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Highest Paying Jobs Not Requiring a College Degree

On the job training and apprenticeships can take the place of a college education and lead to a high paying job.

| BY Kent McDill

The conversation is ongoing whether a college degree is worth it in terms of its cost, return on investment and time dedicated to learning.

Some people believe learning a trade, first as an apprentice and then working your way up the ladder, can be just as rewarding, both personally and financially, as earning a college degree and going into business of some sort. In many cases, years of on-the-job training replace those years spent among the ivy covered walls of a college.

With that in mind, Wall Street 24/7 went through the wage and employment data from the Bureau of labor Statistics from 2012 as well as job descriptions from the federal Occupational Outlook Handbook, to determine the top 10 most lucrative jobs available that do not require a college degree.

The median annual salary of the 10 jobs was $60,000.

The top 10 highest-paying jobs that do not require a college degree, from No. 10 to No. 1, are

No. 10 Gas plant operator – With an average salary of $63,680, this job requires you to process and distribute natural gas for utility companies. This job is dangerous and stressful, but natural gas is expected to pass coal as a source of electricity in the next 10 years. The energy industry is rampant throughout this list.

No. 9 Electrical power line installers and repairers – There are currently 111,000 people employed in the business of electrical power line installers and repairers, and if you have ever had your lights go off due to a storm, there aren’t enough electrical power line repairers around. At the top end, they can make $64,170, and the job is expected to have a growth of 9 percent in the next 10 years.

No.8 postmasters and mail superintendents – This is the job your mail delivery person is ascribing to. With a top average pay of $65,150, the top managers at the Post Office can make 84,000 a year. The postal services is expected to lose as many as 30 percent of its jobs over the next 10 years.

No. 7 Transportation inspectors – the people who check out your train and your plane for transportation safety makes as much as $66,000 a year, and can go up $110,000 a year.

No. 6 Gaming manager – Sure, you may start out at the roulette wheel or at a blackjack table, but once you move up to the position of manager you can make $66,000 a year. And the industry is expected a 7.5 percent growth pace over the next 10 years.

No. 5 Power plant operator – This is where on-the-job training can lead to a decent paying job over a number of years. Power plant operators average $68,000 a year, but they worked a lot of bad hours to get to that point.

No. 4 Commercial pilot – While some American airlines require a college degree, smaller regional airlines, as well as charters and tour companies, do not. And once you put in the necessary hours to get your license, and put in enough flight hours to attract a job that could pay as much as $74,000 a year. This is another career that anticipates a high level of growth over the years to come (as much as 9 percent).

No 3 Detective and criminal investigators – You have to be licensed, which takes hours of class time, and the job can occasionally be dangerous, but you get to the top of the line in fields requiring criminal investigation and you can make $76,000.

No. 2 Elevator installers and repairers – This is not an easy job to get into. It requires as much as five years of apprenticeship and eventual certification.  But the field is expecting 25 percent growth over the next 10 years and the current median salary is $78,600.

No. 1 Transportation, storage and distribution managers – Here is another case of getting an underling job at first without a college degree and growing into a job that averages $83,890 and can have top pay of $140,000 depending on the company. Transportation managers maintain the on-the-road movement of all trucked goods in America, and the job requires good organizational skills, but not a college degree.

About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.