In many ways, skipping university and getting a job straight away can be a great career move. Not only that, it can be good for your future financial life and set you up in a much better position than many who chose to go to university. Sure, university does have it's place – but these days far too many people are forced into it when it's isn't the best option for them. You see, not everyone's cut out for university. Not only that – but not all post-college jobs pay as much as you might think. In this article, we're going to look at some jobs that can pay up to or around $100,000 a year that don't require a costly university education.
Going to college costs a lot of money. Not only are the tuition fees high, but so is supporting yourself for around four years without a real job. Many students find themselves with over $100k of debt just for that four years of education. What if you could earn that much a year without putting yourself four years behind? Of course, some university degrees are worth it – but with so many graduates out there and a lot of competition for the top jobs, you could actually find yourself in a worse position if you choose to go to university.
If you get a good job straight out of high school – you start earning straight away. That means you could already be a few promotions and pay rises in to your new role while others are still studying at university. That means you could start paying for your retirement or get on the property ladder much sooner than many of your peers. You could find yourself earning more than many college graduates AND without the huge debt to pay off. Now you can see how choosing one of these no-degree required jobs could be an excellent choice for your career.
One last thing to remember is that many graduate jobs are in expensive locations, like major cities. A lot of these jobs that don't require degrees are in diverse locations across the country. What that means is, you could build an even better life for yourself with a high-paying, fulfilling role in a place where living costs are much cheaper.
$100k Jobs with No Degree Required
- Air Traffic Controller
- Food Van Owner
- Restaurant Owner
- Window Cleaning Business Owner
- Fire Chief
- Construction Manager
- IT Manager
- Hotel Executive Chef
- Commercial Pilot
- Massage Therapist
- Court Reporter
- Sound Engineering Technician
- Web Developer
- Real Estate Agent
- Oil Rig Worker
1. Air Traffic Controller
As an air traffic controller, you'll be responsible for the safe transit, landing and takeoff of mostly commercial flights. It's a job you can get into and succeed at without a costly university education. That means you can start earning straight away while people your age are still racking up debt at school.
Duties for a qualified air traffic controller are all associated with the safe transit of aircraft. You'll need to complete extensive training before you're allowed to work without supervision – but it's a role that can be demanding and rewarding at the same time. You will need to be an excellent communicator, as much of the job will require you to liase with flight crews, ground staff, and other air traffic controller. You'll need to be extensively trained in a range of equipment and may need to carry out weather checks. You'll have to work to strict safety guidelines, and may be responsible during highly-pressurized situations. This job is only suitable for people who are clear and calm under pressure and can think on their feet.
You may be required to work weekends, nights or evenings. Pay for a qualified air traffic controller can be upwards of $100k a year depending on location. You will need to complete extensive on the job training – but you won't need a bachelor's degree. NATS has more if you're looking to become an air traffic controller.
2. Food Van Owner
This has been a huge growth industry in recent years. That means there's now tons of demand for all sorts of different local food – and there could be a change for you to make some real money being your own boss. That's one key difference with being a food van owner. It's not a “job” that someone just gives you. You've got to start it up yourself and make it a success. That means it's quite a high risk strategy – but it does have some good rewards. It's also a relatively easy business to get into and one with a low barrier to entry and reasonably startup costs.
One of the benefits of starting your own business and being your own boss is the freedom it gives you – you also don't need an expensive university education. If you're motivated and driven then you can make this a success no matter what your background is – that means you can start earning real money while others are still at school running up debt.
As a food van owner, you'll be responsible for everything – from day to day operations to marketing and creativity. A passion for food is a must – and some experience catering is useful. You'll need to purchase your van and market it effectively, along with producing the sort of food people will come back for. You can think outside the box a little instead of simply making a burger van. You'll need to establish a pitch and make sure you've got all the right licenses for your area. If things take off, you may need to hire staff or even expand into new areas with additional vans.
The scope for this type of business is huge, but it obviously comes with some risk. As your own boss, you can be as busy as you like. Some food van owners run it as a lifestyle business and only work a few days a week, but if you really want to make it a success, you'll probably need to work some long hours. You could earn $100,000 a year from a successful food van, potentially more. The Balance has lots more information for those looking to start a food truck business.
3. Restaurant Owner
Becoming a restaurant owner is similar to owning a food van – you're the boss. This one might be harder (and more costly) to set up – but if you make it a success you could earn far more than $100k a year.
Duties will depend on how much control of the business you want to have. Many restaurant owners hire managers to look after the day-to-day business. However, if you're just starting out you probably want to keep as hands-on as possible to reduce the costs. Only give up some of that control when you know you're making enough money to hire another senior member of staff.
If you run a successful restaurant – you're probably going to be busy. That means a lot of weekend and evening work. It's not uncommon to work upwards of 70 hours a week in this sort of business. You'll be responsible for hiring staff, creating menus and everything that goes with running a busy restaurant – including marketing and troubleshooting.
Lots of restaurants start each year and fail. Most people think they can run a restaurant, but this is often simply based on an enjoyment of food. The reality is much harder. Experience in the restaurant industry could make a big difference. You'll need to be creative, hardworking and good managing a large and diverse team of employees. That means you'll have to solve a lot of problems with their staff as and when they happen.
As a successful restaurant manager, you could earn way more than $100k a year.
4. Window Cleaning Business Owner
Here's another one where you can earn much more than you might think. As an individual window cleaner with the right clients, it could be possible to hit $100k a year in some areas. However, if you can hire a few cleaners to work for you and take things up a notch – you could easily hit $100k a year as a window cleaning business owner.
You'll need to know what you're doing and be able to clean windows on different sorts of buildings and sites. You'll also need the latest equipment and the ability to work both safely and quickly. The big money from window cleaning often comes from commercial clients rather than simply doing one house at a time – think large office blocks or other commercial buildings. To make real money in window cleaning, a lot of your success will be based on your ability to build a good client base, so you'll also need to be a people person who's presentable and good at sales. It'll be down to you to pitch your services at a competitive price – and that will play a big role in whether you can hit that $100k a target each year.
Again, you'll be your own boss so this isn't really something you can get given as a “job”. This brings it's own risks, but also a number of upsides. You won't need any formal education.
This is normally a 9-5 weekday role, but it's physically demanding work. Profitable Window Cleaning has much more for those looking to get into this business.
5. Fire Chief
As opposed to the last few potential businesses we looked at – this is an actual job with a normal career path, rather than having to be your own boss. You will need to start as an experienced firefighter, but it's something you can get into without a strong educational background. One of the great things about getting a job without a degree is that you can avoid a lot of the debt associated with studying at university while starting to earn sooner rather than later – as many of those who went to university would.
As a fire chief, you will be responsible for a team of firefighters. It goes without saying that you'll need to be an experienced firefighter and someone with a lot of background in the field. As well as being highly trained in the use of all equipment and how to react to a number of dangerous situations, you'll also need to manage a team – so some management skills would be useful. Along with attending incidents, you'll also need to oversee training and make sure strict safety protocols are followed at all times. You may also be responsible for community outreach and might be required to give talks on fire safety and attend other events.
This is a highly respected position in the community that comes with a lot of responsibility and a lot of risks. It could pay around $100k a year depending on your location. You will be expected to work nights and weekends. While you won't need a degree, you will need a number of different certifications. EKU Online has more information if you're interested.
6. Construction Manager
As a construction manager, you'll be in charge of a large team of construction workers. It's another great career that you can be successful at without an expensive college education – but you will need some experience in the construction industry. You don't need an expensive university education and years of debt to get a well-paying career.
Your responsibilities as a construction manager will be related to the construction of homes or other buildings. Along with day-today construction work, you'll be responsible for overseeing the productivity of a large team of workers. You'll need to have first-aid training and work to strict safety protocols at all times. You'll also have to liase with clients and architects and manage the overall building process. This could include purchasing and negotiating prices with building supply retailers. As a manager, you'll need to have some people skills and will have to deal with a number of problems as an when they arise.
Construction management can include long, busy hours but it's normally only during the week – weekend and night work shouldn't be expected. The good news is that pay can be around $100k a year. Study.com has some additional information if you're looking to become a construction manager.
7. IT Manager
IT management is another rewarding career that you can get into without a strong educational background. More and more people are realizing that they can get on the career ladder and start earning good money without wasting four years at university and racking up a load of debt. That means you can get on the housing ladder much quicker than your peers who went to university instead – you could find yourself in a much better financial position if you choose to get a job instead of going to university.
As an IT manager you will be responsible for a team of workers, normally in an office or other similar environment. You will be looking after the security and efficiency of a network of computers and will need to be up to date with all modern related technologies. It goes without saying that you'll need to be good with computers and have experience in the IT industry, but you won't need a costly education.
You will also be managing a team of other IT support workers so will need to have good people management skills. This is normally only a weekday 9-5 job so night shifts shouldn't be necessary, neither should weekend work. As an experienced IT manager, you could earn around $100,000 a year without too much trouble. Learn.org has tons more information if you're looking to get into IT management.
8. Hotel Executive Chef
Hotel executive chef is another great job you can get into without a lengthy and costly education background. That means you can start earning straight away while others are still saddling themselves with tons of debt.
As a hotel executive chef, you'll be overseeing a busy kitchen and heading a team of other chefs. It'll be your responsibility to design menus, purchase stock, and manage the day-to-day operations of the kitchen. While you don't need a degree, you will need to have a background in catering and particularly restaurant cookery. Some chefs are self taught, but you might also need to go to catering school. The good thing about this is that you can learn on the job and work your way up, you don't have to take too much time out for qualification – and some successful chefs don't have any at all.
A restaurant kitchen can be a busy and stressful environment. This is a managerial role so you will need to be good at motivating a diverse team. You will also need to be good at communication and may be required to liase with front of house staff and other colleagues. This role can have long hours with weekend and evening shifts being the norm. As an executive hotel chef, you can earn around $100,000 a year in the right role. Study.com has more for those looking to become an executive chef.
9. Commercial Pilot
As a commercial pilot, you'll be responsible for a commercial airliner, including take-offs and landings. This is a highly respected position that many are surprised to know – you can do it without an expensive university education. That being said, you will need to complete extensive training before you're fully qualified, but this can be started as soon as you leave high school and can include a lot of on the job training where you earn as you learn.
As a commercial pilot – you duties will include overseeing the safe transit of a large commercial jet. This job obviously comes with a lot of responsibility but it's also highly rewarding, but financially and with other benefits. You'll need to be calm under pressure and a good communicator. You'll be required to liase with ground crews, air traffic controllers, other member of the flight team as well as passengers.
You'll need to be fully trained on a wide range of equipment along with sticking to strict safety policies at all times. You might also need to check equipment regularly and also check weather conditions and other things that might affect your flight. It goes without saying that safety is paramount in this role.
You might need to work away from home regularly and travel extensively. You will probably work weekends and evenings, or through the night. However, pay can be good, and you could expect to earn $100k a year when fully qualified. Pilot Career News has more info if you're looking to get into this career.
Thought the salary isn't as high, still related to the aviation industry is being an aircraft mechanic, which can also be a high paying position without a college degree.
10. Massage Therapist
Massage therapy is another good career you can get into without any educational background at all. The good thing about this job is that it doesn't even require extensive training, although you might need to complete a quick course to get licensed in your area.
As a massage therapist, you'll normally be your own boss and will therefore set your own work-life balance. You could alternatively be employed by a parlor, but pay won't be as much there. Starting a successful massage therapy business with the right clients and enough hours could net you $100,000 a year – but it won't be straightforward. Many massage therapists don't earn this amount. You'll need to be fully trained, presentable, and good at interacting with people. If you're trying to market your own skills, some sales experience could be beneficial.
As you'll often be self employed, hours will vary depending on how much you want to work – but you would normally be working during the daytime and also at weekends and in the evenings. If you are motivated to get high-paying clients that pay (and tip) well, you could earn quite a lot. You'll need to be able to carry yourself professionally at all times. Many of your referrals and new clients will be by word of mouth. Natural Healers has more if you're looking to get into massage therapy.
11. Court Reporter
As a court reporter, you'll be responsible for recording and taking notes during court proceedings. This is another good career that you can get into without an extensive or expensive university background. That means you can start earning while others are getting further into debt – putting you in a better financial position overall.
Your responsibilities as a court reporter will all be related to recording court proceedings and other similar duties. You'll need to be a very fast typist who can work in a professional and confidential manner. You may be working on difficult cases for long hours. You might also need to use video equipment or other recording devices. You'll need to be presentable and professional at all times. You might be required to attend other meetings and record depositions, interviews or statements. You'll need to be good with a range of different equipment and will have to be happy to work on sometimes difficult cases.
Most trials are during the week so you shouldn't need to work at weekends. However, hours can be long. In the right location and including overtime, you could earn around $100,000 a year.
This is a rather broad career, but it's a one with great prospects that has a lot of potential for moving into other similar roles or earning even more further down the line. Sales is something you're either good are or aren't – and if you've got a natural talent for it, you can do it without an expensive university degree. That means you can move into professional business environment and earn a lot of money without wasting four years at university and saddling yourself with a lot of debt that it could take years to pay off.
As a salesperson, your duties will vary depending on the specifics of the role. You could be working in retail sales, business to business or on the phone. While different sales roles do have different requirements – you'll need to be driven and motivated to hit targets and an excellent communicator who can effectively convince people on the benefits of the products you're trying to sell. A lot of your earnings will be based on commission, so if you don't work hard enough, you might not earn enough. You'll need to be presentable at all times and a good people-person. You might be required to travel extensively depending on the specifics of the role.
Sales is only a good career for the right sort of candidate. It's important that you don't come across as a pushy salesperson, but you'll also need to be fully motivated to hit targets and sell as much as you can. Sales is reasonably easy to get into, with many entry-level jobs available for someone with the right attitude who wants to get their foot in the door. It also has excellent career progression opportunities for someone looking to move up the ladder. You could easily earn $100k a year with uncapped commission – potentially even more for the right candidate.
13. Sound Engineering Technician
As a sound engineering technician, you'll be involved in sound or musical production or on other similar projects. This is another good career that you can get into without a university background, although you'll need an aptitude for music and some background in production.
You'll need to be fully up-to-date with the latest equipment and production techniques. This is a creative role so you'll also need to have a natural talent for music. Duties include liasing with clients or other members of a team and carrying out a range of production duties. You'll need to mix, tape and record events and have a good knowledge of editing software. you might also need to test equipment and carry out other auxiliary duties.
This is a good career for someone who has a talent and passion for sound production and engineering. You could earn around $100k a year – and you'll normally be working during weekday hours, apart from some evening events that you might be required to attend.
14. Web Developer
Web development is a huge growth industry with tons of career options for the right candidate. The good thing is that it's something else you can do without an expensive and time consuming university education. That means you can start earning and potentially get on the property ladder while others are still at university running up debt.
As a web developer, your duties will be associated with creating websites – either for one client or a range of different people. You'll need to liase with clients to get a good idea of what they're looking for before carrying out the design duties yourself. You'll obviously need a strong background in web design and have a full working knowledge of the relevant coding languages and other software and equipment that could help you do your job. Many successful web developers are self-taught, and there are a number of online courses that can give you the required knowledge to get started.
This job could earn you around $100k a year with the right clients and experience. You'll normally be working during the week in a 9-5 role. You'll need to be good at communicating and both in a team and by yourself – so being able to self-motivate is useful. Free Code Camp has tons of useful information if you're looking to get into web development.
15. Real Estate Agent
As a real estate agent, you'll earn most of your money from commission – so your ability to earn will greatly depend on both how good you are at the job and the location you work in. The upside is that you could potentially earn way more than $100k if you do a good job.
Duties for a real estate agent include visiting homes and valuing them, along with showing around potential buyers. You'll need to be presentable and a good communicator, and have the ability to sell a house passionately and in a compelling way (without coming across as a salesperson). You'll need to be able to communicate the benefits of a particular house and have full knowledge of the local market. You may also be required to furnish houses to improve their chance of selling, along with running open days and make other attempts to market your properties effectively.
You'll often work from a local office but will need to travel a lot in the local area. You may be required to work at the weekends, as some potential buyers can only attend viewing at this time, and maybe some evenings. You'll be relying on yourself a lot of time to make money, but for a motivated agent, you could easily earn upwards of $100,000 a year in the right location.
As you can see, there really are some great options for those looking to get straight into working without paying for a costly university education. Many of these jobs can get you started on a good career path so you can start earning good money instead of spending four years racking up loads of debt. That means you can get on the property ladder quickly, and set yourself up for good future earnings. You could even buy your first property and be a few promotions into your new career before others have even finished school. That means you're earning and setting yourself up for retirement while others are still getting further into debt.
16. Oil Rig Worker
You've seen the movies and documentaries, and know how dangerous this job can be. It's not for the faint of heart. However, it does pay well. Pay range will depend on what you're getting paid to do. For general activities that don't require much training, you'll start at the bottom, at $35k+ per year. At the top of the food chain is going to be the engineers, making $200k+ per year, but those positions will require extensive training in a university setting.
In between, there are lots of other positions like a mud engineer making $100k or rig operator making $190k. This is a booming industry, so popular that career fairs are having to turn away companies looking for recruits due to lack of space at the fair. Personally, if I had to redo life and get a “real job”, I think I'd enjoy the diverse, adventurous, an high paying job of an oil rig worker.
Don't forget, we've got a ton of other jobs you can look at in different pay ranges:
- Fifteen $40k Jobs
- Nineteen $50k Jobs
- Nineteen $60k Jobs
- Fifteen $70k Jobs
- Eighteen $80k Jobs
- Fourteen $90k Jobs
What do you think? Are any of these jobs an option for you?