The Best High-Paying Jobs You Can Get Right Now Without A College Degree

Some high-paying jobs that do not require a college degree include pilot, air traffic controller, electrician, radiology, commercial driver, and elevator tech.

By Wendy Hernandez | Published

carpenter and plumber shortage

“Not all knowledge comes from college.” Mike Rowe, author, speaker, and the host of Discovery’s Dirty Jobs, once said. As a long-time advocate of the trades, Rowe routinely highlights high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree and the potentially pricey student loans that may come along with them. 

A college degree was once a prerequisite for landing a high-paying job, but as Bob Dylan’s song goes, “The times, they are a-changin.” These changes include increased wages for blue-collar jobs. Indeed, NPR recently reported that “While a shortage of workers pushes wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor’s degree is softening, even as the price, and the average debt into which it plunges students, remain high.”

According to Forbes, the total amount owed on student loans is $1.75 trillion (including federal and private loans). Throw in the increasing cost of a college degree, and high it’s no wonder that some parents and their teens are looking into high-paying jobs that don’t require four more years of formal (and expensive) education.

With the emergence of new industries and the increased demand for specialized skills, here are just some of the best high-paying jobs you can get right now without a college degree: 


Commercial pilots may make good money if they love flying. The average salary for commercial pilots stands at  $134,630 per year.  Commercial pilots need a high school diploma and an FAA license. Flying training and flight hours are required.


Elevator technicians install, maintain, and repair elevators, escalators, and other lifts. Workers must know electronics, hydraulics, and electricity and interpret plans and schematics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median elevator installer and repairer wage stands at $97,860 per year.  Apprenticeships and a high school diploma are required.


Air traffic controllers monitor air traffic from airport control towers, approach control facilities, and route centers. Under pressure, they must make rapid judgments and communicate well. The median salary for an ATC in May 2021 was $127,805. The job requires a high school education or equivalent, FAA pre-employment testing, and FAA training.


Radiation therapy treats cancer and other disorders. They collaborate with oncologists and other doctors to deliver high-quality care. The median annual wage for radiation therapists was $82,790 in May 2021. The position requires a high school diploma, an authorized radiation therapy curriculum, and a license or certification. 

Commercial Diver

Commercial divers repair, examine, and build oil rigs and other infrastructure underwater. Technical skills, physical fitness, and pressure-handling ability are needed. According to, The average Commercial Diver salary in the United States is $47,125 as of January 26, 2023, but the salary range typically falls between $38,802 and $57,415. Commercial diving school certification and a high school diploma are required.


Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical systems. They must be technical and read blueprints and schematics. May 2021 median electrician wages were $ 63,310. The position demands a high school degree and an apprenticeship.

While a college degree does not guarantee a high-paying job, with the right training, you may find a meaningful career in a number of trades. For those ready to work, there are several opportunities in aviation, healthcare, and technology.