Have you ever heard the Willie Nelson song, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys?” The reason Willie offers this advice is pretty clear: Being a cowboy is a hard job and the pay is poor.
The one thing that can be said for cowboy life is that you certainly don’t need a college degree to herd cattle. Fortunately, there are many jobs that also don’t require a degree but that pay much better than what you would earn as a cowboy.
In fact, you can get many of these jobs with a high school diploma or GED and some extra training. All salary figures are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Air traffic controller
If you would like to make a large amount of money without a college degree, consider becoming an air traffic controller.
While many air traffic controllers come from a military background, you might be able to snag one of these great-paying jobs even if your background is entirely civilian.
The median annual wage for this position is a hefty $129,750. That’s more than many college graduates earn. But the job comes with a lot of stress, so make sure you are ready for that.
Like air traffic controllers, many commercial pilots come from a military background. However, military service is not required.
Airline pilots likely need a bachelor’s degree, but a commercial pilot may just need a healthy amount of flight experience. Once you’re hired, look for a median annual salary of $99,640.
Nuclear technicians assist professionals such as engineers and physicists in performing nuclear research and nuclear energy production.
You’ll need to earn an associate’s degree, but the reward is a median salary of $99,340.
Elevator installer and repairer
As you might guess, this job includes installing, fixing and maintaining escalators, elevators, moving walkways and other lifts. Once again, the only educational requirement for this job is a high school diploma or the equivalent.
This may not sound like a terribly glamorous job, but the pay is great, with a median annual wage of $97,860.
Power plant operator
These workers have the vital role of both generating and delivering the electrical power that makes modern life possible. A high school diploma is all the education you need for the position, but the median salary is a robust $94,790.
Private detective and investigator
Private detectives and investigators are hired to snoop around for legal, financial and personal information.
You won’t get filthy rich in this line of work, but the median salary is a respectable $59,380. And you only need a high school diploma.
Electrical powerhouse repairers
This job consists of testing, repairing or maintaining electrical equipment in substations, generating stations and in-service relays. Its median annual wage is $87,640.
Best of all, you can get one of these jobs without a college degree.
Jobs in healthcare
If none of these jobs appeals to you, consider a career in health care. It’s the fastest-growing industry in America, thanks to baby boomers, many of whom are now entering their golden years and requiring increasing amounts of health care.
Many healthcare jobs require either certification or a two-year associate’s degree. Some of the better-paying healthcare jobs that meet this description include:
Cardiovascular technologists use imaging technology to help doctors diagnose cardiac (heart) and peripheral vascular problems in patients.
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians have a mean average wage of $62,570 a year. This job requires an associate’s degree.
Registered nurses coordinate and provide patient care and provide emotional support and advice to patients and their family members.
Becoming a registered nurse requires an associate’s degree in nursing, a diploma from an approved nursing program or a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
The median average wage for a registered nurse is $77,600.
Respiratory therapists work with patients who have a problem breathing because of a chronic respiratory disease such as emphysema or asthma. These therapists also offer emergency care to people who have had a heart attack or stroke, or who have nearly died in a drowning or who have been shocked.
The median annual wage for a respiratory therapist is $61,830 per year. This job generally requires at least an associate’s degree, but it’s not unusual for respiratory therapists to have both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.
Physical therapist assistant
Physical therapist assistants work under the direction of physical therapists and help patients who are recovering from illnesses, injuries and surgeries to regain movement and alleviate pain.
The job typically requires a high school diploma and on-the-job training. The median average wage of a physical therapist is $61,180.
Diagnostic medical sonographer
Diagnostic medical sonographers use specialized imaging equipment (such as a sonogram, ultrasound or echocardiogram) to diagnose and evaluate several types of medical conditions.
An associate’s degree is usually required for this job. Diagnostic medical sonographers have a median average salary of $77,740.
Dental hygienists examine patients for oral diseases, clean teeth and provide other preventative dental care.
Becoming a dental hygienist generally requires an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Dental hygienists must also be licensed by their states. This occupation has a median average wage of $77,810 per year.
Surgical technologists assist in surgical operations, arrange equipment, prepare operating rooms and assist doctors and nurses during surgeries.
Surgical technologists have a median annual wage of $48,530. An associate’s degree or a post-secondary certificate is generally required for this job.