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Most American adults age 25 and older do not have a college degree (including associate degrees). In this report, AdvisorSmith examines the highest-paying jobs for this segment of the population, which represents 54% of people aged 25 and over.
In this study, we used US Bureau of Labor Statistics data on occupations and educational qualifications to identify occupations in which more than 50% of workers do not have a college degree. Associate and two-year degrees were counted as graduate degrees for the purposes of this study. We then ranked the top 25 and top 100 jobs based on their average annual salary to find the highest-paying jobs for workers without a college degree.
All of these jobs have an average annual salary well above the national average of $39,810. Median salaries in the top 100 jobs range from $48,690 to $100,530 at the top end of the range. Among the top 25 occupations, the most common highest-paying job was supervisor for miners and construction workers, and among the top 100 jobs, the most common supervisor for unskilled administrative and office workers. Many of the highest paying jobs are considered essential workers, providing essential services to keep our society and economy running smoothly. The energy and transport industries, in particular, provided many of the highest paying jobs.
Read on to discover the top 25 best-paying jobs for workers without a college degree.
The 25 Highest Paying Jobs Without a College Degree
1. Nuclear power plant operator
average annual salary:100.530 $
Total jobs: 5,050
Proportion of employees without higher education: 61.4%
Nuclear power plant operators are a highly specialized profession and perform important functions necessary to ensure that nuclear power plants can produce electricity for homes and businesses while operating safely, protecting the health of plant workers as well as those living in the world's communities. surroundings. In this occupation, operators are responsible for monitoring and adjusting nuclear power plant controls, responding to anomalies, conducting tests, and handling nuclear fuel.
Although most nuclear power plant operators do not have a university degree, the job requires knowledge of physics, mathematics, some engineering skills and mechanics. The difficulty of this knowledge, as well as the high level of awareness required, make this the best-paying job for workers without a college degree.
2. Site manager
average annual salary:95.260 $
Total jobs: 293,380
Proportion of employees without higher education: 58.0%
Site managers are responsible for planning, monitoring, and coordinating construction projects. In this role, they interact with the project developer, as well as the many contractors and subcontractors involved in building a structure. You will often work on site on construction projects to effectively manage the flow of workers, materials, budget and schedule. Construction management is a growing field with above-average job growth, and the construction field offers many opportunities for workers without a college degree.
Most construction managers without a college degree work as an assistant or specialist and gain extensive hands-on experience before becoming a construction manager.
3. Transport, warehouse and distribution managers
average annual salary:94.560 $
Total jobs: 132,040
Proportion of employees without higher education: 60.9%
Transport, warehouse and distribution managers are responsible for managing the goods and warehouses that power our economy. With the advent of e-commerce, logistics has become an increasingly sought-after area, paying high wages to workers without a college degree. When consumers order products from a website, a logistics team from several companies works together to transport the products from a distribution center to the customer's home or workplace.
4. Energy distributors and emitters
average annual salary:90.700 $
Total jobs: 10,770
Proportion of employees without higher education: 61.4%
Power distributors and dispatchers are workers who supervise and regulate the distribution of power between power plants, distribution lines, substations and end users. Our electricity grid is a dynamic system that fluctuates constantly, with changes in electricity production, electricity consumption and electricity prices. In the midst of this delicate dance are the power distributors and dispatchers who act as the air traffic controllers' equivalent of power and electricity.
This occupation requires extensive on-the-job training, although most workers in this field do not have a college degree.
5. Elevator and escalator installers and repairers
average annual salary:84.990 $
Total jobs: 28,350
Proportion of employees without higher education: 81.2%
With population growth and the increasing density of city centers across the United States, elevator and escalator installers and repairers are in high demand. With the increased demand for multi-story buildings across the country, as well as the need for maintenance of existing elevators and escalators already installed, the expertise needed to install and repair escalators and elevators brings high wages to this industry.
While over 80% of these workers do not have a college degree, repairing or installing an escalator or elevator requires strong mechanical skills. In addition, today almost all elevators and escalators are computerized, so knowledge of specialized software is also required.
6. Electrical and electronic mechanics, power plant, substation and relay
average annual salary:82.780 $
Total jobs: 22,650
Proportion of employees without higher education: 59.9%
Electrical and electronics repairmen, power plants, substations, and relays are responsible for testing, maintaining, and repairing power equipment at various locations throughout a utility or power generation company's network. When power goes out, these are some of the workers who are called upon. These repair and maintenance workers must have strong mechanical, engineering, and math skills, as well as knowledge of specialized software and equipment.
Most of these workers receive vocational training and, once they acquire the necessary skills, can benefit from high wages.
7. Nuclear Engineer
average annual salary:82.080 $
Total jobs: 6,420
Proportion of employees without higher education: 50.0%
Nuclear technicians assist nuclear operators, physicists, engineers and other professionals at nuclear power plants in the production of nuclear energy. This occupation's responsibilities include monitoring equipment and performance, measuring radiation, taking air, water, and soil samples, and maintaining equipment. Exactly half of these workers do not have a university degree.
8. Plant operator
average annual salary:81.990 $
Total jobs: 33,620
Proportion of employees without higher education: 61.4%
Power plant operators are responsible for monitoring and maintaining power plants to ensure they are functioning properly. These workers are responsible for regulating the flow of electricity, adjusting the amount of electricity produced to match market conditions, and maintaining power generation equipment such as pumps, fans, boilers, generators, and more. Power plant operators need to understand the software that runs their assets, as well as mechanical knowledge and have a high level of attention to detail for their assets.
9. Transport inspectors
average annual salary:75.820 $
Total jobs: 30,020
Proportion of employees without higher education: 66.2%
Transportation inspectors are workers who inspect transportation vehicles to ensure they are safe. Many of these inspectors work for the federal government or state and local governments. Railway and freight companies that operate trains employ as many transport inspectors as the automobile repair and maintenance industry.
10. Makeup artist, theater and performance
average annual salary:75.730 $
Total jobs: 3,400
Proportion of employees without higher education: 80.7%
A highly specialized profession, theatrical and performance makeup artists are the tenth highest paid profession for those without a college degree. In this career, makeup artists ensure that stage, television and film actors look their best during performances. While this profession requires good makeup skills, it also requires strong interpersonal skills to work with directors, producers, other visual artists, actors and actresses.
11. Gambling administrators
average annual salary:74.970 $
Total jobs: 4,450
Proportion of employees without higher education: 62.9%
Gaming managers work in casinos to manage gaming operations. From ensuring player satisfaction to ensuring security and proper weighting of games, game managers have a number of responsibilities to ensure the house ends up winning. Most gaming managers start out as employees at a casino and work their way up through on-the-job training.
12. Naval Engineers
average annual salary:74.610 $
Total jobs: 8,410
Proportion of employees without higher education: 79.1%
Marine engineers ensure that ships and craft are seaworthy, which is crucial when ships are far from a dock at sea. In this role, marine engineers are responsible for the operation and maintenance of a marine propulsion system. The components that the engineer is responsible for include the engine, pumps, boiler and many more. Although around 80% of these workers do not have a college degree, this work requires specific skills acquired through on-the-job training.
13. Oil well operators, refinery operators and meter operators
average annual salary:74.180 $
Total jobs: 40,370
Proportion of employees without higher education: 75.9%
Oil Pump System Operators, Refinery Operators and Meters are the workers responsible for the operation of oil refineries. In this job, these operators start and stop pumps, monitor equipment and pressure levels, and adjust valves and pumps to ensure the oil is being refined properly. This job requires knowledge of mechanical systems, a good understanding of math, and the ability to use industrial control and inventory management software.
14. Repair of signals and switches
average annual salary:73.890 $
Total jobs: 6,860
Proportion of employees without higher education: 78.4%
Rail track repairs, signal and switch repairs ensure that train tracks, light trains and subways are in good condition. They also carry out signal services and repairs to keep trains in the correct lane and so that crossheads are always engaged when trains cross intersections. This job involves directing the rail network to inspect, maintain and repair all parts of the network.
15. Electrical wiring installers and repairers
average annual salary:72.520 $
Total jobs: 111,660
Proportion of employees without higher education: 80.4%
Also in the power industry, power line installers and repairers are among the highest paid workers without a college degree. When there is a storm and the electricity goes out, these workers are often called to work. This work requires workers who are not afraid of heights, as much of the work is done on poles. This job requires strong mechanical skills as well as steady hands and good manual dexterity.
16. Captains, officers and pilots of vessels
average annual salary:72.340 $
Total jobs: 33,370
Proportion of employees without higher education: 68.1%
Ship captains are licensed employees of the US Coast Guard. In this role, captains, officers and pilots are responsible for the safe operation of their vessels, which may include vessels such as tugs and barges. These vessels can be deployed offshore, coastal waters, Great Lakes or inland waterways.
17. Farmers, ranchers and other entrepreneurs
average annual salary:71.160 $
Total jobs: 5,060
Proportion of employees without higher education: 65.5%
Farmers, ranchers and other farm managers are responsible for producing the food we eat, including fruits and vegetables, livestock and dairy. The agribusiness industry continues to consolidate and the use of technology is also increasing, so the number of people in these roles has stagnated. A single farmer is increasingly able to manage a large number of hectares.
18. Gas facility operators
average annual salary:70.710 $
Total jobs: 14,410
Proportion of employees without higher education: 75.9%
Gas plant operators are another high-paying job in the energy sector. As with other types of power plants, gas plant operators must monitor and maintain equipment so that gas can be produced safely for domestic use or in industrial processes. Like many other energy occupations included in this study, gas plant operators receive extensive on-the-job training.
19. Orthopedic technician and prosthodontist
average annual salary:68.410 $
Total jobs: 9,830
Proportion of employees without higher education: 50.6%
Prosthetists and prosthetists manufacture and fit medical devices, such as braces or artificial limbs, to help patients improve mobility or function. In addition to interacting with patients to understand their needs and take measurements, associates in this role also select materials, create designs, and fit and maintain orthopedic and prosthetic devices.
20. Metro and tram operators
average annual salary:67.880 $
Total jobs: 10,730
Proportion of employees without higher education: 75.7%
Metros and trams play a crucial role in the city's economy, transporting large numbers of people across cities quickly and efficiently. Operators of these vehicles are responsible for tasks such as opening and closing doors, starting and stopping the vehicle, and sometimes collecting tolls. Most of these jobs are public sector jobs.
21. First Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Plumbers and Repairers
average annual salary:67.460 $
Total jobs: 485,700
Proportion of employees without higher education: 73.4%
Supervisors primarily for mechanics, installers and repairers are facility managers and maintenance workers. These employees are responsible for overseeing the quality of installation and maintenance work and for planning and scheduling. Most of these workers start out working in the same position they now supervise and are eventually promoted to supervisors or overseers.
22. Locomotive Engineers
average annual salary:67.090 $
Total jobs: 35,520
Proportion of employees without higher education: 76.8%
Drivers are responsible for driving trains and are hired by railway companies to transport passengers and cargo across the country. This job requires constant attention as well as an emphasis on safety.
23. First line supervisors of construction and decommissioning workers
average annual salary:66.210 $
Total jobs: 626,180
Proportion of employees without higher education: 81.2%
The first-line supervisors of construction and mining trades are the foreman and superintendent of construction and mining or other quarry extraction sites. You are responsible for supervising and coordinating teams of builders or extractors. Most of these employees are promoted by the same types of teams that oversee them.
24. Operators of pumping stations and gas compressors
average annual salary:66.160 $
Total jobs: 3,440
Proportion of employees without higher education: 82.2%
When natural gas is transported from one place to another, it must be pressurized regularly along the way. Compression and pumping stations “push” the gas through the pipeline to take it to its final destination. Operators of gas pump and compressor stations are responsible for the operation and maintenance of these stations to ensure they are compressing gas properly and also working safely.
25. Technologists and technicians in aerospace engineering and operations
average annual salary:$ 66.020
Total jobs: 11,540
Proportion of employees without higher education: 57.2%
Aerospace operations and engineering technologists and technicians are responsible for the operation and maintenance of equipment for the production and testing of new aerospace vehicles. They help build test facilities and the parts used to test new aircraft, and they also help aerospace companies meet certification standards. This specialized job requires proficiency in CAD software, as well as mechanical, engineering, and math skills.
The 100 Highest Paying Jobs Without a College Degree
The table below lists the top 100 highest paying jobs that don't require a college degree. The table lists the job title, the total number of jobs in the United States, the median salary, and the percentage of workers in the workplace who do not have a college degree.
|Area||cargo||total jobs||average annual salary||% no degree|
|1||nuclear power plant operators||5.050||100.530 $||61,4%|
|2||construction manager||293.380||95.260 $||58,0%|
|3||Responsible for transport, warehouses and distribution||132.040||94.560 $||60,9%|
|4||Energy distributors and distributors||10.770||90.700 $||61,4%|
|5||Elevator and escalator installers and repairers||28.350||84.990 $||81,2%|
|6||Electrical and electronic repairs, power station, substation and relays||22.650||82.780 $||59,9%|
|7||nuclear engineer||6.420||82.080 $||50,0%|
|8||plant operator||33.620||81.990 $||61,4%|
|9||traffic inspectors||30.020||75.820 $||66,2%|
|10||Makeup artist, theater and performance||3.400||75.730 $||80,7%|
|11||gambling administrators||4.450||74.970 $||62,9%|
|12||marine engineers||8.410||74.610 $||79,1%|
|13||Operators of oil pump systems, refiners and gauges||40.370||74.180 $||75,9%|
|14||Signal and switches repair||6.860||73.890 $||78,4%|
|15||Electrical installers and repairers||111.660||72.520 $||80,4%|
|sixteen||Captains, officers and pilots of vessels||33.370||72.340 $||68,1%|
|17||Farmers, ranchers and other farm managers||5.060||71.160 $||65,5%|
|18||gas plant operators||14.410||70.710 $||75,9%|
|19||Orthopedic Technician and Orthopedic Technician||9.830||68.410 $||50,6%|
|20||Metro and tram operators||10.730||67.880 $||75,7%|
|21||First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers and repairers||485.700||67.460 $||73,4%|
|22||locomotive engineers||35.520||67.090 $||76,8%|
|23||First-line supervisors of construction and extraction workers||626.180||66.210 $||81,2%|
|24||Operators of gas compressors and gas pumping stations||3.440||66.160 $||82,2%|
|25||Technologists and technicians in aerospace engineering and operations||11.540||$ 66.020||57,2%|
|26||railway conductor and gardener||45.710||65.990 $||73,2%|
|27||Avionics Technician||21.750||65.700 $||58,8%|
|28||Electrical and electronic engineering technologists and technicians||122.550||65.260 $||57,2%|
|29||estimated cost||210.000||65.250 $||51,3%|
|30||modeller, wood||370||64.880 $||77,4%|
|31||Aircraft mechanics and service technicians||133.310||64.090 $||66,9%|
|32||First Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers||46.430||63.730 $||58,8%|
|34||Technologists and calibration technicians and engineering technologists and technicians, except draftsmen, all others||88.330||62.990 $||57,2%|
|35||stake operator||3.540||62.600 $||91,8%|
|36||Operators of chemical plants and systems||28.840||62.550 $||75,9%|
|37||Electrical and electronic installers and repairers, transport equipment||9.790||62.530 $||59,9%|
|38||Stationary engineers and boiler operators||32.520||62.150 $||75,1%|
|39||fire inspectors and investigators||13.710||61.660 $||62,5%|
|40||Production and Operations Employee Supervisors||631.100||61.310 $||73,9%|
|41||Executive Secretary and Executive Administrative Assistants||542.690||60.890 $||61,1%|
|42||building and construction inspectors||110.420||60.710 $||55,0%|
|43||Railway operators of brakes, signals and switches and locomotive firefighters||11.080||60.260 $||76,8%|
|44||mail sorters, processors and processing machine operators||102.390||60.140 $||71,8%|
|45||Hoist and winch operators||4.800||$ 59.720||93,1%|
|46||Electrical and electronics repair shops, commercial and industrial equipment||58.930||59.300 $||59,9%|
|47||modeller, wood||810||59.260 $||77,4%|
|48||Dachanker, Bergbau||3.140||59.090 $||87,4%|
|50||Repair of precision instruments and devices, all other||10.570||58.720 $||54,7%|
|51||Plant and system operators, all others||12.950||58.390 $||75,9%|
|52||Technologists and technicians in electromechanics and mechatronics||14.290||58.350 $||57,2%|
|53||Assemblers and repairers of controls and valves, except mechanical doors||52.270||58.100 $||81,9%|
|54||Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, except line installers||208.480||57.910 $||66,5%|
|55||Hunting and fishing guardian||6.800||57.500 $||53,3%|
|56||Model builders, metal and plastic||4.300||57.020 $||84,2%|
|57||Technologists and technicians in mechanical engineering||42.820||56.980 $||57,2%|
|58||Telecommunications line installers and repairers||120.900||56.750 $||76,5%|
|59||crane and tower operator||45.480||56.690 $||90,2%|
|60||Frontline supervisors of office workers and administrative support||1.487.870||56.620 $||52,1%|
|61||Technologists and technicians in industrial engineering||67.110||56.550 $||57,2%|
|62||Computer programmer for numerical control tools||25.570||56.450 $||81,1%|
|63||Rail vehicle repairers||25.930||56.390 $||82,5%|
|Sixty-five||Railway maintenance and laying equipment operator||16.180||56.100 $||87,1%|
|67||Installers and repairers of radio equipment, mobile phones and antennas||14.370||55.380 $||66,5%|
|69||Continuous mining machine operators||14.630||55.280 $||90,4%|
|70||Plumbers, pipe fitters and steam fitters||442.870||55.160 $||87,4%|
|71||Supervisors of transport and material handling workers primarily, with the exception of aircraft cargo handling supervisors||455.390||55.060 $||70,8%|
|72||downhole pumps||12.970||55.040 $||82,2%|
|73||iron and steel workers||76.570||55.040 $||89,8%|
|74||Rotary Drills, Oil and Gas||21.010||54.980 $||89,0%|
|75||Loading and transport machine operators, underground mining||4200||54.210 $||90,9%|
|76||Aerostructure, surface, rigging and systems assemblers||42.940||54.210 $||83,8%|
|77||Repairers of refractory materials, except bricklayers||820||53.990 $||78,0%|
|78||Tool and mold maker||70.770||53.920 $||79,9%|
|79||Regulatory bodies for aircraft cargo handling||9.500||53.850 $||70,8%|
|80||industrial machine mechanic||387.630||53.590 $||78,0%|
|81||Hearing aid specialists||8.210||53.420 $||50,6%|
|82||Technologists and technicians in civil engineering||68.870||53.410 $||57,2%|
|83||Mobile mechanics of heavy machinery, except engines||147.800||53.370 $||82,5%|
|84||mason and masons||60.650||53.100 $||92,2%|
|85||Service technician for wind turbines||5.960||52.910 $||78,4%|
|86||Terrazzo workers and finishers||2.970||52.180 $||96,7%|
|87||railway workers, all others||2.650||51.600 $||75,7%|
|88||cooks and chefs||128.190||51.530 $||69,5%|
|90||Technician in geology and hydrology||17.110||51.130 $||50,0%|
|93||First-line supervisors of game services employees||29.420||50.710 $||73,1%|
|94||Technologists and technicians in environmental technology||18.010||50.620 $||57,2%|
|95||Various supervisors, protection workers||82.590||50.490 $||53,1%|
|97||Underground miners and miners, everyone else||13.790||50.160 $||90,9%|
|98||Tenders for bridges and locks||3.150||50.110 $||76,3%|
|99||commercial divers||3.420||49.980 $||78,4%|
|100||Design workers, metal and plastic||8.150||49.940 $||88,3%|
In this study, we used data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the highest paying jobs in the United States for workers without a college degree. To identify jobs that don't require a college degree, we first use education data, which shows the percentage of workers who have achieved the following educational levels:
- Less than high school
- high school diploma or equivalent
- A small college without a degree
- associate degree
- PhD or position
We aggregated the percentage of workers with less than high school education, those with high school education and those with higher education but without a degree. If the proportion of workers in these three categories is greater than 50%, that is, the majority of workers in that job do not have a college degree, we find that a college degree is not required for that job.
After identifying occupations that do not require a college degree, we used data from the Employment Statistics dataset to determine the top 25 and top 100 occupations by average annual earnings. These professions were the best-paying jobs for workers without a college degree.
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment projections, education levels for workers age 25 and older by detailed employment
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Statistics