5 Jobs You Can Get Without a College Degree

Power distribution, substation, elevator maintenance, power plant operation

A CNBC report using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled a list of the ten highest paying jobs you can get without a college degree in the United States right now. We break down half of those—which happen to occur in skilled sectors highly familiar to readers of Electrical Apparatus.


Elevator installation and repair workers are expected to be in high demand over the next 5-10 years due to the rapid construction of skyscrapers worldwide.—BLS photo

The report, released April 24, is based on data compiled using BLS’s occupation finder with median earnings from the calendar year of 2018. It included relevant jobs at the following ranks among the “ten highest paying”, all of which come in with a median earning of at least $79,000 annually.

An essential preamble is this: the data analyzed works on a criteria of professions that “pay workers the largest salaries and don’t require college coursework, an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree as a qualification for employment.” For the skilled trades, a number of technical colleges and courses would fall outside this criteria, while still providing extensive and valuable training for a number of jobs. Many of these jobs demand extensive on-the-job training, certifications, or licenses.

#1. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers

With a median annual wage of $94,730, this collective of positions came in first on the list. The broad title encompasses everything from manufacturing facilities managers to public transportation employees working in the off-site sector. Storage, especially, is booming through companies like Amazon that continue to build massive warehouses in need of management. Skills learned in the distribution realm are especially valuable for these jobs, which are projected to grow at a rate of seven percent by 2026.

#4. Power distributors and dispatchers

The utility sector and its many tangentially-related branches make up the rest of this list. As the Smart Grid continues to be tweaked, maintained, and optimized, utilities are adapting on the fly. Implementations of drone technology, the Internet of Things, and automation have undeniably changed some of the processes and skill sets in the utility arena, but that can also mean jobs open up for some of the more traditional positions like dispatchers. Systems operators are workers who monitor and control the flow of electricity from generating stations to substations and the rest of the grid (aka end-users like commercial and residential consumers). That makes this ranking compatible and complementary to #7, which includes said substation repairers. But the dispatcher and system operator positions work directly from the source, generally requiring a knowledge of converters, transformers, and breakers and several years of onsite training and experience. Power grid-related certification is also often required, but can be achieved without a college degree through the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC)’s System Operator Certification Program. Median annual wage for these positions slots in at $86,410.

#7. Powerhouse, substation, and relay electrical and electronics repairers

For this part of the ‘Grid’ job sector, median annual wage is just above $80,000. It includes relay technicians/transformer repairers, and any other workers savvy in inspecting, maintaining and repairing all electrical equipment used in power generating stations, substations and in-service relays. The field(s) is expected to grow at a rate of four percent by 2026, per the report.

#8. Elevator installers and repairers

This one holds a special spot for Electrical Apparatus readers, as we’ve found countless engaging stories from elevator companies and repair technicians over the years. Most recently, the June 2018 issue of EA featured C.J. Anderson & Company of Harwood Heights, Illinois. Elevator technicians and mechanics help install, maintain, and repair elevator equipment, controls, lighting, and circuits. Many of these jobs often require the versatility to work on escalators and moving walkways, as well. Elevator installers and repairers often work in cramped quarters inside crawl spaces and machine rooms, and may be exposed to heights in elevator shafts. Repairers may be required to work overtime when essential equipment needs repair and are sometimes on call 24 hours a day. Nearly all elevator installers and repairers learn through an apprenticeship, with 35 states also currently requiring workers to be licensed. The median annual wage for elevator installers and repairers was $79,780 in May 2018, according to the BLS, but here’s the ultimate kicker: employment of elevator installers and repairers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. New installation and maintenance of elevators and escalators in stores and residential and commercial buildings is expected to spur demand for workers.

#9. Power plant operators

Power plant operators control and maintain the machinery used to generate electricity and distribute power among generators. They must also correct voltage and flows to meet changing consumer demands depending on the time of day. Becoming a power plant operator typically requires a high school diploma as well as several years of on-site training and experience.

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