Six-Figure Jobs that Don’t Require a Degree

Written By Mary Beth Eastman
Last updated November 22, 2019

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Personal Finance
March 1, 2019

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

While plenty of studies show that a college degree can increase your earning potential, there are plenty of job opportunities out there that offer a more direct entry. If you are looking for a high paying job right out of high school, or you want to make a career change that won’t take four years of investment before you can start, the options are out there. Here are a few of the top paying options for jobs that don’t require a degree.

Many states don’t have a big barrier to entry when you want to start helping people buy or sell their homes. In some areas all you need is a license which may require a single course and an exam. This keeps the upfront time investment and the cost of education very reasonable. In under six months, you would be working with your first customer. Top real estate agents can earn more than $109,490 per year, and even the median salary is a respectable $45,990. Advance to broker status with some continuing education and a few years of experience to bring those numbers up to $151,660 and $56,730. As long as you continually network and develop new customers, you have the potential to earn a substantial income.

Technicians working at a nuclear power plant ultimately must become licensed through the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That often means at least 2 years of unlicensed work at the facility before you are eligible to take the exam. Once passed, the top salaries for these licensed operators can reach more than $108,240. Even the median salary is relatively high at $80,440. Salary ranges like this would enable you to build wealth quickly.

Installing and repairing elevators can be surprisingly lucrative. However, while this job does not require a degree, it often does require an equivalent apprenticeship. The big difference between the two is that one you pay to get and the other pays you while you learn. Your four-year apprenticeship will come with about 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. At the end of your apprenticeship, the top earners in this field make more than $115,880. The median salary is $79,480. Where you live and general construction costs in the area may play a large role in your expected salary.

While many people in this field do have a related degree, many employers are also willing to work with those who possess the right combination of certifications. If you have or develop the skill to write and debug code in specific, high-value programming languages, you might be able to skip the degree on your way to a career. However, continuing education does play an important role in this field. Top programmers can earn more than $132,530, while the median salary is $82,240.

Increasing your income is one stop on the path to increasing your wealth. Once your larger paychecks start rolling in, be sure to set aside a portion of your income in investments. Learn more about choosing between 401(k)s and IRAs. Then, once you’re ready, it’s a snap to open an account and start an IRA or other investment online, using the best investment sites.

All salary information displayed is sourced from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

About the Author

Mary Beth Eastman

Mary Beth Eastman serves as the content manager for Simple. Thrifty. Living, where she is dedicated to helping readers use money and credit wisely. Mary Beth believes that access to the right financial information paired with a growth mindset are essential tools for getting out of debt and building wealth. Mary Beth has a degree in Journalism from Bowling Green State University and has focused her 20-year journalism career on putting readers front and center, carefully considering their concerns and presenting information that will help them in their everyday lives. She has won numerous statewide journalism awards. Her writing on personal finance as been featured on numerous websites in addition to Simple. Thrifty. Living, including Huffington Post and Lexington Law blog. Mary Beth resides in Pittsburgh, Pa., with her family and two rescue dogs.

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