,250 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

22. Dental hygienists

What they do, according to O*NET: They clean teeth, examine patients for oral diseases like gingivitis, and provide other preventative dental care.

Median annual wage in 2020: $77,090

Number of people employed in 2020: 194,830 

Education required: Associate’s degree

21. Captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels

What they do, according to O*NET: They command or supervise operations of ships and water vessels, such as tugboats and ferryboats. 

Median annual wage in 2020: $77,130

Number of people employed in 2020: 27,590 

Education required: Postsecondary nondegree award

20. Web developers and digital interface designers

What they do, according to O*NET: They develop and implement websites, web applications, application databases, and interactive web interfaces.

Median annual wage in 2020: $77,200

Number of people employed in 2020: 156,220 

Education required: Associate’s degree

19. Postmasters and mail superintendents

What they do, according to O*NET: They plan, direct, or coordinate operational, administrative, management, and supportive services of a US post office, or coordinate activities of workers engaged in postal and related work in assigned post office.

Median annual wage in 2020: $78,060

Number of people employed in 2020: 13,880 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

18. Transportation inspectors

What they do, according to O*NET: They inspect equipment or goods in connection with the safe transport of cargo or people. 

Median annual wage in 2020: $78,400

Number of people employed in 2020: 27,360 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

17. First-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers

What they do, according to O*NET: They directly supervise and coordinate activities of sales workers other than retail sales workers.

Median annual wage in 2020: $78,560

Number of people employed in 2020: 240,290 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

16. Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers

What they do, according to O*NET: They operate or control petroleum refining or processing units. 

Median annual wage in 2020: $78,840

Number of people employed in 2020: 40,480 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

15. First-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers

What they do, according to O*NET: They directly supervise and coordinate activities of workers engaged in firefighting and fire prevention and control.

Median annual wage in 2020: $78,870

Number of people employed in 2020: 69,000

Education required: Postsecondary nondegree award

14. Nuclear medicine technologists

What they do, according to O*NET: They use a scanner to create images of various areas of a patient’s body. They prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients undergoing the scans.

Median annual wage in 2020: $79,590

Number of people employed in 2020: 17,510

Education required: Associate’s degree

13. Nuclear technicians

What they do, according to O*NET: They assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear production.

Median annual wage in 2020: $84,190 

Number of people employed in 2020: 6,160

Education required: Associate’s degree

12. Power plant operators

What they do, according to O*NET: They control, operate, or maintain machinery to generate electric power. Includes auxiliary equipment operators.

Median annual wage in 2020: $84,650

Number of people employed in 2020: 32,960 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

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

What they do, according to O*NET: They inspect, test, repair, or maintain electrical equipment in generating stations, substations, and in-service relays.

Median annual wage in 2020: $85,340

Number of people employed in 2020: 23,070

Education required: Postsecondary nondegree award

10. Radiation therapists

What they do, according to O*NET: They check equipment, observe patients’ reactions to treatment, and document sessions.

Median annual wage in 2020: $86,850

Number of people employed in 2020: 17,390 

Education required: Associate’s degree

9. Detectives and criminal investigators

What they do, according to O*NET: They conduct investigations related to suspected violations of federal, state, or local laws to prevent or solve crimes.

Median annual wage in 2020: $86,940

Number of people employed in 2020: 105,980 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

8. Elevator installers and repairers

What they do, according to O*NET: They assemble, install, repair, or maintain electric or hydraulic freight or passenger elevators, escalators, or dumbwaiters.

Median annual wage in 2020: $88,540

Number of people employed in 2020: 24,730 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

7. First-line supervisors of police and detectives

What they do, according to O*NET: They directly supervise and coordinate activities of members of a police force.

Median annual wage in 2020: $92,970

Number of people employed in 2020: 122,310 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

6. Commercial pilots

What they do, according to O*NET: They pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing aircraft on nonscheduled air-carrier routes, or helicopters. Requires commercial-pilot certificate. 

Median annual wage in 2020: $93,300

Number of people employed in 2020: 37,120

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

5. Power distributors and dispatchers

What they do, according to O*NET: They coordinate, regulate, or distribute electricity or steam.

Median annual wage in 2020: $95,100

Number of people employed in 2020: 9,940 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

4. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers

What they do, according to O*NET: They coordinate transportation, storage, or distribution activities in accordance with organizational policies and applicable government laws or regulations.

Median annual wage in 2020: $96,390

Number of people employed in 2020: 132,210 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

3. Nuclear power reactor operators

What they do, according to O*NET: They operate or control nuclear reactors, move control rods, start and stop equipment, monitor and adjust controls, record data in logs, and implement emergency procedures when needed.

Median annual wage in 2020: $104,040

Employment in 2020: 5,310 

Education required: High-school diploma or equivalent

2. Theatrical and performance makeup artists

What they do, according to O*NET: They apply makeup to performers to reflect period, setting, and situation of their role.

Median annual wage in 2020: $106,920

Number of people employed in 2020: 2,780

Education required: Postsecondary nondegree award

1. Air traffic controllers

What they do, according to O*NET: They monitor and direct the movement of aircraft. Median annual wages of air-traffic controllers are the highest of any occupation in which workers typically do not need a bachelor’s degree.

Median annual wage in 2020: $130,420

Number of people employed in 2020: 22,190 

Education required: Associate’s degree

Method and data source

There are plenty of high-paying jobs that require only a two-year associate degree, postsecondary nondegree certificate, or even just a high-school diploma — and a few that don’t require a formal educational credential at all.

Insider decided to look at which jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree or higher and are also high-paying. To do this, we used the latest educational data and salary figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Of the top 39 jobs on our list, each occupation had a median annual salary of at least $68,000 in May 2020, the latest year of available data in the BLS’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program.

Some occupations from the 39 highest-paying are part of the transportation sector. This includes subway and streetcar operators as well as locomotive engineers. Other jobs also include technicians and repairers, such as avionics technicians and electrical power-line installers and repairers.

In our ranking, we included each occupation’s median annual salary and employment figures from May 2020. We also included each occupation’s minimum educational requirement and their job description from O*NET. 

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