College has never been more expensive, and while achieving a degree typically does lead to increased earnings, it may not be the right choice for everyone. In fact, there are still plenty of high-earning opportunities for those with a high school diploma. And because many career paths providing on-the-job training these days, it's often possible to move up into higher-paying positions without an additional degree.
Here's a look at well-paying jobs you can get right after high school, according to the Emsi data:
1. Transportation, storage and distribution managers direct, plan or coordinate transportation, storage or distribution activities in accordance with organizational policies and applicable government laws or regulations.*
Avg. annual earnings: $97,061.65
2. Commercial pilots are involved in unscheduled flight activities, such as aerial application, charter flights and aerial tours. Some commercial pilots schedule flights, arrange for maintenance of the aircraft and load luggage themselves. Commercial pilots need a high school diploma or equivalent and a commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Avg. annual earnings: $85,379
3. Detectives and criminal investigators are uniformed or plainclothes investigators who gather facts and collect evidence for criminal cases. They conduct interviews, examine records, observe the activities of suspects, and participate in raids and arrests. Detectives usually specialize in investigating one type of crime, such as homicide or fraud. Most police and detectives must graduate from their agency’s training academy before completing a period of on-the-job training.
Avg. annual earnings: $81,494
4. Power plant distributors and dispatchers control power-generating equipment and read charts, meters and gauges to monitor voltage and electricity flows. They typically need a high school diploma or equivalent combined with extensive on-the-job training that may include a combination of classroom and hands-on training. Many jobs require a background check and drug and alcohol screenings. Nuclear power reactor operators also need a license.
Avg. annual earnings: $81,494
5. Elevator installers and repairers install, fix and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways and other lifts. Nearly all elevator installers and repairers learn through an apprenticeship. Currently, 35 states require workers to be licensed.
Avg. annual earnings: $76,856
6. Transit and railroad police patrol railroad yards and transit stations. They protect property, employees and passengers from crimes such as thefts and robberies. They remove trespassers from railroad and transit properties, and check IDs of people who try to enter secure areas.
Avg. annual earnings: $67,849
7. Electrical and power-line installers and repairers install, maintain or repair the power lines that move electricity, and identify defective devices, voltage regulators, transformers and switches.
Avg. annual earnings: $66,868
8. Claims adjusters, examiners and investigators evaluate insurance claims. They decide whether an insurance company must pay a claim, and if so, how much.
Avg. annual earnings: $64,525
9. Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance. Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.
Avg. annual earnings: $64,524
10. Police and sheriff’s patrol officers are the most common type of police and detectives and have general law enforcement duties. They wear uniforms that allow the public to easily recognize them as police officers. They have regular patrols and also respond to emergency and nonemergency calls. During patrols, officers look for signs of criminal activity and may conduct searches and arrest suspected criminals.
Avg. annual earnings: $62,753
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*Occupation descriptions from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.