Don’t Have a Bachelor’s? You Can Still Earn 6 Figures as an Air Traffic Controller

May 16, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

What is the best-paid US occupation that only requires an associate’s degree? Air traffic controller, according to the latest data from the US Department of Labor.

“Median annual wages of air-traffic controllers are the highest of any occupation in which workers typically do not need a bachelor’s degree,” said Rachel Gillett of Business Insider. The 2016 median salary was $122,410, with no prior relevant work experience required, since on-the-job training is a long-term, ongoing commitment.

With 7,500 projected job openings through 2024, you might be tempted to quit your day job and switch careers. But air traffic control isn’t just a cushy paycheck: From application to retirement, the high-intensity job takes grit, determination and resilience. The application process is open only once a year, can take months, and is available only to English-speaking US citizens 31 years of age or younger who have either a bachelor’s degree or three years of prior work experience (or some combination of the two).

Successful applicants can expect months of ongoing training and evaluations, with 25-40% of hopeful ATCs washing out early on. In fact, the certification process has been compared in intensity to earning a graduate degree.

If all of that has killed your fantasy of making six figures a year, don’t fret: Check out the other 24 job occupations on the “best-paid” list. Of noteworthy interest for #AvGeeks? Commercial pilots rank No. 10 on the list, with a median salary of $77,200, while aerospace engineering and operations technicians rank No. 25, with a median salary of $68,020.

Featured image by Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.