Higher education is important for landing a well-paid job. However, it’s still possible to find gainful employment without a university diploma. There is no shortage of high-paying jobs you can explore without a degree.
Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs are perfect examples of successful people who made a fortune without a university degree. All the success they have gained came owing to their ingenuity.
If you’re on the lookout for the highest-paying jobs without a degree or experience, this text is perfect for you. Let’s check it out!
Despite what many people think, a college degree is not a must for having a lucrative career. Some of the most successful businesspeople don’t have one.
While they don’t require a formal university degree, some positions may require specific certifications or licenses.
The skills necessary for most of the highest-paying jobs without a degree can be picked up through on-the-job training. Alternatively, you can learn some skills by attending specific courses.
Some of these jobs require working under severe conditions; others, however, involve a bit of fun.
20 Paying Jobs Without a Degree in 2023
The baby boomer generation (people born in the mid-20th century) used to believe that one could land a high-powered job only with a university diploma. For that reason, the so-called boomers insisted on their children going to college, hoping it would help them make big money. This eventually ended up in individuals’ repaying thousands of hundreds of dollars in student loans.
The shocking truth is that, nowadays, a degree is not necessary to get a lucrative job. A high school diploma equivalent would do for some, while others may require certain certifications. After all, a university diploma is not an exclusive prerogative for a successful career. Today, there is a long list of paying jobs without a degree, and we present you with 20 of them.
#1. Air Traffic Controler
The role of an air traffic controller involves managing air traffic. It’s an extremely responsible, sometimes even stressful job, but it’s also highly paid; air traffic controllers may earn more than $130,000 per year, making it one of the highest-paid jobs without a degree.
For this position, you will need an associate degree. You will also need to undergo continuous training and have a few years of responsible work experience. The ideal combo is education or training plus expertise.
This is not a common 9 to 5 job; rather, the working hours are untypical, with frequent night shifts. If you don’t mind working late hours, you can look for opportunities on universal job boards (Indeed) or specialized platforms for aeronautical vacancies (FlightJobs or Nats).
The job prospects, however, are not very high—about 1% in the period from 2022 to 2032, yet there are vacancies emerging on a regular basis.
#2. Commercial Pilot
For airline pilots, a bachelor's degree is one of the common requirements, but it’s not essential for commercial pilots.
These pilots fly helicopters and non-airline planes, such as private jets. As opposed to their airline peers, commercial pilots typically perform charter and private flights and aerial tours.
While commercial pilots don’t need a university diploma, they do need specific certificates and licenses. They have to attend a commercial pilot course and flight training, after which they take an FAA test. Specific experience is usually required, mostly about 12+ months of on-the-job training.
The commercial pilot’s average earning potential revolves around $100,000-$120,000, and the job is expected to grow 4% in the ten-year period (2022-2032).
If the salary sounds attractive and you have the required expertise, you can look for employment on job search sites, such as Indeed or ZipRecruiter, or specialized aviation boards like PilotsGlobal, AirlineJobFinder, and Aviation Job Search.
#3. Construction Manager
A construction manager is in charge of supervising and managing construction projects, ranging from expense estimates to final inspections. They collaborate with civil engineers and architects to make sure that the construction project meets all the requirements. In addition, they are responsible for obtaining the necessary licenses and permits.
Although this role can require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in construction, one might be able to obtain it without it if he or she has sufficient experience and has completed relevant programs/courses. Sometimes, companies may provide on-the-job training where you’ll be supervised by an experienced manager.
The construction manager’s salary spans from about $113,000 to nearly $150,000, with an average of around $131,000. The job outlook is 5% from 2022 to 2032, which is much faster compared to other occupations.
#4. Product Manager
Product managers are responsible for overseeing the manufacturing of specific products. They ensure the quality of production, manage the budget, and keep the production timelines. Product managers can work in various industries—software development, marketing, production, etc.
In terms of education, project managers typically have a bachelor’s degree and loads of skills they acquired on boot camps, where you may get specific certifications through on-the-job training.
As a product manager, you could earn an average of about $118,000 annually. The salary starts at about $91,000 and can rise up to $154,000 per year. Product management is a hot career path, so its growth is projected at 30% every year. There seem to be more openings than skilled candidates who can fill them.
#5. Elevator Installer
The role of an elevator installer and repairer is one of those menial jobs that is usually taken for granted. To everyone’s surprise, it’s ranked among the highest-paid jobs without a degree. And given the conditions they work under—confined and claustrophobic spaces using heavy machinery and being available 24/7—it’s no wonder why they’re paid well.
Elevator installers typically make close to $100,000. No growth or change in employment is projected in the upcoming ten years. Still, there are an average of 2,100 openings every year.
To thrive in this position, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent and obtain skills and experience through an apprenticeship.
#6. Power Plant Operator
The primary responsibilities of a power plant operator include operating, maintaining, and controlling machines that produce electric energy to the grid. They also regulate how much electricity the power plant generates.
This position is highly technical, so all the necessary skills can be acquired through on-the-job training. Thus, all the necessary formal education doesn’t go beyond a high school diploma or its equivalent.
The average salary for a power plant operator revolves around $72,000 and $89,000, with a median of about $80,000. The job is expected to decline by 10% by 2032. Specialized job boards such as Rigzone, Oil and Gas Job Search, and Total Jobs are ideal for seeking vacancies for this position.
#7. Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent or broker purchases, sells, or rents real estate on behalf of their clients. In addition, they help homebuyers find their dream home or property.
To become a real estate agent, a high school diploma or its equivalent is required, along with some real estate courses. Agents also need to take a state-administered exam to obtain the necessary requirements.
To thrive in this career, real estate agents need to excel at networking and establishing relationships. They should also be comfortable working long hours since prospective clients frequently want to visit properties outside typical office hours.
The number of sold properties has a direct impact on the payment; the more they sell, the higher the salary will be. But on average, real estate agents can earn around $95,000. Highly experienced agents might make even more, up to nearly $190,000.
Employment for this position is expected to grow by 3% by 2032, which is as fast as other occupations.
#8. Sound Engineer
The tasks of a sound engineer involve setting up audio equipment, making sure that microphones function properly, and monitoring and operating equipment such as amplifiers, effects units, etc., during an event or performance. Their duties may also include recording and synchronizing sounds, along with managing the lights.
Even though some vacancies may require an associate degree, usually certificates or postsecondary non-degree awards will do. What matters most are audio engineering skills gained through on-the-job training.
Audio engineering is among the low-stress jobs that pay well. Sound engineers make a median salary of about $96,000 per year, but their payment may hit a whopping $213,000! Sound engineering job prospects should grow by 2% in the upcoming decade, with nearly 13,000 openings.
#9. Web Developer
Web developers are in charge of designing, building, and maintaining websites. As such, they blend both technical and creative skills without the need for a university degree. However, employers might prefer candidates who have specific certificates or an associate degree.
This position is in high demand, so the job prospects in the next decade are pretty high, amounting to 23%. The base salary for this role is about $77,000, while the average annual salary amounts to about $81,000.
If you’re on the lookout for a web developer gig, check out platforms such as Upwork, Indeed, or LinkedIn. You can also apply directly to companies, as this is a widely sought-after position.
#10. Aircraft Mechanic
Aircraft wouldn’t be safe for travel without mechanics to maintain and repair them. Aircraft mechanics inspect, repair, and care for both private and commercial jets. This job involves working in cramped spaces, like the interior of a plane fuselage.
These technicians commonly have a high school diploma or its equivalent. They also have to undergo an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) certificate program to acquire all the necessary knowledge and skills. Alternatively, they can do so via training in the military.
The salary starts at $35,000 per year and may reach $110,000, with the average revolving around $73,000. To earn more, you should attend more courses and earn certificates so that you can maintain higher-tier aircraft.
You can look for opportunities on general job platforms like Indeed and LinkedIn or aviation-specific ones like Aviation Job Search, FlightGlobal, and Aerotek.
A postmaster or mail superintendent plans, instructs, and organizes the operational, administrative, and support services of a US post office. They are responsible for managing one or several post offices.
To fill the position of postmaster, a postsecondary or university degree is not mandatory; a high school diploma or an associate degree will be sufficient. However, what is a must is several years of experience working within the US Postal Service.
The median salary for this role is about $75,000, but as you grow with the company and gain more experience, you can earn up to $94,000.
The postmaster position is experiencing a rapid decline—by 2031, it’s projected to drop by 5%. You can check out vacancies for this role on the official United States Postal Service website, job platforms, and social networks.
If you are a shutterbug with decent photography equipment, then the role of photographer would be perfect for you. This creative role allows you to choose the niche that resonates with you most—wedding, concert, event, sports, or stock photography, to name a few.
In addition to an eye for detail and a bit of creativity and imagination, you don’t need any formal education. Yet, some photographers attend special programs and courses where they learn about composition and retouching, as well as other elements and photography skills crucial for high-quality photographs.
The photographers’ salary ranges from $62,000 to $82,000, with a median of $70,000. The employment of photographers is expected to rise by 4% in the next ten years, meaning that close to 14,000 job openings are projected every year.
If you would like to work as a photographer, you can check out job opportunities on platforms such as Upwork, FlexJobs, and Indeed.
A plumber is the first person you will reach out to when you experience issues with pipes, sinks, toilets, or water heaters. They install, repair, and maintain the entire drainage and sewing system.
Prospective plumbers may go to a vocational school to obtain a diploma or certificate. Alternatively, they can attend apprenticeship programs lasting four to five years to gain all the necessary plumbing skills.
The job of a plumber is one of the 6-figure jobs without a degree. Experienced and senior workers may earn as much as about $102,000, while the average salary revolves around $58,000.
You can find job opportunities via various job boards and platforms or directly at companies related to plumbing.
#14. Flight Attendant
Flight attendants are an essential part of the cabin crew that interact with passengers the most. Their duties are to make sure that passengers are comfortable, respond to their questions, and provide services to them. However, flight attendants also have to be ready to respond promptly to any issues during the flight.
This is one of the highest-paying jobs without a degree for women. It doesn’t require a postsecondary education, so a high school diploma or GED will be enough. Flight attendants need to take a training course provided by the airline company that hired them. Plus, they need to have a certificate issued by the FAA.
Flight attendants may make a maximum of $62,000 per year, while their average salary amounts to approximately $40,000. In the next decade, this job is expected to increase by 11%, which is faster compared to other occupations.
An electrician is in charge of installing, maintaining, and repairing electrical systems in buildings, factories, or retail stores. The common duties of electricians involve installing wiring systems, outlets, and light switches, as well as replacing the wiring when necessary along with inspecting circuit breakers.
In terms of formal education, while some may have an associate degree, most electricians typically have a high school diploma or its equivalent. What matters most for this position is a four or five-year apprenticeship program where prospective electricians will acquire all the necessary skills.
Electricians usually earn around $62,000 annually. Yet, over time, their salary can increase up to $100,000. The job outlook is projected to grow by 6% in the following decade. Multiple job platforms, such as Indeed, Rigzone, and ZipRecruiter, abound in vacancies for this position.
#16. Hearing Aid Specialist
A hearing aid specialist’s duty is to assess the level of a patient’s hearing loss using different tests and then come up with the best solution to meet their needs and lifestyle. The hearing aid technology is delicate and requires a lot of adjustments and maintenance.
One way to become a hearing aid specialist is to obtain an academic degree in fitting and dispensing hearing aids. Another alternative is to gain on-the-job training through courses organized by the International Hearing Society.
The median salary that hearing aid specialists can earn revolves around $62,000, with the possibility of growing up to $82,000. The demand for this position is projected to increase by 10%-15% by 2030, which is much faster compared to other occupations.
Everyone interested in this position is invited to check out vacancies at audiology companies or those dealing with hearing instruments, such as Oticon, WS Audiology, etc.
Chefs or head cooks supervise food preparation in restaurants, hotels, and other dining establishments, sometimes even private homes. They also issue instructions and directions to the kitchen staff, so you could say their role is managerial.
Chefs may have some postsecondary education, but they typically have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some may receive formal culinary education, while others may acquire the required knowledge via apprenticeship or on-the-job training. It usually takes a minimum of five years of experience to become a chef.
The average salary of a chef is estimated at $61,000, but they can also earn about $83,000 if they are experienced enough. The job outlook is more than positive, with projected growth of 5% in the upcoming decade.
#18. Project Coordinator
The project coordinator’s duties involve organizing various parts of the project and making sure they run smoothly. They are also in charge of managing the team, their time, and resources. This role requires big-picture thinking, attention to detail, and creative problem-solving.
Even though a college degree is desirable, it’s not necessary. What matters more is keen organizational, leadership, and people skills, as well as time management skills, so a high school diploma or an associate degree will do. Prior experience in the field you would be managing is a must.
The average salary a project coordinator can earn per year amounts to $60,000; however, senior coordinators can make even more—around $72,000. Job prospects are excellent, as it’s expected to grow by 12% in the next ten years.
Interested in this role? You can look for opportunities on job boards or apply to companies advertising vacancies.
#19. Makeup Artist
Makeup is not strictly related to beauty salons only; makeup artists are wanted in theaters and are an absolute must in the fashion and entertainment industries. A theatrical makeup artist is among the highest paying jobs without a degree, as these artists receive lucrative remuneration for their services.
Makeup artists apply makeup in order to present a specific period or setting that enhances the role. They don’t need a university degree for this, but they do need to be highly skilled and precise. Plus, they should be familiar with the variety of materials they use in order to achieve the desired look.
People working as makeup artists can make an average of about $60,000, with senior artists making even more. The demand for this position is expected to grow in the upcoming several years, with about 2,500 jobs filled by 2029.
If this position sounds alluring to you, and you have the required experience, check out job platforms such as Indeed, SimplyHired, or ZipRecruiter, as well as platforms related to performing like Careers.Broadway.
#20. Executive Assistant
An executive assistant supports the C-suite in public offices or private companies. They are responsible for handling emails, calendars, and appointments, as well as making travel arrangements. Sometimes, they may act as a receptionist.
On average, executive assistants earn around $59,000; however, their salary can go as high as $75,000 annually. In the ten-year period (2022-2032), the job of an executive secretary is projected to decline by 10%. Yet, about 316,000 job openings are expected every year.
Platforms such as Workable, Indeed, and Upwork are ideal for searching for job opportunities. Alternatively, you can check out different companies’ websites to see whether they have vacancies for this position.
While it is a prevailing opinion that you can have a lucrative career only with a postsecondary degree, it is not always true. Even if you did not obtain a college or university degree, you can earn a high salary.
Although certain high-paying jobs don’t require a university diploma, they still demand certificates, specific skills, and experience. These are typically gained through on-the-job training or by attending associate programs and courses.
Hence, this doesn’t mean that you should never learn anything if you don’t attend university. In addition to requiring an associate degree, many positions guarantee a promotion and, therefore, a higher salary if you acquire more knowledge and skills.
So, make an effort to invest in educating yourself by attending associate programs and courses. You will lose nothing, but you may gain a lot!