20 Highest-Paying Jobs Without a Degree in 2024

You don't need a four-year degree to land one of the highest-paying jobs, such as special effects artist, security analyst or airline pilot.

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In certain industries, relevant work experience, internships, training and certifications are just as important, if not more important, than graduating with a four-year degree. 

Job applications usually have a minimum educational requirement — some college, an associate degree or a bachelor’s or master’s degree. But with student loan debt topping $1.77 trillion (an increase of 66% over the past ten years), according to the Federal Reserve, you may ask if a four-year college degree is worth it. 

The answer will likely depend on your career choice. Some professions — medical and healthcare providers, lawyers, teachers, nuclear engineers — all require a degree (or degrees). However, some underrepresented career fields welcome applicants who never attended college or didn’t graduate with a four-year degree, and some of these careers pay very well. 

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There are plenty of in-demand careers with a salary higher than $56,420 (the median US annual salary), according to 20 Highest Paying Jobs Without a Degree, a report from the leading career resource platform, Resume Genius. The list spotlights well-paying jobs and their accompanying educational requirements, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Here are the top 10 highest-paying jobs that don't require a degree.

1. Airline and commercial pilot

  • Median annual salary: $148,900 
  • Number of jobs: 142,600
  • Estimated job growth (2022–2032): 4%
  • Educational requirements: Vocational training or Associate’s degree
  • Work experience: None, but FAA certifications and flight hours are required

2. Information security analyst

  • Median annual salary: $112,000 
  • Number of jobs: 168,900
  • Estimated job growth (2022–2032): 32%
  • Educational requirements: High school diploma or vocational training
  • Work experience: None, but relevant certifications are beneficial

3. Elevator and escalator installer and repairer

  • Median annual salary: $99,999 
  • Number of jobs: 25,100
  • Estimated job growth (2022–2032): 1%
  • Educational requirements: High school diploma or GED
  • Work experience: Apprenticeship

4. Special effects artist and animator

  • Median annual salary: $98,950
  • Number of jobs: 89,300
  • Estimated job growth (2022–2032): 8%
  • Educational requirements: High school diploma or vocational training 
  • Work experience: Portfolio of work. Certifications can be beneficial

5. Transportation, storage, and distribution manager

  • Median annual salary: $98,560
  • Number of jobs: 14,600
  • Estimated job growth (2022–2032): 8%
  • Educational requirements: High school diploma or equivalent; certification programs beneficial
  • Work experience: Five years in a related field 

6. First-line supervisors of police and detective

  • Median annual salary: $96,290 
  • Number of jobs: 4,300
  • Estimated job growth (2022–2032): 3%
  • Educational requirements: High school diploma, police academy training
  • Work experience: Several years in the police force

7. Radiation therapist

  • Median annual salary: $89,530
  • Number of jobs: 15,900
  • Estimated job growth (2022–2032): 2%
  • Educational requirements: Associate’s degree
  • Work experience: Clinical experience/certification

8. Subway and streetcar operator

  • Median annual salary: $88,260
  • Number of jobs: 300
  • Estimated job growth (2022–2032): 4%
  • Educational requirements: High school diploma
  • Work experience: On-the-job training

9. Electrical power-line installer and repairer

  • Median annual salary: $82,340 per year
  • Number of jobs: 122,400
  • Estimated job growth (2022–2032): 3%
  • Educational requirements: High school diploma. Technical training preferred
  • Work experience: Apprenticeship

10. Dental hygienist

  • Median annual salary: $81,400
  • Number of jobs: 219,400
  • Estimated job growth (2022–2032): 7%
  • Educational requirements: Associate’s degree in dental hygiene
  • Work experience: Licensing (varies by state)

Along with these ten career fields that offer high wages but do not require a four-year degree, the Resume Genius report also highlighted these ten jobs.

  • Web developer
  • Medical sonographer
  • Police and/or detective
  • Flight attendant
  • Lodging manager
  • Property, real estate, and community association manager
  • Electrician
  • Telecommunications technician
  • Industrial machinery mechanic
  • Computer support specialist

Skills-based hiring

Given the soaring cost of college and an explosion in online learning and certificate courses, it's no wonder that students and employers are both looking for non-traditional ways to join the labor force. “A college degree doesn’t mean quite what it used to, and we're witnessing a significant shift towards skills-based hiring," explains Eva Chan, Career Expert at Resume Genius. "This change is creating more accessible opportunities, including a range of lesser-known yet well-paying roles."

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Kathryn Pomroy
Contributor

For the past 18+ years, Kathryn has highlighted the humanity in personal finance by shaping stories that identify the opportunities and obstacles in managing a person's finances. All the same, she’ll jump on other equally important topics if needed. Kathryn graduated with a degree in Journalism and lives in Duluth, Minnesota. She joined Kiplinger in 2023 as a contributor.