Career

The 15 Highest Paying Jobs That Don’t Require A Four-Year Degree

By Ella Carroll-Smith
·  7 min read
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Newsflash: Just because you don’t get a four-year degree doesn’t mean you can’t make an excellent living. Here’s proof.

More and more people are questioning whether they really need a four-year degree to be successful – and with good reason! It’s very possible to find a great job and live a happy and successful life without getting a four-year degree. I mean, Mark Zuckerberg did pretty well for himself, and he dropped out of Harvard. 

Okay, so you’re probably not going to go on to found a multi-billion dollar tech company, but there are many well-paying jobs out there that don’t require a college degree. The amount each position pays will depend on a lot of factors, such as where you live, how much experience you have, whether you need an associate’s degree, etc. The median salary for some of the jobs on this list is over $100k, and with the exorbitant price of college tuition nowadays, you’ll save a lot of money by skipping the traditional four-year route! 

1. Real Estate Agent

With our recent housing market boom, real estate agents have done very well for themselves over the last few years. All you need is a high school diploma and a real estate license, and you could be well on your way to becoming one! Income will vary a lot based on where you live and how much experience you have. The median pay in the U.S. is $48,770 per year.

2. Office Supervisor

Office supervisors (sometimes also referred to as office managers) ensure that office administrative and clerical work is all completed in a timely manner. Their responsibilities might include filing paperwork, ordering supplies, and tidying up conference rooms. No formal training is required, and the average annual pay is $50,314. 

3. Hearing Aid Specialist

Hearing aid specialists administer and interpret hearing tests, then fit aids for customers. Typically all that’s required is a high school diploma and relevant work experience. The median income is $59,500 per year. 

4. Sales Representative

Sales reps can work in a range of different industries, selling a wide variety of different products. While you might need a bachelor’s degree to go into some fields, often all that is required is a high school diploma or an associate’s degree to earn an annual income of $60,550. 

5. Recruiter

Recruiters are responsible for sourcing and matching potential job applicants with the right companies and positions. While there are no formal education requirements, some companies may require a bachelor’s degree. However, relevant job experience is more important, and it’s very possible to work your way up to this position. The average base salary is $79,921 per year. 

6. Aerospace Technician

Aerospace technicians help ensure that planes operate safely. They’re responsible for calibrating systems, installing, and repairing various parts. Some technicians have an associate’s degree, but oftentimes all that’s required is a high school diploma and relevant work experience. The median pay is $73,580 per year.

It’s very possible to find a great job and live a happy and successful life without getting a four-year degree.

7. Dental Hygienist

I’m going to assume (and hope!) that you’ve been to a dentist before and don’t need me to explain what a dental hygienist does. In most cases, you will need to earn an associate’s degree and gain a state license before becoming a dental hygienist. Once you do that, you’ll officially be a certified tooth cleaning extraordinaire and well on your way to earning a median salary of $77,810 per year. 

8. Web Developer

Web developers help design, build, and maintain websites for businesses. An associate’s degree might be required, but experience is the most important in this field. Another perk? This is easily a position that can be worked remotely, so you could earn an $81,000 salary from the comfort of your couch!

9. Subway or Streetcar Operator

Just like the name implies, streetcar operators are responsible for operating streetcar or subway equipment and safely ferrying passengers to their destinations. No formal education is required other than a high school diploma and necessary on-the-job training. Because these operators have lives in their hands, it’s understandable that they’d be well-compensated, with a median annual wage of $81,180.

10. Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists help deliver critical therapy to patients suffering from various forms of cancers and tumors. This job does require a lot of knowledge about human anatomy, computer science, and mathematics, but that can typically be obtained through an associate’s degree. You’ll also need to pass a national certification exam. The median pay is $82,790 per year.

11. General Contractor

General contractors (also sometimes referred to as construction managers) have the very important job of overseeing all of the work that goes into a construction project. This will include things like hiring subcontractors, submitting budgets, buying materials, and ensuring that all work is done in accordance with state regulations and client standards. While some GCs do have associate’s or bachelor’s degrees, you don’t need one to gain a license and experience is generally more important. This job is a lot of work, but general contractors are well-compensated, with an annual median salary of $98,890. 

Pay will depend on a lot of factors, such as where you live and how much experience you have.

12. Product Manager

Product managers oversee the production and/or manufacturing of various types of products on their journey from concept to market. They can work in a variety of fields, some of which may require a degree. However, it’s also possible to simply gain work experience or become SCRUM certified. The median pay for product managers is $103,150 per year. 

13. Wedding Photographer

If you’ve got an eye for lighting and staging photographs and you love weddings, then wedding photography could be a great job for you! You’ll get to meet excited couples, capture heartfelt moments, and even travel. There’s no formal education necessary, but you will need lots of photography experience before you can market yourself as a true professional. You’ll also probably need to buy your own camera equipment, which can be expensive. But that expense is well worth it – the average yearly income is $129,131!

14. Air Traffic Controller

There’s no denying that being an air traffic controller is a very stressful job. You’re responsible for sitting in the tower at an airport and directing both incoming and outgoing airline traffic. You’ll likely need an associate’s degree to go into this field, but if you thrive in high-stress environments and are able to keep a cool head no matter what, this could be a very lucrative career. The median pay is $129,750 per year!

15. IT Manager

You know the people you call when your work computer is on the fritz and you’ve already tried turning it off and back on again, to no avail? That’s the IT team, and they’re typically overseen by an IT manager who might be making more than you. While some IT managers have a computer science degree, typically all that’s needed is an associate’s degree, industry certification, or even just relevant work experience. The median pay for an IT manager is $159,010 per year.

Closing Thoughts

Just because you don’t have a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean you can’t make a great living! If you’re looking for a career switch or even just starting out in the workforce, hopefully this list has helped you realize that there are a lot of high-paying opportunities out there.  

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