10 High Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree

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Did you know that not all jobs require a costly degree, and you can even find some high paying jobs that don’t require a degree at all? It's true.

A college degree is no longer the golden ticket to a comfortable middle class lifestyle that it was in years past. Things have changed.

As recently has a few short decades ago, a person could earn a college degree in just about anything and end up doing fairly well in life. That was then. These days a college degree alone isn’t enough. This is due to the fact that a much higher percentage of the population is now college educated.

Since far more people now have college degrees, many are having to earn graduate degrees or even professional certifications (CPA, CMA, PE, etc.) just to stand out from the competition when applying for jobs.

There is an alternative to this endless pursuit of credentials – you could just choose one of the many lucrative careers that don’t require a college degree. This way, you’ll avoid spending years in college, paying expensive rent near campus and battling student loans.

Good Intentions – Bad Advice

For years high school guidance counselors and other well-intentioned people have been telling our youth that the only path in life they should consider is college. That was certainly what I experienced when I was in high school.

College! College! College!

“If you don’t go to college, you will struggle in life.”

It was also strongly implied that if you didn’t go to college that you were somehow a loser. It was never said, of course, but you could sense it in people’s tone.

The problem with this is the fact that many people now graduate from college and end up working in jobs that don’t even require degrees. I’ve seen it happen many times.

There’s the girl with a business degree working as an administrative assistant. Another person I know has a criminal justice degree and works as a legal assistant. And another acquaintance graduated with a degree in museum studies and now works in the gift wrapping department of a big box store.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with any of these jobs. It’s just that you don’t need a college degree to work in any of them.

These folks got bad advice – and they still have to repay all of the debt they took on to earn their degrees. high paying jobs that don’t require a degree

Great Pay – No College Degree Required

Did you know there are many great careers you can pursue that don’t require a college degree at all? It’s true. And these are careers that pay extremely well.

The idea that you have to earn a college degree to make a good living for yourself and your family is simply not true, and it’s long past time that society stops telling our youth that college is the only way to success in life.

Skipping college and entering the workforce definitely has its advantages. For each year you spend in college, for example, that’s a year of your life that you aren’t working and earning. Time is money.

If it takes you four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, that’s four years of your life spent out of the workforce. If you still want to earn a college degree, there are many great schools that offer online degree programs you can complete in your spare time.

The following are 10 high paying jobs that don’t require a degree at all.

*Note: Some of these jobs may require a specific trade degree, certificate or licensing program.

1. Air Traffic Controller

air traffic controller

Let me tell you something about air traffic controllers you may not know: There are many air traffic controllers who are earning more – far more – than the pilots of the aircraft they are directing.

Scout’s honor.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average air traffic controller earns just over $120k per year. And that’s just the average controller. Controllers at the big airports (Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, etc.) are earning closer to $200k a year.

Not too shabby for a career that doesn’t even require a degree, eh?

To become an air traffic controller in the United States you must be a U.S. citizen and be no older than 30 when you apply to the one and only training program in the country (located in Oklahoma City, OK).

There are three ways you can qualify for entry into the program:

  • Have at least one year of experience as a military air traffic controller
  • Have at least three years of any work experience
  • Have a bachelor’s degree in any field of study
  • Have a combination of work and college
  • Complete the FAA’s Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative program

Having a college degree is just one of several paths to qualify for entry into the training program. It isn’t a requirement at all.

2. Nuclear Reactor Technician

nuclear plant technician

Nuclear reactor technicians are the folks who watch over the operations of the reactors that power our lights, heat our homes, and make our toast. They typically work in control rooms and offices using computers and other equipment to monitor operations.

Nuclear reactor technicians earn great pay. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nuclear reactor technicians earn an average annual salary of $79k.

There are associate’s degree programs in this field, but you don’t need a degree to land a job as a reactor technician. In fact, many who end up working as reactor technicians obtain training in the U.S. Navy.

Many of the vessels in the U.S. fleet are now nuclear powered, and it takes a small army (navy?) of nuclear technicians to oversee the operations of the reactors that power them. The U.S. Navy even has its own nuclear technician training school in South Carolina with a staff of 500 and about 2,500 students at any given time.

You could potentially serve as a nuclear technician in the U.S. Navy for a few years and then transition to a land-based reactor after leaving the military – no degree necessary. And the best part of this deal is the fact that the Navy pays for all of your training.

3. Elevator Installer and Repairer

elevator mechanic

Most don’t give a second thought about the operations of the elevators that transport them from floor to floor, but they should – because elevator installation and repair is a highly lucrative career that doesn’t require a degree of any kind.

It takes someone with specialized knowledge to install an elevator. It’s not something that just anyone can or should do. And elevators also require regular inspections and maintenance to make sure they continue operating properly.

According to PayScale, those who install and repair elevators earn and average annual salary of $102k. A high school diploma or GED is all that’s required to get started in this career, and most learn their craft through apprenticeships.

4. Real Estate Broker

real estate broker

Real estate brokers match sellers of real estate to those who are interested in buying. They do all of the work involved in listing new homes for sale, showing homes to potential buyers, assisting in negotiations, and in closing sales.

Real estate brokers often work long hours – including evenings and weekends. They have to be available to show homes when their clients are available. They also typically work on commission, earning a percent of the sale price of each home sold. As such, they can sometimes go weeks without earning anything.

But that doesn’t mean real estate brokers don’t do well for themselves. The career, in fact, can be quite lucrative. According to Glassdoor, the average real estate broker earns $72k a year. And that figure can easily climb into the six figure range for those living in large metro areas.

To become a real estate broker you must become licensed in the state you live. Obtaining a license typically involves completing a training course and passing your state’s broker licensing exam.

5. Freelance Service Provider


Working from home as a full-time freelancer is a great way to earn a lucrative living. If you have skills that others need, you can very easily market your services online to reach potential clients.

Why do companies use freelancers? Using a freelancer for certain tasks allows companies to only pay for the work they need done when they need it. They don’t have to keep a graphic designer on staff, for example, if they only need occasional graphic design work done.

There are many different kinds of work that companies frequently hire freelancers to do. Just a few examples include website design and maintenance, copywriting (business writing), bookkeeping, editing, transcription, virtual assisting, social marketing management, and many others.

There are several websites that freelancers can use to find work. These websites act as brokers, bringing together companies that need work done and freelancers interested in doing the work. The websites earn a percent of each project completed.

How much money can you make as a freelancer? You might be surprised to learn that there are many freelancers earning comfortable six-figure incomes. It is not uncommon at all, for example, for copywriters to charge $100 – $150 an hour for their services – and sometimes more. Website designers often charge thousands for each new website they create. It just takes a few projects for the dollar signs to start adding up.

6. Online Business Owner


We live in an incredible age of technology with a near-limitless source of information just a mouse click away – the internet. In addition to connecting with friends and family on Facebook, watching cat videos on YouTube, and checking out pictures on Instagram, the internet is also where most people these days do their shopping – and you can very easily create your own online retail empire and research online business ideas.

There are several ways to sell items online, but probably the easiest is through Amazon’s FBA program. FBA stands for Fulfillment By Amazon.

A fulfillment center is a warehouse where online retailers store their merchandise. When a product is sold, the fulfillment center takes care of packing and shipping the product. Fulfillment centers have been around for years, but Amazon’s FBA program took the concept to an entirely new level.h paying jobs that don’t require a degree

Through Amazon’s FBA program, anyone can now list their products for sale right on Amazon’s website. It’s essentially the equivalent of opening a store on the busiest street in the world. And it gets even better. Amazon takes care of all of the picking, packing, shipping, customer service issues, and even handles product returns. How about that?

There is a modest monthly fee to join the FBA program, and Amazon does charge a fee for each sale you make, but when you consider the cost of opening a traditional store and paying for a lease, utilities, employee salaries, and other expenses, FBA is clearly the better deal.

7. Blogger

Mention to friends and family that you are interested in starting a blog, and most will probably roll their eyes so far back they can see their brains and mutter something like “good luck with your little hobby.” But the joke’s totally on them.

Did you know that many bloggers earn six-figure incomes? Not only that, but there are some who earn over $1 million a year – just from writing about some pretty ordinary things. Some of the most popular blogs involve topics like personal finance, lifestyle issues, recipes, health issues, technology, and personal development.

I could cite many bloggers who are pulling six-figures, but what’s the fun in that? Let’s take a look at a big fish.

In 2011 Michelle Schroeder-Gardner started Making Sense of Cents, a personal finance blog. It was a hobby at first, just a way for her to write about some financial things she was trying to sort through. It’s kind of hard to call it a hobby these days. Today her blog earns well over $100,000 a month. Stop and think about that for a minute.

Over $100,000 a month.

It’s easy to start a blog, and there are several ways that blogs make money. One is through advertising from Google Adsense. Google is mostly known for its search engine, but the company actually makes most of its money from advertising.

Google’s Adsense program lets bloggers place advertisements right on their blogs. Money is earned when someone clicks an ad. With pay-per-click ads, as they are called, the blogger earns the majority of the commission on the clicks while the rest is Google’s.

Another way blogs make money is through affiliate commissions. This is when a blogger writes about a topic and then recommends certain products. For example, when someone reads an article about saving money on insurance and then clicks a link in the article to a recommended insurance program and signs up, the blogger earns a commission.

There are affiliate programs for just about everything you can imagine. Some pay as little as a few dollars, while others pay well over $100 for each sale that is made through your blog.

Many bloggers also make money by creating and selling their own digital products including ebooks and online courses. The great thing about selling digital products is there is no physical product to ship. Everything is done online and is automated. Ebooks are usually distributed via email or downloaded directly from a website. And online courses can be accessed anywhere and anytime:

AppAt a glancedownload
Join over 24 Million students from around the world already learning on Udemy! Get lifetime access with a few clicks because your goals are worth it.
Master your craft, your passion, or something new with creative classes taught by the world’s best.
linkedinLinkedin Learning
Grow your skills and advance your career with LinkedIn Learning. Learn business, creative, and technology skills to achieve your personal and professional goals.
Explore your creativity with classes in illustration, photography, design, and more.

The combination of pay-per-click advertising, affiliate sales, and selling your own digital products essentially makes your blog a 24/7 selling machine.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, naysayers.

8. Funeral Director

funeral director

Working as a funeral director may not be at the top of many people’s list of potential careers, but it might be something you should consider. The pay is good, there’s not much stress, and you can always count on a steady flow of business.

Funeral directors work to prepare the deceased for burial or cremation. This includes embalming, dressing the deceased, placing bodies in coffins, and applying makeup. Funeral directors also plan and arrange funeral services.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, funeral directors earn an average annual salary of $50k. It’s important to keep in mind that funeral directors often work of the evenings and weekends and must be flexible to oversee services when clients request them.

Although you can enter the profession by completing an associate’s degree in mortuary science, in many states it’s possible to become a funeral director through an apprenticeship and passing a state licensing exam.

9. Locomotive Engineer

locomotive engineer

Trains are a critical component of our modern transportation infrastructure. They transport just about everything you can imagine including natural resources, bulk foods, vehicles, and even people. It’s not a stretch to say that without trains our world be very different.

All of the trains that move items from point A to point B every single day require people in the driver seats to operate them. Turns out, locomotive engineers earn a pretty darned good income. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, locomotive engineers earn an average annual salary of $82k – no college degree required.

The typical path to becoming a locomotive engineer is through on-the-job training. Internship programs are available, and the completion of one of these programs may improve your chances of landing a paid position. After completing a period of on-the-job training, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requires certification to operate as an engineer. Achieving certification includes passing a series of skills and knowledge tests.

10. Commercial Drone Pilot

high paying jobs that don't require a degree

In recent years drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) have become very popular. These remote-piloted vehicles are not the R/C airplanes your grandfather plays with in the local park. They aren’t toys. They are sophisticated tools, and the demand for skilled commercial drone pilots is enormous.

Drones are now being used in many different industries for a variety of different purposes – most commonly for aerial photography and videography. They are used in farming, security, oil and gas exploration, construction, movie production, and in many other fields.

But here’s the thing with operating drones – you have to be certified as a commercial drone pilot by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States in order to operate a drone and be paid for it. Because of this restriction, the demand for commercial drone pilots has exploded and many are earning six-figure incomes.

To become a commercial drone pilot you must be at least 16, be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration, pass a knowledge test, and obtain a Remote Pilot rating.

Many Lucrative Options – No College Degree Required

The idea that you can’t be successful in life unless you earn a college degree is totally false – so stop listening to those who say otherwise. The ten careers I just mentioned prove it can be done. And there are many others that don’t require a college degree, either. high

With a little careful planning, you can easily end up doing very well for yourself without ever stepping foot on a college campus. And not only that, but you’ll also avoid ending up deep in debt funding your degree as so many do these days.

Who’s the smart one now?

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About the author

Cyrus Vanover
Cyrus Vanoverhttps://www.frugalbudgeter.com/
Cyrus Vanover is a freelance business writer who helps marketing managers position their companies for success. Based in Virginia, he enjoys hiking the local trails, exploring new restaurants, and live theater when not writing.


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Joel Monroe
Joel Monroe

Great list! I knew Air Traffic Controller made a healthy salary but I wasn’t sure of the amount. Pretty impressive, and no wonder it tops this list.


Amazing post! this is the list of jobs which i was looking for as non degree holder. You have shared very useful and helpful post for all candidates who are looking for job without college degree. Thanks!


To qualify for the exam to obtain a broker’s license you have to be a licensed real estate agent, usually with a couple years of experience (depending on state law).

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