The 30 highest-paying jobs without a Degree

Many 100 dollar bills in a wallet

Now we narrowed those down for you to Jobs that pay 100k per year without a degree, a list at 80k per year, and, more easily accessible jobs, from $35k a year or more, all with minimal education and requirements.

Without a college degree

The sad truth is that a Bachelor’s Degree these days, has, more often than not, are bearing zeo financial success than it used to do.

Did you know that even the average Bachelor's Degree holder will take 21 years to pay off a student loan? No wonder that 30% of graduates live with their parents, way beyond the age of 30(USA)!

To add extra gloom to the doom, a recent survey of fast food restaurants show that 15% of their workforce have Bachelor's Degrees but earn less than $21,000 per annum. Today, over 25% of college graduates are overqualified for the jobs they are performing.

What has changed?

  • Well, almost everything. The job market has been subject to Industrial Revolution 4.0. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, rapid communication innovation and the rise of the gig economy has transcended our working realm to a significant extent.
  • These days raw talent, skill, emotional intelligence and adaptability intelligence trumps IQ and a piece of paper confirming four years of theoretical academic slogging towards a bachelor’s degree.

What hasn’t changed?

  • Unfortunately, our youthful indoctrination that one will not get far without a college or university degree has been drilled into pupils for decades as the only means to achieve success and prosperity. “Knowledge is power,” they say. Of course, this is still true, but gaining knowledge does not have to occur within the bricks-and-mortar confinement of college buildings or university facilities anymore.
  • Formal online learning via MOOC’s (which is mostly free) and on-the-job training or job shadowing are just as viable to gain knowledge, increase competence and attain in-demand skills to take your career to the next level.

Herewith are the 30 highest-paying jobs which do not require a Bachelor’s Degree:

Jobs that pay $100k a year without a college degree

100k per year is a lot of money. Even if it's less, having no student debt is a magnificent blessing. Earners of a 100k salary, those without a degree requirement, chose to obtain their professional qualifications through certifications and on-the-job experience, rather than spending 4 years in a (pricey) classroom. Where are your finances after 4 years of college payments? Or better, how are your finances 4 years of salaries and wise financial management? We know!

JobTop Salary per YearAverage Salary per Year
1. Professional Sports Referee$210,000$21,000
2. Commercial Pilot:$165,000$91,000
3. Master Sommelier:$160,000$49,000
4. Air Traffic Controllers:$153,000$94,000
5. Programmers:$125,000$70,000
6. Power Distributors:$121,000$81,000
7. Database Managers:$117,000$65.000
8. Locomotive Engineer:$114,000 $62.000
9. Underwater Welder:$110,000$83,000

American Football Sports Referee at work on the field

1) Professional Sports Referee:

With a salary ranging between $120,000 to $555,000, this may sound too good to be true. No academic background is necessary, apart from obtaining a referee certification in the sport you want to referee. The stakes are high, but so is the return if you have the nerves for putting it all out there with no guarantees of ever gaining enough recognition to join in on this multi-billion-dollar industry!

Typical on-the-job training needed: 10 years or more
Top Salary: $210,000 per year
Median salary: $21,000 annual salary

Commercial Pilot smiling in the cockpit with thumb up

2) Commercial Pilot:

Not your Top Gun scenario with fighter jets, white uniforms, and maverick air maneuvers but, if you want to spend most of your working day among the clouds ample opportunities are available in-flight charters, aerial photography, aerial fire-fighting to name but a few. Certification takes about 12-18 months, depending on how long it takes to accumulate your 250 flight hours. Once established, the average earnings range from $49k – $160k per annum.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 1 year to 1,5 year
Top Salary: $165,000 per year
Average salary: $91,000 annual salary

Sommelier examining wine. Cropped image of confident male sommelier examining wine while smelling it and leaning at the wooden table with wine shelf in the background

3) Master Sommelier:

Imagine spending your days dining and wining in the most excellent restaurants and hotels around the country….and getting paid for it. Master Sommeliers are the expert stewards of the food and hospitality industry. You will be responsible for sourcing wines to pair with the dishes that the establishment offers, conduct wine tastings, and offer wine recommendations to patrons.

Master Sommeliers are certified by the CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers) and may earn up to $160,000 per annum. However, before dusting off those forgotten bottles of wine in the cellar, be reminded that there are currently only 229 Master Sommeliers worldwide. If you want a taste of it, you’re going to have to work for it.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 4 years or more
Top Salary: $160,000 per year
Median Salary: $49,000 per year

Air traffic controller at work in Italy in control room

4) Air Traffic Controllers:

Seen the movie Pushing Tin and you have it about right. Are you cool, calm, and collected in the face of adversity with next-level OCD when it comes to accuracy and detail? If affirmative, then is this potentially the job for you to earn a six-figure salary in just a few years after starting on an entry-level salary of around $94,000. Join the curators of the sky industry by enlisting the military or completing the necessary training through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Typical on-the-job training needed: 12 months
Top Salary: $153,000 per year
Average salary: $94,000 annual salary

Young programmer working

5) Programmers:

Do you have a neck for languages…. of the IT kind that is? Computer programmers are the brainchild behind the apps, programs, and systems we take for granted every day. Coding, coding, and more coding is your daily destiny. Programmers paid dearly for their everyday engagement with binary zeros and ones at $70,000 per year.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 1 year or more
Top Salary: $125,000 per year
Average salary: -$70,000 annual salary

Workplace of the power plant distributor

6) Power Distributors:

In this job, you are in power. Power Distributors monitor and control steam input and electricity output in power plants. On-the-job training is common, and coursework includes electrical engineering and power production subject matter. Distributors earn average salaries of $81,000.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 3 years or more
Top Salary: $121,000 per year
Average salary: -$81,000 annual salary

Female Database manager drawing a database structure

7) Database Managers:

These individuals are responsible for organizing and storing data securely using specialized software and system architecture. Accessibility, integrity, and safety take on whole different meanings in this industry.

Numerous certifications are available for those not interested in spending four years at university before finding a job. The median yearly salary in this field is $70,000.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 1 year
Top Salary: $117,000 per year
Average salary: -$65,000 annual salary

locomotive is in depot for repairs

8) Locomotive Engineer:

For any other engineering job, you would need a 4-year Bachelor’s Degree in chemical, electrical, or mechanical engineering. Not this one, though.

Locomotive Engineers need a high school diploma and a couple of certifications that can be completed while already working. Salaries bring in an average of $62,000 per annum. You will be responsible for operating electric, diesel or gas-turbine trains in the freight or passenger transportation sector.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 3 years or more
Top Salary: $114,000 per year
Average salary: -$62,000 annual salary

Jobs that make 80k a year without a college degree

Top Salary per YearAverage Salary per Year
1. Underwater Welder$110,000$83,000
2. Boilermaker$108,000$75,000
3. Dental Hygienist$102.000$72.000
4. Detectives:$103.000$72.000 
5. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer$98.000$68.000
6. Aircraft Mechanic$95.000$58.000
7. Shipping Engineer (Tax free!)$94.000$72.000
8. Golf Ball Retriever$92.000$63.000

Underwater welder welding underwater

9) Underwater Welder:

Are you the first one to pack scuba gear when going on a beach holiday? Well, how about getting paid $60,000 a year for your underwater antics? If you are top-notch, that number can go up to a comfortable $110,000 package range.

Welders of the waters repair submerged areas of structures like oil rigs and bridges. You would need quite a few diving licenses, but you probably already have that certification done and dusted already.

Typical training needed: 2-6 years
Top Salary: $110,000 per year
Average salary: -$83,000 annual salary

boilermaker fixing a gas water heater with a screwdriver

10) Boilermakers:

A very in-demand trade primarily in food manufacturing, gas, mining, and industrial plant facilities. They assemble, install, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases. The work can be physically demanding and even dangerous at times. If you are willing to take the risk, are flexible to work in remote locations, and are not afraid of heights, you will always have job prospects in this field. The further away from home, the higher the pay. In Alaska, the average salary is around $75,000 per year.
Boilermakers in the oil and gas sector can easily make $100k a year.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 3 years or more
Top Salary: $108,000 per year
Average salary: -$75,000 annual salary

Mouth hygienist helps a young female patient at clinic

11) Dental Hygienist:

Love interacting with people (who cannot talk back most of the time)? A dental hygienist is instrumental in creating noteworthy smiles. As humanity will always be subject to vanity, employment growth in this sector is forecasted at around 20%. A 2-year associate’s degree gets you in and at a pay scale of between $80,000 to $100,000 with set office hours to plan the rest of your life; you will be smiling to the bank.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 2 years or more
Top Salary: $102.000 per year
Average salary: -$72,000 annual salary

oldskool detective behind a desk

12) Detectives:

Not quite a Sherlock Holmes story where every case has a happy ending. Detectives or Criminal Investigators are responsible for investigating crime scenes, collecting evidence, and write reports for use in court cases. Due to highly stressful and downright dangerous working conditions, detectives earn at the higher end of the salary scale of the law enforcement sector.

After completing a police academy program, coupled with a few years of experience, you can expect to make nearly $95,000 per year.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 5 years or more
Top Salary: $103,000 per year
Average salary: -$72,000 annual salary

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer scanning a women belly

13) Diagnostic Medical Sonographer:

Perhaps you did not get the GPA to spend your days as a Neuro Surgeon to the likes of Grey’s Anatomy, or maybe funding is an issue. Consider the opportunities in sonography then. An essential part of patient care where you will be scouting around in the internal anatomy of the human body to track disease progression, find evidence of medical conditions or even monitor the development of tiny humans to be.

An after-school diploma and a few exams with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) will open the door to a meaningful career with earnings of up to $100k.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 4 years or more
Top Salary: $98,000 per year
Average salary: -$68,000 annual salary

Airplane mechanics working on a jet engine

14) Aircraft Mechanic:

Allow your career to take off! (From the ground that is). Aircraft Mechanics paid lucratively, up to $95 000 per year. Formal certification is not required but advised, and you can attend training schools with registered Federal Aviation Authority providers.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 2 years
Top Salary: $95,000 per year
Average salary: -$58,000 annual salary

16) Shipping Engineer (and other amazing, well paid, shipping jobs):

These individuals don’t spend much time on solid ground and a day in the office is somewhere in the Atlantic, Pacific, or Caribbean Ocean. Shipping Engineers supervise and coordinate worker crews responsible for maintaining engines, boilers, deck machinery or electrical, refrigeration and sanitation equipment aboard shipping vessels. Although some companies require a 4-year degree, you can work yourself up to the ranks based on experience if you join the military and complete certifications through the US Marine Academy. Shipping Engineers are well rewarded and earn, on average $70 000 per year.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 5 years or more
Top Salary: $94,000 per year (Tax free!)
Average salary: -$72,000 annual salary (Tax free!)

Golf ball retriever

17) Golf Ball Retriever:

Yes, that’s correct. There are people out there earning a living from diving into ponds, dams, and rivers to collect golf balls. No degree needed, just a driver's license to get you started. Golf Ball Divers earn from $50 000 to $100 000 dollars per year. Caution though, you need to have nerves of steel to brace for encounters with snakes and crocodiles lying beneath those murky waters.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 2 years or more
Top Salary: $92,000 per year
Average salary: -$63,000 annual salary

Jobs that pay 65k A year without a degree

JobTop Pay per YearAverage Yearly Pay
Web Developer$76.000$64.000
Wind Turbine Technician$74.000$53.000
Insurance Appraiser$73.000$56.000
Heavy Equipment Operator$72.000$45.500
Occupational Therapy Assistant$71.000$59.000
Paralegal$69.000$ 52.000
Diesel Mechanic$68.000$55.000

Plumber working on a sink

18) Plumber:

Plumbing is usually the last thing on our minds until you wake up to a drain overflow, waterless taps, or a broken geyser. Also, these little mishaps with showers, sinks, bathtubs, and toilets, usually occur at the most inconvenient of times, which is why there will always be sufficient demand for plumbing services.

To enter this field, you need to complete an apprenticeship at a certified institution. The average salary for a plumber these days is $52.000.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 3 years or more
Top Salary: $78,000 per year
Average salary: -$52,000 annual salary

Female Web designer designing behind her desk

19) Web Developer: These artists don’t use paint and canvas, web developers create masterpieces with graphics, fonts, and images. They design layouts, interactive features, user interfaces, and the backend platforms of websites. Web Developers can work in any industry as permanent employees or freelance consultants. Remuneration may vary, but average earnings are between $64 000 and $76 000.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 2 years or more
Top Salary: $76,000 per year
Average salary: -$64,000 annual salary

wind turbine technicians working on a turbine

20) Wind Turbine Technician:

Certainly not a profession for those afraid of heights. These technicians are responsible for the maintenance and troubleshooting of electrical, mechanical, hydraulic components of turbines. Take note though these turbines are 328 ft high with 116ft blades to contend with. Adrenaline junkies interested in this type of career can expect to earn in the range of $52 000 per year, and you have to pass a couple of certified courses before being allowed in the air up there.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 5 years or more
Top Salary: $74,000 per year
Average salary: -$53,000 annual salary

Car insurance agent assessing car damages

21) Insurance Appraisers:

If you are slightly obsessed with automobiles, damaged ones that is, then the role of an Insurance Appraiser may be just the opportunity to pursue. You will work closely with insurance companies and auto body shops to assess and appraise damage values on vehicles for insurance claims purposes. This job pays around $67 000 and is ideal for youngsters as well as more seasoned individuals who like the combination of corporate and commercial environments.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 1 year or more
Top Salary: $73,000 per year
Average salary: -$56,000 annual salary

Heavy Machine Operator working in an excavator

22) Heavy Equipment Operator:

Brakes, Suspension, Hydraulics, and Pneumatics. If these words cause butterflies in your stomach, then take a look at the variety of opportunities available for operators in construction, mining, forestry, gas, and exploration. You will work with bulldozers, backhoes, cranes, graders, and dump trucks all with the purpose of building, repairing, and maintaining infrastructure to enable the average citizen to get on with their daily lives. Operators may attend various short-term training programs, but you can start with a High School Diploma. Salaries range from $47 000 up to $73 000 per annum.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 6 months to 1 year
Top Salary: $72,000 per year
Average salary: -$45,500 annual salary

Occupational Therapy Assistant helping a patient with streched leg

23) Occupational Therapy Assistant:

Aspiring to purposeful employment? Consider a job in Occupational Therapy as an assistant for $60 000 per year but in an environment offering priceless job satisfaction. As an assistant, you will help patients with injuries or impairments to improve their skills to accomplish daily tasks again by themselves and therefore, enable their independence and quality of life. An Associate degree is an entry requirement in this field.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 5 years or more
Top Salary: $71,000 per year
Average salary: -$59,000 annual salary

Jobs that pay 40k a year without a degree

JobTop Yearly PayAverage Yearly Pay
HVAC Technicians$67,000$48,000
Massage Therapist$66,000$65,000
Architectural Drafter$58,000$53,000
Computer Support Specialist$57,000$45,000
Medical Equipment Repairers$52,500$42,200
Food Service Managers$45,500$41,200
Young female paralegal working at a desk

24) Paralegal:

You are an avid ‘’Suits’’ fan and drawn to complexities, versatility and negotiating frenzies of the legal environment, but you feel slightly intimidated by the thoughts of standing in a courtroom. Why not consider becoming a paralegal? In this type of support role, you are the proverbial backbone that those legal eagles would rely on for assistance in contract preparation, trial preps, research, and office coordination. A paralegal diploma via the American Alliance of Paralegals is preferred, and you may expect remuneration of about $62k after a couple of years’ experience.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 3 years or more
Top Salary: $69,000 per year
Average salary: -$ 52,000 annual salary

Diesel mechanic working on a car

25) Diesel Mechanic:

Big wheels. Period. The life of a Diesel Mechanic revolves around trucks, locomotives, buses and heavy industry vehicles. Your skills will be most useful in repairing and rebuilding diesel engines such as trucks, tractor-trailers, buses, trains, bulldozers, and ships. Many apprentice programs are available lasting about 6 to 12 months, but you can attend these part-time, while still earning an income. All the dirt, grime and oil you have to deal with is handsomely set off by earnings of between $55 000 and $68 000 a year.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 2 to 3 years or more
Top Salary: $68,000 per year
Average salary: -$55,000 annual salary

HVAC Technician checking for power on a rooftop condensing unit.

26) HVAC Technicians:

Keeping warm air in and fresh air out or the other way around depending on the season is why we have HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air-conditioning) systems in our homes and offices. HVAC technicians are responsible for keeping these systems in tip-top condition. To become an HVAC Technician, you need to complete an apprenticeship, but you can earn $48 000 within two years of employment.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 3 years or more
Top Salary: $67,000 per year
Average salary: -$48,000 annual salary

Message therapist giving shoulder massage

27) Massage Therapist:

If you feel you have the ‘’ magic touch’’ then a career in massage therapy could be on the cards for you. Therapists can specialize in various areas, including deep-tissue, acupressure, reflexology, orthopedic, sports massage, and even infant massage therapy. This job can be as rigid or flexible as you want it to be regarding working hours, which makes it ideal as either a part-time or full-time gig. To us, it's the lowest-stress job we could find. The average salary of a massage therapist is $40,000 but increases rapidly with added certifications added to your repertoire.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 6 months or more
Top Salary: $66,000 per year
Average salary: -$66,000 annual salary

Architectural Draft

28) Architectural Drafter:

Also called Civil Engineering Technicians, these people are responsible for converting architect visions into reality by producing technical drawings of project designs for buildings, residential housing, and infrastructures. An Associate degree is required to work in this field. Drafters can expect earnings of $53 000 on average.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 3 years or more
Top Salary: $58,000 per year
Average salary: -$53,000 annual salary

Computer Support male calling behind his computer

29) Computer Support Specialist:

Also called network administrators, these are the angels making sure that PCs work, tablets are optimized, and your printer is rarely offline. For these duties, they get paid around $72,000 per annum. They are also the ones we phone when we have accidentally erased documentation or clicked on an email containing a worm, Trojan or crawler causing havoc in our computer realm. Apart from really understanding the inner workings of Information Technology Systems, you need to have a copious amount of patience to deal with IT Illiterate (and very impatient) people daily.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 1 year
Top Salary: $57,000 per year
Average salary: -$45,000 annual salary

Medical Equipment technician with laptop

30) Medical Equipment Repairers:

Medical School is not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you cannot make a valuable contribution to patient healthcare. It is not a DIY environment, and one does need an associate’s degree, which is two years in biomedical equipment or electronic engineering to start a career in this field.

Highly specialized medical equipment requires continuing maintenance and parts replacement to ensure adherence to safety rules and regulations. Medical equipment repairers are responsible for preventative maintenance, installation, programming, and testing of equipment at hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Salaries may vary across states, but the median earnings in this sector are about $50 000.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 4 years or more
Top Salary: $52,500 per year
Average salary: -$42,200 annual salary

Food Service Manager at work at McDonald's

31) Food Service Managers:

The operations of a restaurant are the responsibility of the food service manager. As the leader of the staff, they ensure customers are satisfied and manage the business to ensure its profitability and operability. Most applicants have a high school diploma and several years of experience in hospitality. Some food chain restaurants offer free university programs to their staff while you are still on the payroll.

Typical on-the-job training needed: 2 years or more
Top Salary: $45,500 per year
Average salary: -$41,200 annual salary

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I make 150k a year without a degree?

You can earn an annual pay of around 150k by pursuing a career as a commercial pilot, real estate agent, air traffic controller or radiation therapist

Can you make 6 figures without a degree?

Although some jobs are better paid than others no matter if you have a bachelor’s degree or not, your annual income depends on your qualifications, abilities and luck. Similarly, some entrepreneurs make more than others even though they have less experience in the same business.

 Can I live without working?

How cliché it might sound, make your hobby your work, and you will never be working a day in your life! For the couch potatoes, we think about professional gaming, taking part in medical studies, or becoming mattress testers. Or, join the workforce of the oldest profession, and become a mattress.

Success without Academic Distress

As a reiterating side note to confirm the idea that a 4-year degree is not the only constituent ticket to success, think Branson, Jobs, Dell, Ford, Rockefeller, and Spielberg.

Yes, you guessed it. None of these global influencers rose to the pinnacle of success backed up by a 4-year degree. Grit, talent, street smart, and copious doses of tough work steered them to the top of the money chain.

Not that money should be the only motivation in the journey to career self-actualization, but it certainly ranks in the top three for most people.

Time to rethink your career strategy, perhaps?