12 Jobs That Don’t Require a Four-Year College Degree and Pay Over $70,000 a Year

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Having a college degree has traditionally been one of the best ways to get into a high-paying career — or at least set yourself up with the potential to make the most money.

Still, it’s no secret that college isn’t the only path, and it’s also not the most accessible option for everyone.

As a former teacher, I’ve been able to help several juniors and seniors determine realistic career paths following high school. To my surprise, many of those students were better suited for financial success in trade jobs for which they’d already built experience and a passion. 

In this article, I’ll take a close look at 12 high-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree.

12 Jobs That Don’t Require a Four-Year College Degree and Pay at Least $70K a Year

The cost of college is rising, along with average student loan debts, which means a formal education can get pricey depending on where you go and how much you can get from scholarships and grants. And whether it’s due to financial resources or lifestyle choices, the time and money college costs just may not be worth it for some people.

There are plenty of high-paying jobs out there that require only a two-year degree or high school diploma. Some may require additional on-the-job training, depending on the specific position and company.

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here’s a list of the top-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree — all with median salaries of at least $70,000 a year.

Job TitleEducation RequiredMedian Annual Salary
Lighting technicians and media and communication equipment workersHigh school diploma or equivalent$74,880
Signal and Track Switch RepairerHigh school diploma or equivalent$76,210
Dental hygienistsAssociate degree$77,090
First-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workersPostsecondary non-degree award$78,870
Nuclear medical technologistsAssociate degree$79,590
Radiation therapistsAssociate degree$86,850
Elevator and escalator installers and repairersHigh school diploma or equivalent$88,540
First-line supervisors of police and detectivesHigh school diploma or equivalent$92,970
Transportation, storage and distribution managersHigh school diploma or equivalent$96,390
Makeup artists, theatrical and performancePostsecondary non-degree award$106,920
Air traffic controllersAssociate degree$130,420
Commercial pilotsHigh-school diploma or equivalent$130,440

You’ll find additional information below about each job including the required work experience, on-the-job training and a brief description.


Lighting Technicians and Media and Communication Equipment Workers

  • Median annual wage (2020): $74,880
  • Education required: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: Short-term on-the-job training
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 8% (as fast as average)
  • Description: Media and communications equipment workers specialize in installing, maintaining and repairing audio and visual systems in homes or businesses.

Signal and Track Switch Repairer

  • Median annual wage (2020): $76,210
  • Education required: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: Moderate-term on-the-job training
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 6% (as fast as average)
  • Description: Signal and track switch repairers are responsible for inspecting and testing the operation of mechanical parts and circuitry in things like gate crossings, signals and signal equipment.

Dental Hygienists

  • Median annual wage (2020): $77,090
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 11% (faster than average)
  • Description: Dental hygienists assist dentists by cleaning teeth, examining patients and providing preventative dental care. Dental hygienists typically need an associate degree in dental hygiene. All states require dental hygienists to be licensed, but requirements vary by state.

FirstLine Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers

  • Median annual wage (2020): $78,870
  • Education required: Postsecondary non-degree award
  • Work experience: Less than 5 years
  • On-the-job training: Moderate-term on-the-job training
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 8% (as fast as average)
  • Description: In this job, you’ll directly supervise and coordinate the activities of workers engaged in fire fighting and fire prevention and control. Over the next decade, there are projected to be 4,400 new jobs.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

  • Median annual wage (2019): $79,590
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 8% (as fast as average)
  • Description: In this career, you’ll prepare and administer radioactive drugs to patients for imaging and therapeutic purposes. There’s an 8% projected job growth rate over the next 10 years in this field, which means 1,000 new jobs are expected.

Radiation Therapists

  • Median annual wage (2020): $86,850
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 9% (as fast as average)
  • Description: Radiation therapists work full-time in hospitals, physician offices and outpatient centers treating patients for cancer and other diseases.

Elevator Installers and Repairers

  • Median annual wage (2020): $88,540
  • Education required: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: Apprenticeship
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 6% (as fast as average)
  • Description: In this job, you’ll install, fix and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways and other lifts. Over the next 10 years, the job outlook is expected to grow by 6%, which means 1,900 new jobs are expected to open up.

FirstLine Supervisors of Police and Detectives

  • Median annual wage (2020): $92,970
  • Education required: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Work experience: Less than five years
  • On-the-job training: Moderate-term on-the-job training
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 7% (as fast as average)
  • Description: People in this career directly supervise and coordinate members of the police force. There’s also a 7% projected employment growth rate over the next 10 years, which means 6,600 new jobs!

Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers

  • Median annual wage (2020): $96,390
  • Education required: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Work experience: Five years or more
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 8% (as fast as average)
  • Description: In this job, you’ll follow organization policies and government regulations to plan, direct or coordinate transportation, storage or distribution activities. Logistics managers fall into this field.

Makeup Artists, Theatrical and Performance

  • Median annual wage (2020): $106,920
  • Education required: Postsecondary non-degree award
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: Moderate-term on-the-job training
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 37% (much faster than average)
  • Description: Makeup artists apply makeup to performers to reflect the period, setting and situation of their roles. As a makeup artist, you may also work with prosthetics, paint, wigs and other accessories.

Air-Traffic Controllers

  • Median annual wage (2020): $130,420
  • Education required: Associate degree
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: Long-term on-the-job training
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 4% (slower than average)
  • Description: Air traffic controllers monitor and coordinate aircraft movements to keep a safe distance between them. While this field is a little more competitive with only 100 new job opportunities expected over the next 10 years, this is a tough annual salary to beat!

Commercial Pilot

  • Median annual wage (2020): $130,440
  • Education required: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Work experience: None
  • On-the-job training: Moderate-term on-the-job training
  • Projected growth rate 2020-2030: 13% (faster than average)
  • Description: In addition to a high school diploma or equivalent, commercial pilots also need a pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration. If you do go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, you can earn around $147,220 as an airline pilot, copilot or flight engineer!

How To Find a High-Paying Job With Any Level of Education

The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers an occupation finder tool that allows you to search for jobs based on entry-level education requirements, projected growth rate, 2019 median pay and more.

This is an excellent way to browse potential careers and find the most accurate, up-to-date information. Simply select your current level of education and the salary range you’re looking for. From there, click on each career for a brief description and more links that can help you get started!

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Do you have a high-paying job that you landed without a four-year college degree? Let us know in the comments!

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