Think you need a college degree to earn a decent wage? Think again. There are plenty of blue-collar jobs that pay 6 figures and don’t require you to wait four years and accrue tens of thousands of dollars of debt. 

Whether you want to work with your hands, in hospitality, or in the aviation industry there are some great options available all across the country. Here are some of my favorites, each with earners a good chunk of earners making more than 100 grand, as listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or Go Banking Rates.

Air traffic controller  

Air traffic controllers are the unsung heroes of the aviation industry as they keep everything humming along behind the scenes. They coordinate the movement of aircraft into and out of airports. Potentially a great job to keep your brain engaged and for night owls, as well, as the hours for air traffic controllers can rotate or be set late.

Median Salary: 124,540
Annual Salary for Top Earners: 175,800

How to become an air traffic controller.

Commercial Pilot

Commercial pilot

While you will need a commercial pilot certificate, no college degree is necessary to fly fixed-wing aircraft for a lot of money! A bit of an adrenaline junkie, fascinated by flight, or just want to spread your wings and see the world? A commercial pilot could be a great debt-free career for you.

Median Salary: 78,740
Annual Salary for Top Earners: 152,180

How to become a commercial pilot.

Construction Manager

While some of these positions are beginning to require bachelor’s degrees, there are plenty of options still to oversee, plan, and coordinate the building of this country as a construction manager with training that doesn’t include an expensive 4-year degree.

Median Salary: 93,370
Annual Salary for Top Earners: 159,560

How to become a construction manager.

Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Powerhouse, Substation and Relay

Keep the lights on in your house and for others by maintaining electrical equipment in generating stations, substations, and in-service relays as an Electrical Repairer! Do it right and you’ll find the rewards are quite electrifying for your bank account too, with income for the 90th percentile earners at over $102,000.

Median Salary: 78,410
Annual Salary for Top Earners: 102,550

Elevator Installer and Repairer

elevator repairer

A great position for the handy and mechanically inclined, Elevator Repairers help lift passengers and can lift their finances. Training typically involves an apprenticeship and job growth is expected to be above average for the next decade!

Median Salary: 79,480
Annual salary for top earners: $114,980

How to become an elevator repairer.

First-line Supervisors of Police and Detectives

Coordinate activities of the police force to give back to your community as a First-line supervisor and you’re likely to give back to yourself in the form of financial security, as well.

Median Salary: 89,030
Annual salary for top earners: $144,190

In-N-Out Manager


While certainly an aberration, it can’t hurt to know that there are high paying jobs even in the culinary and fast food industries if you know what to look for. If that happens to be an interest for you, keep your eyes on the prize and nab one of these awesome gigs.

Median Salary: 160,000

Nuclear Power Reactor Operators

Though there’s only a handful a states that offer this position (Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Mississippi), it’s worth discussing. Nuclear Power Reactor Operators are responsible for the electricity that supplies millions of homes and businesses. They operate or control nuclear reactors, monitor and adjust controls, implement emergency procedures when needed.

Median Salary: 94,370

Pile-Driver Operators

Build a solid foundation for buildings and your career by apprenticing as a pile driver operator. Top earners will take home more than $100K, but all have sturdy careers. 

Median annual salary: $57,650
Annual salary for top earners: $100,800

Police Officer

Protect lives and property in your community by becoming a police officer. Most police and detectives must graduate from their agency’s training academy before completing a period of on-the-job training, and often do not require college experience. This is a great job for people who like to be out in the community and who want to give back.

Median annual salary: $63,380
Annual salary for top earners: $106,090

How to become a police officer.

Power Plant Operator

Typically only requiring a high school degree and on the job training, power plant operators can make serious money. This role is similar to the Nuclear Power Reactor Operator role, but much more geographically diverse, meaning the jobs are more likely available by you.

Median annual salary: $79,610
Annual salary for top earners: $106,650

Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers

Another blue-collar, high-paying, and intellectual pursuit, you can transport, store, and distribute the goods and services that keep the world turning while adhering to local laws and your business’ needs as a distribution manager.

Median Salary: $92,460
Annual salary for top earners: $156,710

Transportation Inspectors

Inspect equipment or goods in connection with the safe transport of cargo or people for rail, freight, and other transportation. The government is a large employer for this occupation, which means the position often comes with a nice set of benefits, as well.

Median annual salary: $73,780
Annual salary for top earners: $123,980

Water Transportation Worker

Travel the world (or stay local if you prefer!) as a water transportation worker. These individuals operate vessels that take cargo and people over water, often for long distances and they are often well compensated for it. Usually, there’s no education requirement, but often on the job training and certification requirements.

Median annual salary: $54,400
Annual salary for top earners: $118,260

How to become a water transportation worker.