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The 10 highest-paying jobs you can get without a college degree

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A college education is one of the most expensive investments Americans make in their lifetimes, and it's only gotten more costly over time. In fact, the cost of college has increased by more than 25% in the last 10 years, according to a CNBC Make It analysis of data from The College Board.

For those who may not be able to afford college right after high school, if at all, there are some jobs that don't require a degree that still pay more than the national median wage of roughly $50,000 per year. To identify these career opportunities, U.S. News & World Report compiled its 2020 ranking of the top-paying jobs workers can get without a college degree.

The No. 1 spot goes to patrol officers, who enforce safety standards within an environment, respond to incidents, write reports and update records. Workers in this job earn a median annual salary of $61,380 per year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. While patrol officers may not need a college education get started in the field, most candidates must graduate from their agency's training academy before moving on to on-the-job training. The BLS also notes candidates must be U.S. citizens, usually 21 years or older, and are required to meet rigorous physical and personal qualifications.

While patrol officers are recognized as one of the best social services jobs, according to U.S. News, the ranking also recognizes the position's long hours and the high potential for job-related injury. However, the continued need for public safety enforcement means there's plenty of job security in the position.

The job outlook for the No. 2 best-paying job out of high school isn't as bright. Executive assistants stand to earn a median annual wage of $59,340, but the BLS projects 123,000 of these jobs will be lost through 2028. Clerical tasks including managing calendars and organizing information are increasingly becoming automated, and easier-to-use technology tools may result in executives managing their own schedules without help from an assistant. Companies may also be switching to administrative assistants, who generally earn less than executive assistants and support more than one manager within an organization.

Future prospects for the remaining roles on the top-paying jobs list are better, as many require technical specialties and are less likely to be displaced by emerging technologies within the next decade. Electricians, steelworkers and plumbers, for example, are more labor-intensive jobs whose job security is bolstered by the need to maintain existing buildings and construct new ones. To be sure, many of these types of jobs require job-specific education and training to get ahead.

Other top-paying jobs are likely to increase because of emerging technologies. Wind turbine technicians, which are ranked at No. 5 and earn a median of $54,370 per year, are projected to be one of the fastest-growing jobs of the future, thanks to an increasing demand for harnessing sustainable energy and developments being made in the industry to enable this type of work.

Similarly, as hearing aid technology improves and the aging population grows, the need for technicians to work with hearing loss patients will also increase. Hearing aid specialists are the No. 8 top-paid workers without a college education requirement, and they earn a median wage of $52,770 per year.

Here are U.S. News's top-paying jobs that don't require a college degree.

10. Brickmason and blockmason

Median annual salary: $50,950 per year

Education needed: High school

Projected new jobs through 2028: 8,400

9. Sound engineering technician

Median annual salary: $52,930 per year

Education needed: Relevant certificate

Projected new jobs through 2028: 200

8. Hearing aid specialist

Median annual salary: $52,770 per year

Education needed: High school

Projected new jobs through 2028: 1,200

7. Plumber

Median annual salary: $53,910 per year

Education needed: High school

Projected new jobs through 2028: 68,200

6. Structural iron and steelworker

Median annual salary: $53,970 per year

Education needed: High school

Projected new jobs through 2028: 9,200

5. Wind turbine technician

Median annual salary: $54,370 per year

Education needed: Relevant certificate

Projected new jobs through 2028: 3,800

4. Electrician

Median annual salary: $55,190 per year

Education needed: High school

Projected new jobs through 2028: 74,100

3. Sales representative

Median annual salary: $58,510 per year

Education needed: High school

Projected new jobs through 2028: 23,300

2. Executive assistant

Median annual salary: $59,340 per year

Education needed: High school

Projected new jobs through 2028: -123,000

1. Patrol officer

Median annual salary: $61,380 per year

Education needed: High school

Projected new jobs through 2028: 34,500

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