Report: Best-paying jobs with no college degree

6:12 PM, Sep 6, 2013   |    comments
Subway and street car operators top the list. (Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP Photo)
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Close to a third of the adult U.S. population has a college degree. While it no longer necessarily guarantees a job, as it once did, graduating from college is a prerequisite for the vast majority of high-paying jobs.

Of the job categories that earned a median of at least $60,000 in 2012, just a handful did not require at least some college education. The top-paying job categories all required a bachelor's degree, and in many cases, a master's or doctoral degree.

But for those who cannot go to college, there are still hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs that only require a high school diploma. 24/7 Wall St.reviewed 2012 occupational profiles from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to identify the jobs that pay the most money and generally do not require any more formal education than a high school diploma.

Very few of these positions, however, are instantly accessible to a person fresh out of high school. Some of these positions do not require a bachelor's degree, but do involve a great deal of additional on-the-job training or certification. Most require years of work at lower positions before workers can move up the ranks.

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Many of these jobs are compensated well because of the dangerous or unfavorable conditions associated with them. Subway operators, paid a median of nearly $63,000 a year, spend long hours underground. Elevator repairers and nuclear power plant operators work in potentially life-threatening positions and are paid more, accordingly.

In order to identify the high-paying jobs you can get with a high-school degree, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed wage and employment data from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics database and job descriptions from the agency's Occupational Outlook Handbook. The jobs that made the list had a median annual salary of at least $60,000 and did not require formal education beyond a high school diploma, according to the BLS.

Here are the best-paying jobs you can get with no more than a high school diploma:

1. Subway and street car operators
-- Median annual income: $62,730
-- Total number of people employed: 8,750
In 2012, subway and streetcar operators were paid an annual median wage of $62,730. The pay for this occupation is good, likely due to the flexibility of schedules required, since public transit is often open on weekends, holidays and most (if not all) hours. Additionally, operators take on the responsibility of keeping a large group of people safe. There is little room for raises, however, with the top 10% of workers making more than $73,590 in 2012, not substantially higher than the median annual wage for the job category. Subways travel on their own right-of-way, usually underground, and many are driven by a computer. Subway operators must be capable of driving the train manually, but usually only control the vehicle's speed and when it starts and stops. The movements of trains are largely organized by visual and auditory signals, so operators must have extremely good observation skills. Unlike subway operators, streetcar drivers must obey traffic laws, collect fares and regularly interact with passengers.

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2. Fashion designers
-- Median annual income: $62,860
-- Total number of people employed: 16,560
The gaps in income between fashion designers can be quite large: The top 10% of designers last year made more than $126,290, while the bottom 10% made less than $34,110. It is becoming more common for fashion designers to pursue formal education as the work increasingly involves use of computer-aided design technology. Education in a related field, such as merchandising, is also valuable, although a college degree is not necessary. Creativity, however, is the most important quality for this occupation. The most successful fashion designers often will have their own businesses or retail stores. A beginning designer usually undergoes an apprenticeship or is employed as an assistant.

3. Power distributors and dispatchers
-- Median annual income: $71,690
-- Total number of people employed: 11,590
Power distributors and dispatchers are responsible for monitoring the movement of electricity from generating stations through to its eventual lines of distribution. In the event of needed repairs or emergencies, the distributor or dispatcher must reroute the transmission of electricity and organize maintenance. These jobs require workers to be attentive and careful, especially as they potentially can shock or burn themselves. Like the nuclear power operator, this occupation requires extensive on-the-job training and licensing, in addition to a high-school diploma. In 2012, the annual median wage was $71,690.

More: To read the rest of the list, click here

Financial news and commentary website 24/7 Wall St. is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.


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