5 High-paying Jobs You Can Get Without a College Degree

By: Kiara Taylor  | 
man in front of truck fleet
Transportation managers are some of the highest-paid professionals without a degree. kali9/Getty Images

Many people dream of going to college but it's expensive. The costs of tuition, lodging, and books drive many into debt upon graduation. And depending on the major, it may take decades to finish paying off those student loans.

Students in the U.S. are $1.73 trillion in debt altogether. This means that with just over 43 million student borrowers, each student is in debt by an average of about $39,000. The economy is not what it used to be and having a college degree is no guarantee of a high salary, although in general college graduates earn more than high school graduates.


But earning a college degree isn't the only pathway to a bright financial future. We're spotlighting five jobs that don't require a college degree and still pay very well. Salaries shown are for 2020 and represent median earnings (meaning that half the positions in America will pay more and half will pay less.) The salary data is taken from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Transportation, Storage or Distribution Manager

Annual salary: $96,390

These managers are often employed by shipping or trucking companies and are involved in dispatching, routing and tracking merchandise as well as ensuring safety rules are followed by the employees. While a college degree is not required, five or so years of experience in the transportation or logistics industries is a must. USA Today considered this job category as the highest-paying one for people without a college degree.


2. Commercial Pilot

Annual Salary: $93,300

If you're fascinated by planes, then you could become a commercial pilot even if you don't have a degree. Pilots, of course, fly planes but they also have to check the condition of the aircraft, submit flight plans and communicate with air traffic control, among other responsibilities.


Commercial pilots differ from airline pilots in that the former may fly charter planes, operate air ambulances and do agricultural flights like crop-dusting. They usually work an irregular or variable schedule. Airline pilots mainly work for major airlines that transport passengers and cargo on a fixed schedule that could include weekends and overnights.

To become a commercial pilot, all you have to do is complete flight training and obtain a commercial pilot's license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Training usually takes place at a flight school. It can take anywhere from six months to two years or more to complete the training course and the 250 flight hours required by the FAA. But having that license could mean a long-term career is in your future.


3. Police Detective

Annual Salary: $86,940

If you're a fan of TV cop shows, this might be the career for you. Detectives collect evidence of possible crimes, conduct interviews, assess records and take part in raids and arrests. On larger forces they may specialize in an area like homicide or fraud. It can be a stressful job as you work with victims of crime and accidents and may have to work in dangerous places or encounter dangerous people. However, it can be rewarding work for those who like to help others or solve puzzles.


Most detectives start out as police officers. To become a police officer, you need a high school diploma and to complete police academy, which lasts three to eight months, depending on the city or state. After some years working as a police officer, you'll eligible to take the exam to become a detective.

4. Web Developer

Annual Salary: $77,200

Coworkers discussing computer program
Web developers are in great demand as almost every business has a website.
Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

The evolving business environment has called for more web developers who know how to create and maintain websites. Web developers often specialize in either "front-end" work (designing a website's layout and integrating applications and graphics) or "back-end" work (technical construction of the website and writing the code that allows it to function). Developers have several options when it comes to what type of environment they want to work in since their skills are relevant to many industries including insurance, e-commerce, publishing and finance just to name a few. Many web developers are self-employed, too.


The requirements for web developers depend on business needs and vary across different companies. You do need to understand programming languages such as JavaScript or SQL, as well as HTML. The easiest way to become a web developer without a college degree is to enroll in a coding bootcamp. It only takes about four to six months to complete a coding bootcamp, and you leave with a portfolio, an online presence and crucial coding skills.


5. Line Installer or Repairer

Annual Salary: $75,030

Line installers and repairers work with high-voltage electricity as they install and repair electrical cables and fiber optics on telephone poles across the country. This is one of the most hazardous career options on our list, as there is the danger of electrocution. It's also one of the most physically demanding jobs, as you have to be able to climb utility poles and work at great heights, perhaps in a confined bucket above a truck. You might also be working in the scorching heat or freezing cold.


Workers may specialize in installation or repair work. For either job, you need a high school diploma, a strong work ethic and a lot of on-the-job training. The Electrical Training Alliance also offers apprenticeship programs.