Traditional education is great, but we all know it is not the only road to success. Men without college degrees have built impressive careers time and again. From the likes of Henry Ford to the college dropouts Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
Successful economies like Germany also prove that a large part of any society can earn and live well without college degrees. The most important thing is learning marketable skills that pay well.
The rising level of college debt is also alarming. And this is pushing more and more people into finding alternative means of earning a good living while staying as debt-free as possible.
Following are some of the highest-paid jobs and industries that you can get into without a college degree. If you have the time and motivation, then you will surely earn well.
Some Tips to Keep in Mind
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when deciding on an industry or profession to pursue without a degree.
- Most firms will employ you without a degree if you can prove your skills.
- Some jobs only need a license or certification but they pay well.
- Older industries are usually saturated, while newer ones often have a higher demand for skilled workers.
- Take advantage of modern trend changes to fill the increasing demand from newer industries.
- Some alternative education paths that can get you a good income include:
- Getting certified for specific careers or technologies, often endorsed by successful organizations.
- Vocational training that presents you with a diploma or other certification upon completion. These are often great for technical jobs.
- Apprenticeships combine education with a paid employment and usually guarantee good incomes. Registered apprenticeship programs offer nationally and internationally recognized certifications.
- Many jurisdictions require specific licenses to work in certain industries, ranging from technical work to health-related fields. But this is area-specific.
- Keep in mind that no matter which path you take, you will still need to build your skills and excel to get well paid. There is no going around that.
Top 10 Paying Jobs Without a Degree
1. Self Employment
If you are all about maximizing your earning potential as a human being, then no other path can help you earn more than entrepreneurship.
Being an entrepreneur means being a self-starter, taking risks, and walking the unbeaten path. It is often a lonely journey and many fail or give up along the way, but when it pays dividends, then all the work is worth it.
Self-employment is the simplest form of entrepreneurship; you are are business owner, but you also employing yourself.
This type of employment will not work with all types of careers, so you need serious considerations before making a move. Is your skill marketable as an entrepreneur? Are others earning through similar means? Is there a market for the services you can offer?
Employing yourself is often not easy in the beginning. But if you find yourself wanting to go the solo path or just yearning to be your own boss, and you are ready to put in the effort and dedication, then consider entrepreneurship.
2. Ethical Hacking
Also known as white-hat hacking, ethical hacking is all about breaking into computer systems or getting unauthorized access to data, but not causing any harm. In other words, an ethical hacker finds vulnerabilities in computer systems, so they can get patched.
If you know your way around computing systems, and especially around networking and data storage, then you may want to consider becoming a certified ethical hacker.
Although this CEH course, exam, and certification from the EC-Council is the most respected and will help you get juicy hacking jobs, it is not the only one. Others include the GIAC GPEN and Offensive Security’s OSCP.
You should note that certifications cost money, usually about a thousand or more dollars. However, if you already have the skills, then it is a worthy investment.
3. New Coding Languages
All programming languages are not equal: Some are highly in demand, while others are less so. The demand usually reflects the development of new technology, platform, protocol, or even an entire market.
While it is very difficult to get a Cobol or Pascal coding position today without a bunch of fancy certificates, it is easier to get jobs for more mature languages like Swift, Perl, and PHP. And much easier for newer ones like Rust, Go, and Kotlin.
So, if you are a good coder or just think you can do well as one, then your goal should be learning a modern programming language and getting certified for it.
Here are some in-demand modern programming languages:
- Go – Simple general-purpose language
- Kotlin – For Android development
- Swift – Apple systems from mac to watch
- Rust – For modern system development
- TypeScript – Front-end development
- Julia – Dynamic high-level language
- Dart – General-purpose language
- Elixir – Functional programming language
4. Web development
Believe it or not; the web continues to grow. More users come online daily, as more businesses open up an online presence. And as older online business models die off, new ones take over. And the cycle continues.
At the heart of it all is web development, an industry that has seen so much growth and career change in the last two decades. Still, the demand for developers continues to rise, although the expertise in demand is rapidly changing.
As many platforms move to the cloud and data science becomes widespread. AWS, Kubernetes, Docker, GraphQL, Google Cloud, Pytorch, Jamstack, and Vue have become the buzzwords of modern web development.
5. Game Development
Becoming a game developer is a dream shared by many video-game lovers. It is an exciting and versatile job that is equally as rewarding.
Sure, a degree might make it easier for you to get a game development job with a large company, but they can cost lots of money. Plus, you can also land a great job if you know what you are doing:
- First, you should know how to code.
- Second, you should know how to sketch your ideas into reality.
- Third, you need to create some games on your own. Then showcase them online to build your portfolio.
- Finally, you need to know other developers and players in the industry. In one word; networking.
6. Digital Marketing
The Internet currently evolves so quickly that college degree programs simply can’t catch up. So, the best way to learn digital marketing is through non-traditional means.
Digital marketing is also a broad field, as it includes pay-per-click marketing, display advertising, search engine optimization, social media marketing, email marketing, content marketing, influencer marketing, and other less conventional approaches.
Marketing might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you feel that you have got a persuasive personality for one reason or the other, then you may want to give it a try.
Also, note that the online marketing industry can get really competitive. But there are always loopholes if you know what you are doing. Plus lots of money to be made, if you can crack an industry or two.
7. Offline Technical Careers
Asides from the computer and Internet-related industries, many offline technical careers can pay you well without a degree. But, as with everything tech-related, you need to be good to excel in them.
Such tech jobs include technicians for electronics, wind turbines, elevators, HVAC, and power plants. As well as aircraft mechanics, toolmakers, electricians, computer support specialists, and many others.
8. Commercial Pilot
Becoming a commercial pilot can also be rewarding, especially if you like taking to the skies and moving around. All you need to become a commercial pilot is a license from the Federal Aviation Administration and that’s it.
There is a wide range of activities and the pay can be good. Commercial pilots do everything from transporting humans to cargo, dusting crops, putting out wildfires, and so on.
Keep in mind, however, that you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. Plus lots of theoretical and practical training before you can become licensed.
9. Theater & Arts
If you are a good performer or simply love drama, then the performing arts can also pay you well. But while you do not need a degree to land performing gigs, you do need some talent, practice, and experience.
Other areas include freelance writing of scripts and production teams that handle lighting, sound, backstage, and studio productions.
Keep in mind that as a beginner, you may have to visit audition after audition, until you get an acting break. Plus this can take years, as is evident from the thousands of starving artists out there.
However, if you have special skills and are ready to improve on them, and market yourself efficiently, then you might stand a chance.
You either have this gift or not. But if you find that you can create good art with ease, then working as an illustrator might be a good option.
Here, you can either work freelance or get hired by small and large firms. The job is varied and can range from illustrating books to magazines, fashion, children’s books, newspapers, and so on.
Your creativity, color, and layout mastery, as well as familiarity with design software and IT in general, will determine how far you can go.
Reaching the end of this list of the highest paying jobs without a degree, you have seen there are lots of opportunities out there, covering a range of industries.
Whatever you choose from here is up to you. But remember that it is best to do what you love than to simply work for money.