According to PBS Newshour, the number of people pursuing a college degree post high school has declined since the pandemic.1
The good news for degree-less job seekers? There are plenty of jobs that pay well without a degree.
“The job market is changing rapidly right before our eyes,” says Recruiter.com CEO Evan Sohn, who has been featured in major news outlets like the Wall Street Journal and CNBC. “College degrees are not a necessity for every job out there.”
The Recruiter.com Index for September 2022,2 a report that releases current hiring trends from talent acquisition professionals, found that 22% of the roles recruiters are working to fill, in fact, don’t require a degree.
Check out our list of the highest-paying jobs without a degree:
- Sales representative
- Real estate agent
- SEO specialist
- Truck driver
- Elevator and escalator installer and repairer
- Personal trainer
- Flight attendant
- Massage therapist
- Makeup artist
- Dog groomer
- Virtual assistant
- Social media manager
- Court reporter or simultaneous captioner
- Hearing aid specialist
- E-commerce manager
- Physical therapist assistant
And a list of most no-degree jobs FAQs.
7 of the highest paying jobs without a degree
If you have an inclination for numbers and data — and you love a good spreadsheet — bookkeeping could offer you a stable career with the potential for remote and flexible work. Bookkeepers track financial transactions for a business, everything from sales to payroll expenses and overhead costs.
The fastest way to train for a career in bookkeeping is to enroll in an online course like Bookkeeper Launch. In just 90 days, you’ll learn everything you need to know about starting your own bookkeeping business. Once you’ve been certified, you can apply for corporate bookkeeping jobs or start your own business providing services to multiple clients (though it helps to get some experience under your belt to increase your marketability). If you want to learn more, check out our posts on how to become a bookkeeper and bookkeeping jobs.
Average income: $58,536 per year or $28 per hour*
Top earners: $130,000
*All salary estimates are from ZipRecruiter and represent the average and high-end estimated salaries in the United States.
Or, read our review of our No. 1 recommended training program, Bookkeeper Launch.
2. Sales representative
If you love interacting with other people and consider yourself an effective communicator, a career in sales can be very lucrative. Most sales jobs are commission-based, which means your earning potential is directly related to your job effort and performance. The majority of these jobs do not require a degree, though positions in certain fields — like medical and pharmaceutical sales — may require one.
It’s important when you’re hunting for sales jobs to consider the reputation of the company and read reviews from current employees on job sites like Glassdoor.com or Salary.com to determine your actual earning potential. For the most part, avoid multi-level marketing companies or any job where you have to “buy in” to get started. Most legitimate sales jobs offer specialized training for their employees.
Average income: $47,187 per year or $23 per hour
Top earners: $97,500, though depending on the industry sales positions can earn in the high 6- or 7-figures.
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3. Real estate agent
Like other sales professionals, real estate agents make a living solely on commissions. But agents can earn a lot of money if they build a database of people willing to send them clients.
To obtain a real estate license, visit your state’s Department of State website for a list of local education providers. You’ll have to complete about 60-200 hours of coursework (the total varies by state) and pass a licensing exam before you can register and start working. The whole process typically takes 3 to 4 months and typically costs less than $1,000.
When you’re choosing a brokerage to work with, consider things like commission split (what percentage of each sale will go to you vs. the brokerage) and continued education opportunities. The most successful agents are well established in their communities, so try to network at local events, join local clubs and get involved with volunteer organizations.
Some agents also supplement their income by investing in rental properties or becoming property managers. Property managers screen tenants, establish rental costs, collect rent and handle tenant issues. They are typically paid a commission from the monthly rent.
Average income: $82,898 per year or $40 per hour
Top earners: $150,000+ (Some agents working with high-end homes stand to make millions annually.)
4. SEO specialist
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about knowing how Google ranks its content results. SEO specialists analyze a website’s content to determine how search engine algorithms will interpret it. Their primary goal is to get the website they’re working on to appear in the first pages of Google results as close to the top of the page as possible.
There are numerous free and low-cost SEO courses online — like this one from Coursera — that offer certificates to people who want to branch into this field without a formal education.
Average income: $54,144 per year or $26 per hour
Top earners: SEO consultants can earn multiple-six figures.
5. Truck driver
Truck drivers can work for a specific brand or transportation company or as independent contractors. While these jobs are only ideal for someone who doesn’t mind spending a lot of time on the road, they don’t require a college degree.
Truck drivers must obtain a Commercial Driver’s License in one of three classifications depending on the size and weight of the vehicle they want to drive (CDL-A is the most versatile). Community colleges, private driving schools and trucking companies all offer training programs to prepare you for a CDL exam. Programs can last several months or up to a year and cost $1,000 on the low end up to $10,000 on the high end. Some trucking companies will offer scholarships as a recruitment incentive. Each state may have additional requirements, so check with your local DMV or BMV before you get started.
Average income: $50,909 per year or $24 per hour
Top earners: $82,000
Electricians are responsible for installing and maintaining wiring and equipment in a variety of residential and commercial settings. While this field has historically been dominated by men, many local and national organizations, along with the Biden Administration, are creating resources and training opportunities to attract more women into the trades.
Instead of a college degree, most electricians enroll in a trade school program or get an apprenticeship — or a combination of the two. The apprenticeship typically lasts four or five years, which includes paid training and technical education. You may also need to complete local or state licensing requirements, depending on where you plan to work.
Average income: $60,040
Top earners: $99,800
7. Elevator and escalator installer and repairer
As an elevator installer or repair person, you’ll read blueprints, assemble and disassemble elevators or escalators, and address any malfunctions that occur. It’s a very technical job, which is why the pay is so high, though a degree is not required. The average installer earns nearly six figures, and experienced professionals earn even more.
The process starts with a four-year apprenticeship that’s typically sponsored by an employer or union. During this period, you’ll complete paid work and receive technical instruction. The next step is to work as a mechanic or assistant mechanic in the industry before getting an elevator installer position. When you’re ready for that, you’ll also need to meet any state-specific licensing requirements.
Average income: $97,860
Top earners: $130,940
7 fun high-paying jobs without a degree
There are a lot of high-paying jobs for people who can code — software engineer, developer, computer programmer, just to name a few. And the best part is that you don’t need a college degree to land one of these positions.
There are hundreds of online courses that will teach you how to code, many of them at little or no cost. Coursera offers affordable, high-quality courses you can complete at home on your own timeline.
Average income: $86,523 per year or $42 per hour
Top earners: $138,000 — though developers who specialize in sought-after languages and take on management roles can earn $500,000 annually or more
9. Personal trainer
If you love to stay fit and want to motivate and coach others to do the same, you can become a personal trainer. Personal trainers may work out of a gym, recreation center, health club, or yoga studio. You can also focus your personal training on a specific type of exercise, like CrossFit, Pilates, spinning, or lifting.
ISSA offers an Elite trainer program, which covers:
- Techniques to asses, train and motivate clients
- Best exercises and movements for different people
- Nutrition coaching
- Tips to build a profitable career
Average income: $50,988
Top earners: $96,500
If you can spot a sentence error a mile away, you can make a healthy living as a proofreader. Even without a college degree, you can train yourself in the most popular proofreading styles by studying handbooks like the Chicago Manual of Style, Associated Press (AP Style) Stylebook or the Modern Language Association (MLA) Handbook.
Proofread Anywhere offers online training courses in general and transcription proofreading (a more focused form of proofreading for legal and technical transcripts). You’ll learn grammar fundamentals, practice proofreading different types of content, and discover how to find flexible jobs you can do from home. Learn how to become a proofreader.
Average income: $45,852 per year or $22 per hour
Top earners: $75,000
While there are some initial costs involved with starting a photography business, the potential payoff is huge. Many established wedding photographers make six-figure salaries and enjoy open weekday schedules.
While camera equipment and editing software can be expensive, you can find affordable used DSLR cameras and lenses on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and on Facebook groups for local photographers. It’s important to remember that you can always start small and upgrade your equipment as your skills and income grow.
There are thousands of photography and photo editing videos on YouTube, and you may even be able to audit a photography course at a local community college. A great way to get hands-on experience shooting weddings or family portraits is to shadow an established photographer in your area.
Once you feel comfortable branching off on your own, offer low-cost sessions to people you know and build a network of future clients. As your skills improve, you can increase your prices.
Average income for photographers: $43,114 per year
Average income for wedding photographers: $104,417 per year
Top earners: $130,000, though a small number of sought-after photogs with their own name recognition can earn far more.
12. Flight attendant
If you like the idea of getting paid to travel the world and don’t mind working odd hours or being away from home, you can get a job as a flight attendant without a college degree. To become a flight attendant, you must be at least 18 years old, have a current passport, have at least 20/40 vision and pass a background screening.
Don't want to submit to a background check? Check out these no background check jobs.
Flight attendants are responsible for making sure a plane’s cabin is clean and well-stocked with food and drinks, preparing passengers for takeoff and landing, helping passengers who need medical assistance, handling passenger disruptions, monitoring the plane for suspicious behavior, and directing passengers in the event of an emergency. Most airlines provide extensive training for flight attendants before they begin working.
Average income: $59,987 per year or $29 per hour
Top earners: $180,000
13. Massage therapist
Massage therapists don’t need a college degree, but they do have to complete an accredited training program. Most states require 600-750 hours of training, which can take six months to a year to complete and cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
Average income: $55,009 per year or $26 per hour
Top earners: $95,000+
14. Makeup artist
There are many different specializations to choose from as a makeup artist, including bridal services, spa and salon work, and performance makeup for film and theater. It’s easy to start off just by practicing on family and friends, but you can expand your skills and better prepare yourself for a job or clients by taking courses at a vocational school or working as a makeup assistant for some time.
Your earning potential depends on where you live and which industry you choose to specialize in. For instance, average hourly rates in some states are around $18, but that can jump to $26 per hour in others.3 And you could earn nearly twice as much with a focus on theatrical and performance makeup, as you can see below.
Average income: $93,805 per year or $45.12 per hour
Top earners: $170,860
15. Dog groomer
If you love dogs, becoming a dog groomer could be a fun career move. You can learn how to groom on-the-job at a local dog grooming shop or take an online course to learn the basics. One of the keys to increasing your skills in this profession is practice. Your first client can be your own dog or dogs in your family or friend circle.
Earning potential is directly related to your skills and the services you offer. To increase your credibility and charge higher rates, get certified in different types of grooming or become a niche groomer — one who specializes in certain breeds or offers creative techniques such as using dog-safe dyes to create unique patterns on fur.
Entry level dog groomers, with training, can make $34 per hour or more.
Learn more about how to become a dog groomer.
Average income: $47,659 per year or $23 per hour
Top earners: $72,000+
7 easy jobs that pay well without a degree
16. Virtual assistant
As more people shift from office jobs to home office jobs, the demand for virtual assistants is growing. These positions are especially great for parents, since they typically offer flexible hours and involve simple tasks like answering emails, scheduling meetings, managing social media accounts, and handling other daily tasks for a company or individual.
If you want to learn how to become a virtual assistant, we recommend enrolling in an online course. You’ll learn how to land your first client, set your rate (and learn when to raise it), onboard clients and handle legal matters to protect your business.
Learn more in our post about how to become a VA.
Average income: $67,115 per year or $32 per hour
Top earners: $130,500
If you have a computer and can type quickly, transcription jobs are easy and in most cases allow you to work from home on a flexible schedule.
You can test and increase your typing speed and accuracy using free sites like typing.com. Practice listening to your favorite podcast and transcribe as you go.
A lot of transcription jobs pay per project, so you can pick your schedule and decide how much or how little you want to work.
Average income: $58,441 per year or $28 per hour
Top earners: $135,500
18. Social media manager
Yes, there are people who get paid to spend all day on social media. Most brands use social media to advertise, post updates and interact with customers. A social media manager develops a brand’s posting schedule and strategy across various social media platforms (think Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok).
Other aspects of the job might include posting content, responding to comments and messages, and setting up Facebook ads. If you don’t have a degree in journalism or a similar field, you can gain relevant experience by enrolling in a free or low-cost social media marketing course online. Another good way to get your foot in the door is to volunteer or offer to work at a low rate for a small brand and show you can make an impact on their digital reach.
Average income: $52,114 per year or $25 per hour
Top earners: $87,500
19. Court reporter or simultaneous captioner
Court reporters are responsible for transcribing legal proceedings with speed and accuracy. Similarly, simultaneous captioners work in business settings, such as press conferences or presentations. They may also transcribe live broadcasts on television or in-person events for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
There’s no four-year degree required to take this career path, but you will likely need to complete a certificate program at a community college or technical school. This could take anywhere from six months to three years, plus any state licensing or exam requirements. In many areas, you can meet these requirements by getting certified by a professional association, such as the National Court Reporters Association.4
Average income: $60,380
Top earners: $103,270
20. Hearing aid specialist
The demand for hearing aid specialists is on the rise, thanks to the increase in the aging population.5 What do the daily responsibilities of this job look like? They include administering hearing tests, making impressions of the ear, fitting hearing instruments, and counseling customers on their hearing loss.
While there are some university and community college programs available in the U.S., there is another path to becoming a hearing aid specialist. Workplace training programs combine on-the-job experience with training to prepare you for licensing exams.
Average income: $59,020 per year or $28.38 per hour
Top earners: $91,740
21. E-commerce manager
According to Indeed.com, only 46% of e-commerce managers have a bachelor’s degree.6 45% have just a high school diploma or associate’s degree, making this a lucrative career opportunity with room for growth.
Instead of a college degree, you’ll need digital marketing skills, as well as knowledge of Google Analytics and customer service. Some managers in this field may also have technical knowledge of HTML5, Agile, and CSS. These skills are easy to learn on affordable platforms like Coursera or Udemy.
E-commerce managers are responsible for online sales of their employer’s products. They are responsible for the online shop’s appearance and functionality, as well as pricing and conversions.
Average income: $71,595
Top earners: $115,695
22. Physical therapist assistant
A physical therapist assistant works with a physical therapist to help patients recover from injuries or illnesses impacting their body’s movement. Their primary job duty is to assist with exercises, stretches, and massages.
You can become a physical therapist assistant by completing a two-year associate’s degree program, which must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy. In addition to studying subjects like anatomy and physiology, you’ll also be required to complete in-person clinical work. Once you finish the program, you’ll need to pass an exam from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy and complete any other licensing requirements for your state.
Average income: $61,180
Top earners: $80,170
High-paying jobs without a degree FAQs
What job pays the most without a degree?
According to a report by U.S. News and World Report,7 these are the jobs that pay the most without a degree:
- Patrol officer – Median salary: $63,150
- Executive assistant – Median salary: $60,890
- Sales representative – Median salary: $59,930
- Flight attendant – Median salary: $56,640
- Electrician – Median salary: $56,180
How can I make $100,000 a year without a degree?
Many of the jobs listed in this article have earning potential over $100,000. Since most employers make offers based on experience, you may have to work for several years in your chosen industry before you can reach a six-figure salary.
Matthew Warzel, President of MJW Careers, says climbing the ladder in any industry is all about seeking out opportunities for continued education, but not necessarily in the traditional sense.
“Opt for free experiential learning like internships. Work freelance projects for friends, neighbors, etc., and continuously build your portfolio, skills, and competencies,” says Warzel, whose advice has appeared in publications like the Chicago Tribune and Forbes. “Identify the possible credentials you may need to better position yourself in this new role, find online institutions where you can acquire these credentials, and list them on your resume.”
Warzel says it’s also important to network with industry pros and to learn about the types of jobs in your industry that could be a step up from what you’re doing now.
“It comes down to ‘Will you make money for the new company or cost them money?'” he says. “Work hard to be the former — it will carry you farther. Offer value and solutions, not abilities or skills. Everyone can ride a bike, but not everyone can ride a bike 60 miles to raise money for a charitable cause that was about to go bankrupt.”
Jennifer Lynn Robinson, TEDx speaker and CEO of Purposeful Networking, says securing a high-paying job is often more about the impression you make as a person than the skills you do or don’t possess.
“In our new hybrid world, employers are looking for people that can be team players and engage well online,” says Robinson, who is also a contributor for Entrepreneur Magazine and Philadelphia Magazine. “Employers are willing to teach the skills for the particular job role. It is more about finding the right personality for their company culture.”
What are the easiest jobs that pay well without a degree?
A search on ZipRecruiter for jobs with no experience returned the following results:
- Delivery driver
- General labor jobs
- Warehouse jobs
- Customer service/call center jobs
- Sales representative
- Retail merchandiser
- Machine operator
- Security guard
- Brand ambassadors
- Real estate agent
- Assembly line workers
- Retail worker
- Restaurant worker
- Secretary or administrative assistant
Search for “temp agencies near me”
Local temp agencies can help you find nearby, no-degree job opportunities. Just enter your zip code:
Bottom line: There are high-paying jobs without a degree out there
Despite popular belief, you do not have to spend thousands of dollars on a degree to get a high-paying job.
Check out these job posts for some more ideas:
- How to become a bookkeeper
- How to become a medical biller and coder
- How to become a home health aide
- How to become a doula
- Recession-proof jobs
- 7 recession-proof businesses
- Same-day pay jobs
- Certifications that pay well
- 10 business ideas that are great for moms
- “Spring 2023 Current Term Enrollment Estimates,” May 24, 2023. PBS Newshour. https://nscresearchcenter.org/current-term-enrollment-estimates/
- “Why Multiple Companies Aren’t Requiring College Degrees Anymore,” Sept. 2022. Recruiter.com. https://www.recruiter.com/recruiting/why-multiple-companies-arent-requiring-college-degrees-anymore/
- “Makeup Artist Salary & Job Outlook,” Dec. 9, 2020. L Makeup Institute. https://lmi.edu/makeup-artist-salary-job-outlook/
- The Association for Court Reporters and Captioners. https://www.ncra.org/certification
- “Hearing Aids Market is Expected to Reach $10.2 billion,” March 29, 2023. GlobeNewswire. https://www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2023/03/29/2636661/0/en/Hearing-Aids-Market-is-Expected-to-Reach-10-2-billion-MarketsandMarkets.html
- “What skills help E-commerce Managers find jobs?” Indeed.com. https://www.indeed.com/career/e%20commerce-manager/career-advice
- “Highest paying jobs without a degree,” U.S. News and World Report. https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/highest-paying-jobs-without-a-degree
According to a report by U.S. News and World Report, these are the jobs that pay the most without a degree: patrol officer, executive assistant, sales representative, flight attendant, and electrician.
Many of the jobs listed in this article, everything from sales representative to programmer, have earning potential over $100,000. Since most employers make offers based on experience, you may have to work for several years in your chosen industry before you can reach a six-figure salary.
A search on ZipRecruiter for jobs with no experience returned the following results: delivery driver, general laborer, customer service, retail worker, and more.