While many aspire to go to college after high school, not everyone can, or should, head straight to university. Family issues, a lack of funds, unforeseen responsibilities, or the choice of career path might dissuade someone from attending college. Only 27.5% of the U.S. adult population has a four-year college degree.
Many people who do not attend college earn six-figure incomes and become successful without four-year college degrees. In fact, studies revealing that high school graduates earn an average of $1.2 million over the course of their working life illustrate that opportunities exist for those without degrees to make $100,000 or more each year. Achieving financial success without a college degree requires a lot of determination, risk-taking, and networking, but the opportunities are definitely out there.
List of Six-Figure Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree
We’ve compiled the following list of jobs to illustrate some of the most popular careers that offer high income opportunities without a college degree. Keep in mind that just because someone can make $100,000 each year at these jobs does not mean it’s guaranteed. These careers offer the possibility of generating a high income, especially when the careers include a salary, bonuses, commissions, overtime pay, and most importantly, hard work.
We referenced PayScale for information about salaries for the jobs on this list. The salaries vary depending upon the city where you live, your experience in the industry, and a variety of other factors.
Let’s take a look at some six-figure income jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree:
1. Real Estate Broker
Although being a real estate agent requires a license, interested applicants only need a high school diploma to apply. Brokers are always on call, often work nights, weekends, and holidays, and may experience long stretches of time without generating income.
Real estate brokers have an estimated annual salary range of $30,144 to $180,434. During the real estate and house flipping boom, many people became licensed real estate agents, making this a very competitive field. If you have dedication, and continually seek out new clients, however, you can make a good living selling real estate.
Are you ready to get started? Your first step is to sign up for a real estate pre-license course. There are many to choose from, but 360Training.com is one of the most commonly used.
2. Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controllers have to take multiple tests, participate in pre-employment medical screenings, submit to background examinations, and take classes.
Air traffic controllers command large salaries, up to $158,966 on average. The job is stressful, however, as air traffic controllers are responsible for maintaining the safety of thousands of people every day.
Payscale states that the average starting salary for an air traffic controller is around $42,000. That means there’s a lot of opportunity for financial growth. As your salary starts to increase, it’s smart to set aside more and more each month toward investments and retirement. Even though you might have a 401k through your employer, you should maximize your retirement savings by opening an IRA through a brokerage such as You Invest by J.P. Morgan.
3. Freelance Writer
If you enjoy writing and find that it comes easy to you, then freelance writing might be a great career for you. Most people won’t make six figures immediately, but it’s certainly possible. Holly Johnson from ClubThrifty.com makes over $200,000 each year from freelance writing. She’s even put together an online course called Earn More Writing, which walks you through what you need to do to start writing online and become successful.
4. Small Business Owner
You can set your own hours, create your own dress code, and write off some of your expenses (i.e. tax deductions for small business owners) when you own your own business.
However, it can take a long time for your new small business to pay off. If you have time, effort, and energy, and if you offer a viable product or service, your risks can pay off with a nice-sized salary for you and your family. We don’t have a salary range for small business owners, but profitable small businesses can expect a six-figure salary if they put in the time and work hard.
5. Fire Chief
Most firefighters have at least a high school diploma, and if they stay with a division or battalion long enough, working through the ranks, they can step into a leadership role with the department.
Fire chiefs have rewarding careers that also include a lot of risk, and a lot of time away from home. Salaries for fire chiefs range from $42,096 to $119,250.
6. Virtual Assistant
How would you like to set your own hours and choose the clients you work with? You can when you become a virtual assistant, or VA. VAs have the ability to work from home and make great money; just ask Kayla Sloan, the creator of $10K VA. This online course will walk you through getting your first client, setting your rates, and how Sloan makes over $10,000 per month as a virtual assistant.
7. Construction Manager
If you have worked in construction for several years, you may be ready to step up to the role of construction manager. Managers must be on call most of the time in case of any emergencies or delays.
Construction companies frequently promote from within, because managers must have a strong knowledge of the company’s core values and policies. Salaries for construction managers range from $41,562 to $130,845.
Many plumbers make an excellent income without having a college degree. Plumbers learn the trade through technical schools or apprenticeships. Plumbers are always in high demand, and they are paid well because of that demand.
For example, my mother recently paid a plumber $120 for 5 minutes worth of work, to replace a valve in the kitchen sink. Plumbers’ salaries can soar as high as $103,731 and beyond, depending on specialties and training.
9. Network/IT Manager
Someone has to keep computers and related equipment working flawlessly, and corporations pay well for experienced IT people. Interested applicants have to keep up with current technology, and have a desire to keep learning as technology changes.
Network managers and IT managers employed by companies have stable, 9 to 5 jobs with good salaries, benefits, and retirement accounts. Salaries for IT managers range between $53,477 and $125,101.
10. Hotel Executive Chef
Sought-after executive chefs can easily make over $100,000 per year. Executive chefs work long hours, spend a lot of time away from home, and may have high stress levels. However, for someone who loves to cook, working in a hotel kitchen every day can be rewarding.
11. Radiation Therapist
Radiation therapists must have a two-year associate’s degree, or a certificate in radiation therapy, but they don’t need a four-year college degree. These therapists use radiation to target cancer cells in patients, and are paid in accordance with the importance and detail-oriented nature of their work. Radiation therapists can earn as much as $116,000 a year.
12. Court Reporter
It may not be glamorous or exciting, but if you can transcribe 250 words per minute, and have impeccable attention to detail, there may be a courtroom willing to pay you well for your services.
You may need to take classes in transcription and pass a background check in order to qualify for a job as a court reporter. Depending upon the city of residence, court reporters can earn between $29,995 and $104,000.
If you do need glamour or excitement on the job, working as a pilot might be the right choice for you. Pilots have many options, including working for commercial airlines, cargo airlines, and corporations. The average annual salary for a pilot is $110,000, but many experienced pilots make twice that amount. Salaries vary based on ratings, experience, and type of license (e.g. sport pilot license vs commercial or airline transport)
Believe it or not, many jobs that pay six figures do not require a four-year college degree. The examples listed here are just a few of the careers to consider in lieu of attending college. Pay varies depending upon experience, training, and physical location, but the average salaries for the jobs listed above are proof that making over $100,000 each year without a college degree is possible.
Have you achieved financial success without a four-year college degree?