Six Surprising Six-Figure Jobs: No Degree Required


no-degree-jobsHow can you find a steady job that makes six figures without a four-year or associate's degree? You may think first of typical blue collar trades, like electrician or plumber. But, there are some other options that will surprise you. Would you believe that court reporters can make over $100,000 a year?

Online salary database has come up with a list of six no-degree, six-figure gigs that you might not have considered. PayScale's director of quantitative analysis, Al Lee, says, "All of these jobs require a lot of on the job training and experience to get to high levels of pay. But, if you're the kind of person who can't stand to sit in the seat in school, they may be a great way to get there."

Lee adds that the jobs below are all fairly resistant to the ups and downs of the economy. And, they serve up regular income, so you have the big earnings of a business owner without the risk of running your own business.

If finishing your college degree isn't something you either want to or can do any time soon, check out the list below for some inspiration on where to take your talents to fill up your bank account. The following list shows earnings for workers with at least five years of experience who are in the ninetieth percentile for median earnings among their peers.

1. Air Traffic Controller

Median Annual Salary: $159,000

Air traffic control work is often featured in films as high pressure and highly stressful. It is. It requires strong mental focus, a lock-tight memory and good decision-making skills. There are a number of routes to a career in air traffic control. To work for the FAA, as most controllers do, all applicants must pass through training at the FAA center in Oklahoma City, Okla. The process is rigorous and takes several months to complete. But, it can pay off. And, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects a wave of retirement in the coming years that should open up more positions to younger controllers.

-- Compare your salary

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2. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator

Median Annual Salary: $128,000

From brightly-lit computer screens to blinking street lights, your work as a power plant operator makes you a vital part of everyone's day. According to the BLS, you'll likely start as an equipment operator, eventually receiving more on-the-job training, getting licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and moving into a senior operator position. This job is also high pressure, as you are responsible for equipment that affects power to the reactor itself.

-- Compare your salary

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3. Director of Security (Physical, Personnel, Grounds, et al.)

Median Annual Salary: $123,000

If you have a mind for thinking of the worst possible scenario and how to prevent or control it, you may be the right person for a career in security. Once you arrive at the director level, you're responsible for anticipating trouble before it comes and making sure that your staff is well-trained and managed. The BLS notes that competition for jobs at this level of security work is stiff and the conditions can be hazardous, but security management is likely to stay in demand in the future.

-- Compare your salary

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4. Elevator Mechanic

Median Annual Salary: $109,000

Elevator mechanics may have some of the best job security around. Most people dislike heading for the elevator, only to see that it's broken and they have to take the stairs. And, this work cannot be outsourced. Elevator repair jobs are expected to be more and more in demand in the future, according to the BLS. Most repair people learn their skills through a four-year union apprenticeship.

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5. Court Reporter

Median Annual Salary: $105,000

Like the jobs listed above, a court reporting gig requires you to take on a great deal of responsibility. Court reporters must prepare accurate and complete legal records of conversations, most commonly court proceedings. Job prospects for this work are expected to be good, as demand for closed-captioning and real-time translation services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing grows. This career requires a good deal of training, which can be had through a technical school or the National Court Reporters Association. Some states require licensure, according to the BLS, and others may require court reporters to be notary publics.

-- Compare your salary

-- Find Court Reporter Jobs

6. Fire Chief

Median Annual Salary: $121,000

To get to the position of fire chief, you'll likely need to put many years in to fighting fires, exposing yourself to dangerous, stressful situations and staying in tip-top shape. And, you're still not assured a chief spot because, as the BLS data shows, there are plenty of qualified applicants for firefighting jobs so the competition is tough. The BLS notes that fire fighter applicants with some postsecondary education are more and more preferred these days, but the opportunity is still available to candidates with only a high school degree.

-- Compare your salary

-- Find Fire Chief Jobs

Next: Highest Paying Trades >>

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Rockett Singh

Thanks for the post! I knew about fire chiefs and elevator mechanics but I had no idea that court reporters made so much money! I think I might know that career I might go into!

June 17 2011 at 1:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jack Darrington

While they don't require degrees, these jobs are either a very highly stressful position, ie air traffic controller, or they require a great degree of responsibility, ie court reporting. Either way, while they don't require a degree, they are definitely not for everyone.

May 26 2011 at 5:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sarah Borthwick

Best Jobs and Great Pay out

May 21 2011 at 4:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The voice recognition is here. And is not the same as when you call a robut because you train your own voice. Do your research. It is the future. And when you get carpal tunnel, you will be interested. And that is all I have to say.

July 05 2010 at 2:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you're in favor of some type of voice recognition technology replacing a court reporter, all you need to do is call any large company and try to get through to an actual person. Good luck! Most likely you're put through to a robot that utilizes voice recognition technology. Listen to how accurate the robot is. How many times do you have to repeat yourself even when you're screaming and talking in monotone like a robot yourself? No one talks like that in the real world, which is why the technology doesn't work.
Furthermore, if you were to employ tape recorders, aside for the inherent flaws with sound quality -- our outdated, underfunded courtrooms do not have cinema quality sound systems -- there is the issue of the machines breaking down, and you would still need to pay someone to make the transcript from the tape.
Court Reporters in courtrooms are paid by tax dollars, but the salary is misleading. The court/state pays the reporter a base salary, usually anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000. The rest of the income is made up from transcripts ordered by the attorneys, which their clients pay for. So after sitting in a courtroom for eight hours a day, the reporter then goes home to turn her work into a transcript. I'd say that she's earning her money.
The majority of court reporters work outside the courtroom, making transcripts of depositions. This work is paid for by their clients, not the state.

July 01 2010 at 7:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Laurie, thanks so much for setting it straight! lol. I really had no clue, as you could imagine! lol.

June 28 2010 at 8:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Suzy's comment

Mask are very used in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts, and other places. They call it voice writing. Voice recognition software is availble from the same companies that make the other court reporting equipment such as stenotype machines. Voice writing was recently added and is taught at the same college in Atlanta,Georgia that treats stenotype.

June 28 2010 at 10:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


fyi, we need to hv more than one stream of income. Feel free to visit that hv 6 streams of income on one website with 30 days of training to success, no more worry about empty promises of no results. Wish you good sucess :-)

June 28 2010 at 5:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How about being a movie star or NBA basketball player! They pay good too if you have the talent and there is an opening? How many openings are there for these positions? Not too many! What are the credentials? Pretty stiff? Air traffic controller - what is your stress level life span relationship?

June 28 2010 at 5:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe plumbers make six figures in some parts of the country, but in northwest PA they don't. $100k per year equates to $48 per hour based on a 40 hour week. My husband charges the going rate, which is $55 per hour. People forget that from that, we have to pay transportation expenses, liability and health insurance (big ouch!), accountants, advertising, and no one can bill 40 out of 40 hours. Some of your time is used giving free estimates, on the phone, lining up parts and subcontractors. My husband works 50 hours a week, and grosses $480 per week, plus health insurance is paid by his business. I know when you get your bill it seems like a lot of money, but by the time it percolates down to us, he only gets about $10 per hour, and that's before he has to pay poor old Uncle Sam!

June 28 2010 at 3:18 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jeanette's comment

with all due your husband a master licensed plumber? in the big cities i.e nyc , chicago, los angeles, his services are in much demand...i can't understand at 50hrs grossing only $480 per week... something is very wrong... $55 per hr seems awefully low...

October 05 2011 at 7:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

to Jackie, How come you put a comma after EVERY word ?

June 28 2010 at 2:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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