The Highest Paying Jobs that Don’t Require a College Degree or Significant Training

There are plenty of lists identifying the top 10 high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree, but it is misleading to suggest a recent high school graduate can easily step into most of those occupations. Many of the jobs that top these lists are supervisory roles that require years of experience in the industry, while others such as elevator installer and repairer may require a lengthy apprenticeship.

The graphic below (based on data from the BLS) shows that lower education requirements for an occupation are often offset by on-the-job training. Seventy-seven percent of occupations that typically need an associate’s degree or higher don’t require on-the-job training, and the same is true for 55% of those that require some college but not a 2-year degree. Only 8% of occupations that typically need a high school diploma or less also don’t require on-the-job training. Instead, 37% require some short-term training, and 41% require moderate-term training.

Typical On-the-Job Training Needed for Competency in Occupations, by Typical Education Needed for EntryTypical On-the-Job Training Needed for Competency in Occupations, by Typical Education Needed for Entry

There are high-paying jobs for workers without a college degree, but most of them require experience or other training. Postal service mail carriers top the list of occupations requiring short-term on the job training along with a high school diploma or less.  First-line supervisors of police and detectives is the highest paid occupation with moderate-term on-the-job training.

Top 10 Occupations That Require a High School Diploma or Less and Short-Term On-The-Job Training
SOC code Occupation Title Median Annual Wage, 2012
43-5052 Postal service mail carriers $56,490
33-3052 Transit and railroad police $55,210
43-5051 Postal service clerks $53,090
43-5053 Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators $53,090
53-7111 Mine shuttle car operators $52,110
53-7033 Loading machine operators, underground mining $48,420
33-3031 Fish and game wardens $48,070
47-5011 Derrick operators, oil and gas $46,900
53-6011 Bridge and lock tenders $45,940
53-7121 Tank car, truck, and ship loaders $44,100
Source: BLS

 

Top 10 Occupations That Require a High School Diploma or Less and Moderate-Term On-The-Job Training
SOC code Occupation Title Median Annual Wage, 2012
33-1012 First-line supervisors of police and detectives $78,270
33-3021 Detectives and criminal investigators $74,300
53-2012 Commercial pilots $73,280
53-6051 Transportation inspectors $63,680
11-9131 Postmasters and mail superintendents $63,050
53-4041 Subway and streetcar operators $62,730
33-1011 First-line supervisors of correctional officers $57,840
49-9097 Signal and track switch repairers $55,450
33-3051 Police and sheriff's patrol officers $55,270
53-4031 Railroad conductors and yardmasters $54,700
Source: BLS

When it comes to jobs that require no college degree and no on-the-job training, BLS has identified only 35 jobs (out of 820 detailed occupations) that fall in that category. However, recent high school graduates cannot easily step into most of those jobs, as they typically require a few years of related work experience in a different occupation. The list is even smaller for occupations that require no college degree, no on-the-job training, and no related work experience—only eight occupations fit those criteria. Of those eight, five fall under an “all other” title, a bucket for occupations that don’t easily fit into one of the Standard Occupational Classification codes.  The highest paid of those occupations, business operations specialists, all other, earned a median annual wage of $65,120 in 2012—much higher than the $34,750 national median wage in 2012.

Occupations That Don’t Require a College Degree or On-The-Job Training
SOC code Occupation Title Median Annual Wage, 2012
13-1199 Business operations specialists, all other $65,120
29-2092 Hearing aid specialists $41,430
29-2099 Health technologists and technicians, all other $40,700
31-9099 Healthcare support workers, all other $32,800
41-9099 Sales and related workers, all other $25,800
41-9012 Models $18,750
35-9031 Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop $18,580
27-2099 Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers, all other
Source: BLS

Research support provided by Patrick Clapp.

Economic Impact: College degrees provide resiliency amid change

Apparently a college degree does make a difference — at least when it comes to a region’s ability to recover from recession.

Northern Virginia is a driver of growth in our state. This was the case in the period between the last two recessions. From 2002 through 2007, employment in the Northern Virginia portion of the Washington metro area expanded at an annual average rate of 2.7 percent, compared with a 1.5 percent rate statewide.

Employment in Northern Virginia also recovered from the most recent recession more quickly than the state and nation. It reached the former peak in employment early in 2011, compared with 2014 in both the state and the nation.

Then came federal budget cuts and a government shutdown. During this period, the lack of growth in Northern Virginia caused the economy in Virginia to stall.

Employment growth in Northern Virginia contracted 0.7 percent on a year-over-year basis in February 2014 and drove the overall state growth down 0.3 percent during the same period. In contrast, employment growth in the nation was accelerating and stood at 1.6 percent.

One would expect such a sharp slowdown in employment that is caused by one industry sector — federal spending — to generate a prolonged slowdown in economic activity as displaced workers try to find other employment.

Similar to the 1990s, when a cut in military spending slowed growth in Northern Virginia for a short time, the latest employment report shows the region growing at the same rate as the nation. For the 12 months ending with September 2015, employment grew 2 percent in Northern Virginia compared with 2 percent in the nation and 0.9 percent in the state.

A highly educated population is a major reason for the quick rebound in Northern Virginia.

Based on census data from 2013, 54 percent of residents in the region have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 30.5 percent in the nation. The unemployment rate for people in the labor force with a bachelor’s degree was 2.5 percent in September, compared with 5.2 percent for those who have only a high school diploma.

Skills that come with a bachelor’s degree are more easily transferable from one industry to another. It’s not quite as easy as changing a consultant’s letterhead from Defense Inc. to Cyber Security LLC, but the transferable skills possessed by workers in Northern Virginia clearly give the region resiliency during times of economic change.

Tracking Liftoff: Will it be October?

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is getting ready for it October 27-28 two-day meeting, where it will decide whether it is time to raise the federal funds rate target.

Based on comments by some Fed officials, it appears that a rate hike might come before year-end.  As shown in the right-hand column of the graphic below, however, monthly employment gains have slowed, as has capacity utilization.  The deceleration in growth is causing some analysts to predict that the Fed won’t raise rates until its December meeting or even delay until 2016.

The graphic below allows you to track how FOMC members are thinking about when that liftoff in rates should occur. Click on the photo of an FOMC member to see that person’s view about the timing of liftoff, how their view may have evolved since last December, and key quotes that are hyperlinked to full speeches.

The photos of voting members are shown in circles with nonvoting members in squares. Key economic indicators are presented on the right (where the data shown represent the original estimates that were available at the time of the meeting rather than more recent revisions).

The number of people in college-age range is declining

Colleges and universities may want to take note: The number of people in the college age range of 18 to 24 is falling.

The nation's population is expected to grow by more than 13 million, or an annual average of 0.8 percent a year, from this year through 2020.

Virginia will see 403,585 new residents, or 0.9 percent a year, in the next five years. And the Richmond metropolitan statistical area will gain 67,346 people, or 1 percent a year.

However, not all age groups will grow over that period. While the number of echo boomers and retirees will increase, the number of college attendees over this next five-year period will decline, according to data based on the U.S. Census projections.

The “echo boom” births in the United States peaked in 1990. The children of that peak became college-freshman around 2008. Since then, the population of 18 to 19 year olds in the nation has trailed off.

Children born at the peak of the echo boom are now about age 25, and most are out of college. As a result, the size of the prime college-aged population is on the downswing.

The prime college-attending ages of 18 to 24 makes up about 58 percent of the college student population according to fall 2013 enrollment data from the 2014 Digest of Education Statistics. The U.S. population of people in that age range peaked in 2013 at 31,535,000.

As of 2015, this segment of the population has slipped 1 percent to about 31,214,000.

This downturn is expected to continue until 2020 when the number of people 18 to 24 hits a trough of about 30,555,000 - a drop of 2.1 percent from 2015 levels. 

Some areas of the country will see more drastic declines, while other areas can expect to see no drop at all.

Nine states are projected to grow in the 18 to 24 segment in the next five years, including Utah (up 3.9 percent) and Texas (up 3.4 percent).

States forecast to see steeper-than-average declines include Michigan (down 6.9 percent) and New Mexico (down 6.8 percent).

By comparison, Virginia is expected to see a 0.9 percent drop and the Richmond metro area is projected to decline by 1.0 percent.

There is some good news for those wanting to see an increase of population in the college-aged segment.

The number of U.S. births hit a trough in 1997. Many children born in that year are beginning their freshman years in college.

Following 1997, the number of births began trending upward and peaked in 2007 at a height surpassing that of the echo boom.

So while post-secondary schools are facing unfavorable demographics in the short run, another swell is on its way.

On another end of the pendulum, retirees - aged 69 and older - are growing by double digits. 

Nationwide, the population in that age group is expected to increase by 18 percent from 2015 through 2020.  The growth of this segment in Virginia (up 19 percent) and the Richmond metro area (up 21 percent) are both faster than the nation.

The fastest growing states are expected to be Alaska (27 percent) and District of Columbia (26.1 percent), while the slowest growth is expected in Connecticut (14.5 percent) and Rhode Island (14.9 percent).

This demographic group will put increased demand on the health care system for many years to come.

Defense Budgets and Actual Funding: Presidents Don’t Typically Get What They Ask For

Another budget showdown this fall seems inevitable. The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 calls for $561 billion in defense spending (excluding overseas contingency operations).  That’s $38 billion above sequestration levels.

Ultimately, however, budgeting is decided in Congress, and a look back at previous budget proposals shows that the president never gets exactly what he asks for. The chart below shows a five-year projection of Department of Defense (DoD) funding in each president’s budget proposal (the dashed line) compared with the actual funding levels passed by Congress (the solid black line).[1]

Differences between proposed and actual budgets have varied by president—especially during the last drawdown in defense spending in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.  As in the past, we should expect changes to this year’s proposed budget.

Research support was provided by Patrick Clapp.

[1] This chart is a reproduction of Figure 21 in the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ Analysis of the FY2015 Defense Budget, recalculated and updated with the FY2016 Budget. The numbers are shown in 2015 dollars.