Annual income for workers with at least a bachelor's degree is $71,864 versus $38,844 for those with only a high school diploma, according to median weekly earnings data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But some jobs that don't require a college degree pay more than others.
U.S. News & World Report recently released its ranking of 25 high-paying jobs without a college degree, featuring an assortment of fields for job seekers. Here are the 11 best-paying jobs on that list that only require a high school diploma or equivalent. All pay more than the BLS median for high school graduates.
Keep in mind that while a college education isn't a requirement for these roles, other work experience or certifications may be. Becoming a plumber, for example, typically training on the job through an apprenticeship and state licensing, according to the BLS.
Insurance agents sell a number of different types of insurance from auto to life to home insurance. Almost 20% of agents are self employed, according to U.S. News, with commission being a key source of income and few having salaried positions. The best-paid 25% of insurance sales agents made as much as $77,930 in 2018.
Median salary: $50,600 per year
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Brickmasons and blockmasons use bricks, stones, and even glass to build walls, patios, and interior structures like fireplaces. Brickmasons do more residential work, while blockmasons do more commercial work, according to U.S. News. Masons work for both union and nonunion contracts.
Median salary: $50,950 per year
Sound engineering technicians set up, operate, and maintain audio equipment like microphones everywhere from live performances to recording studios to film and television sets. One type of sound engineering technician is a DJ, according to U.S. News, who plays music at events like weddings and places like nightclubs.
Median salary: $52,390 per year
Hearing aid specialists assess the extent of a client's hearing loss, find their most appropriate hearing aid, and meet with the client periodically to clean the device and make sure it functions properly.
Median salary: $52,770 per year
Residences and office buildings are constantly in need of plumbers to fix bathtubs, sinks, and toilets. The BLS projects 68,200 plumber jobs will open up between 2018 and 2028, representing job growth of 14%.
Median salary: $53,910 per year
Structural iron and steelworkers install iron and steel beams to buildings, bridges, and roads. Their work is both physically demanding and dangerous — they work at great heights to build skyscrapers, for example.
Median salary: $53,970 per year
Wind turbine technicians inspect and maintain wind turbines. It sounds like a niche role, but there are more than 58,000 wind turbines contained in the U.S. Wind Turbine Database as of January 2019, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) — and as many as 3,000 more wind turbines are built in the U.S. every year.
Median salary: $54,370 per year
Most electricians focus on installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical systems of businesses, factories, and residences, according to U.S. News. Some also coordinate lighting for TV and films. Nearly 75,000 electrician jobs are expected to open up between 2018 and 2028, according to BLS projections, representing growth of 10%.
Median salary: $55,190 per year
Sales representatives sell goods as varied as medicine, office supplies, and imported wine to wholesalers, manufacturers, and businesses — rather than directly to consumers. They also handle any administrative duties related to the job, such as tracking purchases. There's a fair bit of travel on the job, as reps are expected to attend trade shows and conferences to learn about their industry.
Median salary: $58,510 per year
Executive assistants provide support for bosses in a wide range of fields from entertainment to real estate to tech. They are responsible for a variety of administrative tasks like scheduling travel, doing research, and taking notes.
Median salary: $59,340 per year
These police officers patrol the communities they are responsible for and ensure residents' safety by responding to incidents. They also write reports and update records. The job can be dangerous, with long hours and high rates of injury on the job, according to U.S. News.
Median salary: $61,380 per year
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