Four Career Paths That Don’t Require a College Degree

As the 2018-19 school year winds down, many upperclassmen are left with a sense of anxiety and uncertainty regarding their college plans, either as the result of poor grades, SAT/ACT scores, or lack of financial means. And while there’s no denying that your job options surely expand with some sort of college degree, there are many professional fields that value certain skills over formal education.

Pioneer Career and Academic Advisor Mr. McLouth says there are a number of lucrative options out there that don’t require four more years of school. “A lot of those jobs, you’ll get paid more than people with a four year education,” he said. Here are four of the highest-paying jobs that do not require a degree.

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator

In the case of most power plants, a college degree is not required for lower level operating jobs, though moderate to high training and certification is a requirement. The job description consists of managing and monitoring nuclear reactors, and making adjustments to ensure the safety of the nuclear power production process. Daily maintenance of the reactors is also a part of the job. Seeing as it is risky and requires precise attention to detail, the profession pays quite well, with a median salary of $72,384.


In terms of education, this job typically requires a high school diploma. One must complete a physically strenuous training program as well as other procedural certifications. Firefighters must know how to operate standard field equipment and become experts on providing medical aid to injured victims. It is a dangerous profession and a taxing one, with long shifts and usually over 40 hour work weeks. When first beginning, many firefighters start with an underwhelming annual salary of only slightly above $30,000, but for those who reach a supervisory position they will have the opportunity to make $50,000 a year or more.

Railroad Jobs

A vast variety of positions relating to railroads are available, all of which typically only require a high school degree. These positions include engineers, conductors, switch operators and management positions, among others. Standard training is several months. In this field, things like hand-eye coordination, visual acuity, and communication skills are significant assets. A benefit to these jobs is the opportunity to travel and see new parts of the country while getting paid respectably, with an average salary of just under $60,000.

Postal Service Worker

For this position, requirements include a high school diploma, an excellent driving record, and a clean track record. “Working for the postal service, those can be pretty highly competitive jobs, because you don’t have to go to college, and it pays better than a lot of retail jobs,” McLouth advises. There is a short training program which entails passing a written exam, road tests, etc. Being a postal worker means collecting, sorting, processing, and distributing mail quickly and seamlessly. They also sell postal supplies and obtain any required signatures for packages. High valued skills include good customer service and attention to detail. The average salary for a postal worker is about $57,000.