In a world increasingly focused on degrees, diplomas, and formal education, one might assume that the pathway to success is strictly defined and guarded by the hallowed halls of higher education. However, that’s not always the case. It’s a lesser-known fact that several successful individuals have carved out their career paths without the traditional 4-year degree, marking their success in the realms of passion, skill, and hands-on experience.
While it’s true that a college degree can open doors, it is not the only key to financial success. The landscape of employment is evolving rapidly, and high-paying jobs that don’t demand a college degree are more common than ever.
This article will lead you on an exploratory journey through ten 6 figure jobs without a college degree, all of which offer the potential to earn a six-figure salary without the need for a college degree.
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Ten 6 figure jobs without a college degree
1 – Air Traffic Controller
Being an air traffic controller is a crucial role that primarily involves coordinating aircraft movements and ensuring safe distances are maintained between them. Though it carries significant responsibility, it’s one of the few jobs that provide a clear route to a six-figure income without requiring a bachelor’s degree.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 2020 median income of $130,420 per annum for air traffic controllers. The primary academic requirement is an associate’s degree, often obtained via the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative. Additionally, certification courses and exams, administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), must be passed. Extensive on-the-job training, including time spent in control towers, route centers, and approach control facilities, is also needed. Due to the job’s high-stress nature and stringent concentration demands, it’s a role in which errors can have serious consequences. Employment and advancement are competitive, with projected growth being only 4% up to 2030, equating to less than 1000 new positions. However, for those who can meet the challenges, it can offer impressive earning potential.
2 – Police Officer
Becoming a law enforcement officer offers numerous routes, most of which do not require a bachelor’s degree. Qualifications will depend on the specific police department you’re aiming to join. Usually, a high school diploma or GED is enough to qualify for entry into a department’s training program. This will equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge for the job. According to the BLS, the median salary for police and detectives was $67,290 in 2020. However, through career advancement, strong labor union support, and experience, law enforcement officers can earn significantly more, even exceeding $111,900 annually.
3 – Entrepreneur
Becoming an entrepreneur is more of a path than a job. It is an area filled with diverse opportunities and potential. There is no formal education requirement to start a business. Nonetheless, courses in business, management, and accounting can be helpful. The earnings as an entrepreneur are limitless, with the BLS indicating that Chief Executives earned a median income of $185,550 in 2020. However, the journey from an idea to significant wealth can be challenging and uncertain.
4 – Radiation Therapist
Radiation Therapists are healthcare professionals who administer radiation treatments to cancer patients in various medical facilities. An associate’s degree is sufficient to embark on this potentially life-saving career. The BLS stated that the median salary for a Radiation Therapist in 2020 was about $86,850. In addition to the degree, professional certification and a licensing exam are required. The BLS also anticipates around 1,600 new jobs in this area by 2030.
5 – Executive Chef
Breaking into the culinary industry can be straightforward, but achieving success requires effort. Executive chefs who excel in the field can earn unlimited income, with a 2020 median salary of $53,380. Only a high school diploma is needed to start, followed by certification from a culinary school and practical experience in the kitchen. The field is expected to grow by 25% up to 2030, presenting many opportunities for aspiring chefs willing to put in the hard work.
6 – Independent Trade Contractor
The term independent contractor can apply to individuals working freelance in skilled crafts and trades such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and masons. The primary education for these roles usually involves technical certification and apprenticeship, which can be achieved without a college degree. Many skilled tradespeople become company owners, controlling their schedules and income potential. Earning a six-figure income in these roles depends on the individual’s effort, local market size, and the ability to establish a profitable niche.
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7 – Content Developer
Entering the world of freelance writing requires dedication, perseverance, and a knack for forming long-lasting relationships. It is indeed true that you can set your work schedule, but keep in mind, you’ll likely find yourself writing most of the time. Today’s content development industry is rife with opportunities. Academic qualifications aren’t a pre-requisite; what matters most is your writing prowess – the ability to craft cogent sentences to eloquent prose. While a formal education is generally valuable, when it comes to writing, essential skills are often acquired by the end of high school.
The internet allows you to run a successful blog, offer your writing services, or even amass a significant following on Twitter without any formal tertiary education. Nevertheless, make sure you genuinely enjoy writing, as doing it on a freelance basis will occupy a significant chunk of your day if you’re aiming for a six-figure income.
8 – Nuclear Technician
Though lucrative, most top-paying jobs in the engineering field necessitate bachelor’s or master’s degrees. However, technician roles also play a vital part in numerous engineering sub-fields. Technicians assist engineers and researchers and can start their careers after earning an associate’s degree. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median salary of $84,190 for Nuclear Technicians in 2020.
In addition to earning a decent salary, technicians can gain the professional experience required to become full-fledged engineers. Despite a projected 12% decrease in the field of employment for nuclear technicians by 2030, the BLS predicts 700 new job openings annually during the same period due to retirements and workforce attrition.
9 – Sales
For those with a charismatic personality, a knack for understanding human emotions, and a desire to join the workforce without a college degree, a career in sales might be ideal. Depending on your skills and choice of industry, your potential earning can be substantial.
The Median Pay for Advertising Sales Agents was $54,940 in 2020; $65,420 for Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales; and, for Insurance Sales Agents, $52,180. However, your income can far exceed these median salaries if you excel in sales, especially with commission-based compensation packages.
10 – Real estate
Real estate, similar to sales, is a field where personal drive, determination, and charisma can set you apart. You can start working in real estate brokerage with just a high school diploma or GED, provided you earn a real estate license through a brief certification course and pass your state’s licensing exam. The median annual wage for Real Estate Brokers was $60,370 in 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, this is just an average figure; your earning potential can be much higher, depending on your hustle, client service, and the economic climate of your operating region. Real estate earnings can fluctuate with the economy’s health, but it can also be a rewarding side hustle. As a real estate broker, you can be self-employed or freelance, allowing you to plan your appointments around your day job. As a supplementary income, real estate could easily put you in the six-figure income bracket.
While a college degree often serves as a springboard to a well-paying job, it is not the only route to financial prosperity. Through exploring these ten lucrative professions that don’t require a college degree, we’ve shone a spotlight on alternative pathways to success. Remember, passion, dedication, talent, and willingness to learn are often just as valuable, if not more so than a piece of paper proving you sat through lectures for four years. In the ever-evolving job market, opportunities abound for those willing to seek them out, and a six-figure salary without a college degree is not as far-fetched as it may seem. So dare to step off the beaten path, and you might be pleasantly surprised by where your unique journey leads you.