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%|
|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%|
|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%|