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 mean annual salary for bachelor’s degree holders in May 2020 (the most recent statistics available) was $91,140, which is about double the earnings of those with just a high school education ($45,630).
But did you know that there are several professions in which you can earn more than $80,000 a year with just a high school diploma or GED? In their May 2020 data, BLS reported the top 10 highest paying occupations that typically require a high school diploma or equivalent for entry, and all 10 have an annual mean wage above $80,000.
Here are 10 jobs that bring in more than $80,000 a year and don’t require a bachelor’s or advanced degree.
1. Commercial Pilots
Mean annual wage: $110,830
Commercial pilots fly and navigate planes, helicopters and other aircraft. Commercial pilots need to have a commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration — makes sense! Their jobs differ from airline pilots in that to land an airline job, you typically need a bachelor’s degree.
2. Transportation, Storage and Distribution Managers
Mean annual wage: $105,100
This job title is varied but straightforward: These managers plan, direct and coordinate storage, distribution and transportation for a company, following company policy as well as government laws and regulations. BLS notes that this title also includes logistics managers.
3. Nuclear Power Reactor Operators
Mean annual wage: $104,470
Operators at nuclear power plants control the nuclear reactors, monitor systems, record data and implement emergency procedures if needed. These jobs usually require licensing.
4. First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives
Mean annual wage: $97,180
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.
5. Power Distributors and Dispatchers
Mean annual wage: $93,260
Power distributors and dispatchers are behind the scenes keeping the lights on. They coordinate, regulate and distribute energy.
6. First-Line Supervisors of Non-Retail Sales Workers
Mean annual wage: $90,120
Managers in these positions supervise and coordinate sales workers who aren’t in retail. Think: electronics, wholesalers, durable goods, equipment sales and even credit. They might be involved in budgeting, personnel and accounting work.
7. Detectives and Criminal Investigators
Mean annual wage: $89,300
Detectives and criminal investigators are tasked with gathering facts and collecting evidence of possible crimes.
8. Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers
Mean annual wage: $86,200
Elevator and escalator installers and repairers install, maintain and fix these important lifts and walkways. People in this profession might be on-call 24 hours a day.
9. Gambling Managers
Mean annual wage: $85,440
Gambling managers plan, direct and coordinate gambling operations at a casino. People in this role might also set house rules.
10. Power Plant Operators
Mean annual wage: $81,890
Power plant operators control the systems that distribute power. These jobs usually have extensive on-the-job training.