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 four-year degrees and tens of thousands of dollars of debt.
Indeed, whether you want to work with your hands, in hospitality, or in the aviation industry, there are great jobs that pay 6 figures with just a high school diploma. Many of them are also recession-proof, meaning employees are protected from the macroeconomic environment.
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. A great job to keep your brain engaged and potentially a great job for night owls, as the hours for air traffic controllers can rotate or be set late.
Median Salary: 124,540
Annual Salary for Top Earners: 175,800
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
Oversee, plan, and coordinate the building of this country as a construction manager. While some positions have started requiring bachelor’s degrees, there are still plenty of options available for people with no degree.
Median Salary: 93,370
Annual Salary for Top Earners: 159,560
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 electric 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
A great trade job for the handy and mechanically inclined, Elevator Repairers help lift passengers and lift their own 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
First-line Supervisors of Police and Detectives
First-line supervisors give back to their communities by coordinating the activities of the police force. A side benefit is the ability to give back to yourself in the form of financial security.
Median Salary: 89,030
Annual salary for top earners: $144,190
While certainly an aberration, it can’t hurt to know that there are high paying jobs even in the fast-food industry. If that’s an interest for you, keep your eye 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
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
Protect lives and property in your community by becoming a police officer. Most police and detectives must graduate from their agency’s training academy and complete a period of on-the-job training. However, they 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
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 spread out in more states. Thus, the jobs are more likely available by you.
Median annual salary: $81,990
Annual salary for top earners: $117,130
Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers
You can keep the world turning as a distribution manager. These careers transport, store, and distribute the goods and services businesses require while adhering to local laws. They are blue-collar, high-paying, and intellectual positions.
Median Salary: $92,460
Annual salary for top earners: $156,710
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, so 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
So, is it possible to earn 6 figures without a college degree? Of course, there are plenty of 6 figure trade jobs available. In my book Blue Collar Cash, I cover more options for earning good money without a degree and for achieving your dreams.