How to Find Your Way to Six-Figures without a College Degree
These days, 6 figure jobs are available without a college degree — but most require you to work your way up the career ladder. Here’s how.
January 3, 2022
Many of us are taught that going to college is required to get a high-paying job and find financial success in life.
But this simply isn’t the case.
Yes, college graduates earn $32,000 more per year, on average, than high school graduates.
But at the same time, many people earn a very comfortable living without a college degree. In this case, looking only at the averages doesn’t give you the complete picture.
It’s important to understand the downsides of college, as well. Getting a degree takes several years out of your working career and costs a small fortune. Today, the average student loan debt is a whopping $37,693, and the figure grows annually.
These days, it’s entirely possible to find financial success without a college degree. With that said, it’s important to choose the right career.
This guide is a great starting point if you’re wondering how to make six figures without a degree. We’ll discuss common 6 figure jobs and how you can find the right fit for you.
How to make six figures without a degree
Making six figures ($100,000+) is no easy task, with or without a degree. But if you set your mind to it, it’s certainly possible, even with just a high school diploma.
There’s no one guaranteed path towards a high paying career, but here are the steps that will improve your odds of success:
Choose a skilled craft or trade. See the list below for some ideas.
Work your way up in the industry. Don’t expect to start at a high salary, and be willing to put in the work to succeed.
Don’t shy away from certificates and training. Remember that without a college degree doesn’t necessarily mean without training.
Don’t be afraid to switch jobs for a better opportunity. These days, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to stay at the same company in hopes of a raise.
If you keep these principles in mind, you will be well on your way to a successful career. But first, you need to choose the right path.
Six-figure jobs without a degree
Some of the highest-paying jobs without a degree could potentially take you into the six-figure ($100,000+ per year) range — although that salary level is far from guaranteed. Here are some ideas for jobs that make six figures without college.
Real estate agent
Real estate can be a lucrative line of work for the right person. The average salary is as high as $90,000 in some states, and that’s just the average.
Real estate agents make the bulk of their money from commissions, which means the better you are at your job, the more you’ll earn. Some top agents earn hundreds of thousands each year without formal degree requirements. Of course, there are also plenty of real estate agents who earn much less.
Although state requirements vary, you can become a real estate agent in as little as four to six months. It can take several years to build your reputation, make connections, and start making significant money in real estate.
Construction can be a lucrative industry, particularly for skilled laborers and managers. Construction managers earn an average base salary of around $79,000, with total compensation ranging from $51,000 to $137,000 or more.
Construction management doesn’t typically require a bachelor's degree, although this is changing in recent years. For dedicated employees who work their way up the construction ladder (pun intended), it’s possible to become a manager with no college degree.
Realistically, newcomers to construction should expect to work in the industry for several years before seeking out management-level positions.
This is a highly specialized field and one that pays generously. Installing, maintaining and repairing elevators and escalators is high-skilled and high-stakes, so employers are willing to pay up for top talent.
Nationwide, the median annual wage for elevator installers was $88,540, and the top 10% earned more than $128,500 per year.
Becoming an elevator maintenance expert typically requires a 4-year apprenticeship, but these are often paid apprenticeships. Generally, there is no college degree requirement.
Commercial pilots fly large commercial aircraft, usually for freight and shipping purposes. And unlike full-blown airline pilots, commercial pilots often don’t need to have a bachelor’s degree.
Although it can be a stressful job, commercial pilots are well compensated. In 2020, the median wage was $93,300, and the top 10% earned more than $200,920.
While no degree is required for many employers, commercial pilots need to undergo several years of training, including logging 1,500 training flight hours.
Web developers create and maintain websites and are in very high demand in this day and age. Requirements vary by employer, but this is often an industry where employers will overlook a lack of a formal degree if you can prove that you create excellent work.
Web developers are well paid, as well. The median wage in 2020 was $77,200, with the top 10% earning over $146,430 per year. Plus, many jobs are remote — so if you're wondering how to make 6 figures from home, this could be a career path to pursue.
These careers have the potential to be 6 figure jobs, but didn’t make our list for the noted reasons:
Police detective: Detectives are well paid and no degree is generally required. However, it typically takes many years of working as a police officer (at a much lower salary) before becoming a detective.
Business owner: Owning your own business has no formal requirements, resulting in good earnings. However, it’s the only career where you could actually lose money, despite working long hours.
Aerospace technician: A career in aerospace can be well-paying but typically requires at least an associate’s degree and additional training, which can be pricey.
Air traffic controller: Air traffic controllers earn well over 6 figures, on average. It used to be that the position did not require a degree, but many employers now require a bachelor’s degree for this position.
How to make six figures without a degree is more than just simply picking a job. While these job ideas should point you in the right direction towards a high-paying career, this list is far from exhaustive, as there are thousands of different types of jobs out there.
Finally, remember that money isn’t everything. While looking for high-paying careers is wise, it’s also important to pursue your interests and passions. How to know your career choice requires some soul-searching, as well as number crunching.
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