List of 17 Jobs That Pay 100k a Year Without a Degree

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Does going to college pave the way to a stable, successful career, or does it leave you drowning in student loans stressed about your next move?

Contrary to the outdated beliefs of older generations, you don’t necessarily need a degree to make it in today’s high-paid professionals world.

If you are not so keen on the college experience, here are 17 jobs that pay 100k a year without a degree.

Degree vs Job: Pros and Cons of Skipping College

The number of graduates who choose higher education is getting smaller by the year.

How can we explain this lack of interest in pursuing higher education among high school graduates?

Let’s consider the advantages and disadvantages of not going to college.

Advantages:

  • Avoiding getting stuck in student loans
  • Earning money instead of spending it
  • Gaining real-world experience as a young adult
  • Experimenting with different careers
  • Building independence
  • There are lots of high paying jobs you can get without a degree

Disadvantages:

  • A college degree may be necessary for some professions
  • Formal higher education can earn you a better position more easily
DID YOU KNOW: According to the research of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment rates have witnessed a significant 5,1% decline over the last two years.

17 Jobs That Pay 100k a Year Without a Degree

Here is what they are per industry:

IT World 

The IT sector usually values your performance and experience in the field more than a formal education. Self-taught individuals need just a certificate to get started on the job.

1. SAP Consultant 

  • Average annual salary: $127,112
  • Top earners annual salary: $200,500

Being among low-stress jobs that pay well without a degree, SAP consultants work on analyzing and optimizing the computer systems of companies they collaborate with. You can become a part of the SAP workforce by attending a 6-month course and receiving the certification needed to apply for an entry-level position.

2. Computer Network Architect 

  • Average annual salary $137,129
  • Top earners annual salary: $178,500

If you are a technology-savvy type of person on the lookout for high-paying jobs that don’t require a degree, this one might be a good fit.

Network engineers build and manage data communication networks. Although the majority of companies like to hire individuals with a four-year degree for this position, some companies look for experience rather than a diploma.

Individuals who are coming from similar fields can apply for this position and courses such as Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) can make you an eligible candidate.

3. IT Manager 

  • Average annual salary: $91,855
  • Top earners average salary: $116,990

Information technology managers strive to meet business needs by overseeing and coordinating staff projects. Although a degree in computer science is usually required to set foot into this profession, some companies are more interested in your skills and experience.

The IT sector provides a vast number of jobs that pay around 80k a year without a degree, but you‘ll have to start from an associate position and gain a minimum 5 years of prior experience before you can secure an executive position.

Apart from providing IT solutions, IT managers are also in charge of budgeting. Excellent money management skills are essential in this line of work.

DID YOU KNOW: Tech salaries vary in terms of location. For example, Minnesota-based network architects earn a 7% higher salary than the national average.

Aviation 

You don’t need a degree to secure a high-paying job in aviation, as commercial pilots and air traffic controllers attend courses to receive the needed qualifications and experience to become aviation professionals.

4. Commercial Pilot

  • Average annual salary:$110,830
  • Top earner annual salary: $200,920

To be eligible to work as a commercial pilot, you will need to complete the 7-month ATP Flight School program and an additional two years of flying experience. Though this process is lengthy, sticking it out may be worth it, as pilot jobs are among 6 figure jobs you can land without a college degree. Aviation salaries vary according to the pilot’s experience and the type of airplane he/she operates.

5. Air Traffic Controller 

  • Average annual salary: $127,440
  • Top earners annual salary: $184,780

Among aviation jobs you can get without a degree there are also air traffic controllers, who make sure that the planes and helicopters do not interfere with each other’s paths while flying. Although The Federal Aviation Administration ensures its traffic controllers attend a two-year course, the salaries of air traffic controllers grow with experience, making it well worth it.

DID YOU KNOW: With a common pay of $139,696, California is the best-paying state for commercial pilots and air traffic controllers. Commercial pilots in California earn a common pay of $139,696, while air traffic controllers earn $ 141,530.

Blue-Collar Jobs 

Working an office job is not the only way to earn a six-figure salary—if you’re in good shape,  you can opt for one of these physical labor jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.

6. Locomotive Engineer 

  • Average annual salary: $54,791
  • Top earners annual salary: $101,500

As a good start toward a 100k yearly salary, railroad companies offer jobs that pay 50k a year without a degree. Ensuring safe passenger transport, locomotive engineers monitor the performance of the engine while driving the train from the locomotive. Although applicants only need a high school diploma,  locomotive engineers have to spend 2 to 3 months in training and earn a certificate approved by the Federal Railroad Administration to be able to operate the train by themselves.

7. Oil Rig Workers

  • Average annual salary: $75,511
  • Top earners annual salary: $293,500   

The pay you receive as an oil rig worker depends on your employer and your experience.

Although this is one of the highest paying labor jobs, it comes with long 12-hours shifts and harsh unpredictable weather conditions.

Oil rig workers must get the appropriate training and pass the examination process to receive the BOSIET certificate that enables them to work in this industry for a limited period of 4 years.

After gaining experience as an oil rig worker, you can apply for the manager position which includes higher pay.

8. Construction Manager  

  • Average annual salary: $97,180
  • Top earners annual salary: $128,860

The construction market offers many opportunities for outdoor jobs that pay well without a degree, including working as a site manager, who’s in charge of preparing the site before the actual construction work takes place, and resolving any problems that might arise. Many high school graduates start working in construction as a summer job, and if they stay in this line of work and gain the necessary experience, they can apply for a Black CSCS Card that will allow them to work as a site manager.

To secure a higher compensation, construction managers need 3-5 years of experience on the job.

DID YOU KNOW: Wyoming, Massachusetts, and Montana are the highest paying states for blue-collar workers.

Medical Field Jobs

Medical professionals usually need a bachelor’s degree to be eligible for a position, but there are some jobs within this field that require only a certificate recognized by a medical organization.

9. Dental Hygienist 

  • Average annual salary: $72,000
  • Top earners annual salary: $102.000

Although dental hygienist jobs usually belong to medical field jobs that require a bachelor’s degree, you can also become one by completing an accredited program approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Assisting dentists in their work, dental hygienists conduct patient screenings and plaque removal and provide preventive dental care.

The salary you can earn in this line of work depends on your experience and qualifications, but also on the company you work for and its location. Alaska is the best-paying state with an average annual dental hygienist salary of 118k.

10. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer 

  • Average annual salary: $81,160
  • Top earners annual salary: $114,500

Medical sonographers work jobs that pay a little over 80k a year without a degree.

Their duties revolve around using ultrasound equipment to provide diagnostic patient care services. A prerequisite for this type of job is a certificate from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). 

To earn more as a medical sonographer, you can opt for a higher-paying specialty such as neurosonography, or reconsider your location.

11. Radiation Therapist 

  • Average annual salary: $116,438
  • Top earners annual salary: $113,710

Radiation therapists ensure that patients get adequate radiation doses and that the machines are in running function, and keep patient records in order.

Although this is one of those medical field jobs that you can do without a degree, aspiring radiation therapists need to complete an accredited program and have a few years of clinical experience before applying for an ARRT-recognized educational program to get the certification.

By upgrading your qualifications with more specialized certifications in radiation therapy, you’ll secure more favorable earnings.

DID YOU KNOW: Alaska provides the highest salaries for health care workers, ranging between  $27,700 and $396,000 a year. (salary explorer)

Sports

Professionals in the field of sports earn six-figure salaries based on their talent and performance, and formal higher education doesn’t stand in the way of their success.

12. Professional Athlete 

Average annual salary: $80,948

Top earners annual salary: (NBA) $3,83 million

Although professional athletes are not the only professionals that earn 500k annually, being an amateur athlete holds great possibility of your hobby becoming one of those jobs that pay 500k a year without a degree. Talented athletes usually get recruited as soon as they finish high school. They receive immense sums of money, but are expected to constantly maintain an outstanding performance, as sports always revolve around competition.

13. Professional Sports Referee 

  • National average salary: NFL($205,000) NBA($180,000)
  • Top earners salary:  NBA($550,000)

Refereeing jobs are high-paying sports-related jobs that require only a high school diploma.

Professional referees are in charge of the game dynamics. Making precise split-second decisions as part of their job’s description, professional referees are in charge of the game dynamics.

Although you don’t need a college degree to become a professional ref, you do need prior experience of at least 5 years, as well as the appropriate academy training.

DID YOU KNOW: Dak Prescott is currently the highest-paid athlete in the US. In 2021, he gained $97.5 million in income.

Self-Made 

Working at a private company or a government organization is not the only way to earn a higher-than-average salary without a college degree—many individuals earn high salaries by taking employment into their own hands.

14.  Small Business Owner 

  • Average annual salary: $83,147
  • Top earners annual salary: $151,000

Some are just not very fond of the idea of landing a government job that pays well even without a degree and thinks they will be much better off managing their own business. However, to start a business of your own, you’ll have to be financially capable to fund it. To keep track of their spending, newbie entrepreneurs often use budgeting apps. Prior to setting your idea into motion, you should also evaluate the market and do your research. According to Zippia’s site, entrepreneurs make between $45,000 and $ $151,000 depending on their location. Another critical aspect is the chosen industry.

15. Virtual Assistant 

  • Average annual salary: $67,115
  • Top earners annual salary: $130,500

There are different types of duties that virtual assistants engage in, and some virtual assistant jobs you can work with a high school diploma, while others that include specialized tasks are likely to require a college degree.

To kick off your virtual assistant career, you can attend a course of your choice. Courses vary in length from just a few days up to a few weeks, and you can learn just about anything, from social media management to databases.

DID YOU KNOW: By hiring virtual assistants companies, businesses can save up to 80% in cost per year, compared to the regular office employee.

On-the-Move Jobs

If you prefer being social and active, a job that is not sedentary is probably a good fit for you. To get hired as a real estate agent or a police officer, you have to pass an examination process before you can start working your way up to the top salary.

16. Real Estate Agents  

  • Average annual salary: $98,777
  • Top earners average salary: $112,000

Apart from being among fun careers that pay well, this profession offers a bigger paycheck after gaining more experience, amounting to 130k per year.

To become a real estate agent, you need to attend a 75-hour course and pass a licensing exam. This process varies from one state to another.

Real estate agents work with clients who are interested in buying or renting property, making sure the vacancies are occupied and rent is paid due.

17. Police Officer 

  • National average salary $67,600
  • Top earners annual salary: $105,220

Enforcing the law, protecting property, and disrupting criminal activity are just some of the duties of police officers.

You can land this job with only a high school diploma, but you’ll be expected to be in perfect physical and mental health to pass the psychological tests and interviews.  Although law enforcement jobs are government jobs that pay well without a degree, the rookie policeman salary is not very high, but officers can work their way up as they gain more experience on the job.

DID YOU KNOW: The highest paying states for individuals who don’t have a degree are Washington, Massachusetts, Alaska, California, and the District of Columbia.

Conclusion

Although statistics indicate that those who attend college are more likely to land a higher-paying job with better health insurance, this is not always the case. There are plenty of job opportunities for which a bachelor’s degree is not mandatory, and people can learn how to be successful without attending college.

FAQ

What is the easiest job that pays 100k a year?

Each job bears its own difficulties and challenges, so it’s important to dive into a profession that will fit your personality and talents.

How can I make 150k a year without a degree?

You can earn an annual pay of around 150k by pursuing a career as a commercial pilot, real estate agent, air traffic controller or radiation therapist.

Can you make 6 figures without a degree?

Although some jobs are better paid than others no matter if you have a bachelor’s degree or not, your annual income depends on your qualifications and abilities. For instance, some entrepreneurs can make more than others even though they have less experience in the same business.

What job pays the most without a degree?

Although a degree can be a valuable asset, it doesn’t stand in your way of earning a six-figure salary, as many individuals with jobs that pay 100k a year without a degree chose to obtain their professional qualifications through certifications and on-the-job experience rather than spending 4 years in a classroom. Professionals in the IT sector and aviation industry earn the highest salaries without a college degree.

ABOUT AUTHOR

I learned a lot about finance after working for a digital marketing company specializing in investing and trading stocks, forex, etc. After that, I got exposed to other verticals such as wealth management and personal finance, which further improved my understanding of the financial world.

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