Highest-Paying Jobs Without a Degree

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 14, 2022  •  10 min read  •  College
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You don’t have to get a degree to work in one of the highest-paying jobs. Yes, there are some very high-paying careers you cannot enter into without a degree. It’s not possible to work as a doctor or lawyer without an advanced degree.

However, if you want to earn a high salary without getting a degree, there are plenty of options. With the right skills, background, and experience, you can earn one of the highest-paying jobs available without a degree. Let’s look at some of the top options.

Highest-Paying Jobs Without a Degree

Top 18 High Paying Jobs Not Requiring a Degree

1. Professional Sports Referee

The salary range goes from about $120K to $555K per year for professional sports referees. This type of position requires no academic background. All you need is a referee certification and the right experience.

It might take as many as 10 years at lower rankings to make it to the pros, however. Many referees will have to work high school games and college games first. The pay might not be nearly as high when you first start out.

However, if you make it to the pros, you’ll be working in one of the highest-paying jobs without a degree. Of course, you will have to get your referee certification.

2. Commercial Pilot

Yes, you can fly a plane without a bachelor’s or even an associate degree. You don’t need a college degree to become a commercial pilot. This type of pilot will likely handle in-flight charters, aerial fire-fighting, aerial photography, or another type of commercial pilot position.

A certification is necessary and will take from 12 to 18 months. A total of 250 flight hours will be necessary, too. After becoming certified, you will earn a salary between $49K and $160K, depending on your position.

3. Master Sommelier

Do you love wine? Are you interested in spending your working hours wining and dining people in top hotels and restaurants?

A Master Sommelier can enjoy quite the high life without a college degree. You will spend time sourcing wines, pairing them with dishes, putting on wine tastings, and offering recommendations for guests.

A Court of Master Sommeliers certification is necessary. It’s also important to understand, there are only 269 Master Sommeliers in the entire world and only 172 in the United States.

It will take about four years of training, but the salary can go up to as much as $160K per year. As you train, you can work in the wine and hospitality business.

4. Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers

If you go into this type of career, you can earn around $96K per year. Transportation, storage, and distribution managers don’t need a college degree. However, you will need a high school diploma and about five years of experience in logistics management or a related field.

Your job will include directing and coordinating activities found within transportation, storage, and distribution.

5. Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

With an average salary close to $90K, you can become a power plant operator, distributor, or dispatcher. This type of job will have you in charge of the systems responsible for producing and distributing electricity.

In most cases, you can land this type of job with just a high school diploma. However, you will need to go through pretty extensive on-the-job training. If you want to work as a nuclear power reactor operator, you will need to get the right license, as well.

6. Programmers

Get the skills you need to become a programmer online. Bootcamps and other training online can give you all the skills you need for this type of career. You won’t need a degree and you can earn up to $125K per year as a programmer.

The average salary is about $70K, but you will also have the ability to work as a freelancer. Learning how to code can put you in line for a programmer job. This is one of the more in-demand high paying jobs that doesn’t require a degree.

7. Database Managers

Another technology career that you can get without a degree is one as a database manager. In this career, you will take care of the organizing and storing of data securely by using system architecture and software.

You can earn many different certifications to work as a database manager. There are several online courses you can take and complete in weeks or months, instead of years.

Without a degree, a database manager can earn as much as $117K per year. The average salary is closer to $65K per year, but you will only need about one year of on-the-job training.

8. Underwater Welder

Do you enjoy welding? Do you love the idea of working underwater daily? Underwater welders don’t need a degree and they can earn as much as $110K per year. The average salary is about $83K per year, which is pretty good without a degree.

As an underwater welder, you will repair any type of structure found in the water. This might include bridges and oil rigs. Before you can work in this position, you will need several diving licenses. Other training is likely necessary, too.

9. Boilermakers

As a boilermaker, you will likely work in an industrial plant facility, food manufacturing, the gas industry, or in mining. Your job will include assembling, installing, and repairing boilers and vats. It’s a physically demanding career and can even come with dangerous tasks.

If you don’t mind taking on the risk, you can earn an average salary of about $75K and a salary of up to $108K. This position will come with some travel and you may have to work in remote locations. Working at heights is also common as a boilermaker.

10. Elevator and Escalator Installers/Repairers

With a median salary of about $88K per year, an elevator and escalator installer/repairer has a rather interesting job. You will be responsible for installing and maintaining escalators and elevators. You might also work on moving walkways or other types of similar equipment.

If you don’t mind working in small spaces and hat heights, this could be the career for you. Often, you will be on call 24/7, but you don’t need a college degree. A high school diploma and completing an apprenticeship will get you into this career. Most states also require a license.

11. Transportation Inspectors

If you want to go into a career not requiring a degree or any work experience, becoming a transportation inspector is a great choice. All you need is a high school diploma and you can earn a median salary of about $78K per year.

As a transportation inspector, you will be in charge of inspecting goods and equipment used to transport cargo and people. You might be a rail transports inspector or a freight inspector.

12. Postmasters and Mail Superintendents

With an average salary of around $78K, working as a postmaster or mail superintendent is a great choice. This is another one of the highest-paying jobs without a degree. You will work for the U.S. Postal Service, which is known for offering excellent employee benefits, too.

This job will include planning, directing, and coordinating the operations for the post office you work for. You might take on a management role or handle administrative tasks.

A high school diploma or GED is enough to get this job. The rest of the training is done on the job. Some work experience will likely be necessary, but it’s usually less than five years.

13. Aircraft Mechanic

Work on aircrafts and earn a salary of up to $95K per year as an aircraft mechanic. You won’t need any type of formal certification or a degree for this career. However, you can go through a school registered with the Federal Aviation Authority to get the training you need.

You might also gain on-the-job training, which will take about 2 years. With a top salary of $95K, this can be a high-paying job you can work without a degree.

14. Plumber

While you might not think of plumbing as a high-paying career, it’s rather lucrative. You can earn a top salary close to $80K per year as a plumber. This career won’t require a degree, but you will need the right training.

Completing an apprenticeship through a certified institution is the likely path to becoming a plumber. The average salary is about $52K and you will earn money throughout the apprenticeship.

15. Computer Support Specialist

You won’t need any type of degree to work as a computer support specialist. The average salary for this position is about $50K per year with a top salary closer to $60K.

Your skills will be important for this career. A good understanding of how information technology systems work is necessary, along with good phone skills.

16. Web Developer

As a web developer, you will have a ton of flexibility. Your job will be to create graphics, images, and fonts for online websites. It’s also common for a web developer to work on the design layouts, user interfaces, and backends of websites.

This high-paying job that doesn’t require a degree has an average salary of about $68K per year, according to Indeed.com. You will likely earn a cash bonus each year, along with other benefits, too.

Web developers can also work as freelancers and charge as they please. As a freelancer, you might be able to make even more money or work fewer hours.

17. Wind Turbine Technician

A fast-growing career, you can become a wind turbine technician without a college degree. It’s a great job for those not afraid of heights or danger. You will likely work at heights of a few hundred feet to troubleshoot the hydraulics, electrical, and mechanical components of the wind turbines.

You might spend a decent amount of time traveling or you may need to relocate for this career. A certification course will be necessary to work as a wind turbine technician. However, the salary can be as much as $74K per year.

18. Diesel Mechanic

If you want to work on trucks, busses, locomotives, RVs, and other diesel machines, you can become a diesel mechanic. This type of position will require some on-the-job training, but you won’t need a degree. Apprenticeship programs are a possible option and last six to 12 months. They can be attended part-time and you can earn an income while getting the training you need.

As a diesel mechanic, you can earn a salary of around $55K per year, on average. The top-end salaries will be closer to $70K for this position. If you want to repair and rebuild diesel engines, this might be the right career for you.

Why You Might Want to Skip Getting a Degree

There are several good reasons to avoid getting a college degree. Some of the main reasons you might want to skip a degree include:

While you might need a degree for your dream job, if you don’t, why waste your time and money? There are many great reasons to skip the degree.

If you want to go into a career without going to college, these options are some of the highest-paying jobs without a degree. Most of these careers require some training, but you can earn as you learn.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.