You might assume that to make a decent living, especially six figures, you need a college degree. And most of the time, that’s actually true. On average, someone with a bachelor’s degree can earn 60% more than someone with a high-school diploma over a 40-year working career. But that’s just on average.
In fact, there are plenty of outliers. Jobs that you can get without a college degree and still make a decent living.
And keep in mind that we aren’t talking about your “start a business and earn a million bucks” success stories. That can and does happen, too. But the people who are able to leverage non-college-degreed skills to make that kind of money in their own business are unicorns, of a sort. They’re stories we hear about because they’re extraordinary.
But you can actually get real, regular jobs that don’t involve a college degree if you know where to look. So if a four-year degree isn’t your jam, check out this list of eight $100K jobs that you can get with a high-school diploma, trade school certification, or other non four-year-degree certification.
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How We Compiled the List
In real life, there are plenty of jobs you can get that don’t technically require a college degree. With that said, in many areas, you’ll have an easier time getting your first job if you do have a degree. Four-year degrees are so common these days that employers often use them as a first line of elimination for job applicants.
So getting your foot in the door in certain areas can be difficult, even if you don’t really need a four-year degree. But that may mean years of working for not much money while trying to build a big enough skill set or portfolio to get a high-paying job. So here, we’re focusing on jobs where you can get in the door with a two-year degree or certification, and where you can work your way up to a six-figure career relatively quickly.
Keep in mind that many of these careers also have a wide range of potential salaries. We looked at those that have an median salary that’s at least near $100,000. Otherwise, you’re just looking at another field where most people make $50,000 but a lucky few make six figures.
Six-Figure Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree
1. Air Traffic Controller
Median Salary: $124,540
Education Required: Associate’s degree and long-term on-the-job training
Air traffic controller jobs can be difficult to come by because the turnover is relatively low. This job can be stressful at times, but it’s an interesting way to spend your days. And since you only need an associate’s degree and on-the-job training, you can ramp up your salary quickly without a four-year degree.
2. Real Estate Broker
Median Salary: $79,340
Education Required: High-school diploma and certification
If you don’t mind wild hours and you enjoy people, being a real estate broker can be a great way to make a living. The median salary is lower than $100,000, of course. But the top 25% of brokers make just under or well over $100,000 per year.
Related: 4 High Earning Graduate Degrees
3. Construction Manager
Median Salary: $91,370
Education Required: Bachelor’s degree or less
So here’s the deal with this job: if you want to advance quickly to manager-level work, you may need a four-year degree. However, if you’re interested in working your way up the ranks, you can become a manager with experience and some additional education.
4. Radiation Therapist
Median Salary: $80,570
Education Required: Associate’s degree
Radiation therapists work to treat cancer and other diseases under the instruction of doctors. They administer radiation treatments, which surprisingly only requires a two-year degree. And the great thing is that this field is growing rapidly. While the median salary is just over $80,000, the top 10% earn more than $123,000.
5. Commercial Pilot
Medial Salary: $111,930
Education Required: Commercial pilot’s license
Here’s another career that doesn’t technically require a four-year degree, though many airlines will look for one. Still, if you can get into the industry, this can be a fun way to earn six figures with a certification. Just bear in mind that it’s a demanding job with weird working hours and a long certification process.
Related: How to Become a Flight Attendant?
6. Funeral Services Manager
Median Salary: $93,090
Education Required: Associate’s degree
This is an often-underlooked but totally necessary career. And because it’s in generally high demand but not many people go into the field, it’s an excellent way to make a great living. If you’re compassionate and want to help take care of people but don’t want to go the way of nursing or other helping professions, consider this one.
7. Detectives and Criminal Investigators
Median Salary: $83,320
Education Required: High-school diploma and police academy training
You do need a bit of education and experience to be a highly-paid police detective. And you’ll likely start out on the front lines by becoming a patrol officer. But you can get into the police academy without a bachelor’s degree or even an associate’s degree, so you can work your way towards becoming a criminal investigator without a college degree.
8. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator
Median Salary: $94,350
Education Required: Vocational and on-the-job training
This is a potentially dangerous job, but it’s compensated accordingly. You’ll likely need vocational education, and then on-the-job training once you’ve passed an aptitude test to get to that level.
Education is important but it may come with a cost of putting yourself in heavy debt and spending decades paying back student loans. If you’re looking for alternate ways to make a comfortable living, it’s encouraging to know you have options. So, if any of these careers piqued your interest, the next step is to do your research. What are the pros and cons? Are these types of careers available in your area or are you willing to relocate?
Connecting with someone with experience in that job or that field can give you great insight and most people are always willing to respond to an email or even a tweet. And if you have experience in any of these jobs, let’s hear about it. Comment below and tell us what you think.