9 High-Paying Careers You Can Get Without a College Degree

Reaching to shake hands.

Higher education is one route that can lead you to a high paying job, but it’s just one of many possible routes. With the right motivation and a willingness to learn, you can find a wide variety of high paying jobs without having a college degree. In no particular order, the following nine examples can help you develop a sense of the range of possibility.

1. Power Plant Operator

Median annual salary: $78.030

A power plant operator monitors and maintains the machines that keep an area’s power grid running. From water turbines to coal-fired power stations, power plant operators evaluate, adjust, and repair equipment to maintain or improve efficiency.

As with many jobs that pay well without a college degree, you’ll need the right experience to become a plant operator. That can include mechanical skill, concentration, dexterity, and problem solving skills.

2. Insurance Claims

Median annual salary: $65,670

Reviewing claims for insurance companies is similar to working as a detective. You do fact checking, negotiate settlements, and ultimately help prevent fraud. Analytical ability, communication skills, and strong organizational skills are essential.

Working in claims is one of the best high-paying careers without a degree because, apart from competitive compensation, claims adjusters also enjoy excellent job security and many prospects for career advancement.

3. Commercial Pilot

Median annual salary: $115,670

Becoming a proficient pilot requires expertise that can only be developed with practice and experience. Monitoring engines and other aircraft systems, flying an aircraft is considerably more complex than driving a car. Pilots need strong color vision, excellent focus, and problem solving skills.

4. Underwriting

Median annual salary: $69,380

An underwriter works alongside insurance agents, customers, and actuaries to help determine an individual’s risk. With the aid of computer software, they figure out just how much it should cost to insure someone. For these kinds of careers, it helps to be detail oriented, have a firm grasp of statistics, and to be fluent with computers.

5. Criminal Investigator

Median annual salary: $85,020

Similar to working in insurance claims, a criminal investigator is someone who conducts interviews and gathers evidence. Apart from what you see detectives do on television, they’re also tasked with compiling reports, managing record keeping, and collaborating with other agencies to share information.

Excellent criminal investigators need many skills that are tough to teach in a classroom. That includes good judgment, discipline, attention to detail, and of course communication skills.

6. Insurance Sales

Median annual salary: $50,600

Insurance sales agents help people identify the insurance plan most suitable to their needs. Agents explain the strengths of various policies, help settle claims, and contact prospective clients to generate new business. As is the case with most sales positions, communication skills and self-confidence go a long way.

7. Information Security Analyst

Median annual salary: $98,350

In an increasingly digital world, data security is of paramount importance. An information security analyst plans and implements a security system to help defend an organization’s network from attack. This requires technical know-how for computer networking models like TCP/IP, analytical ability to perform risk assessment, and communication skills to help teach others security procedures.

8. Database Administrator

Median annual salary: $90,070

Almost all kinds of industry have their own computer systems, their own data, and their own database. Similar to a security analyst, a database administrator secures that data against threats, but also maintain every other aspect of the database, including hardware and software upgrades. For these positions, it helps to have attention to detail and to be talented at presenting technical information.

9. Computer Programmer

Median annual salary: $84,280

From the app that controls your headphones to Wi-Fi connected light bulbs, code is everywhere. Programmers write and test that code in a variety of programming languages. Depending on the position, it may be possible to work either independently or as part of a team. In any case, programmers need to be computer literate, have strong organizational skills, and an excellent attention to detail.

Prepare for Your New Career with MyPath

Starting a new career is a multi-stage process. From advice on returning to college for a different career to learning how to answer salary questions in an interview, MyPath has resources to help people through every stage. And if you’re still not sure what career path is right for you, try out the Career Wizard Tool to see if you can narrow it down.