Being a commercial pilot is a great job even without a degree.
Being a commercial pilot is a great job even without a degree.

6 Highest Paying Jobs Without a Typical Degree

Find a field or job that interests you. Study its course in college or university. Get that degree and high grades, if possible. Then apply at the biggest companies and known brands where you can get high paying jobs, charge the highest salaries at your level, and which should be commensurate with your degree.

Does that all sound right and good?

That used to be the standard formula for Americans. A college or university degree was the first major step to success. That’s why many parents bend over backwards, sometimes taking multiple jobs, to send their kids to college. These kids, who would be in their late teens during their freshman year, might also take part-time jobs like waiting tables or doing deliveries to help pay for their tuition fees. 

However, there has been an increasing re-examination of that so-called success formula. One reason is the crushing student loan, a debt that the average college kid owes the government for subsidizing his tuition, and will take him years for him to pay. 

Best Jobs Without a Degree

CNBC made a report, citing the U.S. Department of Education’s 2020 figures, saying that the average 24-year-old American who finished college or university four years ago has a student debt loan of $14,807.69. Meanwhile, millennial graduates who are 25-34 years old as of this year, and who should be middle-managers by now, each have a student debt loan of $33,817.56.

Then of course there was Google’s disturbing revelation a few years ago that only 14% of their workforce actually never went to college, let alone finish it. This leading global tech company also said what they valued during the recruiting process were soft skills like communications, empathy, and emotional quotient. An applicant’s degree was not even a priority. 

The heavy burden of student loans and Google’s eye-opening disclosure triggered many of us into asking: “Are there high-paying jobs that I can do without getting a degree?”

The answer is YES. There is work out there that can help you earn an annual salary ranging from $50,00 to $80,000 (or more) without having to graduate from college. Sometimes, all you need is your high school diploma or an industry training certification. Let’s take a look at six of these highest paying jobs without a degree.

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Average annual salary: $55,160

Imagine how your life would be like if the water that flows effortlessly into your house suddenly stops. You can’t wash your dishes, run your laundry machine, or take a bath. You need to have a handy plumber available in just one phone call. He or she is the one who fixes our water systems and pipes when they break down. They make sure that water flows steadily and without fail to our appliances and other equipment, as well as to our bathrooms, kitchens, and faucets.

The value of a plumber’s work goes beyond repair, though. A masterful plumber is the one who designs and lays out a blueprint for your water system, planning where the pipes and fixtures should be placed, and how the water should flow. That is why plumbing is among the good-paying jobs in this list.

You don’t need a college degree to become a plumber. You do need a highschool diploma, finish about 246 hours of technical education, and then spend another 2,000-10,000 hours of apprenticeship under a master plumber. In some states, you need to get a license in order to practice. Earning that license means another five years of practical experience and passing a government-mandated test.

If you do decide to become a plumber, you can charge an hourly rate that ranges from $45 to $150 an hour, depending on the kind and complexity of work that needs to be done. For simple repairs, you can charge $120 an hour.  If your customer lives in another state or a farther location that requires more travel time from you, then you can add more to the hourly rate. To stabilize their rates, some plumbers charge a flat fee ranging from $150 to $350 which covers inspection and the first hour of working. 

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Subway Operator

Average annual salary: $62,730

It is the subway operator’s job to make sure that his passengers on the subway get to their destinations safely and on time. The subway usually runs through an underground tunnel or an above ground track. Like a train stopping at a station, the subway operator also has to announce the different cities where the subway will stop so that the passengers can get off. 

The subway operator should have a quick eye to see if trouble will delay the trip or cause the subway to stop. If the subway does break down, he has to implement first safety protocols first before calling in a mechanic. In case the repair job is major, the subway operator takes the lead in guiding the passengers off the train and into a safe destination away from the problematic rails.

You just need a high school diploma to apply for this job. Upon acceptance, the company will have you undergo a six-month training that immerses you in subway operations, evacuation protocols, and the regulations and rules of the public transport system.

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Casino gambling manager no degree
Managing a casino can be a great job even without a four-year degree.

Casino Gaming Manager

Average annual salary: $65,220

If you are a casino gaming manager, you belong to the working sector of highest paying jobs without a degree. You also get to run operations in the high-world stakes of the casino. While always friendly, charming, and disarming to customers, you also have an eagle eye that keeps an eye out for rowdy troublemakers. Security is foremost in your mind, and you make sure that nobody on the gaming floor plays unfairly or comes into the game with a loaded dice.

Underneath all the glitzy lights, the adrenaline rush, and the fancy food and drinks, your main job is to see to it that everyone---from your staff to your customers---comply with government and house rules. At the same time, you and your staff have to keep the peace and make sure all that high-stakes poker is not interrupted, in case a sore loser wants to create a scene.

In case there are security issues, like theft or a fight among the players, you would know how to handle it. In the same way, you can also respond to angry complaints from players who feel they did not give their due. 

That’s one reason why you are never in one place. Instead, you move from one table to another, seeing to it that your staff are doing their job, everyone is having a good time, the payouts to customers are accurate---and the money just keeps coming in.

Gaming managers reach their position by hard work and dedication. They usually start as a runner, then work their way up to supervisor and finally manager. 

The only education you need to apply for this job is a high school diploma. If the casino owner thinks that you have the smarts, swiftness, and shrewdness to handle his establishment, he will ask you to go through a training session. Background checks to ensure you do not have a criminal record or drug history will also be done. Certain states may also require you to get a license from the nearest gaming regulatory agency.

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Firefighter supervisor
Being a firefighter supervisor is a great paying job even without a traditional degree.

Fire-fighting Supervisor

Average annual salary: $76,330

The fire-fighting supervisor who leads a team of fire-fighters with him to quell flames that spread from house to house in case of fire has to be able to think on his or her feet once they reach the scene of the blaze. In just a few minutes, he has to be able to accurately determine the extent and danger of the ongoing fire; the condition and structural strength of the building that is burning; the capacity of the fire to spread to the neighborhood; and if the amount of water in the place is enough to put down the flames---or if he should ask for more back-up.

Rescue operations are part of his job during these situations. If someone is trapped inside a burning building, he has to know and be skilled in the proper rescue operations to save that person and bring him out alive, without permitting damage to himself and his team.

If he and his men are not attending to a fire, he is busy training them, assessing their performance and capabilities, and making sure they are up-to-speed once the next emergency breaks.

Sometimes, when the police authorities suspect arson was responsible for the fire breakout, the fire-fighting supervisor has to conduct his own investigation to either support or negate that suspicion.

Fire-fighting supervision belongs to the category of highest-paying jobs without a degree. To have this career, you do need a diploma and take, pass, and get certification for the firefighter’s training course. A lot of years of experience and commendation from your boss and your peers will make you eligible for the fire-fighting supervisor path.

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Elevator Technician

Average annual salary: $79,780

We may take the elevator, which is a regular part of many buildings, for granted, but property administrators don’t. Elevators have to be installed properly, repaired ASAP when needed, and then regularly maintained and checked, to prevent accidents which turn out to be almost fatal. 

That’s why elevator technicians are paid a high hourly rate. They have the skills and knowledge needed to perform the proper elevator installations, do routine checkups, and then repair damaged or old parts. They also perform regular safety checks and troubleshoot elevator systems when they do fail to work or malfunction.

Aside from elevators, the elevator technician is also tasked to install, repair, and assess escalators and walkways. 

The more experienced and skilled elevator technician can also lead a team to do installation or handle mechanical problems in the bigger properties.

Elevator technician work belongs to the highest paying jobs without a degree. To become an elevator technician, though, you do need to finish high school and get a technical certification.

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Commercial Pilots

Average annual salary: $82,240

One of the hottest, best-paying jobs in the world---a commercial pilot--does not require a college or university degree. Applicants do need a highschool diploma and finish training in and get certified by a flight school that is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Afterwards, they have to apply for a license. 

The task most associated with a commercial pilot is flying a huge passenger plane for a global airline company. But there are other choices too, while making the same money. Pilots can work for a private company and regularly transport its C-suite executives to different destinations. They can also be employed by travel agencies and state tourism departments to fly visitors in an aerial tour of the state, or region. 

Although not commonly known, commercial pilots also handle non-flashy duties such as checking and fixing flight schedules; ensuring the maintenance of the aircraft; and the responsible oversight of luggages.

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Qualifying These Degree-less Jobs

We are by no means asking you to drop out of college or stop pursuing it. All we are saying is that there are highest paying jobs without a degree. Training in these jobs usually happens after you get accepted as an employee. These jobs themselves may not have the stiffness, formality, and white-collar appeal that comes with a desk job. They may require more physical activity, or more technical work using your hands. They may even ask you for more than your fair share of courage in fulfilling the job description.

These highest paying jobs without a degree may be different, but they can give you financial security. You can even live the so-called good life without necessarily having to earn a college degree.

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