You can earn $50,000 a year or more without a college degree, but it may take non-degree training and experience to reach this pinnacle. Most high school graduates enter these occupations at the entry-level position and then prove themselves by taking additional training classes, earning certifications or simply by putting in the years needed to master all the skills of the job.
According to information published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, managers in the following career fields averaged more than $50,000 annually with nothing more than a high school degree and related experience: transportation, storage and distribution; farming and agriculture; and administrative services. Don't expect to just walk in the door, however, and obtain a top-dollar job in these fields. Most workers employed in positions like these started small and worked their way up over time by learning the skills of the trade and by proving they have a reliable work ethic.
Community Protective Services
Police officers, correctional officers and detectives typically average at least $50,000 annually without any type of formal college degree. What they do have, however, is intensive job-provided training and experience that results in the know-how and certifications needed to advance through the ranks. You won't need a bachelor's degree to obtain a position of this type, but you may need to become certified in weapons training, self-defense and people management.
Workers employed in the construction industry often make more than $50,000 a year because their jobs require specialized knowledge. People such as boilermakers, building inspectors and those who install or repair elevators fall into this category. Again, you won't necessarily need college to become a craftsman in these fields, but you'll certainly spend time as an apprentice under someone with much higher skills. Lives depend on how well these workers understand and perform their jobs, so formalized training is vital.
Jobs Requiring Non-Degree Training
Many occupations pay in excess of $50,000 per year if you're willing to complete non-degree training: Railroad signal and track switch workers, commercial airline pilots and firefighters might have all begun their careers with just a certificate from an approved training program, and the earnings potential in some of these careers is great. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the BLS, commercial pilots earned a median wage of $98,410 per year in 2012.
2016 Salary Information for Airline and Commercial Pilots
Airline and commercial pilots earned a median annual salary of $111,270 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, airline and commercial pilots earned a 25th percentile salary of $77,450, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $166,140, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 124,800 people were employed in the U.S. as airline and commercial pilots.