Most people will tell you that you need a four-year college degree to land a high-paying job or career.
But is it true?
Not in today’s job market.
There are plenty of good jobs that don’t require a degree yet offer high pay and strong job growth.
We’re going to look at 18 good careers that don’t require college education (including some that pay $100,000 and above with just a high school diploma).
Here are the best jobs that don’t require college…
Many sales jobs offer an average salary near six figures, often without requiring a degree.
These jobs and their exact pay vary… for example, you can be a car salesman, or you can work in an office selling software to other businesses (this is known as B2B sales, or business-to-business. Whereas selling cars is B2C, or business-to-consumer).
B2B typically has the potential to earn more but will have more employers requiring a four-year college degree. Not all though!
Each employer will have their own requirements in terms of educational background.
And sales jobs have the potential to pay very well because you often earn commission along with a base salary, which means the employer pays you a portion of each sale you bring in.
(The percentage varies depending on the profit margin of what you’re selling. I’d recommend looking to sell something that’s very high margin like software subscriptions if you want to earn $100K+)
Also, this is a type of role where many companies look for entry-level job candidates. So if you need to get a job with no experience, sales is one of your best options.
Once hired into an entry-level sales role, the employer will provide you with job training which includes observing and listening to experienced salespeople.
I think that sales is one of the best careers to start right now, period. (Among all careers, not just among careers that don’t require college).
If you want to learn the basics of sales and get started in this field, I recommend taking a course on Skillshare, which I reviewed here.
Software developers can also earn six figures, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting a current average salary of $110,140.
And this job absolutely doesn’t require a degree anymore. There are many programmers who skipped college and are self-taught or went to coding bootcamps instead of pursuing a four-year college degree.
Like with sales, each employer will have its own educational requirements when hiring software developers, but more and more companies are dropping the need for a college education.
CNBC recently reported that Google, Apple, and 12 other notable technology companies no longer require a four-year degree to land a job!
This makes software engineering one of the best, highest-paying jobs without degree requirements.
Software engineering is also one of the best jobs out there for long-term job growth.
If you’re interested in getting started as a software developer, here are 18 of the best coding bootcamps to choose from.
Many top-earning digital marketers have nothing but a high school diploma. They’re either self-taught or enrolled in digital marketing courses rather than spending four years to obtain a general college degree.
Digital marketing is a high-paying field that leads to great job opportunities, whether you freelance or seek full-time, permanent employment.
You can also specialize in a variety of fields, like social media marketing, content marketing, paid advertising, and more.
If you want some idea of what this type of job can grow into in the long term, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one manager-level role in this field, an Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Manager, earns an average of $141,490 per year.
Many successful real estate professionals don’t have a college education. Instead, they obtain a high school diploma and then proceed to get their real estate license and begin working.
This allows them to jump into the real estate industry at a relatively young age since jobs in this field often don’t require any more formal education.
Like salespeople (mentioned earlier) real estate agents and brokers earn a commission or percentage of the deals they close, so your earnings can be very high (hundreds of thousands of dollars) if you are successful in this business.
Typically, if you earn commission in addition to base salary in your job, you have the potential to earn more than those who are just paid a flat salary in their career.
Because this job is typically centered around one city or location and requires you to build a network, it’s best to choose this path if you plan on staying in your city or region for a long time.
However, it’s possible to relocate and build up a network again if you need to.
A Network Specialist is a technician that works within a company’s IT department to ensure communication networks and systems remain functional without any downtime.
They analyze network performance statistics, monitor and maintain network security, and more.
This is an important job since practically every company communicates digitally now and requires constant up-time for their phones, internet, and more.
This job does require a specific set of technical and computer knowledge, but most employers don’t require a four-year college degree in order to obtain this position. They’re often more concerned with your specific, job-related skills.
Network specialists earn a median annual salary of $56,708 according to PayScale.
Power plant operators watch over and maintain power plant equipment to ensure that everything is functioning properly to generate power safely and reliably.
The median annual pay for this career is $85,950, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and operators typically only need to obtain a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for the job.
Of course, plenty of on-the-job training will be required to learn about the equipment you’ll be working with, safety regulations, and more.
If you choose this career, you can expect a mix of classroom job training and hands-on instruction with the equipment and control panels that you need to use.
Jobs in the skilled trades (plumber, electrician, locksmith, etc.) are often overlooked by people considering college or traditional office jobs, but the fact is: Skilled trades jobs often pay very well and almost never require a college degree (in fact, many don’t even require a high school diploma, although your job search will certainly be easier if you have one).
If you master your craft and specialize in a certain area (for example, commercial plumbing), you can earn six figures.
There are very few higher-paying jobs without a degree, especially if you don’t want to work in an office! (We mentioned sales and software development earlier, as well as real estate. Those can potentially pay more, but you’d be in an office setting).
Read more about the best blue collar jobs and skilled trades jobs here.
This profession is another excellent option if you want to earn a high salary with no degree and without having to sit in an office!
Instead of requiring a degree, employers in the auto repair industry look for job-related knowledge, and often provide job training, too.
So if you’re mechanically inclined, this is a career worth considering. You should also be comfortable with computers for this career choice, since more and more automotive work is done by diagnostic computers these days.
Salary.com reports that the median annual salary for an Automotive Mechanic III is $58,628, so it’s possible to earn very good money after progressing in this field.
You can earn more if you specialize and become an expert at a certain type/brand of vehicle, too. (Each brand is slightly different, and the whole auto repair industry is becoming more computerized/digital – so a true specialist is required to diagnose and repair modern car engines).
Dental hygienists earn a median annual salary of $75,574 and can make up to $95,000, according to Salary.com.
To get started in this job, you’ll just need an associate’s degree and the required licenses/certifications in dental hygiene, which are faster and cheaper to obtain than a four-year college degree!
Note that there are also bachelor’s degrees available in dental hygiene, so you should compare and consider both options when planning your career.
There are a variety of medical jobs that make good careers and don’t require a college degree, and respiratory therapist is one of them.
However, some education and training is required. To become a respiratory therapist, you will need to complete an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy.
However, this two-year commitment certainly beats four years of college. Associate’s degrees are relatively inexpensive because they’re offered by community colleges.
Tip: A great way to discover even more good jobs without degree requirements – go browse a few community college websites in your area and see the list of programs they offer. They likely offer job training for a variety of fields – including some we mentioned above, and some new ones).
Medical records technicians manage and organize patients’ health information and data… including lab data, x-rays, and more.
To obtain this job, you’ll likely need an associate’s degree which requires two years to complete. Then you’ll need certifications.
Still, this is a much cheaper path to a high-paying career than getting a bachelor’s degree! So if you’re interested in working in the medical field, this is a great option to consider.
Median annual pay is lower than most options we’ve looked at previously, though. Salary.com reports that the median salary is $37,887.
A bachelor’s degree is not required to be a commercial airline pilot. Some airlines require it, but others do not.
Many commercial airline pilots earn six figures, and the median annual wage is $78,476 according to PayScale.
Other websites cite this number as being even higher. For example, The Houston Chronicle said in 2018 that the median salary for commercial pilots was $130,059.
While the stats on expected salary vary, it’s clear that this is one of the highest paying jobs without a degree.
You do need to attend flight school and will receive plenty of job training. Air safety is taken very seriously. But you’ll likely be able to pursue this right after high school while skipping the four-year degree.
If you want to earn a high salary and work in the aviation industry but don’t want to be a pilot, then air traffic control is a good career to consider.
Air traffic controllers communicate with pilots on the ground and in the air to ensure safety and prevent collisions or and risky situations.
The job can be stressful and demanding, but you’ll be rewarded financially for this. The median annual pay for air traffic controllers in 2019 was $122,990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Loan officers work for banks, credit unions, and other money lenders to help borrowers when applying for loans.
They most typically help people with mortgage applications (in fact, you may hear this professional referred to as “mortgage loan officer”) but they assist people in applying for other loans, too.
The minimum education requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent. (Some individual employers may require a bachelor’s degree, but it’s not the industry standard).
You will receive job training and be required to understand how loans and other basic financial instruments work, as well as the relevant laws and regulations, but these can be learned without obtaining a degree.
In terms of median annual pay, we looked at various sources and saw a range of numbers, but the general consensus seems to be that you’d earn a salary between $45,000 and $70,000 per year.
So this is a relatively high-paying job considering you just need a high school diploma.
If you’re mechanically-inclined, one more career option to consider is elevator installer/repairer.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that this job pays a median annual income of $84,990, making it one of the best paying jobs on our list.
As far as getting into this career, you’ll just need a high school diploma or equivalent.
After that, you’d want to look for an apprenticeship to begin learning the job-related skills. You may also need to obtain licenses as a final step, depending on what state(s) you’re going to be working in.
I began my career working as a cashier at Whole Foods Market (before they were acquired by Amazon). This was more than a decade ago, yet even then, the store manager made more than $80,000.
Department leaders (like the head of customer service, produce, meat and fish, etc.) all made approximately $20-22 per hour… and were on the path toward potentially becoming store leaders.
So if you don’t mind having to work some odd hours and weekends (which is normal for practically everyone in retail), and don’t mind interacting with customers, then don’t overlook retail store management.
It’s one of the top paying jobs that don’t require a college degree, and it’s often overlooked because people don’t realize how much store managers can earn.
Executive assistants are different than administrative assistants. They’re typically assigned to help one executive in a company including preparing reports, scheduling meetings, organizing tasks, and more.
They may supervise other administrative staff members, too.
Executive assistants earn a median annual salary of $68,744, according to Salary.com.
And you only need a high school diploma to get started.
33% of entrepreneurs never went to college, according to FounderJar.
And becoming an entrepreneur or small business owner is one of the best ways to earn a high income without any specific education.
There are millions of small business owners in the US… selling products and services both online and via physical stores, and when people buy from their businesses, nobody is asking the owner, “What college degree do you have?” or “Why didn’t you continue with your education after getting your high school diploma?” In fact, you don’t even see the owner of many businesses.
A career in entrepreneurship isn’t right for everyone, but it’s a great option for some people. I transitioned from office-worker to small business owner (Career Sidekick is my full-time business) and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
If you’re unsure how to get started with this, here are 25 lucrative side hustle & small business ideas.
We’ve now looked at some of the highest-paid jobs without needing a degree. If you want a job that makes the most money with the least education, this list is where to start.
As a next step, narrow down the list to a few options that interest you most and then do more research into the requirements.
Also, think about what type of job you’d enjoy. Do you want to work in an office or outside? Do you prefer working with technology/information or with people?
There are good careers without a degree for both of those types of jobs. (For example, real estate agents need to be great with people. Software developers don’t).
Also, consider your previous skills and experience. It’s easier to get hired for a job if you have some relevant skills or training already.
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.