50 Jobs That Pay Well… No College Necessary!

by Christian Kaylor

October 24, 2016

Generally speaking, high-wage jobs typically require a college degree. Statistics bear this out. The average Oregon worker with just a high school diploma earns $26,597 per year, while the average worker with a bachelor's degree earns $44,049.

Looking past the generalizations, there are several jobs that pay high wages, without requiring a college degree. Among the 805 occupations that the Oregon Employment Department tracks, at least 50 of them do not require a college degree and pay more than $50,000 per year to full-time workers. That's significantly more income than the median Oregon salary of $37,000 per year.

These occupations employ a little over 100,000 Oregonians and generally fall into one of six occupational categories. This article will examine these occupations and what is required to qualify for these jobs. These jobs may not require a college degree, but that doesn't mean that they are easy jobs to get. To learn more about any of the jobs mentioned here, including average pay and typical training requirements, check out our occupation information tool at www.qualityinfo.org/jc-oprof.

Managers and Supervisors

About 40,000 Oregonians work in a management or supervisory occupation that doesn't require a college degree. For all of these positions, the requirement is typically years of specific industry experience leading to supervising line workers. Supervisors of office and administrative workers earn about $53,000 annually. Similarly, supervisors of: sales workers, construction workers, production workers and mechanical workers all earn an average annual salary between $52,000 and $66,000 per year.

Public Safety

About 12,000 public safety workers are employed in a field related to public safety that typically pays between $55,000 and $93,000 per year. These occupations include: police, fire and ambulance dispatchers; police officers; and correctional officers. At the higher end of the wage scale, supervisors of correctional officers and police earn an average of $80,000 to $90,000 per year.

Construction Trades

There are at least eight occupations in the construction trades that pay more than $50,000 per year. These occupations include: electricians ($68,000 per year), plumbers ($73,000 per year), and building inspectors ($62,000 per year). For these occupations, a lengthy apprenticeship and state certification is typically a requirement for employment.


Several manufacturing and power plant jobs pay well above average without requiring a college degree. However, for many of these jobs, a technical college may significantly help with training, apprenticeship and job placement. These positions include: tool and die makers ($57,000 per year), CNC machine programmers ($56,000 per year), and lathe operators ($50,000 per year).

Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers

Almost 7,000 Oregonians work in positions related to mechanical installation and repair. The most common occupation in this category, industrial machinery mechanics, earn an average of $55,000 per year. Like every job described in this article, a college degree is not necessary for this job, however many community colleges offer certification programs that may help job applicants appeal to employers. Other occupations include electrical power-line installers and repairers ($87,000 per year) and precision instrument and equipment repairers ($58,000 per year).

Postal and Transportation

When it comes to moving packages, or people, there are a handful of jobs that pay above average wages. Almost 6,000 Oregonians work as postal carriers, sorters and clerks. These postal workers enjoy an average income of about $50,000 per year. These occupations do not require a college degree. A word of warning, the Oregon Employment Department forecasts a decline in these occupations over the next 10 years.

Another 2,000 Oregonians are employed in transportation-related occupations that don't require a college degree. These occupations include: commercial pilots, railroad conductors and yardmasters, transportation inspectors and crane operators. These occupations pay about $60,000 per year on average. None of them require a college degree, in the case of commercial pilots however, extensive training and certification are required. Many community colleges offer classes to get you started.

Occupations That Require Some College, But Not That Much

The preceding occupations do not require even an associate degree for an entry-level position. However, if you are willing to spend a couple of years in college, there are dozens of occupations that require an associate's degree that also pay well above average wages. These occupations generally fall into two categories: health care diagnosis, technicians and therapists; and drafters and engineering technicians.

Half a dozen health care occupations require an associate's degree and employ about 10,000 Oregonians. There are 4,000 dental hygienists in Oregon earning an average of $78,000 per year; radiologic technicians earn an average of $67,000 per year, while physical therapy assistants take home $55,000 per year.

There are 10 occupations in the field of drafting and engineering technicians employing 7,000 Oregonians. All of them pay above average wages and typically require an associate's degree. These occupations include: engineering technicians, civil engineering technicians, and architectural drafters. These occupations pay average salaries between $53,000 and $63,000 per year.

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