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The national average cost of attending a four-year public college in the U.S. is over $28,000 per year. For a four-year private institution, that number jumps to over $59,000 per year. In the face of such a high price tag, it would be understandable for high school graduates and their families to ask: Is a college degree still worth it?


A report from Goldman Sachs indicates that the type of school and major you choose are essential factors to consider. Equally important are the types of jobs available to people without a bachelor’s degree — and the salaries they pay.

RELATED: The highest-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree

To help address that second issue, CareerTrends, a career research site powered by Graphiq, found the 50 highest-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Using data from O*NET, an occupational database sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, the team identified the required education level for workers in various occupations. We then used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find the jobs with the highest salaries that don’t typically require bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees.

To identify the expected prior education for each job, O*Net regularly surveys each occupation’s worker population and asks respondents to note the level of education they believe is required for the job. The prior education listed on each slide corresponds to the most common response from job survey respondents. If a job has multiple education listings it is because there were roughly equal amounts of respondents who gave that answer.

RELATED: These 20 medical careers don’t require an expensive medical school degree

The majority of jobs on this list require some college experience or an associate’s degree, but there are some exceptions where only a high school education is expected. In general, management and sales positions rank the highest in terms of salary. Nevertheless, the list is surprisingly diverse, with occupations ranging from makeup artists to commercial pilots to real estate brokers.

*Note: Some of these jobs may require a specific trade degree, certificate or licensing program.

50. Power-Line Installers

  • Average salary: $65,650
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Install or repair cables or wires used in electrical power or distribution systems. May erect poles and light or heavy duty transmission towers.

49. Gas Plant Operators

  • Average salary: $65,830
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Distribute or process gas for utility companies and others by controlling compressors to maintain specified pressures on main pipelines.

48. Mechanics Supervisors

  • Average salary: $65,890
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Directly supervise and coordinate the activities of mechanics, installers and repairers.

47. Petroleum Pump Operators

  • Average salary: $66,020
  • Education: High school

Operate or control petroleum refining or processing units. May specialize in controlling manifold and pumping systems, gauging or testing oil in storage tanks, or regulating the flow of oil into pipelines.

46. Makeup Artists

  • Average salary: $66,560
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Apply makeup to performers to reflect the period, setting and situation of their role.

45. Construction Supervisors

  • Average salary: $66,820
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Directly supervise and coordinate activities of construction or extraction workers.

44. MRI Technologists

  • Average salary: $68,340
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Operate Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners. Monitor patient safety and comfort, and view images of area being scanned to ensure quality of pictures. May administer gadolinium contrast dosage intravenously. May interview patient, explain MRI procedures, and position patient on examining table. May enter into the computer data such as patient history, anatomical area to be scanned, orientation specified and position of entry.

43. Creative Writers

  • Average salary: $69,130
  • Education: High school

Create original written works, such as scripts, essays, prose, poetry or song lyrics, for publication or performance.

42. Coroners

  • Average salary: $69,180
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Direct activities such as autopsies, pathological and toxicological analyses, and inquests relating to the investigation of deaths occurring within a legal jurisdiction to determine cause of death or to fix responsibility for accidental, violent or unexplained deaths.

41. Licensing Examiners

  • Average salary: $69,180
  • Education: High school

Examine, evaluate, and investigate eligibility for, conformity with or liability under licenses or permits.

40. Greenhouse Managers

  • Average salary: $69,880
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Plan, organize, direct, control and coordinate activities of workers engaged in propagating, cultivating and harvesting horticultural specialties, such as trees, shrubs, flowers, mushrooms and other plants.

39. Postmasters

  • Average salary: $70,540
  • Education: High school

Plan, direct or coordinate operational, administrative, management and supportive services of a U.S. post office; or coordinate activities of workers engaged in postal and related work in assigned post office.

38. Web Developers

  • Average salary: $70,660
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Design, create and modify Web sites. Analyze user needs to implement Web site content, graphics, performance and capacity. May integrate Web sites with other computer applications. May convert written, graphic, audio and video components to compatible Web formats by using software designed to facilitate the creation of Web and multimedia content.

37. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

  • Average salary: $70,880
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Produce ultrasonic recordings of internal organs for use by physicians.

36. Registered Nurses

  • Average salary: $71,000
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Assess patient health problems and needs, develop and implement nursing care plans and maintain medical records. Administer nursing care to ill, injured, convalescent or disabled patients. May advise patients on health maintenance and disease prevention or provide case management. Licensing or registration required.

35. Power Plant Operators

  • Average salary: $71,070
  • Education: High school

Control, operate or maintain machinery to generate electric power. Includes auxiliary equipment operators.

34. Aviation and Vehicle Inspectors

  • Average salary: $72,220
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Inspect aircraft, maintenance procedures, air navigational aids, air traffic controls and communications equipment to ensure conformance with federal safety regulations.

33. Powerhouse Equipment Installers

  • Average salary: $72,450
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Inspect, test, repair or maintain electrical equipment in generating stations, substations and in-service relays.

32. Dental Hygienists

  • Average salary: $72,720
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Clean teeth and examine oral areas, head and neck for signs of oral disease. May educate patients on oral hygiene, take and develop x rays or apply fluoride or sealants.

31. Fashion Designers

  • Average salary: $73,180
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Design clothing and accessories. Create original designs or adapt fashion trends.

30. Technical Writers

  • Average salary: $73,350
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Write technical materials, such as equipment manuals, appendices or operating and maintenance instructions. May assist in layout work.

29. Customs Brokers

  • Average salary: $73,480
  • Education: High school

Prepare customs documentation and ensure that shipments meet all applicable laws to facilitate the import and export of goods. Determine and track duties and taxes payable and process payments on behalf of client. Sign documents under a power of attorney. Represent clients in meetings with customs officials and apply for duty refunds and tariff reclassifications. Coordinate transportation and storage of imported goods.

28. Energy Auditors

  • Average salary: $73,480
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Conduct energy audits of buildings, building systems or process systems. May also conduct investment grade audits of buildings or systems.

27. Fire Fighting Supervisors

  • Average salary: $74,970
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Supervise fire fighters who control and extinguish fires, protect life and property and conduct rescue efforts.

26. Nuclear Medicine Technologists

  • Average salary: $74,990
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Prepare, administer and measure radioactive isotopes in therapeutic, diagnostic and tracer studies using a variety of radioisotope equipment. Prepare stock solutions of radioactive materials and calculate doses to be administered by radiologists. Subject patients to radiation. Execute blood volume, red cell survival and fat absorption studies following standard laboratory techniques.

25. Loan Officers

  • Average salary: $75,170
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Evaluate, authorize or recommend approval of commercial, real estate or credit loans. Advise borrowers on financial status and payment methods. Includes mortgage loan officers and agents, collection analysts, loan servicing officers and loan underwriters.

24. Elevator Installers

  • Average salary: $77,350
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Assemble, install, repair, or maintain electric or hydraulic freight or passenger elevators, escalators, or dumbwaiters.

23. Gaming Managers

  • Average salary: $77,770
  • Education: High school

Plan, direct or coordinate gaming operations in a casino. May formulate house rules.

22. Nuclear Equipment Technicians

  • Average salary: $78,850
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Operate equipment used for the release, control or utilization of nuclear energy to assist scientists in laboratory or production activities.

21. Ship Engineers

  • Average salary: $78,970
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Supervise and coordinate activities of crew engaged in operating and maintaining engines, boilers, deck machinery, and electrical, sanitary and refrigeration equipment aboard ship.

20. Police Detectives

  • Average salary: $79,620
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Conduct investigations to prevent crimes or solve criminal cases.

19. Real Estate Brokers

  • Average salary: $80,210
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Operate real estate office, or work for commercial real estate firm, overseeing real estate transactions. Other duties usually include selling real estate or renting properties and arranging loans.

18. Power Distributors

  • Average salary: $80,400
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Coordinate, regulate or distribute electricity or steam.

17. Athletes

  • Average salary: $80,490
  • Education: High school

Compete in athletic events.

16. Ship and Boat Captains, Mates and Pilots

  • Average salary: $83,150
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Command vessels in oceans, bays, lakes, rivers or coastal waters.

15. Radiation Therapists

  • Average salary: $84,460
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Provide radiation therapy to patients as prescribed by a radiologist according to established practices and standards. Duties may include reviewing prescription and diagnosis; acting as liaison with physician and supportive care personnel; preparing equipment, such as immobilization, treatment and protection devices; and maintaining records, reports and files. May assist in dosimetry procedures and tumor localization.

14. Funeral Service Managers

  • Average salary: $84,470
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Plan, direct or coordinate the services or resources of funeral homes. Includes activities such as determining prices for services or merchandise and managing the facilities of funeral homes.

13. Commercial Pilots

  • Average salary: $84,510
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-winged aircraft on nonscheduled air carrier routes, or helicopters. Requires Commercial Pilot certificate. Includes charter pilots with similar certification and air ambulance and air tour pilots.

12. Non-Retail Sales Supervisors

  • Average salary: $84,910
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Directly supervise and coordinate activities of sales workers other than retail sales workers. May perform duties such as budgeting, accounting and personnel work, in addition to supervisory duties.

11. Police Supervisors

  • Average salary: $85,810
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Directly supervise and coordinate activities of members of police force.

10. Web Administrators

  • Average salary: $87,310
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Manage web environment design, deployment, development and maintenance activities. Perform testing and quality assurance of web sites and web applications.

9. Nuclear Power Reactor Operators

  • Average salary: $88,820
  • Education: High school

Operate or control nuclear reactors. Move control rods, start and stop equipment, monitor and adjust controls and record data in logs. Implement emergency procedures when needed. May respond to abnormalities, determine cause and recommend corrective action.

8. Technical Sales Representatives

  • Average salary: $89,170
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers where technical or scientific knowledge is required in such areas as biology, engineering, chemistry and electronics, normally obtained from at least 2 years of post-secondary education.

7. Computer Systems Analysts

  • Average salary: $90,180
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Analyze science, engineering, business and other data processing problems to implement and improve computer systems. Analyze user requirements, procedures and problems to automate or improve existing systems and review computer system capabilities, workflow and scheduling limitations. May analyze or recommend commercially available software.

6. Administrative Services Managers

  • Average salary: $94,840
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Plan, direct or coordinate one or more administrative services of an organization, such as records and information management, mail distribution, facilities planning and maintenance, custodial operations and other office support services.

5. Financial Service Sales Agents

  • Average salary: $102,860
  • Education: High school

Sell financial services, such as loan, tax and securities counseling to customers of financial institutions and business establishments.

4. Telecommunications Engineers

  • Average salary: $103,100
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Design or configure voice, video and data communications systems. Supervise installation and post-installation service and maintenance.

3. Industrial and Geothermal Production Managers

  • Average salary: $103,720
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Plan, direct or coordinate the work activities and resources necessary for manufacturing products in accordance with cost, quality and quantity specifications.

2. Air Traffic Controllers

  • Average salary: $118,740
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Control air traffic on and within vicinity of airport and movement of air traffic between altitude sectors and control centers according to established procedures and policies. Authorize, regulate and control commercial airline flights according to government or company regulations to expedite and ensure flight safety.

1. Operations Managers

  • Average salary: $119,460
  • Education: Some college or associate’s degree

Plan, direct or coordinate the operations of public or private sector organizations.

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