12 jobs that pay $70,000 or more and don’t require a bachelor’s degree


At some point, you may have heard statistics thrown around about how much more college graduates earn over their lifetimes. In particular, one study that seems to get repeated a lot says those with bachelor’s degrees earn $1 million more than high school graduates over their lifetimes.

And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for bachelor’s degree holders in May 2016 (the most recent statistics available) was $84,000, which is almost double the earnings of those with just a high school education.

But did you know that there are several professions in which you can earn more than $70,000 a year with just an associate’s degree, high school diploma or GED? The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, published employment data for various occupations, and information in the chart includes the typical information needed to enter the field. Note: For this matrix, the BLS relied on mean salary data from 2014, so it’s possible salaries have fluctuated some in the last few years. Also, many of the occupations do not have information on what degree type is typically required.

Here are 12 jobs that bring in more than $70,000 a year, and don’t require a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

1. Air traffic controllers

Median annual salary: $122,410

Typical education required: Associate’s degree

Air traffic controllers are in charge of directing aircraft, managing the flow of planes in and out of the airport, as well as guide pilots during takeoff and landing and monitor aircraft in the sky.

Getty Images | Christopher Furlong

2. Nuclear power reactor operators

Median annual salary: $91,170

Typical education required: High school diploma or equivalent

These technicians control power-generating equipment, as well as read charts, meters and gauges to monitor voltage and electricity flows, as well as regulate the flow of power.

Flickr | IAEA Imagebank

3. Transportation, storage and distribution managers

Median annual salary: $89,190

Typical education required: High school diploma or equivalent

These managers work in logistics, planning and directing transportation, storage or distribution activities and adhering to company policies and applicable laws and regulations.

Getty Images | Peter Macdiarmid

4. First-line supervisors of police and detectives

Median annual salary: $84,840

Typical education required: Associate’s degree

Those serving in this public safety role are in charge of supervising police officers, who enforce laws, respond to emergencies, obtain warrants and arrest suspect and detectives who investigate crimes.

Getty Images | Scott Olson

5. Radiation therapists

Median annual salary: $80,160

Typical education required: Associate’s degree

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.

Getty Images | Chris Hondros

About the Author

Brittany Anas

Hi, I'm Brittany Anas (pronounced like the spice, anise ... see, that wasn't too embarrassing to say, now was it?) My professional writing career started when I was in elementary school and my grandma paid me $1 for each story I wrote for her. I'm a former newspaper reporter, with more than a decade of experience Hula-hooping at planning meetings and covering just about every beat from higher-education to crime to science for the Boulder Daily Camera and The Denver Post. Now, I'm a freelance writer, specializing in travel, health, food and adventure. I've contributed to publications including Men's Journal, Forbes, Women's Health, American Way, TripSavvy, Eat This, Not That!, Apartment Therapy, Denver Life Magazine, 5280, Livability, The Denver Post, Simplemost, USA Today Travel Tips, Make it Better, AAA publications, Reader's Digest, Discover Life and more. Learn More.