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Highest-paying jobs for high school graduates

  • Highest-paying jobs for high school graduates

    Here’s a riddle: What do anesthesiologists, surgeons, lawyers, orthodontists, engineers, and financial managers have in common? They’re all listed as the highest paying jobs in America—and all at least require college degrees. Turns out, your guidance counselors were right when they said going to college would lead to a bright future.

    According to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the average college graduate earns $78,000 a year, while the average high school graduate takes home just $45,000. To put it in perspective, the average annual wage for all workers in the United States is $53,490.

    Of course, not everyone wants to attend college. The average cost of tuition continues to increase year over year, with average tuition at a public, in-state university coming in at $10,116; tuition for out-of-state students at public schools, and for everyone at private universities, is significantly higher at $22,577 and $36,801, respectively. Just because you decide higher education isn’t in the cards doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a lifetime of low-paying jobs. You just need to be strategic about the career you choose.

    To discover which jobs pay high school graduates the most, Stacker consulted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, last updated in April. None of the 100 jobs on this list requires more than a high school diploma or equivalent. All jobs are ranked by their average annual income, and ties are broken by the number of employees on that job.

    Any job titles that the BLS listed as “all other” in the name were excluded, as those are aggregates of multiple jobs and salary data is less accurate than the listed salaries for individual jobs. Jobs that did not pay a specific average wage per year were also excluded.

    As this BLS data reflects the 2019 calendar year, the wages listed do not reflect any economic changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read on to discover which jobs that only require a high school degree paid the highest annual wages in 2019, from highly-technical roles that require substantial on-the-job training to trades you can pick up quickly.

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  • #100. Correctional officers and jailers

    - Average annual wage: $50,130 (6.3% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 423,050 (2.88 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: moderate-term on-the-job training

    Correctional officers and jailers guard inmates in prisons, in addition to shepherding them to jail, court, and other locations. State and local governments employ the most correctional officers—the federal government employs just over 15,000.

  • #99. Security and fire alarm systems installers

    - Average annual wage: $50,210 (6.1% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 71,600 (0.49 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: moderate-term on-the-job training

    These specialized technicians install and maintain fire alarms and security systems, as well as check that their work is in accordance with local building codes. Most people with this job work in the security industry—construction comes in second.

  • #98. Bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists

    - Average annual wage: $50,360 (5.9% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 266,330 (1.81 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: long-term on-the-job training

    Bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists allow truckers to keep on truckin’ by keeping their vehicles running smoothly through regular maintenance and repairs. Unsurprisingly, trucking employs the largest number of these specialized mechanics.

  • #97. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators

    - Average annual wage: $50,490 (5.6% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 123,730 (0.84 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: long-term on-the-job training

    Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators control an entire system of machines to treat local communities’ water and wastewater. These professionals primarily work for local governments and waste treatment companies, but a small percentage works for other industries, like animal processing, architecture and engineering.

  • #96. Postal service clerks

    - Average annual wage: $50,610 (5.4% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 81,170 (0.55 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: short-term on-the-job training

    Most everyone likely encounters a postal service clerk at their local post office: These workers help customers send mail and packages, as well as sorting and delivering the mail. Though the United States Postal Service (USPS) initially feared that the COVID-19 pandemic would put it at risk of financial ruin, the influx of e-commerce packages has provided an unexpected lifeline.

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  • #95. Production, planning, and expediting clerks

    - Average annual wage: $50,640 (5.3% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 370,380 (2.52 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: moderate-term on-the-job training

    Though production, planning, and expediting clerks might work in industries ranging from aerospace manufacturing to surgical hospitals, the basic job duties remain the same: coordinating and managing the flow of work through an organization. That could extend to reviewing production schedules, compiling progress reports, monitoring inventory levels, and discussing workflow with supervisors.

  • #94. Legal secretaries and administrative assistants

    - Average annual wage: $50,900 (4.8% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 168,140 (1.15 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: moderate-term on-the-job training

    Unlike a general secretary, legal secretaries and administrative assistants must understand legal terminology and procedures to do their jobs—which allows them to earn a premium. Legal secretaries perform filing, assist with legal research, and prepare papers, subpoenas, complaints, and motions.

  • #93. Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators

    - Average annual wage: $51,190 (4.3% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 102,390 (0.70 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: short-term on-the-job training

    After a postal clerk takes a letter or package, postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators make sure it starts the journey to its destination. These employees examine, sort, and route the mail, as well as operate the sorting machines that the USPS relies on.

  • #92. Dredge operators

    - Average annual wage: $51,340 (4% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 1,550 (0.01 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: moderate-term on-the-job training

    These professionals operate massive machines called dredges to remove sand, gravel, and dirt from bodies of water so that they remain navigable by boat. Dredge operators can work for mining companies, civil engineering firms, or state and local governments.

     

  • #91. Chemical equipment operators and tenders

    - Average annual wage: $51,540 (3.6% lower than average U.S. income)
    - Employment: 87,120 (0.59 per 1,000 jobs)
    - Job training: moderate-term on-the-job training

    In the manufacturing of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, aluminum, and petroleum products, chemical equipment operators and tenders use complex equipment to control chemical changes and reactions. These skilled workers operate machinery such as devulcanizers, steam-jacketed kettles, and reactor vessels, and may need specialized on-the-job training.

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