10 High-Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a Four-Year Degree

Professional Degree

Most people are under the impression that you need a bachelor’s degree to land a high-paying job. But, that simply isn’t the case — at least not all of the time. That being said, here are ten high-paying jobs that don’t require you to have a four-year degree.

10. Air Traffic Controller

Air Traffic Controller
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Petar Marjanovic [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 )]
You will need a degree to become an air traffic controller, but it will be an associate’s degree, not a bachelor’s. You will also need extensive Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) training. Plus, if you end up working for the FAA, any student loans you had to take out to complete your associate’s degree will be forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Besides the training, there are some other minimum requirements you must meet in you plan on working for the FAA:
-Be a U.S. citizen
-Be age 30 or under (on the closing date of the application period)
-Pass a medical examination
-Pass a security investigation
-Speak English clearly enough to be understood over communications equipment
-Be willing to relocate to an FAA facility based on agency staffing needs

Not too bad for a job with a median annual wage of $124,540!

9. Network Engineer

Network Engineer
Source: Pixabay

Network Engineers troubleshoot various network and computer system problems, and believe it or not, they don’t need a four-year degree to do it. In fact, they may not need any training at all — at least in the formal sense. Many people who work in tech jobs are self-taught. For example, a network engineering job at Google requires expert-level programming with C++, C and/or Python — all skills that you can learn for FREE using books and online courses or tutorials. And, even though some employers want you to have a degree, they will often waive that requirement if you can show you have significant prior work experience.

So, just how much money do Network Engineers make? Well, that depends on a number of factors, including your location. For example, Network Engineers working in Washington, D.C., earn an average of 20.5 percent more than the national average. In general, though, Network Engineers can expect to start out making a little over $57,000 a year. Network Engineers with 1-4 years of experience earn an average of $64,621. A Network Engineer with 5-9 years of experience earns an average of $75,238. An experienced Network Engineer with 10-19 years of experience earns an average of $83,117. And, Network Engineers with 20+ years of experience earn an average of $89,342.

FYI, Network Engineers at Google earn an estimated salary of $96,000-$148,000!

8. Dental Hygienist

Source: Pixabay

Not to be confused with dentists, who are doctors with four years of dental school training, dental hygienists assist dentists, assess oral health of patients, take and develop dental radiographs, and a number of other things. They receive their education through programs at community colleges, technical colleges, dental schools, or even universities. Once they receive their associate’s degree, they will need to take national and state or regional licensure exams and become licensed before they can work in a dental office. Dental hygienists earn a median annual wage of $74,820.

FYI, if you’re thinking about going to school to become a dental hygienist, you might be able to do so for free — or at least for a lot less than other students. That’s because many states will offer assistance toward your student loan debt if you study dental hygiene. For example, the Rhode Island Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program offers aid to registered clinical dental hygienists in exchange for working full- or part-time at an eligible location. Then, there’s the Colorado Dental Loan Repayment Program, which grants between $6,000 and $12,000 to dental hygienists who care for underserved patients for two years.

7. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Nuclear Regulatory Commission from US [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0 )]
Nuclear power reactor operators earn a median annual wage of $94,350. No degree is required at all for this position. In fact, nuclear power reactor operators only need a high school diploma, extensive on-the-job training, and formal technical training to prepare for their license exam from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Unfortunately, most of these jobs are becoming less common. In fact, about 10 percent of the nuclear power reactor operator jobs that existed in 2016 are expected to be gone by 2026.

6. Detective/Criminal Investigator

Police Detectives
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Median annual wage: $81,920

Detectives and criminal investigators are law enforcement officers who gather evidence and facts for criminal cases. They begin their career by first earning a high school diploma, and then training at a police academy before working their way up through the ranks. Depending on where they work, they may need more education. For example, many federal agencies and some police departments require detectives and criminal investigators to complete some college coursework or even earn a college degree.

5. Writer/Author

Source: Pixabay

Writers and authors make a living conveying all kinds of information in a variety of mediums, including newspapers, magazines, blogs, books, and television. Writers and authors earn a median annual wage of $62,170. There is no specific degree necessary to get started as a writer, although some employers, particularly those offering salaried positions, will prefer writers who have a four-year degree in English, journalism, or communications. Otherwise, you can get into the industry through internships, by writing for online content companies, or self-publishing your content through blogs.

4. Elevator Installer or Repairer

Elevator Installers
Source: Wikimedia Commons By MTA Capital Construction Mega Projects [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0 )]
Elevator installers and repairers begin their careers with a high school diploma, followed by a four-year apprenticeship program sponsored by a union, industry association, or individual contractor. Once the apprenticeship is completed, ongoing training may still be required. In fact, there are currently 35 states that require elevator installers and repairers to be licensed.
The median annual wage for elevator installers and repairers is $79,780, although elevator repairers typically earn more due to the fact that their jobs require additional knowledge in areas like electricity, electronics, and hydraulics.

3. Signal and Track Switch Repairer

Railroad Workers
Source: Pixabay

Signal and track switch repairers install, inspect, test, maintain and repair signals, track switches, electric gate crossings, section lines and inter-communications systems for railroads. The only requirement is a high school diploma or GED. Prior work experience isn’t even required. Moderate-term on-the-job training is a requirement though. The median annual wage of signal and track switch repairers in 2018 was $70,490. Local and state governments pay workers in this field a bit more, with the annual mean wage at $72,730 and $73,310, respectively.

2. Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Manager

Transportation Manager
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Transportation, storage and distribution managers are responsible for ensuring that merchandise is shipped and stored in a manner that’s fast, efficient and cheap, and they get paid a pretty penny to do it, too — $94,730 a year to be exact! That’s the average. The top paying industries for this occupation pay between $134,620 and $143,810. And, perhaps best of all, you don’t even need a college degree to get into the field. All that is required is a high school diploma and at least five years of experience working in a related field.

1. Radiation Therapist

Radiation Therapist
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and outpatient centers. They also explain treatment plans to patient and answer any questions they might have about said treatment. There’s no prior work experience or on-the-job training required to become a radiation therapist. An associate’s degree is required, however.

The median annual wage for radiation therapists in 2018 was $82,330. Of course where they work will determine how much they earn. Those who work in hospitals earn $82,200 while those who work in doctor’s offices make about $540 more a year.


Your turn! Were you able to land a high-paying job without a four-year degree? Tell us about it in the comments below.