Top 15 Highest Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree in 2020

By Jeff Gillis

When people picture jobs that don’t require degrees, they normally picture positions without a lot of potential. Maybe your mind went to retail or fast food, for example. While it’s true that a McJob doesn’t require college, it’s certainly not the only option around. There are high paying jobs without a degree as a requirement; you just have to know where to look.

So, let’s take a trip, a journey where we explore the best jobs without a degree included in the “must-haves” in the job description.

You may be surprised by what you find out along the way.

Not Having a Degree

Before we dig into jobs that pay well without a degree, let’s look at what not going to college means in society. If you’re a Millennial or member of Gen Z, there’s a decent chance you were raised to think that having a college degree is a must. But the thing is, there are plenty of reasons why you may not choose to earn a degree.

First, there’s the debt. Student loan debt hit a new record, coming in with a total of $1.56 trillion. The average student loan debt is $32,731.

Even though student loan interest rates tend to be lower (federal loans for 2019-2020 came in at 4.53 percent of undergrads), most people spend decades paying off their loans, and some never make it. So, it isn’t a surprise that some people can’t or don’t want to go down that road.

Second, having a degree isn’t actually a necessity. Larry Ellison, the mind behind software giant Oracle, didn’t graduate from college. Now he’s worth an estimated $67+ billion. Steve Jobs only made it one semester before dropping out, and we all know what he pulled off.

Don’t fancy yourself a tech genius? That doesn’t mean you can’t succeed without a degree. Richard Branson is a prime example. So is John Mackey, the founder of Whole Foods.

Finally, not all jobs require a degree, including some lucrative ones. Why spend the money on education that isn’t necessary. If one of those roles meets your needs, then you can skip the student loans and go that way instead.

Alright, we think you get the point. A college degree is not the only way to achieve success.

Top 15 Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree That Pay Well

You may be wondering, what are the best jobs without a degree out there? Are the highest paying jobs with a degree easy enough to land? What do you need to do to qualify?

Well, let’s take a look. Here are the top 15 jobs that pay well without a degree.

1. Executive Assistant

Executive assistants are usually a company leader’s right-hand person. They handle a range of administrative tasks, simplifying the life of the executive they support. This can include speaking with visitors, coordinating schedules, making travel arrangements, handling reports, crafting presentations, and a whole lot more.

Technically, you can work your way up to becoming an executive assistant instead of going the college route. Once you do, it’s one of the best jobs without a degree around and can snag you a salary of about $68,485 a year.

2. Sales Rep

If you’re incredibly personable and persuasive, you could make bank as a sales rep. Depending on your niche, you could end up with an annual salary near $53,310 to $63,000.

In the role, you’ll spend time convincing prospective customers to become actual customers. As long as you have the right mindset, a high school diploma, and nail your sales interview questions, you can get started in this career. Once you get the hang of it, this easily qualifies as one of the best paying jobs without a degree.

3. Electrician

If you are looking for high paying jobs without a degree or experience, starting on the road toward being an electrician can be a smart move. The journey can be a bit long, as it takes time to learn everything you need to secure a license. But, while you’re an apprentice, you get paid, and that helps.

As you learn on-the-job, you’ll be taught how to install, maintain, and repair electrical systems and components. Once you’re done, a salary of about $56,180 a year is completely possible.

4. Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers

In this role, you’d spend your days making sure that shipping processes run smoothly. You’d coordinate the transportation and storage of a range of goods, ensuring everything is distributed properly.

Getting started with a high school diploma is possible, though you will need some distribution experience to qualify. Once you have that, a yearly wage of $94,560 is within reach.

5. Wind Turbine Technician

Another high-paying trade job, wind turbine technicians can make $52,910 a year in many cases. If you pursue this career, you’ll spend time installing, repairing, and maintaining wind turbines.

Like electricians, much of the instruction is handled on-the-job. However, for this one, you might want to spend a little time in vocational school to get your footing. That way, you can learn about alternative energy as well as hone your electrical and mechanical skills.

6. Commercial Pilot

Unlike airline pilots, commercial pilots don’t necessarily need a college degree. As long as they have a license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), that’s enough to get started.

Once you have your license, you can earn around $86,080 annually by hitting the skies. You could be transporting goods, giving aerial tours, or handling charters, depending on the route you take.

7. Nuclear Power Reactor Operator

If the idea of controlling nuclear reactors isn’t intimidating, this could be one of the best high paying jobs without a degree for you. The on-the-job training is extensive, and you’ll need to get licensed along the way, so you won’t start out with a stellar salary immediately. But, as you learn how to monitor the systems, your pay will go up, potentially to the $100,530 mark.

8. Elevator Mechanic

If the idea of making around $84,990 a year sounds good, a career as an elevator mechanic might be the perfect option. You’ll either need on-the-job training or vocational school to get started. But once you do, you’ll focus on repairing, installing, and maintaining elevators and similar people-focused transportation equipment, like escalators and moving sidewalks.

9. Computer Programmer

Thanks to the advent of coding bootcamps and the prevalence of hiring shortages, you can actually launch a lucrative tech career without a college degree. Since skill gaps are pervasive, companies are increasingly open-minded about where a tech pro gets their skills.

As long as you can demonstrate you know your stuff, you could land a position earning $86,500 a year without having to earn a Bachelor’s degree. Just make sure you have proof of what you bring to the table, such as past personal projects. That way, you can highlight your skills in a meaningful way.

JEFF'S TIP: If you want to be a computer programmer but don’t want to have to head to college to earn a degree, make wise choices when you look for an employer. Smaller companies may be more flexible about requirements, making it easier to get started. Similarly, even some major tech players have altered their policies, publicly welcoming non-traditional candidates. If you focus your efforts in those directions, your odds of success go up. Then, once your career is under way, landing your next role will be easier.

10. Radiologic Technician

If you want to enter the medical landscape, consider a career as a radiologic technician, one of the high paying jobs without a degree that gets you into the healthcare field. Once you qualify and land a job, making $62,280 a year is completely possible.

In many cases, you can get started after completing a vocational program, which typically takes two years or less. While that does mean some schooling, it isn’t nearly as much time as a Bachelor’s, and it’s far less expensive, too.

11. Computer Support Specialist

Another tech option where a college degree is optional, computer support specialists help users navigate challenges with hardware or software. If you’re generally tech-savvy, can follow instructions, are an exceptional communicator, and have a high school diploma, that may be enough to get started.

In the position, you could earn $54,760 a year. Plus, demand for computer support specialists is rising, so it could become more lucrative down the line.

12. Pharmacy Technician

For our second healthcare entry, pharmacy technician is one of the jobs without a degree that doesn’t even require any vocational school. Once hired, you’ll go through on-the-job training, ensuring you know how to assist with dispensing prescriptions, communicating with patients, and working with health care professionals, including insurance agents.

Demand for pharmacy technicians is growing. However, right now, a starting salary of $33,950 is easily possible. And once you get your footing, you could work your way up to $49,130 or more.

13. Machinist

If you like the idea of operating equipment to make parts and components, consider becoming a machinist. After some vocational school or, potentially, just some on-the-job training, you could earn an annual salary of about $45,750.

If you go purely the on-the-job training route, you may have to start out in other positions within the facility. For example, working as an assembler or production associate might get your foot in the door, making it possible to move forward into machine operation and machining.

14. Police Officer

Police officers spend their time responding to emergencies, patrolling assigned areas, conducting traffic stops, and others supporting safety. In some cases, it’s possible to get started with just a high school diploma.

With that, you may be eligible for the police academy, a kind of specialized vocational school. However, sometimes a college degree is necessary. The requirements can vary from one jurisdiction to the next, so an associate’s or higher could be a must for some cities, counties, or states.

The median annual pay rate for police officers and detectives comes in at $65,170. If you make it into the highest-earning 10 percent, then a six-figure salary is even a possibility.

15. Hearing Aid Specialists

If you want to work with customers directly, a job as a hearing aid specialist is a great option. You’ll help them pick hearing aids and make sure they fit properly. Plus, you’ll troubleshoot issues if they occur, improving audio quality.

With a high school diploma, you could land a position making $52,770 a year, which is really solid, considering you don’t need a college degree.

Putting It All Together

In the end, going to college isn’t a necessity. There are plenty of high paying jobs without a degree requirement, including all of those above. So, if furthering your education isn’t in the card for any reason, don’t fret. You’ve got some amazing options available. See if any of the positions above sound good and, if they do, take your career in that direction. You’ll be happy you did.

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About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.