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Highest Paying Labor Jobs if You Have No Degree

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Guide Overview

What are labor jobs?Highest paying labor jobs in the U.S.

Guide Overview

Overview of high paying labor jobs

Contrary to popular belief that only white-collar professions offer good pay, there are several high paying labor jobs that can also earn you a large paycheck. These blue-collar jobs, as they are called, require skilled and semi-skilled labor. More importantly, they don't require advanced academic qualifications like white-collar jobs. We will provide a comprehensive list of high paying labor jobs, explain what a labor job is, and why you should consider getting one.

What are labor jobs?

As is evident from the name, labor jobs require manual labor, which can be skilled or unskilled. They are mostly known as blue-collar jobs, as opposed to white-collar jobs that require minimal manual labor. Blue-collar employees form a large part of the nation’s working class, with many of them working in industries like:

  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Technical installation
  • Food service

Labor jobs usually come with hourly wage rates, although some pay on a project-by-project or annual basis. They are attractive for many people, since they require minimal educational attainment. Most employers require just a high school diploma or general educational development (GED) certificate from prospective labor workers.

Candidates must have specialized knowledge to get good-paying labor jobs. For example, you may have to get a few professional certifications to advance through the ranks. In many cases, you may need to complete an apprenticeship to qualify for a labor job that pays well. Thankfully, many of these jobs have a low-entry barrier, and you can even earn an income during your training or apprenticeship. 

Highest paying labor jobs in the U.S.

A fallacy most people hold onto is that labor jobs are dirty jobs that pay peanuts. While this may be true in certain situations, there are labor jobs that pay well. The only caveat is that most of the best-paid labor jobs require additional training and certification. Still, they are still better than some job positions that require years of academic learning and work experience. Here are the top labor jobs for you to consider:

Air traffic controller

Average base pay: $55,469 per year Air pilots earn some of the highest salaries; but you need a college degree to become one. If you lack a degree but want to work in aviation, an air traffic controller job may be suitable. Air traffic controllers ensure that planes and helicopters don’t collide while flying. They do this by ensuring that aircraft do not fly close to each other. The job requires no degree, although you must have completed the Federal Aviation Administration’s two-year Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative course. You can also be promoted to this position if your performance remains consistent for three years.

Construction manager

Average base pay: $83,309 per year Construction managers direct the planning, coordination, and supervision of construction projects. They ensure the quality of construction materials and guarantee stable infrastructure. Being a construction manager won’t earn you a six-figure salary, but it is lucrative, particularly for a labor job. Plus, you can get this job without a college degree, though some technical training may be necessary.

Elevator installer and repairer

Average base pay: $48,545 per year Elevator installer and repairers install, maintain, and repair elevators, which are vital to the functionality of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers. As with other labor jobs, a college degree isn’t necessary to become an elevator installer and repairer. However, you need to complete a training program to qualify for the role. Many elevator manufacturers also have apprenticeships for would-be installers and repairers.

Power plant operator

Average base pay: $71,214 per year Power plant operators are in charge of operating electricity grids that distribute power to cities, counties, and other areas. The job requires only a high school diploma or GED; most of the expertise is acquired via on-the-job training. Entry-level power plant operators earn decent pay, but senior operators can earn over $100,000 per year.


Average base pay: $51,166 per year Ranch work may be labor-intensive, but it can pay handsomely. Ranchers can earn over $50,000 and some can even earn far more than that. You don’t need a college degree to work on a ranch. You will gain most of your expertise through hands-on experience, which is why you must be ready to learn on the fly. Still, note that incomes for ranchers depend on the prices of farm produce. Prices fluctuate according to weather, demand, and other factors, so take that into consideration.

Pile driver operator

Average base pay: $41,916 per year A pile driver operator is a professional in the construction industry. Pile driver operators drive pilings for bulkheads, walls, and structural foundations. It is a fast-growing field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and top earners can earn six-figure salaries.

Police officer

Average base pay: $59,162 per year Police officers maintain law and order, fight crime, and ensure people abide by traffic rules. Most police officer jobs list a high school diploma or GED as the formal minimum educational requirement. However, you may need to undergo training before getting hired as a police officer. After gaining on-the-job experience, you can request a transfer to a higher-paying post, such as a detective or undercover agent. However, these also require additional training.

Chemical plant operator

Average base pay: $55,971 per year Chemical plant operators handle the machinery used in producing chemical products from adhesives to drugs. Dealing with chemicals and heavy machinery can be tough, if not downright dangerous. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says most chemical plants in the U.S. have a history of low injury rates, thanks to safety regulations. You can obtain on-the-job training if you don’t have a college degree.

OTR (over the road) truck driver

Average base pay: $49,387 per year If you are comfortable spending a long time away from home, an OTR truck driver job may be suitable for you. This labor job requires spending most of your time on the road but pays well in return. Rarely will a trucking company ask for a college degree, but you must have a commercial driver’s license and complete several driving tests to increase your chances of landing a truck driver job.

Oil worker

Average base pay: $31,414 per year Not every worker you see on an oil rig has a degree. Some are skilled workers whose sole academic qualification is a high school diploma or GED. However, these jobs pay well, although they also involve a lot of risk. Some oil workers can earn up to $100,000 on average. Individual salaries may vary, depending on the role. Acquiring additional technical training and expertise can also set you up for a higher salary.


Average base pay: $58,298 per year Boilermakers construct the boilers used in industrial and chemical production. They also have to design the blueprints for boilers before casting and welding to create the final product. In addition, boilermakers install the boilers and oversee their maintenance. They may need to improve the boiler at intervals to enhance performance and comply with pollution laws. A high school diploma is a minimum requirement for this job, but you must complete an apprenticeship program or study at a vocational school to acquire key skills.

Locomotive engineer

Average base pay: $88,744 per year Locomotive engineers are responsible for the smooth and safe operation of trains. They keep track of important indicators, like air pressure, speed, and battery voltage. A locomotive engineer also inspects trains for faults and ensures they perform well. You can start out on this job with a high school diploma or GED, but then you’ll need more technical training along the way.

Gas plant operator

Average base pay: $51,420 per year Gas plant operators are expected to direct the storage and transportation of gases. They mostly work for oil companies or utility companies in the U.S. Gas plant operator jobs are risky, which is reflected in the requirements and salary structure. While you don’t need a degree to get this job, undergoing intensive technical training and writing special examinations is unavoidable. You may also need an operational license as well.


Average base pay: $57,817 per year If you have excellent bricklaying skills, you can opt for a bricklayer position. Starting a bricklayer career is possible for those with lower academic qualifications, like a diploma or GED. However, it is necessary to complete an apprenticeship and gain further training to increase your stock. There are hundreds of high paying labor jobs that provide a way to earn a decent income without having a degree or extensive educational qualifications. Use this guide to discover several labor jobs that meet your educational level, skills, and provide a good income.

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