15 High-Paying Trade Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree

Forge a lucrative path with your hands and skills in these well-paying degree-free trades.

engineer explaining work
Updated May 28, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

You don't have to go to college to build a fulfilling and financially attractive career. If you’re thinking about skipping student loans, trade jobs can be an excellent choice.

With dozens of options to choose from, you may find something you love to do that uses your unique talents and interests.

Still, you’ll want to be paid well to help you get ahead financially. We’ve pulled together a list of 15 high-paying trade jobs you don’t have to get a college degree to do.

Get paid up to $225 a month while watching viral videos

Instead of sitting around watching viral videos on YouTube, you could be getting paid actual cash taking surveys for InboxDollars instead.

It's simple. You sign up here and confirm your email. Then you watch videos and take surveys. Then you earn cash (yes, actual cash … not "points"). Log in during your spare time and see how you can earn up to an extra $225 every month.

BONUS: Free $5 when you sign up, confirm your email and phone.

Sign up and start getting paid today

Elevator and escalator installer

Tomasz Zajda/Adobe technician fixing building elevator

Median wage: $102,420 per year

It’s not common to hear about people wanting to enter the elevator industry, but doing so could be quite valuable with a high median wage. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these professionals handle the installation, maintenance, and repair of elevators, escalators, lifts, and other moving walkways.

To work in the field, you’ll need a high school diploma or the equivalent and complete an apprenticeship to obtain your license and boost your bank account.

Line installer and repairer

A Stockphoto/Adobe electrician using multimeter on electric cabinet

Median wage: $85,420 per year

Line installers have higher-risk jobs, often installing and repairing power systems, fiber optics, and telecommunication electrical systems. 

Their work tends to include both heights and dangerous circumstances, and they may have to work irregular hours after a storm. 

According to the BLS, the field will grow by 3% over the next 10 years.

To work in this field, you’ll need to receive training through a technical school or vocational program. On-the-job training may also be available, and apprenticeships are readily available in most states.

Police and detectives

Aldeca Productions/Adobe police in street with autompbile

Median wage: $74,910 per year

Working as a police officer or detective is dangerous and hard work, and it’s a much-needed profession, often compensated by a higher pay rate than average. There will be a need for more than 20,000 additional officers in the field by 2032.

Police officers go through training academies before they work on the job, though a lot of their skill comes from their work in those first years.

Resolve $10,000 or more of your debt

Credit card debt is suffocating. It constantly weighs on your mind and controls every choice you make. You can end up emotionally and even physically drained from it. And even though you make regular payments, it feels like you can never make any progress because of the interest.

National Debt Relief could help you resolve your credit card debt with an affordable plan that works for you. Just tell them your situation, then find out your debt relief options.1

How to get National Debt Relief to help you resolve your debt: Sign up for a free debt assessment here. (Do not skip this step!) By signing up for a free assessment, National Debt Relief can assist you in settling your debt, but only if you schedule the assessment.

Try it

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics

Евгений Панов/Adobe engineer inspecting helicopter

Median wage: $75,400 per year

You don’t have to be a pilot to earn well in the airline industry, especially if you work as a mechanic. These professionals inspect, maintain, and repair aircraft of all types. Their work is in demand and likely to see a growth of about 7,000 jobs, or 4%, by 2032.

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics typically get their education in a trade school with a Federal Aviation Administration-approved program.

Flight attendant

Akarawut/Adobe female flight attendant closing luggage compartment

Median wage: $68,370 per year

Flight attendants may seem to have a fabulous job traveling around the world, but their demanding job requires long hours and lots of time away from home. The higher earning capacity is also an attractive reason to choose this position. 

More so, according to BLS data, this industry is expected to grow at an 11% rate from 2022 to 2032, which means finding a job could be easy.

The good news is you don't need a college degree to work as a flight attendant. Most receive on-the-job training and certification from the Federal Aviation Administration to do their job.

Construction and building inspectors

pololia/Adobe male tehnician inspecting roof top leakage

Median wage: $67,700 per year

You can work as a construction and building inspector without a college degree but with a hands-on education. 

Though fewer jobs in this field are expected over the coming years, it could be rewarding for those who enjoy overseeing building codes and zoning rules.

These professionals need to complete a construction trade to gain hands-on experience and then will likely receive on-the-job training.

Railroad workers

APchanel/Adobe engineers inspecting railway switch

Median wage: $73,580 per year

Working as a railroad worker can be interesting, though it requires a lot of time away from home. You’ll work on passenger and freight trains, completing various tasks onboard and in the rail yard. 

You don't need a college degree to work as a railroad worker, but you may need a high school diploma or the equivalent. Most offer on-the-job training.

Electrician

Kadmy/Adobe electrician working on electric connections

Median wage: $61,590 per year

Electricians work to maintain, install, upgrade, and repair electrical systems in residential and commercial locations. 

They typically handle lighting, control systems, communications, and general power needs. They're also in demand, with the BLS estimating a 6% growth rate from 2022 to 2032.

To be an electrician, you’ll need to complete an apprenticeship, and, in some states, you may need to maintain a license.

Plumber

Drobot Dean/Adobe plumber using mobile phone on work

Median wage: $61,550 per year

Plumbers work in homes and commercial establishments to manage all aspects of water and drain management. 

It’s a critical job, and they're often very much in demand, so they may work weekends and evening hours. 

The BLS estimates that wage growth in this field is 2% in the next 10 years.

To be a plumber, you’ll need to work through an apprenticeship, though many attend vocational-based programs during their last years in high school or just after. Many also get on-the-job training.

Earn cash back on everyday purchases with this rare account

Want to earn cash back on your everyday purchases without using a credit card? With the Discover®️ Cashback Debit Checking account (member FDIC), you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month!2

With no credit check to apply and no monthly fees to worry about, you can earn nearly passive income on purchases you’re making anyway — up to an extra $360 a year!

This rare checking account has other great perks too, like access to your paycheck up to 2 days early with Early Pay, no minimum deposit or monthly balance requirements, over 60K fee-free ATMs, and the ability to add cash to your account at Walmart stores nationwide.

Don’t leave money on the table — it only takes minutes to apply and it won’t impact your credit score.

Apply for a Discover Cashback Checking account today

Computer support specialist

Bojan/Adobe female call centre consultant at work

Median wage: $60,810 per year

Working as a computer support specialist means balancing technology and people, which often means a lot of hands-on interaction. 

This job can be desirable for those who enjoy working to build and maintain computer networks and systems. The estimated growth rate for this industry is 5%.

The type of work you do and the skills you provide determine whether you’ll need college-level courses after high school in this field, but many jobs don’t require them.

Concrete finisher

sframe/Adobe man finishing concrete sidewalk

Median wage: $53,010 per year

Pouring concrete and finishing it with textures and detailing can be an impressive job, combining physical labor and artistic talent. 

Those who work in this industry may install patios, driveways, and roads. Cement masons and concrete finishers will see some decline in job growth in the coming years.

The good news is that you'll get on-the-job training with some vocational school opportunities.

Firefighters

VAKSMANV/Adobe confident firefighter smiling outdoor

Median wage: $50,120 per year

Working as a firefighter is dangerous and pays a bit more than some jobs. From 2022 to 2032, there will be a need for about 12,000 more firefighters, or about 4% more.

These professionals work to respond to fires, smoke alarms, and CO2 alarms while often putting their lives on the line for others.

You'll need to complete some postsecondary education, usually through a training academy, to work as a firefighter, and some will also earn their emergency medical technician certification.

Real estate broker and sales agent

Drazen/Adobe happy female real estate agent

Median wage: $56,620 per year

Working as a real estate agent or broker means helping people buy and sell homes and commercial property. It’s a job for those who enjoy working directly with others and have a keen understanding of the real estate industry. 

Growth in this field is about 3%, meaning an additional 19,400 people will be needed by 2032.

As for your education, you’ll need to complete a state-mandated license, which often requires some trade school or certificate program.

Diesel service technicians and mechanics

funfunphoto/Adobe mechanic pouring oil into engine

Median wage: $58,970 per year

Though automotive technicians earn less, diesel service technicians could earn a reliable wage inspecting, repairing, and maintaining trucks, buses, and other diesel-engine systems.

There's quite a bit to learn in this field, which often means completing a trade school or vocational program in diesel machines and, in some cases, working through an apprenticeship.

HVAC technician

DimaBerlin/Adobe male worker installing air conditioner

Median wage: $57,300 per year

The heating, air conditioning, and ventilation industry — along with those who work as refrigeration mechanics — fit into this field, according to the BLS. They're likely to see growth in the coming years of about 5%. 

The work typically involves working in any type of residential or commercial building, providing hands-on labor in planning, installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting heating and cooling systems.

To work in this field and build wealth, you'll likely need to complete some postsecondary education in a vocational or trade school. Many will also undergo an apprenticeship.

Bottom line

thanksforbuying/Adobe desk witth job applications and resume

Keep in mind that none of these careers require a college education, and the median wage listed is just that — the mid-range earnings for those in the field. Many people earn much more, especially once they gain experience in the field. 

That could mean there’s a significant amount of earning power in any of these areas, and you can stop living paycheck to paycheck relatively quickly.

SurveyJunkie Benefits

  • Over $55,000 paid to members daily
  • Earn up to $130 a month taking 4 or more surveys daily
  • $76 million paid out to date
  • 20M+ lifetime members and BBB accreditation

Author Details

Sandy Baker

Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as Realtor.com, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.