The Top 20 Highest Paying Jobs Without a Degree

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The cost of earning a college degree these days is wildly out of control, and it’s now common for students to graduate owing tens of thousands in student loan debt.

A college degree is a requirement for all high-paying jobs, right?

Not necessarily.

There are plenty of jobs that don’t require a college degree that pay very well. The idea that you have to earn a college degree to make a good living for yourself is just that – an idea. It’s a common misconception that is not based on facts.

If you are wondering what the highest-paying jobs without a degree are, then wonder no more. I’ve assembled a list of 20 of the best opportunities for those who would rather skip years of sitting in classrooms and accumulating student loan debt (that may take years to repay). This list is for those who would rather start working and earning good money sooner rather than later.

I also want to mention that some of the opportunities on this list are traditional jobs, while others are small business opportunities that are affordable to start and easy to scale.

This list is in no particular order.

1. Licensed Practical Nurse

Licensed practical nurses (LPN) or licensed vocational nurses (LVN) are healthcare professionals who are trained in patient assessment, medical procedures, pharmacology, and other critical patient care skills.

LPNs work in many different places and are critical components of our modern healthcare system. They work in hospitals, doctors offices, nursing homes, outpatient facilities, in patients’ homes (home health nursing), and other places.

To become an LPN, you do not need a college degree. You do, however, need to complete a formal training program. Many LPN programs are offered at community colleges and vocational schools. Some of these programs are two years long, while others are only one year.

Graduates of LPN or LVN programs are usually awarded a certificate in practical or vocational nursing. To work as an LPN or LVN, you must also pass a state licensing exam.

If you become an LPN and want to advance in your career to become a registered nurse (RN), many community colleges offer LPN to RN bridge programs.

The average annual salary for an LPN is $41,000.

2. Virtual Assistant

A virtual assistant is someone who works from home helping business owners with various tasks. Many who use virtual assistants own online businesses like eCommerce websites, blogs, and other websites.

Virtual assistants take care of many different things for their clients. Just a few possibilities include:

  • Writing blog posts
  • Search engine optimization
  • Transcription
  • Managing email
  • Bookkeeping
  • Online research
  • Data entry
  • Processing orders
  • Scheduling

Virtual assistants are small business owners, and to get started you’ll need a business license and a plan of action.

How much do virtual assistants make? It depends on many different factors like how good of a job you do, how many clients you have, and others.

Kayla Sloan is an example of a virtual assistant who consistently earns over $100k a year. To help others achieve success as virtual assistants, Kayla offers an online course called $10k VA that shows you how to get started in this business and ramp things up so you can make a great living for yourself working on your own terms from home.

No college degree required!

3. Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents are professionals who deal with the buying and selling of homes and other properties. Real estate agents work with sellers to list their properties and show them to prospective buyers. They also work with buyers to help them find the best properties for their needs and budgets. This is one of the highest-paying jobs without a degree or experience there is.

You do not need a college degree to become a real estate agent, although you do need to complete a formal course of study in real estate and pass a licensing exam. If you are interested in becoming a real estate agent, be sure to check with your state to see what you have to do to become licensed, since the requirements differ depending on the state you live in.

The important thing to keep in mind about this career is that real estate agents do not earn a salary. Instead, they operate on commission when transactions occur. This means you could potentially go weeks without earning anything. It depends a lot on how active the market is and how hard you work.

The average annual salary for real estate agents is $52,000.

4. Blogger

Did you know that many bloggers earn full-time livings writing about various things from the comfort of their homes? Not only that, but many bloggers are really making bank. It’s not uncommon for bloggers to earn six-figures – and there are even some bloggers who earn over $1 million a year!

Scout’s honor.

There are several ways that blogs make money. One is through advertising. There are several advertising networks you can join for ad placement. Another method is through affiliate marketing. This is when you write about certain products. If people click a link in your post to that product and buy it, you earn a commission for the sale.

Sponsored posts are another method for making money with blogs. This is when companies pay you to write about their products and services.

Selling digital products is the last method for making money with blogs. This is when you sell either an ebook or online course.

One of the great things about making a living as a blogger is that your blog can continue to sell for you 24/7. After your blog starts to get some traffic, the posts you write continue to make sales for you as people read about the products and services you link to.

Starting a money-making blog isn’t as simple as starting a website and writing about anything and everything. You need a strategy to be successful. Your blog needs to focus on something specific. Take this blog, for instance, the one you’re reading right now. It focuses on personal finance and entrepreneurship.

Alex Nerney and Lauren McManus are a couple who started blogging just a few short years ago. They now consistently earn over $100,000 a month. Yes, that’s right – they are millionaire bloggers. To help others get started as professional bloggers, they created a series of courses that guide you in creating a blog of your own and earning a living from it. They offer four courses including:

Alex and Lauren also offer a special bundle where you can get all four courses together for a discounted price in their Pro Blogger Bundle.

5. Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controller is one of the highest-paying jobs that doesn’t require a degree there is. There are even some working in this profession who earn six-figures.

This really shouldn’t come as a big surprise considering the importance of the work they do. Without people to guide aviation traffic around busy airports, traveling by air would not be anywhere near as safe as it is.

Did you also know that you don’t need a college degree to become an air traffic controller?

It’s true. But to enter this profession you do need to meet certain requirements. To qualify for an air traffic control training program, you must:

  • Be no older than 30
  • Be a United States Citizen
  • Meet the education and experience requirements

There are three different ways you can satisfy the education and experience requirements. They include:

  • Having at least one full year of experience as a civilian or military air traffic controller.
  • Have either three years of any type of work experience, a bachelor’s degree, or a combination of work and education that equals three years. The FAA considers 30 credit hours equal to nine months of work.
  • Complete the FAA Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative at a participating college or university and receive a recommendation from the school.

Although earning a college degree is one route to gaining admission into an air traffic control training program, it’s not the only way.

The average annual salary for air traffic controllers is $87,000.

6. Freelance Writer

Freelance writing is another popular way to earn a living working from the comfort of your home. Now, I’m not talking about writing fiction. This isn’t about writing the next great American novel, poetry, short stories, or anything like that. It’s about writing for businesses.

It’s a type of writing known as business writing or copywriting. And one of the great things about this business is that you don’t need a college degree to succeed in it.

Copywriters write many different things for companies. Just a few examples include:

  • Website content
  • Blog posts
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Email sales messages
  • Product descriptions
  • And many others

The demand for good writers is very strong. There are thousands of companies in the United States alone that need skilled wordsmiths to write their marketing materials. And thousands of websites need someone to write their blog posts on a regular basis.

Holly Johnson is someone who gave up her job for the life of a freelance writer. Tired of the corporate grind, Holly struck out on her own. Just two years later she was earning six-figures. She now earns over $200,000 a year writing for various online publications.

To help others break into freelance writing and achieve success, Holly created an online course called Earn More Writing. In her course, Holly reveals everything she did to get started, take on more clients, increase her earnings, and earn a full-time income working from home.

7. Plumber

It’s not sexy, exciting, or glamorous – but it pays very well.

Plumbing is a skill that is always in-demand. And you don’t need a college degree to become one, either.

Plumbers are used in the construction of new homes, offices, and other buildings. They also repair burst pipes, leaky faucets, and clogged pipes for clients.

There are many community colleges and trade schools that offer courses in plumbing. You can also learn the trade through an apprenticeship. The demand for plumbers is so strong that many companies will train you on-the-job for your new career.

To become fully certified as a plumber, you will need to pass an exam. The rules vary depending on the state you live in, and you may be required to serve as an apprentice plumber for 2-5 years before you can take the required exam.

The average annual salary for a plumber is $52,000.

8. Flea Market Flipper

What’s that? You’ve never heard of a flea market flipper? Well, not only is it a legitimate occupation, it’s also a business opportunity that lets you be your own boss and potentially earn a great living – no college degree required.

A flea market flipper is someone who buys products from flea markets that are undervalued and then resells them for a profit on eBay. I’m not talking about buying products that are $5 that you can flip for $20. It would take way too many transactions to make any money like that. I’m talking about buying things for $50 that you can resell for $500, or buying things for $100-$200 that you can resell for $1,000 or more.

It doesn’t take too many transactions like that to earn a full-time living doing this.

It’s important to point out that there are many different places where you can buy undervalued items to flip, not just at flea markets. Items can be found at thrift stores, yard sales, and on online sites like Craigslist, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and others.

Many people don’t know what their stuff is worth, and they often grossly underprice items when listing them. Thanks to modern smartphone technology, you can easily compare prices to the going rates on eBay to look for good deals.

Rob Stephenson is someone who earns a full-time income as a flea market flipper. He started flipping items as a side-hustle in his spare time. One year, he earned $30,000 working just 10-15 hours a week.

Rob eventually went all-in with flipping and it’s now his full-time gig. He now earns over $100,000 a year working 25-30 hours a week. To help others get started as flea market flippers, Rob and his wife Melissa created an online course called Flipper University where they teach you everything you need to get started and earn a full-time living flipping used items.

9. Sales Representative

Sales representatives have earned a bad rap over the years for going door-to-door selling insurance, encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners, and other things. For some reason, sales reps always seem to knock on people’s doors at the most awkward times.

Thankfully, the days of door-to-door sales reps are mostly a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean sales reps are extinct. Far from it.

Many companies still use sales representatives. You probably encountered one (or several) the last time you went shopping for a new vehicle. Sales reps are also crucial in the pharmaceutical industry. You may have seen a pharmaceutical rep during your last doctor’s visit while you were waiting to be seen. And many software companies use sales reps to sell high-priced software to businesses.

Most sales representatives work on commission, and some earn six-figure incomes. It just depends on what you sell and how good you are at your job.

Many sales representative positions don’t require a college degree. Some do, however. It just depends on the company you work for.

The average annual income for a sales representative is $57,000.

10. Sell Products on Amazon

This is another great home-based business opportunity for those who would like to be their own boss.

You may not realize it, but many of the products sold on Amazon are actually sold by third-party retailers. And many of those third-party retailers are small businesses operated out of people’s homes.

Amazon now makes it very easy to sell products on its platform through its Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA) program. In this program, you mail your products to the company’s warehouses. The products are then checked in and listed for sale on the company’s website.

When a product sells, Amazon picks, packs, and ships the product for you (for a commission). The company also handles customer service inquiries and product returns.

Jessica Larrew is someone who earns a full-time income selling products on Amazon. Like many, Jessica started selling products on Amazon on a part-time basis. But when she was let go from her job in 2008, she decided to go all-in and sell products online full-time.

Today, both Jessica and her husband Cliff earn six-figures selling on Amazon. To help others get started selling products, they created an online course called Amazon Boot Camp that teaches you everything there is to get started, how to source products to sell, and other information you’ll need to be successful.

11. Electrician

Like plumbers, electricians are needed in the construction of new homes, offices, and other buildings. The work they do is critical in maintaining the infrastructure that powers our lives. Without them, there would be no television, radio, internet, air conditioning, modern washers and dryers, and other conveniences.

Hats off to all of the electricians who keep our lights on.

Many community colleges and vocational schools offer electrical training programs – but no college degree is required to work as an electrician. After completing a training program, you will need to work as a journeyman for a while to gain experience. You must then pass an exam to qualify as an electrician.

If you are interested in becoming an electrician, be sure to check the requirements that are specific to your state.

The average annual salary for an electrician is $54,000.

12. Social Media Manager

The use of Facebook ads to promote products and services is now very common. But did you know that most companies don’t have a clue about how Facebook ads work? Creating and managing ad campaigns on the platform is a complete mystery to them.

There are are also many people who simply don’t have the time to manage social media ads for their companies. They are often too busy doing other things. Because of this, many companies use social media managers to oversee their advertising campaigns on the popular social network.

Did you know it’s common for social media managers to charge $1,000-$2,000 per client each month to manage their Facebook ads? With fees like this, you only need a few clients to earn a full-time living.

To help others get started with their own Facebook ad management businesses, Bobby Hoyt and Mike Yanda created a course called the FB Side Hustle Course. In this course, they teach you everything you need to know about creating and managing ads, landing clients, and other things you need to know to be successful.

13. Electrical Power Line Installers and Repairers

Similar to electricians, electrical power line installer and repairers are those who maintain the power lines, transformers, and other electrical equipment you see hanging from polls everywhere you go. The work they do is important in making sure electricity is delivered from the power station that generated it to your home, office, and other places. These professionals are also called linemen.

It’s important to point out that linemen work outside, and they often have to work in bad weather. Linemen have to bear the scorching heat and humidity during the summer months and watch out for sunburns. But they may also get called to work during bad snowstorms to fix transformers and restore the electricity when it has gone out in a service area.

You do not need a college degree to become a lineman. Many community colleges and vocational schools offer formal training programs to train linemen, but apprenticeships are also available.

The average annual salary for a lineman is $71,000.

14. Locomotive Engineers

Trains are a vital component of modern transportation. They are the heavy haulers of just about everything you can imagine. And even in an age where many things are now computer-operated, trains still need a human at the controls to make sure they are operated safely and correctly.

Train operators do not need a college degree, although they do need to be at least 21 years old. To become one, you first have to obtain an entry-level job with a railroad. You then complete a formal training program (which is typically offered by the railroad). After completing the training program, you must then pass an exam to obtain a license as an engineer.

After obtaining a license to operate as an engineer, you must then participate in continuing education programs to ensure your skills remain sharp and you stay on top of changing rules and regulations.

The average annual salary for a locomotive engineer is $91,000.

15. Aircraft Mechanic

When many think of careers in aviation, they often think about jobs working as pilots or working as air traffic controllers. But the role that aircraft mechanics play in making sure the aircraft we fly around in are safe is vital. It’s a career worth considering.

There are three ways to become an aircraft mechanic. First, you can complete a formal training program for aircraft mechanics. These programs are sometimes offered at community colleges. There are also schools that specialize in this field. It’s important to point out that a college degree is not necessary to become an aircraft mechanic.

The second way to become an aircraft mechanic is to work as an apprentice. If you can land a job working as a helper to a certified aircraft mechanic, you can acquire the necessary experience to qualify for the aircraft mechanic exams.

The third method for becoming an aircraft mechanic is to acquire experience in the military. All branches of the armed forces use aircraft, and they all have aircraft mechanics to service their fleets. After you have acquired the necessary experience, you can then take the licensing exams.

There are actually two different exams in the field of aircraft mechanics. There is one that qualifies you to work on airframes, and the other qualifies you to work on engines. You can obtain work with only one license, but it’s common for mechanics to have both.

If you go the apprentice route, you’ll need a minimum of 18 months of practical experience working under the direct supervision of a licensed aircraft mechanic for each license. You will also need to show the FAA proof that you actually did work under a licensed aircraft mechanic before they will let you take the licensing exams. This includes keeping your pay stubs and acquiring a letter from your employer.

The average annual salary for an aircraft mechanic is $72,000.

16. Boilermaker

A boilermaker is someone who is skilled in the trade of fabricating boilers and other large metal containers that are designed to hold hot liquid or gas. In addition to making these containers, boilermakers also maintain and repair them.

A college degree is not required in this career, and the typical pathway to becoming a boilermaker is to apprentice for a period of 4-5 years. Some schools do offer boilermaker prep programs, and welding is another valuable skill that those interested in this career can learn to help them advance.

The average annual salary for boilermakers is $59,000.

17. Nuclear Power Reactor Operators

The United States currently produces about 19% of its electricity from nuclear power plants. And a small army of skilled technicians is needed to oversee the operations of those plants to make sure electricity is produced safely.

Although a college degree is not required to work in this field, significant training is required for the job. Some plants offer on-the-job training programs, and you may be able to get a foot in the door by applying for an equipment operator position. Typically, a period of three years of training and experience is required before you can test to become a fully-licensed operator.

The average annual salary for nuclear power reactor operators is $73,000.

18. Gaming Managers

If you are someone who enjoys the glitz and glamour of casino life, then working as a gaming manager is something you should consider. Gaming managers are important in the successful operation of any casino.

Gaming managers supervise the floor operations of a casino. They are responsible for taking care of customer service issues, managing employees, and making sure the casino adheres to all laws and regulations that govern its operations.

A college degree is not required to become a gaming manager. Many get started in this career by first working another job within a casino and then advancing to the level of manager after a few years.

The average annual salary for gaming managers is $62,000.

19. Postmaster

Postmasters are managers of local post office branches. They have many different responsibilities including making sure the mail is delivered, overseeing retail operations, and managing personnel.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) does not have any formal education requirement to become a Postmaster. The organization is really big on promoting from within, so the key to eventually landing a postmaster job is to get a foot in the door working for the USPS. For most, this means obtaining a job as a mail carrier or working behind the counter selling postage and taking care of customers. Another route is to obtain a job working for a large mail sorting facility. These are usually located in large cities, so you may have to relocate to land one of these positions.

To become a postmaster, you will also need to complete a 16-week internal training program that is offered by the USPS called the Associate Supervisor Program (ASP). The program consists of both classroom and on-the-job instruction.

The average annual salary for a postmaster is $79,000.

20. Detective or Criminal Investigator

Do you love a good cop movie? Perhaps you enjoy watching the ID channel and dream of solving crimes and making a difference in your community. If so, you might want to consider becoming a detective or criminal investigator. It’s a richly rewarding career where the work you do makes a difference in people’s lives and no two days are ever the same.

Despite the proliferation of colleges and universities offering degrees in criminal justice, you do not need a college degree to become a detective or criminal investigator. The most common pathway to becoming a detective is to first work as a police officer for several years.

You will also most likely need to complete some formal training programs in criminal investigations along the way to advance to detective. Depending on the state you live in, you may also be required to pass a qualifying exam and obtain certification or a license.

The average annual salary for a detective is $60,000.

Highest Paying Jobs Without a Degree – Final Thoughts

Did you realize there were so many different careers that don’t require spending several years of your life earning a college degree (and possibly going deep in debt to do it)?

For each additional year that you spend in school, that’s a year of working and earning money that you are losing. If you are smart about your career choice, you may be able to land a high-paying job that doesn’t require a degree, a job that could be a life-long career.

If you still want to earn a college degree, there are now many reputable schools that offer online degree programs. You could work full-time and work on your degree on a part-time basis of the evenings, weekends, or whenever you have free time.

Although many of the highest-paying jobs without a college degree do require the completion of formal training programs and passing licensing exams, some of these training programs are on-the-job and don’t require paying for expensive tuition and forgoing earning a living for a while.

Cyrus Vanover

Cyrus Vanover, MBA, is a financial copywriter who has written for companies of all sizes. He is also the author of the personal finance book, "Earn A Debt-Free College Degree." His goal is to help families save money, make more money, and achieve financial independence. Based in the mountains of Virginia, he enjoys hiking the local trails, listening to 80s music, and reading books on military history in his spare time. Read more.

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