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By Kiran Dhillon / FindTheBest
September 11, 2014
You don't need a college degree to make this your workplace.
You don't need a college degree to make this your workplace.
Chris Boswell—Alamy

Conventional wisdom holds that earning a bachelor’s degree is the best path to a stable job that provides a livable income, but not every high-paying job requires a four-year college education.

In fact, 345 out of the 787 occupations listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in their 2012 to 2022 employment projections report require only a high school diploma. In 45 of the fields, the median wage is above the national median of $51,058 a year, according to an analysis by the research engine FindTheBest.

However, while many jobs don’t demand a bachelor’s degree, a number of the best-paying ones call for additional training. Elevator installers and repairers, for example, earn a median income of $76,650 a year but have to complete an apprenticeship before entering the field full-time. Commercial pilots who handle charters, rescue operations, and aerial photography flights need a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. Nuclear power reactor operators must be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

What’s more, many of the best-paid positions are growing more slowly than the average 11% growth rate for all occupations for 2012 to 2022—or even shrinking. Postal workers, for example, earn a median of $53,100 a year, but the number of mail carriers, mail sorters, and clerks is forecast to decline by 28% by 2022.

But for a handful of these professions, the outlook is healthy. That includes elevator installers and repairers, who are expected to increase their numbers by nearly 25% by 2022, and transportation inspectors and construction and building inspectors, all fields that are forecast to grow at double-digit rates.

Here are 15 professions you can enter with a high school diploma and still earn above the median U.S. income. You can use FindTheBest’s tool to sort through more jobs by projected growth, median pay, and education required.

Rank Job Category Median Annual Pay Projected Job Growth, 2012 to 2022
1 Supervisors/Managers of Police and Detectives $78,270 4.9%
2 Elevator Installers and Repairers $76,650 24.6%
3 Nuclear Power Reactor Operators $74,990 0.5%
4 Detectives and Criminal Investigators $74,300 2.0%
5 Commercial Pilots $73,280 9.4%
6 Power Distributors and Dispatchers $71,690 -0.9%
7 Supervisors/Managers of Non-Retail Sales Workers $70,060 -0.8%
8 Media and Communication Equipment Workers $68,810 -1.5%
9 Power Plant Operators $66,130 -10.8%
10 Business Operations Specialists $65,120 7.4%
11 Transportation Inspectors $63,680 11.2%
12 Electrical Power Line Installers and Repairers $63,250 8.9%
13 Subway and Streetcar Operators $62,730 6.5%
14 Petroleum, Refinery and Pump System Operators and Gaugers $61,850 -5.1%
15 Gas Plant Operators $61,140 -8.8%

 

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The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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