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Good Paying Jobs Without a College Degree or Work Experience

By Sarah Li Cain · December 22, 2022 · 9 minute read

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Good Paying Jobs Without a College Degree or Work Experience

A college degree doesn’t guarantee a good paying job. And the reverse is even more true: Not having a degree doesn’t doom you to low paying jobs forever. In fact, many occupations that offer competitive pay don’t require any college.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 60% of new jobs in the next decade won’t require a college degree. And many command salaries higher than $45,760, the median wage for all occupations.

We’ve gathered 21 good paying jobs you can get without a degree. We’ll also discuss the pros and cons of jumping into the job market right out of high school.

Reasons for Choosing Work Over a College Degree

Choosing to work over a college degree (or vice versa) is a personal decision that can’t be labeled “right” or “wrong.”

For many people, the cost of college is the main reason to choose work instead. Not everyone is willing or able to take on student loan debt.

Working can also allow people to experiment with different career paths until they find something that’s right for them.

If your main motivation for attending college is to secure competitive pay after graduation, know that there are many good paying jobs you can get without college.

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Who Jobs Without a College Degree or Work Experience Are For

Jobs that don’t require college are typically suitable for people who are interested in blue collar professions, such as technicians and machine operators. These jobs can also be good for people who prefer training outside a school environment, such as in an apprenticeship or on-the-job experience.

Pros and Cons of a Job Without a College Degree or Work Experience

Consider both sides before making a decision to skip college for a job.

Pros

•   High paying trade jobs hire candidates based on skills rather than credentials

•   You’ll get more experience in the field and earlier opportunities to move up

•   Education can be inexpensive or free, especially in a paid apprenticeship or on-the-job training

Cons

•   Fewer networking opportunities than college

•   Good candidates may not stand out alongside those with a degree

•   Earning potential is not as high overall

Average Salary of Workers Without a College Degree by State

The following table shows median salaries for workers without a college degree. Wages vary depending on whether workers have attended some college.

State

Median Salary with High School Diploma

Median Salary with Some College

Alabama $36,274 $40,639
Alaska $28,876 $32,511
Arizona $27,431 $30,938
Arkansas $30,938 $36,880
California $33,001 $41,251
Colorado $32,511 $39,188
Connecticut $40,305 $44,345
Delaware $33,527 $37,591
Florida $28,876 $33,527
Georgia $30,229 $35,267
Hawaii $31,699 $37,282
Idaho $30,938 $33,516
Illinois $29,907 $32,511
Indiana $32,898 $38,794
Iowa $30,938 $35,559
Kansas $30,479 $33,001
Kentucky $28,772 $33,001
Louisiana $30,479 $34,032
Maine $38,607 $42,824
Maryland $36,575 $45,343
Massachusetts $30,479 $34,543
Michigan $30,938 $36,095
Minnesota $35,063 $39,188
Mississippi $30,229 $34,032
Missouri $26,813 $30,479
Montana $30,073 $30,938
Nebraska $29,221 $32,511
Nevada $30,938 $31,969
New Hampshire $29,971 $32,511
New Jersey $36,095 $40,639
New Mexico $38,157 $45,343
New York $28,876 $32,511
North Carolina $32,511 $38,673
North Dakota $34,032 $40,305
Ohio $30,938 $35,559
Oklahoma $28,447 $31,969
Oregon $30,479 $35,888
Pennsylvania $32,244 $38,157
Rhode Island $35,559 $39,188
South Carolina $29,185 $32,244
South Dakota $28,051 $30,938
Tennessee $28,213 $32,691
Texas $30,229 $35,267
Utah $32,176 $37,126
Vermont $32,003 $39,188
Virginia $31,495 $35,559
Washington $35,559 $40,639
West Virginia $33,001 $36,575
Wisconsin $29,020 $31,495
Wyoming $35,559 $36,095

Data courtesy of The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems

21 High Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree

1. Wind Turbine Service Technician

National average salary: $56,260

Job growth outlook: 68%

Job description:

•   Install, repair, and maintain wind turbines

•   Collect turbine data for analysis

•   Service underground systems related to wind turbine maintenance

•   Minimum interaction with colleagues makes this a promising job for antisocial people

Requirements: Likely need certification

How to get started: You can attend a technical school for this occupation and learn additional skills on-the-job to advance your career

2. Solar Photovoltaic Installer

National average salary: $47,670

Job growth outlook: 52%

Job description:

•   Set up, assemble, and maintain systems which convert sunlight into energy

•   Connect panels to electrical systems

•   Perform routine maintenance of photovoltaic systems

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You’ll typically need to take courses at a technical college and receive on-the-job training

3. Security and Fire Alarm System Installer

National average salary: $48,320

Job growth outlook: 16%

Job description:

•   Ensures work aligns with relevant local codes

•   Install and program security and fire alarm wiring and equipment

•   Perform routine maintenance and repairs to wiring and equipment

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You can attend technical school or get an entry-level job and receive training there

4. Floor Layers

National average salary: $48,060

Job growth outlook: 12%

Job description:

•   Remove existing floor materials to prep for installation

•   Lay and finish materials on floors

•   Lay and set materials on other surfaces such as countertops, showers, and walls

Requirements: None

How to get started: You can work as an assistant or apprentice, and learn additional skills on-the-job to advance your career

5. Tile and Stone Setter

National average salary: $47,810

Job growth outlook: 12%

Job description:

•   Remove existing materials to prep surfaces

•   Apply tile or stone to floors, walls, and countertops

•   Lay tile and stone in accordance to design plans

Requirements: None

How to get started: You can work as an assistant or apprentice, and learn additional skills on-the-job to advance your career

6. Industrial Machinery Mechanic

National average salary: $59,840

Job growth outlook: 17%

Job description:

•   Disassemble and reassemble problematic machinery

•   Repair or replace malfunctioning machinery components

•   Perform tests and calibrate machinery to required specifications

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: Work as an apprentice or assistant, and learn skills on-the-job

7. Commercial Diver

National average salary: $60,360

Job growth outlook: 21%

Job description:

•   Build, repair, and inspect structures submerged in liquid

•   Work in teams to coordinate underwater tasks

•   Work with other professionals to ensure tasks are conducted safely, such as with engineers to lay foundations for a bridge

Requirements: Technical school

How to get started: You’ll need technical school and on-the-job training to advance

8. Aircraft Mechanic and Service Technician

National average salary: $65,380

Job growth outlook: 12%

Job description:

•   Diagnose electrical or mechanical problems on aircraft

•   Ensure work meets performance requirements

•   Test parts of aircraft with diagnostic equipment

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You’ll likely need specialized certifications

9. Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanic

National average salary: $58,030

Job growth outlook: 12%

Job description:

•   Perform routine maintenance on machinery

•   Diagnose and repair or replace defective parts

•   Travel to worksite for heavy or large equipment

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You may need technical school or an entry-level position and on-the-job training

10. Farm Equipment Mechanic and Service Technician

National average salary: $46,910

Job growth outlook: 11%

Job description:

•   Perform routine maintenance on farm machinery

•   Diagnose and repair parts on broken farm equipment

•   Maintain records of repairs and maintenance

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You’ll need either technical school or an entry-level position to receive on-the-job training

11. Millwright

National average salary: $60,330

Job growth outlook: 11%

Job description:

•   Inspect and replace or repair broken or defective machinery in factories, power plants, and construction sites

•   Test major components when necessary

•   May need to travel to conduct repairs and maintenance tasks

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You’ll need an apprenticeship program, which can last several years

12. Airfield Operations Specialist

National average salary: $47,880

Job growth outlook: 13%

Job description:

•   Coordinate between air traffic control and maintenance personnel

•   Implement airfield safety procedures

•   Monitor and maintain flight records

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You’ll need some training in technical school or on the job

13. Pump Operators

National average salary: $49,580

Job growth outlook: 13%

Job description:

•   Tend, control, and operate pumps (portable, power-driven, or stationary)

•   Handle equipment to transfer materials such as oil, liquid, and gasses to and from vessels

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You’ll typically need either technical school or to work as an apprentice and receive training on the job

14. Aircraft Cargo Handling Supervisor

National average salary: $53,540

Job growth outlook: 12%

Job description:

•   Coordinate and supervise loading, unloading, staging, and securing of aircraft baggage or cargo

•   May need to assist members of flight crews in handling in-flight cargo

•   May need to determine cargo quantity to ensure it’s loaded safely

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You’ll need related experience, such as cargo handling, to be promoted to the job

15. Commercial Pilot

National average salary: $99,640

Job growth outlook: 11%

Job description:

•   Fly and navigate aircraft such as airplanes and helicopters

•   Ensure aircraft is balanced and in good condition before flights

•   Monitor aircraft during flight, takeoff, and landing

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You’ll need to complete flight training

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16. Subway and Streetcar Operator

National average salary: $81,180

Job growth outlook: 10%

Job description:

•   Drive and maneuver public transportation

•   Watch for obstructions and other vehicles at crossings and remain alert to potential hazards

•   Report delays or mechanical problems using dispatch devices like radios

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: May need formalized training

17. Massage Therapist

National average salary: $46,910

Job growth outlook: 32%

Job description:

•   Speak with clients about symptoms, treatment goals, and medical history

•   Manipulate muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues on the body

•   Offer guidance on stretching and strengthening muscles

Requirements: You’ll need to get certified and licensed

How to get started: Attend training school; some programs help with job placement. Wages may be paid by salary or hourly.

18. Community Health Worker

National average salary: $46,590

Job growth outlook: 21%

Job description:

•   Develop materials and programs to teach the community about health topics

•   Help community find health services

•   Analyze data from community to learn how to help and improve services

•   Good opportunity for working after retirement

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You’ll usually need certification and on-the-job training

19. Private Detective and Investigator

National average salary: $59,380

Job growth outlook: 13%

Job description:

•   Conduct surveillance and collect evidence for clients

•   Search records to gather clues

•   Interview people to collect information that will help investigation

•   Because investigations are increasingly conducted online, this can be an interesting work-at-home job for retirees

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent; may need licensing, depending on the state

How to get started: You’ll most likely need work experience, so it’s best to get started assisting another private detective or investigator.

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20. Hearing Aid Specialist

National average salary: $59,500

Job growth outlook: 11%

Job description:

•   Administer and interpret hearing tests

•   Take ear impressions in order to prepare, design, or modify ear molds

•   Help select and fit hearing aids

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You can get hired as an assistant or apprentice and receive on-the-job training

21. First-Line Supervisor of Security Workers and Protective Service Workers

National average salary: $52,480

Job growth outlook: 10%

Job description:

•   Supervise and manage security and protective service staff

•   Create and maintain records related to the job

•   Ensure security and protective service workers are monitoring potential hazards and dangerous situations

Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

How to get started: You’ll typically be promoted after years of experience

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The Takeaway

It’s possible to earn a good income without having to complete a college degree. Many skilled positions still require technical school, apprenticeship, or on-the-job training. Certifications may also be required. Job growth looks promising for specialized mechanics and machine operators, security supervisors, and health workers. Other industries needing skilled labor include transportation, construction, and renewable energy. As long as you’re willing to put in the work and continue learning, you can be on your way to a fruitful career.

No matter how much you earn, it’s important to track your cash flow so that you can reach your financial goals. The SoFi Insights spending app helps you do that by monitoring your credit score, tracking your debts, and connecting all your accounts in one mobile dashboard.

Track your money like a champion with SoFi Insights money tracker app.

FAQ

What job gets paid the most without college?

Some of the best paid jobs that don’t require a college degree include those in construction, maintenance and repair, and transportation.

What is the easiest job to get without a degree?

The easiest jobs to get without a college degree include entry-level positions in the construction or transportation industries.


Photo credit: iStock/dusanpetkovic

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