Blog Post

High paying careers without a college degree

By UA Local 486 | May 31, 2023

When it comes to high-paying careers, many people overlook opportunities in the skilled trades. Skilled trade jobs, such as HVAC technicians, plumbers, and steamfitters, among others, require no college degree but they offer excellent earning potential and job security. For many, these jobs offer a livable salary while in many other cases, their salary exceeds six figures.

Have you considered a career in one of these fields? Would you consider one of these jobs if you knew it could provide a good earning potential, job security and potentially lead to future opportunities? 

To help people like you explore whether a skilled trade would make a viable career choice, we’ve chosen to discuss a few of these jobs and their salary ranges. Keep in mind that this is a general overview. Some individuals earn can earn an even higher salary than the averages we have listed. Let’s dive in. 


Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical systems in homes, businesses, and factories. Their main responsibility is to ensure the safe and efficient installation, maintenance, and repair of electrical systems in buildings, homes, and other structures.

Can you see yourself installing wiring and new electrical systems? What about installing and replacing electrical components like outlets, switches or lighting fixtures? If you are comfortable troubleshooting and repairing electrical issues then an electrician could be a good career opportunity for you.

In order to become an electrician you must be licensed in your state and most electricians typically complete an apprenticeship program. The median annual salary for electricians is $60,040, but top earners can make over $100,000.


Plumbers are skilled tradespeople who specialize in the installation, repair, and maintenance of piping systems, fixtures, and appliances used for delivering and removing water, sewage, and gas in buildings and other structures.

Depending on the type of plumber you become, you can find yourself doing a number of various tasks.  A major part of plumbing is inspecting and testing plumbing systems to identify leaks, clogs and other problems. You may install large commercial pipes or could install appliances like toilets and water heaters. Can you see yourself working with gas lines, water lines or other plumbing systems? If so, this could be a good career choice. 

To become a plumber, you will need proper training and you must be licensed in your state. The average plumber can expect a salary of around $60,000, but top earners can make over $99,000.

HVAC Technician

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) technicians install and maintain heating and cooling systems in homes, businesses, and factories. They must become knowledgeable about refrigerants and environmental regulations and be able to read technical diagrams and blueprints. 

What do you think about the idea of installing HVAC systems or troubleshooting possible issues? As one progresses through an HVAC career they will have a choice in whether they install units, service existing systems, specialize in unique areas like air quality or refrigeration, and that’s just the start. Have you ever considered a career in residential or commercial HVAC?

You won’t need a college degree to become an HVAC tech, but you probably guessed it, you still need proper education and training. And you will need to be licensed of course. 

Many HVAC techs make between $50,000 and $78,000. However, your salary will differ depending on where you live, your years of experience, and your actual job. 


Welders use heat and electricity to fuse metal parts together. They may do this by hand or for larger projects, can control robots to do the welding for them. Similar to welders are cutters and solderers. While each works with high heat to manipulate metal, they each have their specializations. 

Welders can find themselves working on a number of different projects that are all shapes and sizes. Some weld small pieces together in a factory while others repair large equipment and some even find themselves welding underwater pipes. Think you can handle the heat? 

For individuals who choose a career in welding, their salaries generally range from around 47,000 to 90,000. Skilled welders tend to make more than unskilled welders or those in unskilled welding positions. The welding job and industry will also contribute to how much one will make. 

Individuals can get unskilled welding jobs without training, but in order to qualify for higher-paying welding jobs, training and experience are required. 


Carpenters build and install structures made of wood or other materials. Their job may include building structures for homes, building wooden furniture, remodeling homes or businesses, fixing wooden structures and so much more. 

Do you enjoy building and fixing things? Are you able to make a vision come to life? With a career in carpentry, you have the opportunity to create custom masterpieces and fix everyday structures. 

The level of training and licensing required will depend on the type of carpentry work one wants to do. Individuals can always go the entrepreneurial route creating their own products to sell but if someone wants to make a career out of carpentry they will need to meet certain requirements.  

Carpenters typically complete an apprenticeship program or vocational training and may need to obtain certification from a professional organization. The median annual salary for carpenters is $ 48,260, but top earners can make over $81,000.

Making the most out of your career 

Every career will have its ups and downs. The specific job duties and salaries will vary depending on the nature of your specific career route. Leadership positions, specializations in a trade, and owning your own business will often lead to higher salaries.

You can also mold the career the way you see fit. Do you want to be home by 5 every day? Or do you prefer to travel to work on unique projects? Are you the type of person who likes rolling up their sleeves and focusing on the task at hand or are you an individual who likes to organize people to see a project completed efficiently?

It doesn’t take a college degree to find a job that pays well and that you enjoy doing. It just takes an awareness of understanding what is available. 

If you’ve never considered a skilled trade it’s time you did. 

If you are interested in a career in the skilled trades, research your options carefully and choose a career that aligns with your skills, interests, and goals. With hard work and dedication, you can build a successful and rewarding career in the skilled trades.

Earn Between $50,000 and $125,000 with an Apprenticeship

As you seek a new career, also consider the journey to get there. Many think college is the only way to improve their earning potential but it’s not. With an apprenticeship, you can get paid while you learn. 

The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA) offers apprenticeship programs across the US and Canada which allow apprentices to earn a real paycheck while they learn skills in various trades.  

The apprentices who join one of our Maryland programs start with a salary of $52,300 and benefits. That pay grows every year until their 5th year in which they will earn $107,244. (Learn more here)

The best part is that you’ve set yourself up for a career that will continue to allow you to earn. If you’re near Maryland or Delaware we encourage you to apply for one of our programs. If not, you can find a UA program near you.