High Paying Jobs with Little Schooling

If you hate school but are determined to find a high paying job there’s plenty out there. Find unbelievable jobs across all industries that have great pay without the textbooks.

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Find high paying jobs that require little to no schooling

If you just graduated high school and decided college isn’t for you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 69.7% of high school graduates enrolled in college. That’s a high number, but still leaves a lot of graduates who decided not to enroll, and are looking for other opportunities. The good news is there are plenty of high paying jobs out there that require little schooling.

If you want to feel even better about seeking another path than traditional 4-year college, just look at the graduation rates.  Of those who enrolled straight out of high school in 2010, there was approximately a 60% graduation rate after 6 years according to the Department of Education.

That means 40% of people who enrolled didn’t attain the degree they were looking for while paying a large cost and potentially taking on debt.  The payback on that situation is abysmal, and you’d be much better off finding a great job if you’re not ready.

But maybe you decided not to go to college because you’re financially strapped.  Or maybe it’s because you are changing careers later in life. That makes these job opportunities even more important.  Finding a high paying job will not only give you independence but possibly the ability to pay your own way through college.

We evaluated jobs with the help of statistics from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.  Our criteria included finding jobs that did not require an additional degree after high school.  They also needed to have at least 2,000 projected annual job openings and less than 5-years of work experience required.

Related: High Paying Certificate Jobs

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Table of Contents

High Paying Jobs with Little Schooling at a Glance

OccupationMedian PayAnnual Job OpeningsWork ExperienceTrainingBest States
Service Unit Operator, oil, gas, and mining$48,2906400NoneModerate-termTexas, Oklahoma, California
Tapers$51,6202100NoneModerate-termCalifornia, Washington
Rotary Drill Operator$53,9802600NoneModerate-termTexas, Oklahoma, California
Commercial Pilot$78,7404000NoneModerate-termTexas, California, Florida
Elevator Installer/Repairer$79,4803000NoneApprenticeshipMajor population centers
Detectives and Criminal Investigators$79,9707500< 5 yearsModerate-termTexas, California, Florida
Transportation, Storage, and Distribution managers$92,4609700> 5 yearsNoneCalifornia, Texas, Illinois, Ohio
Electrical and Electronics installer/repairer$60,8402100NoneLong-termMajor population centers
Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels$70,9204400< 5 yearsNoneLouisiana, Florida, Texas
First-line supervisors of fire fighting$76,1704400< 5 yearsModerate-termMajor population centers
Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Jobs that Require no Formal Schooling

Service Unit Operators for Oil, Gas, and Mining

Average Salary: $53,370

Work Experience Required: None

On-the-Job Training: Moderate-term

Expected Annual Job Openings: 6,400

Summary of the job: According to the BLS, a service unit operator “uses equipment to increase oil flow from producing wells or to remove stuck pipe, casing, tools, or other obstructions from drilling wells. May also perform similar services in mining exploration operations.”  With very little schooling required, it offers one of the best average salaries.

Where can you find a job like this? These jobs are plentiful in parts of the country where drilling for natural resources is common.  Texas is by the far the state with the highest total employment in this field with 18,340 jobs.  That’s followed by Oklahoma, California, Louisiana, and Colorado with ranges between 1,800 and 3,000 jobs. 

While these might be the States with the highest job prospect, they don’t necessarily translate to the highest pay.  Alaska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Kansas all average over $60,000 a year in salary for this position.


Average Salary: $55,540

Work Experience Required: None

On-the-Job Training: Moderate-term

Expected Annual Job Openings: 2,100

Summary of the job: If you’re not in the building or construction field, you might not think of this job.  A taper is responsible for spreading sealant, and other tapings of joints to things like wallboard in the building process.

A taper is also responsible for fixing any patches or knicks in these boards caused by things like screws and nails.

Where to find these jobs? Jump out on any job search site and you will find openings for drywall tapers.  California and Washington top the list of states with the highest number of jobs in this field with 6,640 and 1,850 respectively.

Hawai and Illinois have the highest paying distinction with both states paying over $70,000 a year.

Rotary Drill Operators for Oil, and Gas

Average Salary: $56,180

Work Experience Required: None

On-the-Job Training: Moderate-term

Expected Annual Job Openings: 2,600

Summary of the Job: There’s no shortage of jobs a rotary drill operator may be assigned.  These include training crews, setting up drills, testing sample cores, adjusting machinery, and many more.  The main goal however of all these job functions is to facilitate the drilling of underground oil and gas.  If you enjoy this type of work, it offers good pay with no schooling other than on-the-job training.

Where to find this job? – As with service unit operators, Texas dominates this field when it comes to employment levels with 5,570.  This is followed by Oklahoma and California.

Texas does, however, have the lowest of the average wages amongst the states with large employment numbers.  The states who pay the best include Montana, Alaska, and Indiana.

Related: Find a New Career at 40

Jobs that Require a High School Degree

Commercial Pilot

Average Salary: $78,740

Work Experience: None

On-the-Job Training: Moderate-term

Expected Annual Job Openings: 4,000

Summary of the job: To become a commercial pilot, you will need some additional education in the form of a Commercial Pilot Certificate.  This path does not give you the ability however to get a job with a regional, national, or international airline. More schooling in the form of a bachelors degree is required for that job.

Commercial pilots typically fly fixed with aircraft or helicopters, including charter flights, air ambulances, and tour pilots.

Where to find these jobs? Texas, California, and Florida are the states that have the most abundance of these jobs.

New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Georgia are the highest paying states.  Keep in mind the first two of these only employs 80 and 330 commercial pilots respectively.  So your job prospects are better looking elsewhere.

Elevator Installers or Repairers

Average Salary: $79,480

Work Experience: None

On-the-Job Training: Apprenticeship

Expected Annual Job Openings: 3,000

Summary of the job: The job title on this one is pretty self-explanatory.  Elevator installers or repairers help to install elevators, escalators, and other lifts/moving walkways. 

If you decide to make this your career, be prepared to deal with some high heights, and overall varied work conditions.  You’ll be spending a decent amount of time in elevator shafts and other confined workspaces.

Where to find? You will find these jobs in every state in the country but concentrated near city centers, and places with more high-rise buildings.

Detectives or Criminal Investigators

Average Salary: $79,970

Work Experience: Less than 5 years

On-the-Job Training: Moderate-term

Expected Annual Job Openings: 7,500

Summary of the job: If you enjoy the challenge of solving complex problems, then this could be the job for you.  With little schooling you and some on-the-job training, you can be investigating crimes related to local, federal, and state violations of the law.

Where to find? As you might expect, states and cities with the highest overall populations have the largest need for this occupation.  These include Texas, California, Florida, and New York, employing anywhere from 6,200 in Florida to 16,780 in Texas.  California also makes the list of top paying states at just above $100k per year.

Transportation, Storage, or Distribution Managers

Average Salary: $92,460

Work Experience: 5 years or more

On-the-Job Training: None

Expected Annual Job Openings: 9,700

Summary of the job: You are acting as a logistics manager in this role, helping to coordinate different activities.  This job is all about experience as it is one of the few that requires at least 5 years of experience to attain.  But given it requires little schooling, the potential salary is well worth the time commitment.

Where to find? The usual suspects of California and Texas round out the top two for employment opportunities.  They are followed by Illinois, Ohio, and New Jersey.  As you might expect, these states are all strategically located in areas of the country with convenient shipping locations to major population centers.

Related: Best Work From Home Jobs

Jobs that Require Post-Secondary Education, but no Degree

Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels

Average Salary: $70,920

Work Experience: Less than 5 years

On-the-Job Training: None

Expected Annual Job Openings: 4,400

Summary of the job: You will need to get a license for this job which is issued by the U.S. Coast Guard.  But if you love the water, then with relatively little schooling you can find yourself supervising any number of water vessels while earning a good amount of pay.  

Where to find? You will find these jobs most plentiful in Louisiana, Florida, and Texas.  Missippii, New Hampshire, and again Texas make the top of the list for highest paying states.

First-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers

Average Salary: $76,170

Work Experience: Less than 5 years

On-the-Job Training: Moderate-term

Expected Annual Job Openings: 4,400

Summary of the job: This job might not require a lot of schooling, but does take some work experience and on-the-job training.  Rightly so since you are coordinating rescue efforts of firefighters in life or death situations when you have this job.  An immensely important job that not only pays well but helps people at the same time.

Where to find? It’s not too important to get hung up on location for this job.  Every community needs people with the ability and willingness to a job that is so important.  It stands to reason that areas with larger populations will have more jobs, and for this reason, large cities and other population centers tend to have better prospects.

Electrical and Electronics Repairs

Average Salary: $57,890

Work Experience: Less than 5 years

On-the-Job Training: Moderate-term

Expected Annual Job Openings: 2,100

Summary of the job: In a world of electronics, nearly every person and household have multiple devices that need installation or repairs at some point.  According to the BLS, there are a variety of industries in which this job is typical.  Those include telecommunications, transportation, and utilities just to name a few.

Where to find?  These jobs are best found in major population centers that require large amounts of infrastructure.  The increased number of people in these areas naturally breeds more telecommunications and electronic products of all types.

The Bottom Line

If you’re not feeling great about the thought of going to school after high school, there are good paying jobs out there waiting for you.  Most require some significant work experience or on-the-job training, but it’s doable if you put in the effort.

Start thinking about what type of job you might be able to turn into a long and fulfilling career.  Get your resume together, and show any potential employer how passionate you are about doing the job.  At the end of the day, that often means more to a company or organization than any education you can add to your resume.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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