What Are High Paying Careers for High School Grads?

The lack of a college education doesn't mean you have to settle for low-paying jobs. Jobs requiring only a high school diploma are found in many fields, such as sales, nuclear plant operations, air traffic controlling and real estate.

High-Paying Jobs for High School Graduates

Many jobs available to high school grads with no post-secondary education can command salaries over the national average salary for all occupations of $47,230, reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2014. These careers tend to rely on work experience and on-the-job training instead of college degrees. A few of the top-paying jobs available to high school graduates are air traffic controller, manufacturing and wholesale sales representative, nuclear power reactor operator and real estate broker.

Important Facts About High Paying Careers for High School Graduates

Air Traffic Controller Manufacturing and Wholesale Sales Representative Nuclear Power Plant Operator Real Estate Broker
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 9% decline 7% growth 6% decline 2% growth
Key Skills Clear spoken communication, deep concentration, good judgment and decision making, problem solving Customer focused, social nuance, physical stamina, self-assurance Attention to detail, manual dexterity, mechanical knowledge, problem solving Business acumen, organization, problem solving, social savvy
Work Environment Control towers, approach control facilities, en route centers Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers, manufacturing industry, machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution industry Self-employed, brokerage offices, leasing offices, other real estate establishments
Similar Occupations Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians, airline and commercial pilots, cartographers and photogrammetrists Buyers and purchasing agents, insurance sales agents, retail sales agents Construction equipment operators; electricians, line installers and repairers Loan officers, sales engineers, appraisers and assessors of real estate

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers coordinate and direct plane travel. Terminal controllers direct the flow of air traffic in and out of airports, and en route controllers handle traffic in a particular section of airspace. The BLS listed the average annual salary of an air traffic controller as of May 2014 at $118,780.

You can become an air traffic controller with some general work experience. Past work as a military controller is one way that you may gain experience.

Manufacturing and Wholesale Sales Representative

Sales representatives are the liaisons between the manufacturer and the customer. It is the sales representative's job to get sellers interested in carrying and selling a client's products and merchandise. As a representative, you may work for one company, or many. According to the BLS, sales representatives of technical and scientific products earned an average annual wage of $86,750 as of May 2014. Total annual income is often based on a combination of a base salary plus commissions and bonuses.

You may be trained for this job through a combination of seminars, company training and work alongside experienced reps. Previous sales experience may be helpful in gaining employment in this field.

Nuclear Power Plant Operator

As a power plant operator, you are responsible for making sure the plant is functioning and operating properly. Operators monitor changes and work to prevent crisis situations. As of May 2014, the average annual salary of nuclear power plant operators was $82,270, the BLS noted.

Although the minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma, some plant workers may be required to obtain a license. Extensive on-the-job training is essential.

Real Estate Broker

Real estate brokers help people buy and sell homes and other investment property. They negotiate deals, arrange financing and understand property, tax and zoning laws and are licensed to operate their own businesses. The BLS reported that the average annual wage of a real estate broker in 2014 was $80,420.

In every state, real estate brokers must be licensed. This generally calls for several years experience as a licensed real estate agent as well as completing a formal training course.

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