Highest Paying Jobs for High School Graduates

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The typical college graduate in the United States makes roughly $23,000 more a year than the typical high school graduate. While a college degree generally qualifies workers for higher-paying jobs, there are a number of lucrative positions that require no more than a high school diploma.

To identify the highest-paying jobs for high school graduates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed occupational data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the 150 jobs reviewed that require just a high school education, 13 have median annual salaries higher than $60,000.

Some of the highest paying jobs that do not require a college degree still often require some training beyond high school. For example, before elevator installers and repairers can earn their ample salary ― the median is more than $80,000 ― nearly all must complete an apprenticeship program that typically lasts four years.

In place of a college education, other high-paying jobs require related work experience. Of the 13 jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree and have a median pay of more than $60,000, only three are truly entry-level positions that require no experience or apprenticeships. For example, gaming managers often work for years as a dealer or slot supervisor before they are promoted to run the casino floor. The typical dealer earns $19,000 a year, less than one-third the median salary of a gaming manager.

Jobs with low educational barriers to entry can still yield high salaries if they are dangerous and stressful. Dangers associated with boilermaking and elevator repair include risk of severe burns and other injuries such as bruises and broken bones associated with falls. Other jobs can be especially stressful and emotionally taxing. Detectives can spend much of their working lives around death and suffering. A majority of workers in other high-paying fields, including subway and streetcar operators, report dealing with angry and unpleasant people on a daily basis.

To determine the highest-paying jobs for high school graduates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed occupational data from the BLS. Occupations were considered if the job required a high school diploma or equivalent, as listed by the BLS. The highest-paying jobs were identified as the 13 jobs with a median annual wage greater than $60,000. Total employment, projected employment change, the share of workers in a given occupation that are self-employed, the typical work experience required by an occupation, and the typical on-the-job training needed for an occupation also came from the BLS.

These are the highest-paying jobs for high school graduates.

13. Boilermakers
> Median annual wage: $60,120
> Typical training: Apprenticeship
> 2014 jobs: 17,400
> Projected change 2014-2024: 8.7%

Boilermakers are usually high school graduates who have completed an apprenticeship. Despite the relatively low educational requirements, boilermakers earn relatively high salaries at more than $60,000 a year. This is likely because the job is not that appealing to many. Building boilers, or large closed vats that hold hot liquids and gases, can be both physically demanding and dangerous. Common injuries on-the-job include burns, cuts, and broken bones due to falls. Additionally, boiler construction and repair jobs are often contractual and could require extended travel and long stays at worksites far from home.

Demand for boilermakers is projected to increase by 9% by 2024, slightly faster than demand for all occupations.

12. First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
> Median annual wage: $62,070
> Typical training: None
> 2014 jobs: 578,400
> Projected change 2014-2024: 10.0%

A high school diploma is often the highest formal degree needed for jobs such as construction foreman, field supervisor, and site superintendent. Such jobs regularly pay more than $62,000 a year. It may be difficult to find work as a construction or material extraction supervisor directly out of high school, however. Workers in these occupations typically have years of on-the-job experience or have completed an apprenticeship program.

Employment growth for construction and extraction supervisors is projected to outpace overall job growth between 2014 and 2024. The BLS projects a 10.0% increase in employment across the field, a faster rate than the 6.5% total labor force projected growth.

11. Subway and streetcar operators
> Median annual wage: $62,360
> Typical training: Moderate-term on-the-job training
> 2014 jobs: 12,000
> Projected change 2014-2024: 4.7%

Public transportation is a popular and practical option for many people living in major urban centers. Cities such as Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. have extensive public transit networks that each serve tens of millions of riders a year. Operating those public transit systems requires little more than a high school diploma and typically pays more than $62,000 a year.

While such jobs are often routine in nature, they can also be stressful. Subway and streetcar operators may be responsible for directing emergency evacuations, and a majority of workers in the field report dealing with unpleasant or angry people on a daily basis.

10. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers
> Median annual wage: $63,010
> Typical training: None
> 2014 jobs: 447,100
> Projected change 2014-2024: 5.4%

Supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers need to be able to manage, coordinate, and think critically. Job titles in the field include facilities manager, electrical foreman, and maintenance supervisor. While it takes a certain skill set to be effective in these jobs, it does not necessarily require formal education beyond high school. Despite the low educational barrier to entry, the typical worker in the field earns $63,010 a year, far more than than the $27,809 a year the typical worker with no more than a high school diploma earns.

9. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
> Median annual wage: $64,170
> Typical training: None
> 2014 jobs: 929,800
> Projected change 2014-2024: -1.9%

The typical farmer, rancher, and agricultural manager earns $64,170 a year. The different job titles often indicate different work places. While farmers and ranchers tend to own their own small family farms, agricultural managers mostly supervise work at larger agricultural establishments for companies or farmers. Similarly, while farmers are involved in all aspects of crop and livestock production, managers hire workers to carry out most of the physical labor tasks. Farm revenues can be unpredictable and dependent on a number of factors, such as the weather, and often times the government may subsidize income to ensure farmers earn a fair wage.

Most farmers and ranchers have some experience as a farmhand before coming into the position. While the job tends to require just a high school diploma, many universities offer postsecondary degrees in farm and land management.

8. Gaming managers
> Median annual wage: $68,380
> Typical training: None
> 2014 jobs: 3,800
> Projected change 2014-2024: -0.6%

The typical gaming manager earns $68,380 a year, more than any other worker in gaming services such as dealers or slot supervisors. Gaming managers are responsible for ensuring that the casino floor runs smoothly, walking table to table and addressing any complaints from customers that may arise. They also keep an eye out for potential cheaters and make sure that all customers and employees are following the establishment’s rules.

Gaming managers are typically promoted from lower positions in the casino after gaining a few years of experience. Las Vegas has the highest concentration of gaming managers of any metro area and offers them the highest salaries in the country.

7. Media and communication equipment workers, all other
> Median annual wage: $70,590
> Typical training: Short-term on-the-job training
> 2014 jobs: 19,400
> Projected change 2014-2024: -3.3%

Media and communication equipment workers mostly work in the motion picture and video industry. More than one-fourth of such workers live in the Los Angeles metro area, where the large film industry likely provides the most jobs. Film work can be inconsistent, which is one reason for the high minimum pay many entertainment-related workers unions require for their members. Many media and communication equipment jobs require workers to be in such unions, like the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Jobs may include crew positions such as boom operator, grip, gaffer, with the more specialized positions paying higher salaries. The typical media and communication equipment worker earns $70,590 a year, one of the highest salaries of any occupation that requires just a high school diploma.

6. Postmasters and mail superintendents
> Median annual wage: $70,640
> Typical training: Moderate-term on-the-job training
> 2014 jobs: 17,300
> Projected change 2014-2024: -26.2%

A majority of postmasters and mail superintendents have no more than a high school diploma in the way of formal education. While there is a low educational barrier to entry, postmasters need to have some on-the-job experience as well as management skills, organizational skills, and a knowledge of business administration. Those in such positions are relatively well compensated. A typical postmaster or mail superintendent makes more than $70,000 a year, more than all but five other jobs with similarly low formal education requirements.

However, the job may not be a viable option for high school graduates in the near future. The BLS projects a 26.2% decline in demand for postmasters and mail superintendents between 2014 and 2024.

5. Transportation inspectors
> Median annual wage: $70,820
> Typical training: Moderate-term on-the-job training
> 2014 jobs: 26,400
> Projected change 2014-2024: 1.2%

Transportation inspectors are responsible for conducting safety inspections for all modes of transportation, including flight and rail. The typical transportation inspector earns $70,820, more than all but just four other positions that require only a high school education. Nearly half of all transportation inspectors work for the government, and about a third work in the private transportation and warehousing industry.

Job outlook for the profession is somewhat less promising than the job market as a whole. Despite expectations that the trucking industry will grow in the coming years, the BLS projects that the number of transportation inspectors will grow by just 1.2% in the decade ending in 2024, far slower than the overall projected labor market growth.

4. First-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers
> Median annual wage: $72,300
> Typical training: None
> 2014 jobs: 430,700
> Projected change 2014-2024: 4.7%

The typical first-line supervisor of non-retail sales workers, which includes positions such as sales manager, branch manager, and sales supervisor, earns $72,300 a year. Such managers are responsible for supervising sales employees, and may also carry out budgeting, accounting, and personnel duties. While the job tends to require just a high school diploma, sales managers often work their way up from lower positions. Some first-line sales supervising jobs require up to five years of experience in a related position.

Many first-line supervisors may run their own businesses. More than 40% of such workers are self employed, one of the largest shares of any profession.

3. Detectives and criminal investigators
> Median annual wage: $77,210
> Typical training: Moderate-term on-the-job training
> 2014 jobs: 116,700
> Projected change 2014-2024: -1.2%

While police officers actively fight crime and enforce the law, detectives or criminal investigators are responsible for investigating crime scenes, gathering evidence, and compiling facts. While it is not necessary for a detective to have formal schooling past high school, the job is often contingent on successful completion of a training academy. Detective salaries tend to be far higher than nearly every other job with similar educational requirements. The typical detective earns more than $77,000 a year.

High salaries in the profession are due largely to the stresses and dangers associated with the job. Working in crime scenes often means working in close proximity to death and suffering.

2. Elevator installers and repairers
> Median annual wage: $80,870
> Typical training: Apprenticeship
> 2014 jobs: 20,700
> Projected change 2014-2024: 13.0%

While a college education is not a prerequisite to working as an elevator installer and repairer, most who work in the field have completed an apprenticeship. The job is one of only two in the United States where the typical person with no more than a high school diploma can earn more than $80,000 a year.

Like many high-paying jobs with a low minimum educational attainment threshold, working as an elevator installer can be especially difficult and dangerous. Workers often spend long hours in tightly enclosed areas such as elevator shafts and are susceptible to electrical burns, falls, and muscle strain. Because of the possibility of emergency repairs, elevator installers can be on call 24 hours a day.

1. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers
> Median annual wage: $86,630
> Typical training: None
> 2014 jobs: 111,600
> Projected change 2014-2024: 2.2%

Transportation, storage, and distribution managers can reasonably expect to earn more than $86,500 a year, the highest annual salary of any job that does not require formal education past high school. There are a range of job titles in the field, including distribution manager, shipping supervisor, warehouse manager, and transportation director. Job responsibilities typically include adhering to budgets, supervising workers, and directing dispatching and routing operations.

Demand for these workers is projected to grow at a slower rate than demand across all fields. Consequently, those with only a high school diploma may find it increasingly difficult to find work in the field.