It’s become ingrained in North American society that smart kids go to university and that’s what you need to do if you want to get a good job. But that’s not always the case anymore, reports 24/7 Wall St. There are a lot of folks out there with degrees – and heavy debt – who can’t find jobs. (Not that this wasn’t always the case in certain areas of academia. How’s that English Lit degree working for you?)

Take heart kids. According to the 24/7 Wall St. report, there are “hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs that don’t require a degree,” and while I sense a possible whiff of hyperbole in that claim, they’ve compiled a list of the ten highest-paying jobs that they say only require a high school education — which is, again, misleading. A lot of these jobs require certification and a post-secondary education is often helpful, just not mandatory. Still, worth a look, right?

Here they are:

10. Captains, Mates, Pilot of Water Vessel

Median annual income: $64,180

High-end annual income: $117,310

Long hours, isolation and danger are among the reasons commercial ship jobs pay well.  To become a sailor on a merchant vessel, one can either enroll in a marine academy, or sign on as a deckhand, which has no prerequisites and a median annual wage of $35,000 — and sounds kind of like an old time-y musical or pirate movie. Then you just work your way up through the ranks. Swab that deck.


9. Gaming Manager

Median annual income: $66,960

High-end annual income: $116,070

This one isn’t exactly a breeze, apparently because there aren’t that many casinos, and so there are only 6,900 jobs in the US, and, of course, fewer in Canada. Also, 24/7 Wall St. says you usually have to work your way up from being a dealer “one of the worst-paying jobs in the country.” I searched around and found an annual average salary of just over $14,000. Yikes. 24/7 lists the gaming manager’s potential salary at over $110,000 a year. More snooping came up with an average of about $60,000 in Canada.

8. Detectives and Criminal Investigators

Median annual income: $68,820

High-end annual income: $119,320

24/7 says, “A high school diploma is usually all one needs to become a detective for a city, state or the federal government. Detectives, as well as police officers, are subjected to ‘rigorous personal and physical qualifications.’ Very rarely do these qualifications extend to a bachelor’s degree.”

How does this translate in Canadian? The RCMP doesn’t use the rank “detective” but a post-secondary education, though helpful, is not required to join. Constable salaries range from $48,000 – $78,000 and, I’m told by the RCMP’s press office, go up from there.

7. Elevator Installers

Median annual income: $70,910

High-end annual income: $101,390

Really? Huh. This job also apparently extends to “escalators, chairlifts, dumbwaiters, moving walkways, and similar equipment.” So you spend a lot of time climbing things or hanging in service shafts, which is not fun, and the higher risk of injury accounts for some of the good pay. An apprenticeship program, which involves both on-the-job training and classroom instruction, is required.

6. Web Developers

Median annual income: $75,650

High-end annual income: $119,940

24/7 says “While most web developers are now required to have a bachelor’s or associate degree, certification can be enough to get a job at a major company.” Also, this really is the sort of skill that will put you in high demand if you become a whiz.

Jobs can involve managing networks, designing and building company websites, and maintaining web security.

5. Nuclear Power Plant Operator

Median annual income: $75,650

High-end annual income: $119,940

Apparently a post-secondary education is useful but not necessary. 24/7 says most training is provided on the job and in plant classrooms. Operators are subject to

random drug and alcohol screenings, a medical examination, and must maintain a license, and take regular refresher courses.


4. Police Chief

Median annual income: $78,260

High-end annual income: $123,630

You don’t need post-secondary to join the force and from there, the idea is that you work your way up. For the Toronto Police force, post-secondary is “advantageous” but not required. You do need to get the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Certificate and you can’t have a criminal record (sorry).

3. Construction Managers

Median annual income: $83,860

High-end annual income: $150,250

Some companies require bachelor’s degrees, but not all or even most. 24/7 says “Any construction worker with significant experience and skill has the potential to make manager after gaining some additional classroom experience.”

2. Software Developers

Median annual income: $87,970

High-end annual income: $133,110

Software developers research, design, develop and test software. A certificate will often do to land a post (not always, though) and it helps if you can amass a lot of experience. Certification courses are available all over the place, and a lot of people teach themselves sitting alone in their rooms and geeking out.

Back in 2007, Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, a “leading provider of IT professionals,” told Forbes, “It would be extremely unlikely for a high school graduate to obtain a position as a developer making six figures. But after some years of experience, and in the right marketplace like the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Boston, Seattle or Washington, D.C., where technical skills are in high demand, a talented person could make $100,000 lacking a college education.”

1. Commercial Airline Pilot

Median annual income: $103,210

High-end annual income: $139,330

24/7 says, “Former Air Force and Navy pilots have traditionally had the fast track to a commercial license because of the flight time and experience they’d gained. That holds true today, and most major airlines also require some college education from their pilots. However, there are plenty of smaller companies that will take any individual with enough logged flight time and aircraft knowledge.”

So, there you go. Drop out of school and let the fun begin! Kidding, of course.