Top High Paying Jobs Without a Degree or Experience

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Are you looking for a high paying career without a bachelor’s degree or experience – it’s possible.

Many careers require a college degree but you don’t need a bachelor’s or master’s degree to be successful. Workers who have higher levels of education typically earn more and have lower rates of unemployment compared with workers who have less education. Higher level education increases your chances of landing a high paying job but college is costly. Many college students take years to pay off their student debt. A college degree does not guarantee you’ll find employment. If you study an area that is not in demand, you’ll find your self out of work or pivoting to an area outside of the subject you studied in school. Not to pick on people’s passions but students who major in art history, photography, and music have a more difficult time finding work than students who target subject areas that are growing and in demand.

Alternate Paths to Learning

education alternative paths

Society pushes young adults to work hard in school, get in a good college, and then get a good job. College is not for everyone. There are other paths to a fulfilling and successful career.


Certification is usually career specific and provides you with a credential that shows potential employers you are knowledgeable in a certain area. Google has a certificate program that focuses on job skills in high-growth fields such as IT Support, Data Analytics, Project Management, UX Design, and Android Development. You don’t have to focus on high tech jobs. For example, you can become a Certified Property Manager (CPM) and become recognized as an expert in real estate management. Look into areas that interest you and see if there’s any certifications with a return on investment. Meaning, if you get a certificate, make sure potential employers recognize it and the certificate is not just an expensive piece of paper that gets you nothing in return.  

Community College and Two-Year Schools

If you just have a high school diploma, community college offers an inexpensive way to learn new skills. Look at the course catalog of your local community college and see if there are any classes that interest you. You can earn your associates degree or academic certificates in fields that are in demand.

Vocational Training

Vocational training refers to education and skills-based training programs at technical schools and vocational schools that prepare students for a specific job, trade, or craft. Vocational schools help students acquire practical skills needed to begin working and making money as soon as possible. Welding, plumbing, electrical, and automotive are typical vocational training disciplines that come to mind but vocational schools cover other well paying jobs such as computer technician, aircraft mechanic, marine mechanic, dental hygienist and others.


Apprenticeships offer both paid employment and education with potential mentorship opportunities. Apprenticeships go beyond the traditional plumber and electrician roles and many top companies have integrated apprenticeship into their workforce. Positions are available across industries including advanced manufacturing, energy, financial services, information technology, telecommunications, and transportation.  To learn more, check out  


Some professions require licensure for clinical practice with requirements varying state by state. For some positions, you just need to complete exams and abide by ethical standards.

Top 10 High paying jobs without a degree or experience

Transportation, Storage & Distribution Managers

logistics warehouse

Transportation, storage, distribution, and logistics managers ensure that products or people move from one place to another efficiently and effectively. They ensure that company operating procedures are being followed and workers are following safety protocols and government rules and regulations. When you receive a package from Walmart or Amazon, distribution managers are part of the supply chain operation that got your what you wanted in a timely fashion. 

  • Median Pay:  $96,390
  • Projected # of Jobs: 11,400
  • Growth Rate 8% (Average)
  • Education Required: High School diploma

Commercial Pilot

commercial pilot

A commercial pilot is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to charge money for flight services. Flight services can include transportation, charters, and tours. Commercial pilots my need to know aircraft maintenance, scheduling, and other non-flight duties. Airline pilots or pilots who work for airlines that transport passengers and cargo on a fixed schedule require additional education and experience.

  • Median Pay:  $93,300
  • Projected # of Jobs: 113,900
  • Growth Rate 13% (Faster than Average)
  • Education Required: Flight training and complete Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements. Airline pilots may require a bachelor’s degree and experience as a commercial or military pilot.

Police Officer or Firefighter

police officer

Police and firefighters support local communities. Police officers protect citizens by preventing crimes, enforcing laws, arresting criminals, and monitoring traffic. Firefighters stop fires and respond to emergencies and hazardous conditions. Police officers and firefighters are not the highest paying positions when starting out but if someone moves up the ranks to a supervisor position, a six figure salary is possible. The supervisor positions usually focus on managing and coordinating police force or firefighting activities.

  • Median Pay:  $92,970
  • Projected # of Jobs: 8,500
  • Growth Rate 7% (Average)
  • Education Required: High School diploma (depends on the state); Licensing exam and on-the-job training

Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, Web Development

software developer

Software development is a broad area that encompasses different roles and specializations. Developers design computer, web, and mobile applications or programs. Quality assurance (QA) positions review software quality and test to find bugs and defects. Although a bachelors degree in computer science helps to land a job, employers are looking more at experience and alternative backgrounds since there are more job openings than qualified candidates to fill them.  

  • Median Pay:  $110,140
  • Projected # of Jobs: 1,847,900
  • Growth Rate 22% (Faster than average)
  • Education Required: Online courses, certificates, on the job training. Bachelors (depending on the job) but not required.

Air Traffic Controllers

air traffic controller

Air traffic controllers monitor and direct traffic movements and are focused on providing safe and orderly air travel. This job is among the most lucrative but it is stressful and requires concentration as there is no margin for error.

  • Median Pay:  $130,420
  • Projected # of Jobs: 24,500
  • Growth Rate 4% (Slower than average)
  • Education Required: Associate’s degree. Need to be US Citizen, pass medical and background checks and take exams and courses at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) academy

Elevator and escalator installers and repair people

elevator repair

Elevator and escalator installers and repair people install, repair and maintain freight and passenger elevators, escalators, moving walkways and lifts. This role requires problem solving skills to sometimes identify and fix malfunctions. This role involves working in dark and cramped spaces and might require you to be on call 24 hours a day to handle emergency situations.

  • Median Pay:  $88,540
  • Projected # of Jobs: 24,800
  • Growth Rate 6% (About average)
  • Education Required: High school diploma and training

Freelance Writer

freelance writer

Freelance writers are usually self-employed contractors for organizations that write content for publications and channels such as blogs, websites, and press releases. This job offers flexibility and sometimes the ability to work pretty much anywhere. Some writers specialize in certain industries while others start their own blogs.

  • Median Pay:  $67,120
  • Projected # of Jobs: 143,000
  • Growth Rate 9% (About average)
  • Education Required: High school diploma and training; on the job

Real Estate Sales Agents and Brokers

working with a real estate agent to buy a house

Real Estate sales agents and brokers help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Usually these jobs are self-employed where you set your own schedules and work as much or as little as you want. Most real estate sales agent and broker income is based on commission of buying, selling, or renting. The information provided below is the national median income but real estate is location specific. Agents and brokers in large cities can earn six figures or more.  

  • Median Pay:  $49,040 (sales agents); $60,370 (brokers)
  • Projected # of Jobs: 518,800
  • Growth Rate 4% (Slower than average)
  • Education Required: High school diploma training and state license. May include real estate courses and passing licensing exam.

Postmasters and Mail Superintendents


Postmasters and mail superintendents plan, direct, and coordinate administrative activities and management of US Post Office locations.

  • Median Pay:  $78,060
  • Projected # of Jobs: 1,000
  • Growth Rate -8% (Declining)
  • Education Required: High school diploma and on-the-job training;



Plumbers install and repair anything related to pipes. Plumbers can be busy and work evenings and weekends as emergencies can happen at any time. Self employed plumbers or those with their own business can set their own schedules and earn a six figure income. Income can range depending on the geographic location and the competition in the area.

  • Median Pay:  $56,330
  • Projected # of Jobs: 469,900
  • Growth Rate 5% (Slower than Average)
  • Education Required: High school diploma; Vocational school; Apprenticeship; Most states require plumbers to be licensed.

Summary of Top Paying Jobs that Don’t Require a Degree:

Although a college degree might help you land a job, you can still find high paying jobs without a degree or experience.

Alternate pathways to learning include: certifications, community college, vocational school, apprenticeship, and licensure.

Some of the top paying jobs that don’t require a degree include:

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By Adam

Hey, I'm Adam. I started Wonder of Compounding in 2021 to help others learn about financial literacy and achieve their financial goals. I’m a lifelong student and eternal optimist with a passion for investing, technology and entrepreneurship. I’ve worked in the financial services industry for more than a decade. In 2008, I earned my Bachelor of Engineering and Master of Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology and in 2015, I received my MBA from New York University.

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