In many cases – skipping university could be a great choice that's right for you. In this article, we're going to look at a number of well-paying careers that you can get into without further education.
There are a number of advantages to starting work without a degree. Firstly – you get to start earning as soon as your leave high school rather than four (or more) years later. That means by the time a college graduate starts earning, you could already be two or three promotions and pay rises into a worthwhile career. You also won't be in debt – and that's another huge factor.
Think about how much more you'd have to earn to service a large student loan and getting a good career without a degree starts to look even more appealing. Post-university jobs aren't always better paying, either. You can also start investing your salary much sooner than someone who goes to university – setting yourself up for greater returns as your career progresses.
Non-university degrees are a great way to get out into the real working world and earning much more quickly. You can start learning real transferable skills vocationally and move up the career ladder before other people your age have even finished their first year at school.
Table of Contents
- $40k Jobs With No Degree Required
- 1. Solar Technician
- 2. Carpenter
- 3. Heavy equipment operator
- 4. Sheet metal worker
- 5. Plumber
- 6. Electrician
- 7. Web developer
- 8. Automotive service and maintenance technicians
- 9. Electronic home entertainment equipment installers & repairers
- 10. Personal Trainer
- 11. Freelance Photographer
- 12. Truck Driver
- 13. Fire Fighter
- 14. Salesperson
- 15. EMT
$40k Jobs With No Degree Required
- Solar Technician
- Heavy equipment operator
- Sheet metal worker
- Web developer
- Automotive service and maintenance technicians
- Electronic home entertainment equipment installers & repairers
- Personal Trainer
- Freelance Photographer
- Truck Driver
- Fire Fighter
1. Solar Technician
Solar technology is a growing industry as people look to make the most of alternative energy sources. That means more and more jobs are becoming available in that sector – making a solar technician a great prospect for someone without a university degree.
The main duties of a solar technician are all unsurprisingly based around installing and maintaining solar panels. You'll be responsible for assembling, installing and maintaining solar panels or photovoltaic systems on roofs or other similar structures.
Responsibilities for this role include assessing sites and resolving any issues with hazards. You'll also be responsible for creating plans and mapping out the steps required for a successful installation, before installing the systems itself. As well as this, you'll return to existing sites in order to carry out routine maintenance or fix any issues. Electrical work may need to be carried out on sites, along with weatherproofing and following local safety regulations.
Positives of the job include working in a growth industry that looks set to play a bigger role in the future of energy provisions. Career prospects are positive, and the job provides you with a number of skills that can be used in other similar trades. It's a job you can do with only a high school diploma. You also get to work outside.
You could also view working outside regularly as a negative of the job, depending on the location and your specific tastes/requirements for a career. Other negatives include the requirement to perform a lot of heavy manual labor which might not suit your specific needs. While it is an industry that has an unclear future, it provides you with a number of skills that can easily suit many other similar roles. Opportunities for progression into management are also limited.
The median pay for solar installation jobs is around $40k a year – making it a great option for those looking to start earning as soon as they can without spending a lot of time and money on a university degree. You can check out this resource for more information on becoming a solar technician.
Although this career has been around for a long time – it's still a worthwhile vocation for someone looking for a rewarding, creative career that doesn't require an expensive education. As a carpenter, you'll be working with wood, often constructing and repairing frameworks and structures. A lot of your work will be on building sites – but some bespoke carpenters work in workshops and spend their time making furniture and other wood objects rather than structural work.
Duties for carpentry include following blueprints and plans to carry out work to specifications required by clients. You'll be required to install structures and fixtures in buildings such as doorframes, stairs and windows. Carpenters can also work with plastic and other materials as well as wood. Some carpenters will also be required to construct and install building frameworks and walls. As a carpenter, you might also need to maintain and repair existing wooden structures.
One of the main positives to becoming a carpenter is the versatile set of skills you'll learn on the job. There are tons of different routes for your career to take – from bespoke furniture maker to someone who builds large homes. You'll also get skills and experience that'll give you the ability to do many useful things at home and work. You might even be able to build your own house.
As carpentry is physical work, this could be viewed as a negative. You'll need to follow safety procedures carefully as it's a job where injuries are not uncommon. While a degree isn't required and you can get started with just a high school diploma, you might need a strong grasp of mathematics and mechanical drawing, along with basic shop skills. You will normally learn on the job as an apprentice, which can take up to 4 years before full qualification.
Median annual wage for a carpenter is around $40,000. This can grow quite a lot depending on experience and the type of carpentry you decide to specialize in. While an old and established trade, carpentry is still expected to be a growth industry in the next few years. You can find out more about becoming a carpenter here.
3. Heavy equipment operator
As a standard or heavy equipment worker, you'll be required to perform certain roles, normally on heavy construction sites. This is another great career with good earning potential that's ideal for someone with a college degree. Heavy equipment operators usually specialize on a particular piece of equipment, such as a bulldozer or backhoe.
Duties for this role include inspecting equipment before usage and performing basic repairs and maintenance. You'll be required to communicate effectively with other workers when on the job, often with hand signals. You'll also need to follow orders effectively and make sure you always work safely and with specific regulations in mind.
Positives for the job depend on your specific outlook and requirements. You'll learn transferable skills and gain the ability to use heavy equipment. If you enjoy working in busy, dynamic environments that are often outside, this might be the job for you. It should also keep you in good shape.
This is obviously a tough job that sometimes requires strength and stamina to carry out successfully. This can be viewed as a negative for the role. it is also quite a dangerous job, and only people who enjoy specific working conditions are cut out for it.
The average salary for an equipment operator is around $40,000 a year. You can find out more here.
4. Sheet metal worker
Sheet metal workers build, repair and maintain things that are made out of sheet metal. It's another great career choice for those looking to get earning in a physical role without needing an expensive college degree.
Duties for sheet metal work include studying blueprints and plans along with carrying out specific and precise measurements on site. As a sheet metal worker, you'll be required to use computerized machinery to cut, bend and manipulate sheet metal in order to carry out specific tasks on the site. You may also use hand tools to finish certain jobs.
Although you don't need further education, you will carry out on the job training (normally in an apprenticeship) that could take up to 5 years to complete. While this could be seen as a negative as you take a while before unlocking full earning potential, you'll be able to start earning straight away as you train – rather than waiting until you've completely finished your education. Sheet metal work could also be considered another physical, dangerous job – so this may either be seen as a positive or negative depending on your tastes.
Sheet metal workers earn on average around $40,000 a year or $20 per hour. To find out more, check out this resource.
Another fairly old trade – plumbing is a great career to get into that you also don't need a degree for. As opposed to some of the jobs we've looked at in this article, plumbing is one you're probably well aware of. One of the benefits to becoming a plumber is that it teaches you a load of useful skills that should help you not only find gainful employment in a great industry, but give you the ability to fix, maintain and repair all sorts of useful things.
Plumbers are responsible for fixing and installing pipework, tubings and fittings – along with installing boilers and making sure heating and boiler systems are working well. You might be needed to fit bathrooms or repair pipes in industrial buildings – the range of work for a plumber is broad. Actually, you'll normally specialize in specific types of plumbing as there is such a wide range of roles, like residential, commercial, or industrial – but you'll still learn a broad range of skills that'll help you out in any of them.
Along with physical installation work, you'll be required to follow safety procedures, carry out full planning procedures and produce detailed work reports.
One advantage to becoming a plumber is that there's a huge demand for there skills and lots of opportunities to move on to different types of projects. You'll also have the ability to do your own plumbing work where you live – saving money by not having to call one out when your toilets broken or if you need a new bath installed.
Not only can plumbers get employed by big construction or maintenance firms for steady work – you could also choose the work/life balance opportunities of becoming an on-call residential plumber. This kind of work could allow you to have more time off while earning a good hourly rate. However, as a self-employed plumber you might also have periods where you struggle to find regular work.
As a plumber, you'll have to be happy carrying out physical work, and obviously, getting wet from time to time.
Plumbers can start on around $40k per year – although this could actually rise to an average of around $50k.
Similarly to becoming a plumber – an electrician is another role that has both residential, commercial and industrial uses. You'll normally specialize in one of those areas. Becoming an electrician is a rewarding role that teaches you tons of useful skills that you can continue to use for the next 50 years. You'll also never need to hire an electrician for your own work again.
Job duties for an electrician include diagnosing and repairing electrical problems in domestic and commercial electrical systems. You'll need to assess the parts you need for specific jobs and potentially source them yourself at a competitive price. Electricians will need to conduct routine maintenance on electrical systems to make sure standards are kept to, including checking systems are working safely and to fire regulations.
Electricians will also be required to rewire faulty systems and carry out tests to make sure they're working again. You'll work regularly with lighting, heating and alarm systems.
Becoming an electrician is a rewarding job that gives you a ton of useful skills that you can use in and around your own home. You might prefer to work on busy building sites or as a residential on-call electrician. After becoming fully qualified, there are countless different roles that you might prefer to specialize in. Electricians have been around for a while – but they're still a growth industry as more and more technology gets built into new buildings.
The pay prospects for an electrician are good. You might start on around $40k a year in some locations, but average earnings could grow to around $61k. If you become self employed and start your own electrical firm – earnings could grow even more.
7. Web developer
While you might think becoming a web developer is something you need a strong educational background in, that isn't necessarily the case. Web development is a huge growth industry – and it's one you can get into with the right training and experience without paying for a college degree. Actually, many successful web developers are self-taught. There's a lot of information available out there on the internet as you'd expect, and you can take free courses to learn the basics and improve your skills.
As a web developer, your duties will include liasing with clients and designing a solution that works for them – and then building the website from the ground up to suit their specific needs. You'll need to have a working knowledge of a number of different coding languages and a full knowledge of things like HTML. As a web developer, you'll also need to troubleshoot and fix problems as they arise, and you may need to maintain existing websites or carry out updates. You could be employed by a large development firm who works for different clients, or a specific company that only needs that web presence looked after. You could also become a freelance web developer.
As a freelance web developer, you'll need to find your own clients (either locally or online), market your skills and carry out the job to their satisfaction. Becoming a freelance web developer gives you the freedom to work when you want and choose the sort of jobs you're happy with – although a negative could be that you may struggle to get enough work all of the time.
One positive of this line of work is while the initial pay for a self-taught developer might only be around $40k a year – there's a huge potential increase that could see you earn up to $70k or more further down the line. It's also a huge growth industry, and that looks set to continue. As opposed to most of the jobs we've looked at so far – it's also something you can do without any physical strength or if you don't like manual labor.
For more information on becoming a web developer, check out this resource.
8. Automotive service and maintenance technicians
If you enjoy a hands-on role that gets you working with cars and other vehicles – an automotive technician might be what you're looking for. It's another great job that you can do without an expensive degree or further education. As an automotive technician, you'll also learn transferable skills that will help in a number of other roles. You'll also give yourself the ability to fix cars as and when you need to.
Duties for this role include identifying mechanical problems and faults in vehicles before carrying out repairs. You'll need to learn how to use computerized diagnostic equipment to fully evaluate any and all issues a car might have. You'll also be required to test your own equipment regularly along with any spare parts held in stock. You'll be responsible for performing basic duties such as oil-changes and fluid level checks. As well as these hands-on tasks, you'll also need to liase with clients and discuss the issues with their vehicles.
An automotive service technicians is a great role for someone with a keen interest in automotives. If that's not you, then this probably isn't the job you're looking for, as you'll be working with vehicles all day. After becoming an automotive technician, you will have the ability to move forward in your career and specialize in a particular niche such as a front-end mechanic or transmission technician. These specialities could increase your earning potential.
One negative of the job is that overtime might be required, as might weekend work. It's also another role where injuries are not uncommon. Although you won't need a degree, you will be required to complete on-the-job training which should take a year or two (this is lower than a number of other careers that require on-the-job training).
Average earning for an entry-level technician are around $40k per year. You could also move up and become a supervisor or manager, unlocking more earning power. To find out more about becoming an automotive technician, check out this site. To become an automotive technician, you'll probably need to approach a business that's looking for an apprentice, or go on a quick course or open-day that has connections to a number of different employers.
9. Electronic home entertainment equipment installers & repairers
This is another growth industry that could suit you depending on your interests. More and more people need electronic home entertainment equipment installed and repaired. This is a very easy job to get into and start learning the skills in a short period of time. While learning how to repair items is something that might not come easily to everyone – actual installation is a reasonably straightfoward role that doesn't need years of on-the-job training like some other careers. If you enjoy installing your own equipment, then this job could be for you.
As a growth industry, prospects as an equipment installer look set to improve. Duties for this role include liasing with clients and carrying out measurements of specific rooms or areas where equipment is going to be installed. You'll need to plan effectively and offer a range of solutions to a client, potentially even upselling more equipment. You'll also obviously be responsible for carrying out the installation itself, either alone or as part of a small team. With regards to repair, you'll need to use a number of different diagnostic tools to evaluate the problem as quickly as possible before carrying out the repairs yourself or taking the item to a specialist.
This is a job that will have a lot of positives for people who are interested in home entertainment and other similar roles. It's also something that is normally carried out indoors, often in luxury homes or desirable areas – so this presents a number of benefits compared to working on a noisy building site.
While you will learn some skills that are transferable to other jobs, it's not necessarily something with a huge number of similar jobs to move into. While it is a growth industry, it's not particularly established, or something that will clearly still need doing ins 50 years time.
The average wage for an electronic equipment installer recently grew to $39,770. You can find out more, including how to get started here.
10. Personal Trainer
Another huge growth industry is that of the personal trainer. With more and more people joining fitness centres and spending money on working out – a new career option has almost been created out of nothing in the last decade or so. Becoming a personal trainer is a great role for someone who's in good shape and knows how to advise people on how to improve their workout and personal fitness regime. It's actually something you can get into with little or not training at all.
Duties for a personal trainer include liasing with new clients and discussing what they're looking to achieve. You'll then create a personalized workout plan for your client and help motivate them as they carry it out.
This is a job with a number of benefits – you'll normally have free use of a gym or fitness centre and be able to use equipment when not training clients. It's a job that keeps you inside, helps you stay active and helps you meet a wide range of new people. One negative is that many personal trainers are self employed, or at least earn most of their money from clients – so if you have a period where you don't have many clients, you might struggle to earn.
You might be required to obtain a certificate before you can begin training, but this is normally quite an easy certificate to get. You could also specicalise in other areas or learn additional skills to improve your earning potential. For example, by becoming a yoga instructor or taking fitness bootcamps.
Average earnings for a regular personal trainer are around $37,500 – although this can improve depending on your other skills or growing your client-base. You could also be a home-visit personal trainer.
Getting into personal training is normally relatively straightforward. You can ask around at your local fitness centre for advice (they might even have a job for you straight away as turnover can be high in this industry).
11. Freelance Photographer
As a freelance photographer, you'll get the ability to follow a rewarding career-path that's easy to get into without a college degree. You'll obviously need to be good with a camera, but other than some initial training it's something with constant demand that could give you the work/life balance you've been looking for. While some photography training is useful, it's something you can often get into as a self-taught photographer.
Duties as a freelance photographer will include looking for clients or people that need photography work, discussing what they need and carrying out the photography to their needs. You'll also need to bring the right equipment with you and set it up in different locations. Communication is key as you will need to be vocal in getting people to pose correctly in order to get the best photos possible. After the event, you'll need to edit and compile the best photos and show them to your client.
Photography is a creative industry that appeals to certain individuals who will normally already have a natural flair for it. One benefit is that you'll get to attend a number of happy occasions like weddings and other events that are normally fun to work at. As a freelance photographer, you'll also get to have good work/life balance that may see you with lots of busy periods but also the ability to have a fair amount of time off.
A negative of being a freelancer is that you'll need to find your own clients – this could mean periods where you struggle to get any work. It's often an industry where word of mouth helps you get more business, so if you have a couple of unhappy clients this could affect your future earning potential.
Average earnings for a freelance photographer are around $47,000. This amount could fluctuate a lot depending on how much work you're able to get as a freelancer and the types of jobs you end up doing, so you could earn much more (or less).
Becoming a freelancer is different to getting a normal job. You could start getting clients straight away by word of mouth, or you might need to take our some advertising in your local area. Once you've got a portfolio of work, it should be easier to get more clients and ones that pay better. Find out more here.
12. Truck Driver
Another role that's been around for a while, a truck driver is reasonably easy to get into (if you can drive) and doesn't need a degree or expensive education. While you will need a bit of training if you're new to it, this can normally be completed in only 6 to 8 weeks – making it much easier to get into than many other vocations.
Duties for a truck driver include liasing with clients and managers, keeping to a busy and tight workschedule, helping to unload and load items, and most importantly – driving for long periods of time to deliver items. You'll sometimes be required to drive to certain safety regulations and make regular reports along with planning routes and inspecting your vehicle regularly. You could also be responsible for a high value of stock at any one time.
Positives to becoming a truck driver include the ability to travel regularly and is good for someone who likes working alone for long periods. Negatives are that you'll often be away from home and also on the road for long periods of time – this will only appeal to some. Another negative is that career progression possibilities are limited.
Getting into truck driving is reasonably easy, you can find out more here. The average salary for a truck driver is around $45,000 a year.
13. Fire Fighter
A highly rewarding job that not only pays well, but also can be done without an expensive degree college education – becoming a fire fighter could be for you.
While you don't need a degree, you will need full training as this is a highly demanding job. Duties will include attending dangerous fires and rescuing people. You'll also be required to carry out regular safety checks and complete regular training exercises. You'll be trained to use sophisticated equipment.
Along with attending accidents and other dangerous situations or incidents, you'll be required to promote fire safety at different events and talks, along with inspecting and enforcing safety procedures at various locations.
One positive is that it's a highly rewarding job that gives you the ability to help your community and save lives. This is a very dangerous job and is obviously only suitable for certain people.
Firefighters can start on as little as $30,000 a year, but this should grow over time and can lead to very good long-term earnings. You'll have the ability to move up into more senior positions and should always be well respected in the community.
As a salesperson, you could open up huge potential earnings. It's an easy job to get into with many entry-level positions available in your local area.
The duties for a salesperson are wide-ranging and depend on the specifics of your actual job. You might be a door-to-door salesperson, business to business, or someone who makes sales over the phone (or a mixtures). You'll normally be required to explain the benefits of the items you're trying to sell effectively, as well as up-selling additional items. It's a job that can sometimes have a low starting salary where the rest of your earning are topped up by commission on the items you sell. This can mean that a successful salesperson could earn upwards of $100,000 a year – although most starting positions will offer more modest returns.
One of the major benefits to becoming a salesperson is that there are so many career opportunities and places for you to move up to. Many high-powered executives started as salespeople and if you're good at your job – there's normally somewhere further up the ladder for you to go.
On the negative side, the lower, entry level end of sales is often stressful and unrewarding. Especially if it involves cold sales where you'll often be annoying people rather than selling to them. If you struggle at this job, you might not earn much at all.
Average earning for “sales” jobs are difficult to come by, but many starting positions could give you around $40,000 a year including commission. You'll also have the potential to not only earn more if you do a good job, but also move into better paying sales positions with almost unlimited earning potential.
There are tons of sales jobs on most employment sites, so it's easy to get into even without any prior experience. Most sales jobs require highly-motivated, driven people with a will to succeed, so it's not necessarily a job for someone who just wants to quietly go about their day without talking to anyone else.
Similarly to a firefighter, becoming an EMT is a rewarding career path that helps you save lives. It's another career that doesn't require a college education, but you will need to carry out extensive training.
Duties for an EMT include attending emergencies and accidents, evaluating patients and carrying out care. You will be required to perform CPR and also extract patients from dangerous situations and get them to a care facility as quickly as possible.
You'll need to be someone who's good at critical thinking and can act quickly in highly stressful situations. It can also be a dangerous job (although probably not as dangerous as a firefighter in general). It's also a highly respected and rewarded position in the community.
A recently qualified EMT might only earn around $30,000 a year, although this can grow over time. In order to get employed as an EMT, you'll need to apply for a position at a relevant healthcare provider and go through extensive training. You can find out more here.
Hopefully this list of jobs has shown you that you don't need to go to college or spend a lot of money on your education to start earning. These real jobs might be right for you to make the first step in a fulfilling and rewarding career. You can start earning and moving up the career ladder before people have even completed their first year of university education – and you won't be saddling yourself with tons of debt in the process.
What do you think? Are any of these jobs an option for you?