7 High-Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree

Two Workers on a Construction Site

College might not be for you, and that’s totally fine! In 2020, only around 37.5% of the US population over age 25 held a college degree. So if you haven’t attended college and are looking for a great job, you’re in excellent company.

Even without a college degree, it’s completely possible — and not at all uncommon — to earn a solid income in a career you love. Here’s an overview of 7 high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree.

1. Electrician

Electrician Median wage

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for electricians was $56,900 per year ($27.36/hour) in 2020.

Electrician Career Overview

Professional electricians are everyone’s lifeline. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to keep the lights on, run the AC in summer, take hot water showers, or start the coffee in the morning. And since we all need electricity no matter what the state of the economy is, being an electrician is far more recession-proof than many careers.

Professional electricians are everyone’s lifeline. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to keep the lights on, run the AC in summer, take hot water showers, or start the coffee in the morning. And since we all need electricity no matter what the state of the economy is, being an electrician is far more recession-proof than many careers.

Of course, electricians don’t just ensure our coffee makers fire up in the morning. They’re responsible for traffic signals, street lights, and our electrical infrastructure. Without electricians, modern life as we know it wouldn’t be, well… modern!

It’s an important job, which is probably why it’s also relatively well paid. Like most careers, electricians who are new to the field make less than their experienced counterparts. Electricians with many years of experience under their belts frequently outperform the median salary of their peers around the country.

How to become an electrician

Future electricians can complete training programs or learn on the job. Finding a company that will train someone with no experience isn’t easy, which is why many would-be electricians either enroll in a dedicated training program or earn a certificate from a local community college.

Many graduates from Construction Ready’s 20-day construction training program go on to become electricians. Typically, a graduate will attain his or her first construction job right after the program is over and can choose to transition into a role as an electrician soon afterward.

Enrolling in Construction Ready is usually a faster and less expensive way to train for a career as an electrician. Since our funding comes from outside sources, students who enroll in the program don’t have to pay for training at all.

2. Welder

Welder Median Wage

Welders earned a median wage of $44,190 in 2020. The firms that employ welders typically also offer benefit packages, which include health insurance and retirement plans.

Welder Career Overview

As a welder, you will spend most of your time using special tools (and heat!) to join metals together. Welding is an essential function on construction sites all around the country. After all, many pipes, beams, and other large building materials can’t perform their intended function without being properly welded to one another.

Many welders also exercise their skills in manufacturing facilities, such as factories that produce cars and trucks, airplanes, or heavy equipment. The more experience a welder gains and the more environments he or she learns to work in, the greater the opportunities — not just for different types of welding jobs, but for higher pay as a welder.

How to become a welder

Like many other skilled tradespeople, welders have a few different options for getting started in the field. Apprenticeship programs exist but may be hard to find in many communities. Community and technical colleges often have welding programs and will award an associate’s degree or certificate to individuals who finish the required courses.

Many Construction Ready graduates become welders. Since the fully funded 20-day training program costs nothing for students to complete, it’s a great option for would-be welders and other construction professionals who are looking for a training course.

3. Flight Attendant

Flight Attendant Median Wage

In 2020, flight attendants earned a median wage of $59,090.

Flight Attendant Career Overview

Flight attendants oversee passenger safety, comfort, and hospitality on both commercial and private airplanes. Far from just the “soda and peanuts” distributors on your trip from New York to Dallas (and they might resent you for thinking as much!), flight attendants are trained to respond to emergencies and prioritize safe behavior among passengers.

While flight attendants earn a great salary and usually enjoy good benefits from their employers, they have to be willing to spend long blocks of time away from home. For certain people, this is actually a benefit! Many flight attendants love the travel opportunities that are built into the job and consider them a perk.

Until they gain experience (and years) on the job, flight attendants don’t usually have control over their schedules either. Compared to most of the skilled trades careers on this list, flight attendants also can’t directly apply their skills toward starting their own business.

How to become a flight attendant

Airlines have training programs for new flight attendants. While there may not be any hard and fast education or experience requirements (other than a high school diploma), customer service experience is often recommended since flight attendants spend the bulk of their time fielding requests from the public.

If you’re interested in becoming a flight attendant, spend some time learning about how individual airlines hire and train for the job.

4. Plumber

Plumber Median Wage

The median annual compensation for plumbers in 2020 was $56,330 or $27.08 per hour.

Plumber Career Overview

Plumbers manipulate pipes to make water and gravity work in our favor. You may know plumbers as the people who fix clogs or stop bad smells from coming up from your drain. But they’re so much more than that.

Residential plumbers also set up and commission water heaters, design and install plumbing infrastructure for additions or remodels, and install entire home plumbing systems for new construction. Plumbers specializing in commercial infrastructure often get to solve major emergencies involving plumbing systems that serve large numbers of people.

In the construction industry, plumbers are a vital part of the team. For new commercial buildings, plumbing systems must be robust, compliant with local building codes, and function properly throughout the large and complex “unseen” areas within and beneath buildings.

How to become a plumber

As with welders and electricians, plumbers can complete a training course or learn on the job. In the absence of an apprenticeship opportunity, Construction Ready’s 20-day program trains many soon-to-be plumbers and prepares them for work.

Community college plumbing certificates are also available but may not be as cost effective as Construction Ready’s fully funded program.

5. Salesperson

Salesperson Median Wage

There are so many types of salespeople, that it’s tough to pin down a specific median wage across the entire profession. That being said, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that insurance sales agents made $52,180 per year in 2020. The median compensation for wholesale and manufacturing salespeople in 2020 was $65,420. Neither of these sales jobs require a college degree.

Salesperson Career Overview

Being a salesperson can be very lucrative… or not. It all depends on what you’re selling, to whom, and how well you relate to prospective customers. Despite the public image of the slick, wheeler-dealer salesperson, most people who make a good living in sales are successful because they’re honest, relatable, and sell products or services that their buyers truly need.

Take insurance salespeople. A successful salesperson typically receives a phone call from someone who already needs a policy: life insurance, for instance. The salesperson’s success isn’t dependent on whether he or she can persuade someone to buy a specific policy. Their success depends on being able to explain the benefits of one type of life insurance over another and whether he or she can come up with competitive terms.

Sales is a tough field. The compensation usually isn’t predictable, and earning a good living often means making lots of sales and earning commissions from them. Look for employers who offer a base pay in addition to commissions on sales (not a commission-only employer) so that you know you’ll earn at least a minimal amount of money for your efforts.

How to become a salesperson

There are as many ways to become a salesperson as there are things to sell. If you’re starting out with no experience, look for an entry-level sales job at a company that provides on-the-job training. The job description will describe the types of qualities a company is looking for in a new salesperson.

6. Carpenter

Carpenter Median Wage

The median wage for American carpenters is $49,520. Experienced carpenters and self-employed carpenters can make substantially more than that after years of working on the job.

Carpenter Career Overview

One of the best parts of working as a carpenter is the sheer variety of jobs you can handle. Carpenters do everything from building and installing kitchen cabinets to repairing the frameworks in massive commercial buildings. The common thread that holds all of their duties together is the ability to work with wood.

In the construction industry, carpenters work with framing and other wooden infrastructure. They also build and install wooden building features, like shelving, cabinetry, doors, and windows. An experienced carpenter can handle a wide variety of residential or commercial construction tasks, from building to repairing.

How to become a carpenter

Most carpenters learn on the job. Perhaps the best way to become a carpenter is to begin working with a general contractor or as a construction worker. From there, you can gain experience and gain expertise in carpentry tasks.

Construction Ready’s 20-day program, once again, is a great option here. Many graduates go on to become carpenters after getting their first construction job.

7: Heavy Equipment Operator

Heavy Equipment Operator Median Wage

Construction equipment operators earned a median wage of $49,100 in 2020.

Heavy Equipment Operator Career Overview

Did you ever want to operate a bulldozer when you were a kid? Or how about an excavator or a crane? It’s a lot of responsibility — and experienced equipment operators are compensated appropriately! Full-time heavy equipment operators who spend their days at busy construction sites often earn more than the median wage and enjoy good employer benefits as well.

Nobody starts out digging with the excavator on Day One. Heavy equipment operators typically earn their stripes, so to speak, in less demanding areas of construction and work their way into a role that involves heavy-duty machinery. A number of professional certifications are usually required, as well as a commercial drivers’ license.

What can you help build as a heavy equipment operator? Roads, offices, skyscrapers, bridges, homes, towers… There’s really no limit once you’ve gained the right amount of experience.

How to become a heavy equipment operator

On-the-job training is common. Often , the first step is to get your foot in the door at a construction company. Construction Ready’s 20-day training program costs nothing for students and 97% of graduates secure jobs before the training ends.

With this first construction job, you can usually quickly work your way into a role with more responsibilities. Many of our graduates become heavy equipment operators.

Conclusion: Your first construction job can help you access many high-paying careers

You don’t need a college degree to enter any of the jobs we’ve covered here. They all offer great pay and benefits, not to mention the ability to be proud of the work you’re doing every day.

For those jobs in the construction field, the best way to get started is to get your first construction job. The construction industry tends to promote from within, so after you gain experience and demonstrate your skills, you can quickly advance into a role with more responsibility (and higher pay).

If you’re interested in starting a career in the skilled trades, Construction Ready’s 20-day program can help! Our fully funded program costs you nothing and introduces you to multiple employers. That’s how nearly all of our graduates secure a great construction job before the 20 days are up.

To learn more or sign up, get in touch with us!

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