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You don't need to pay $100k in college tuition to land a $100k career. Instead, find out if one of these 8 jobs could be in your future.

Jobs That Pay 100k

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.

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

Air Traffic Controller Median Salary: $124,540

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

Real Estate Broker Median Salary: $79,340

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.

Resource: Start investing in real estate with Fundrise. No experience is required.

3. Construction Manager

Construction Manager Median Salary: $91,370

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.

Related: 4 High Earning Graduate Degrees

4. Radiation Therapist

Radiation Therapist Median Salary: $80,570

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

Commercial Pilot Medial Salary: $111,930

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

Funeral Services Manager Median Salary: $93,090

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.

Related: Wanna Make More Money? Consider Getting Certified

7. Detectives and Criminal Investigators

Detectives and Criminal Investigators Median Salary: $83,320

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

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator Median Salary: $94,350

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.

Bottom Line

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.

Author Bio

Total Articles: 279
Abby is a freelance journalist who writes on everything from personal finance to health and wellness. She spends her spare time bargain hunting and meal planning for her family of three. She has a B.A. in English Literature from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, and lives with her husband and children in Indianapolis.

Article comments

John says:

Contrary to the theme of the article, going through a collegiate aviation program might be one of the more cost-effective ways to become an airline pilot (at least in the USA). Reason being, the federal government requires a minimum of 1,500 hours of flying experience before they’ll grant you the required license. A bachelors degree in aviation knocks that down to 1,000 hours. Military flying experience knocks it down even further, to 750 hours. It is not uncommon for pilots to have north of $50,000 invested in their training before they are hired for any sort of paid flying position. A typical pilot schedule also requires you to be away from home roughly 50% of the time (true for nearly all types of commercial flying, not just the airlines). All that being said, especially if you’re single or have a very understanding family, it’s a really cool way to earn a living.

Being an air traffic controller is one of those hidden gems within the aviation industry. The dress code is causal, the level of professionalism within most facilities is off the charts, and the whole industry functions as a giant family. The hours take some getting used to and frequent relocation is required as promotion usually requires relocation to a larger facility. Promotion is also a double-edged sword – the best paid controllers usually work in busier, more stressful, facilities.

Amanda Morena says:

This is all news to me. Will take these careers into consideration. Thank you.