7 High-Paying Careers That Don't Require a College Degree
by Natasha Gabrielle | Published on Sept. 5, 2021
No college degree? No problem. There are career opportunities that don't require a traditional four-year degree -- and they pay well, too.
Many people choose to go to college to further their education and boost their chances of getting a well-paying job. But not everyone can afford college, and some have no desire to take more classes after high school.
Fortunately, there are careers out there that don't require a college education. Some of these jobs can provide workers with a comfortable salary. Here are seven high-paying careers that don't require a traditional college degree.
1. Real estate agent
Median U.S. wage (May 2020): $49,040
Real estate agents help people buy and sell properties. You can become a residential or a commercial real estate agent. For this job, you'll need to be great with people, have excellent sales skills, and be able to deal with high-stress situations.
Income can vary, as most real estate agents don't make a base salary. Instead, they make a commission when properties close. The commission percentage varies by state and is based on the property's sale price. More successful, experienced realtors tend to make more than the median wage.
While a traditional college degree isn't a requirement, you need to study for and pass license exams to become a licensed real estate agent. Some states also require a certain number of hours to be spent on education and training.
2. Executive assistant
Median U.S. wage (May 2020): $63,110
Working as an executive assistant is a busy, fast-paced career option. The job provides administrative assistance and support to high-level executives. An executive assistant typically serves as a gatekeeper to anyone trying to meet with or talk to an executive. To succeed in this role, you'll need to have good communication and organizational skills, be a problem solver, and be able to juggle multiple tasks at once.
Some executive assistants have college degrees, but it's not always required. Previous administrative, project management, and leadership experience may help you land this role.
Median U.S. wage (May 2020): $56,900
This career is in demand, no matter where you live. An electrician installs, maintains, and repairs electrical systems and products. Electricians can do work in residential buildings, commercial buildings, and factories. In this role, someone can work for a company or they can start their own business.
A college degree is not required to be an electrician. Some people choose to enroll in a trade program to learn how to become an electrician. It's possible to complete these programs in less than a year before learning on the job in an electrician apprenticeship role. In most states, electricians need to be licensed. Licensing may be at the state or local level.
4. Sales representative
Median U.S. wage (May 2020): $86,650
Sales representatives sell products or services. Inside sales representatives sell from an office or home, while outside sales representatives travel around to meet with prospective customers or clients. For this job role, you need to be a great communicator and have good people skills. You should feel comfortable selling products and dealing with a diverse range of people.
A college degree is not required for this career path. If you're a people person, you can make a good living. Some representatives make a base salary plus commission. Others only make commissions based on the sales that they make. If you're only making commission, you need to have strong sales skills to make a comfortable living.
Median U.S. wage (May 2020): $56,330
A plumber deals with installing, repairing, and maintaining pipes and fixtures in homes and businesses. The job often utilizes troubleshooting and problem-solving skills. Some plumbers work for a company, while others choose to work for themselves. Plumbers can find themselves venturing to different job sites each day. For this role, you should have some math skills, be good at problem-solving, and have good hand-eye coordination.
To become a plumber, you don't need a college degree. Many plumbers choose to enroll in a trade program or learn through a plumbing apprenticeship. Trade programs typically take at least a year to complete. Some programs last two years. Plumbers may need to be licensed depending on where they live, but several states don't require licensing.
6. Software developer
Median U.S. wage (May 2020): $103,620
Software developers develop and test computer software and applications. This role is both creative and technical. You'll need mathematical knowledge, problem-solving skills, and strong attention to detail to be a software developer. You'll also need to learn different programming languages.
Some software developers have college degrees, but not all do. Many developers are self-taught, or they learn from coding boot camps or other short, intensive courses. Some software developers work for a company. But others, recognizing the many benefits to being a freelancer, choose to work project by project on a freelance basis. You can do well financially in this career.
7. Project manager
Median U.S. wage (May 2020): $77,420
Project managers help plan and oversee the completion of projects, paying close attention to each project's requirements, timeline, and budget. They assign responsibilities, set deadlines, and monitor progress. This role is a good fit for someone who is organized and has good critical thinking skills. Project managers also need to be good at communicating, leading, and delegating. Some project managers work a remote job, while others work in an office.
Some project managers have a college degree, but it's not always a requirement for this role. Being able to demonstrate similar skills from past job experience can be helpful. Some people choose to learn on their own and then take a project management certification course like Google's project management certification and training program. This career is in demand and can pay quite well.
You don't need a college degree to be successful
Whether you have a college degree and want to make a career change or college isn't for you, career options are available. A degree can offer the chance to build skills, study a topic of interest, and learn real-world skills, but you don't have to go to college to find a job that pays a comfortable salary. There are other ways to build skills and find a successful career.
No matter what career path you choose, make sure that you enjoy it enough to spend every day doing it, and consider whether it will help you reach your personal finance goals.
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