50 Jobs That Pay Well…No College Necessary!

by Jordan Macias

February 28, 2024

The majority of high-wage jobs require a college degree, and statistics generally bear this out. About 23% of Oregonians 25 years of age and older have only a high school diploma or equivalent, 9% have an associate’s degree, 22% have a bachelor’s degree, and 14% have a graduate or professional degree. The average Oregonian whose highest educational attainment is a high school diploma earns about $37,000 a year, while the average Oregonian with a bachelor’s degree earns about $62,000 a year.

Looking past these oversimplifications, there are many jobs that offer great-paying career prospects regardless of your education level. For eager workers with a high school diploma or equivalent, at least 100 of the 800 occupations that the Oregon Employment Department tracks do not require a college degree and pay more than $50,000 a year. That’s just a little more than the median Oregon salary for full-time workers of $49,400 a year.

These occupations generally fall into one of six occupational categories. This article will examine these occupations, and in some cases, what is required to qualify for these jobs. These jobs may not require a college degree, but that doesn’t mean that they’re easy to get. All the occupations mentioned, and their associated employment numbers represent 2022 data, while their wages represent 2023 data. To learn more about any of the jobs mentioned here, including average pay and typical training requirements, check out our Occupational Profile Tool at QualityInfo.org.

Managers and Supervisors

About 125,000 Oregonians work in a management or supervisory-related occupation that does not require a college degree. For all of these positions, the requirement is typically several years of industry-specific experience leading to an eventual supervisory position. Food service managers earn about $59,000 annually. Supervisors of office and administration workers earn about $65,800 annually. Similarly, supervisors of sales workers, construction workers, production workers, and mechanical workers all earn an average annual salary of between $63,000 and $91,000.

Public Safety

There are nearly 35,000 Oregonians who work in a public safety-related occupation that does not require a degree. The public safety field is broken up into three main categories: (1) firefighting and prevention workers; (2) law enforcement workers; and (3) all other protective service workers that consist of occupations like animal control workers, lifeguards, ski patrol, and school bus monitors. Firefighting and prevention workers can expect to earn about $67,000 annually. Law enforcement workers can expect to earn between $61,000 and $81,600. All other protective service workers can expect to earn between $38,000 and $59,000. At the higher end of the wage spectrum, supervisors of public safety workers earn between $106,000 and $116,200 a year, though a four-year degree may be the necessary competitive edge to get a supervisory position in this field.

Construction Trades

Over 108,000 Oregonians work in construction and extraction occupations, and there are about 35 occupations in the wide-ranging world of construction trades that pay more than $50,000 annually. Some of the most popular occupations and their respective annual wages include carpenters ($61,600), electricians ($86,000), plumbers ($84,300), equipment operators ($67,000), sheet metal workers ($69,200), and building inspectors ($84,400). For most of these occupations, a lengthy apprenticeship and a state certification are often requirements for employment.


More than 116,000 production workers are employed in Oregon, and many of these jobs do not require a college degree. Production occupations are broken up into eight main categories: (1) assemblers and fabricators; (2) food processing workers; (3) metal and plastic workers; (4) printing workers; (5) textile and apparel workers; (6) woodworkers; (7) power and plant systems operators; and (8) all other production occupations. The two categories with the majority of higher-paying occupations (>$50,000) are metal and plastic manufacturing and power plant systems operators. Some occupations and their respective wages include machinists ($57,500), metal-refining furnace operators ($34,300), welders and solderers ($54,700), boiler operators ($68,800), and chemical plant operators ($67,000). However, for many of these jobs, a technical college may significantly help with training, apprenticeships, and job placement.

Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers

More than 50,000 Oregonians work in occupations related to mechanical installation and repair. Almost half of the occupations in this category that do not require a college degree earn more than $50,000 a year. The most common occupation in this category, automotive service technicians and mechanics, earns an average of $56,400 a year. Like every other job in this article, a college degree is not necessary. However, many community colleges offer certification programs that may help job applicants appeal to employers. Related occupations include HVAC mechanics ($64,000), diesel engine mechanics ($58,000), and power-line installers and repairers ($112,000).

Postal and Transportation

Over 180,000 Oregonians work in positions related to transportation and material moving. This large industry has a wide range of occupations, including many that offer above-average wages. These include railroad conductors and yardmasters ($68,600), transportation inspectors ($87,000), and crane and tower operators ($92,000). These occupations do not require a college degree.

When it comes to moving packages, about 5,700 Oregonians work as postal carriers, sorters, and clerks. These postal workers can expect to earn an average income of about $56,000 a year.

When it comes to the transportation and assistance of transporting people, there are high-paying career prospects, but typically extensive training programs and certifications are required. Some include commercial pilots ($111,000), air traffic controllers ($108,300), airfield operators ($61,000), and flight attendants ($63,300).

Occupations That Require Some College, But Not That Much

The preceding occupations do not require even an associate’s degree for an entry-level position. However, if you’re willing to spend a couple years in college, there are dozens of occupations that require an associate’s degree and offer above-average wages. These generally fall into two categories: health care diagnosis, technicians, and therapists; and drafters and engineering technicians.
Half a dozen health care-related occupations require an associate’s degree and employ about 14,500 Oregonians. The state’s 3,800 dental hygienists earn an average of $99,000 a year. Radiologic technologists earn an average of $87,000, respiratory therapists earn an average of $85,000, and physical therapy assistants earn an average of $66,400 a year.
Occupations in the field of drafting and engineering technicians employ about 11,000 Oregonians. All of them pay above-average wages and require an associate’s degree or postsecondary training. Some of these occupations include electro-mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering technicians, and architectural drafters. These occupations pay annual wages between $52,500 and $83,000.

Where to Start?

It can be encouraging to read about Oregon’s vast career prospects, and our Occupational Profile Tool can be a great first step to learn even more about current job openings in your area, average wages, knowledge, skills, abilities, and work activities for the occupation. You can also find schools and training providers related to the occupation you’re interested in! Search for any of the occupations mentioned in this article using our tool. The Oregon Employment Department has local WorkSource offices near you that specialize in helping job seekers land a position that suits their needs and skills. You can learn more about what a WorkSource office can do for you here and locate your local WorkSource office here.

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