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25 High-Paying Jobs That Don't Require a 4-Year Degree

What do Henry Ford, Walt Disney and Rachael Ray have in common?

They’re influential people with successful careers who never earned a bachelor’s degree. History is full of movers and shakers who carved their own path—far away from traditional education. Despite what our culture, your parents, or your own inner critic tell you, there are plenty of high-paying and fulfilling jobs that don’t require a degree.

Guess who else never earned a college degree? Yours truly. Yes, folks, you read that right! I left undergrad to work on a political campaign that opened incredible doors of opportunity. By the time I was 23, I had a job offer to work for the governor. I’ve never needed to go back to school because my career path didn’t require it.

Now hear me on this: While you may not need a bachelor’s degree, you do need an education! Some of these jobs we’re going to talk about require an associate degree, some trade school, and others specific certifications or apprenticeships. But here’s the bottom line: You can earn good money and enjoy meaningful work without spending four years at college.

Check out these 25 high-paying jobs (from lowest to highest salary) that don’t require a bachelor’s degree!

25. Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Median salary: $47,670
Education needed: high school diploma, on-the-job training
Job growth: 27%

These guys and gals install and maintain solar systems that convert sunlight into energy. This job involves travel to various homes and businesses. If you like being active and outdoors, this could be a great fit for you! And as this becomes a more popular energy source, we’ll see the demand for this job increase. Folks, 51% is an astronomical growth rate!  

[Note: All median salary calculations are taken from 2023 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.]

24. Masonry Worker

Median salary: $48,040
Education needed: high school diploma, on-the-job training
Job growth: -2%

Masons work with brick, stone and concrete to build and repair various structures. But it’s no walk in the park, folks! It’s a physically demanding job that requires heavy lifting and a lot of kneeling and standing.

23. Licensed Practical Nurse

Median salary: $48,070
Education needed: postsecondary nondegree award
Job growth: 6%

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) work with doctors and registered nurses (RNs) to assist with patient care. They take vital signs, administer medication, and complete paperwork. Unlike an RN, LPNs don’t require a college degree. You can attend an accredited program at a vocational school to get the necessary training. 

22. Carpenter

Median salary: $48,260
Education needed: high school diploma, apprenticeship
Job growth: 2%

This age-old profession isn’t growing much, but it remains a consistent way for people to create beautiful and functional things with their hands. Carpenters learn by working with a master of the trade in a formal or informal apprenticeship.

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21. Surgical Technologist

Median salary: $48,510
Education needed: postsecondary nondegree award or associate degree
Job growth: 6%

Surgical techs work with surgeons and nurses to perform operations. They make sure the room is ready for the surgery, prepare all the instruments, and provide the physicians with the tools they need throughout the surgery. 

20. Real Estate Agent

Median salary: $48,770
Education needed: high school diploma, licensing requirements vary by state
Job growth: 5% 

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Real estate agents (or brokers) work with clients to buy and sell homes. The neat thing about real estate is that it’s commission-based, so you eat what you kill. You can put in lots of hours and effort to grow your business, or you can work on a more flexible and part-time schedule. To really succeed as a real estate agent, you must enjoy sales and working with people. 

19. Sound Engineering Technician

Median salary: $48,790
Education needed: postsecondary nondegree award or associate degree
Job growth: 10%

Sound techs set up and run sound systems for media events. The most common industries for sound techs are radio, TV, recording studios and movies. This is typically a high-energy, fast-paced job that involves lots of travel and weekend work.

18. Firefighter

Median salary: $50,700
Education needed: postsecondary nondegree award
Job growth: 4%

Lots of kids dream of becoming a firefighter when they’re wondering what to do with their lives when they grow up. Because honestly, firefighters are heroes! They rescue people, animals, buildings and the environment by extinguishing dangerous fires. Becoming a firefighter is a competitive process and will also likely require becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT).  

17. Sheet Metal Worker

Median salary: $53,440
Education needed: high school diploma, apprenticeship
Job growth: -1%

Sheet metal workers are can be employed in construction or manufacturing. They create and install products from thin metal sheets. It’s a physically demanding job that requires lifting, bending and squatting.

16. Wind Turbine Technician

Median salary: $56,260
Education needed: postsecondary nondegree award, on-the-job training
Job growth: 44%

Wind turbines are those huge white pinwheels that dot the plains of Kansas and other windy parts of the country. As they become a popular source of alternative energy, the job demand for technicians is skyrocketing! Technicians works to install and maintain wind turbines. For this job, you must be willing to spend a lot of time outside, and it’s not recommended for people who are scared of heights.

15. Plumber

Median salary: $56,330
Education needed: high school diploma, apprenticeship
Job growth: 4%

Plumbers install and repair piping systems in homes, factories and businesses. Because plumbers often respond to urgent calls (nothing is worse than a busted toilet!), they’re expected to work occasional nights and weekends.   

14. Hearing Aid Specialist

Median salary: $59,500
Education needed: high school diploma
Job growth: 16%

Hearing aid specialists work with audiologists to fit, fix and maintain hearing aids for patients. They also conduct screenings and tests to ensure that the hearing aids are working well. This position offers a mix of technical and interpersonal work. Best of all, you get to give people the gift of hearing, which is simply fantastic!  

13. Electrician

Median salary: $59,880
Education needed: high school diploma, apprenticeship
Job growth: 2%

If working with wires sparks your interest (sorry, dad joke), then you might consider becoming an electrician. You can attend a technical school or find an apprenticeship for on-the-job training. Electricians bring power to buildings, homes, transmission lines and a variety of equipment.

12. Occupational Therapy Assistant

Median salary: $61,520
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 25%

Occupational therapy is all about helping people learn and practice skills to live and work. Most occupational therapy takes place after someone has had an accident, or for elderly people who need help performing daily tasks around their homes. Occupational therapy assistants work with therapists and doctors to help patients in hospitals, nursing homes and therapy offices. It’s an active and interactive job that gives you plenty of opportunities to work with people! Plus, the job growth prospects are looking solid.

11. Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Median salary: $61,980
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 6%

Both x-rays and MRIs are diagnostic tools that help physicians and patients understand what is going on inside the body. Techs are the workers who actually run the tests and work with physicians to get the information needed in order to make a diagnosis and treat patients.

10. Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Median salary: $62,890
Education needed: varies, on-the-job training
Job growth: 4%

Sales reps can work in a variety of products and industries. Many positions are available to people with a high school diploma, but if you’re wanting to get into a more technical product, like medical instruments, you might need a bachelor’s degree.

9. Executive Assistant

Median salary: $63,110
Education needed: high school diploma
Job growth: -20% 

Executive assistants assist leaders in businesses or nonprofits. They manage the executive’s schedule, communicate on their behalf, and perform a wide variety of office tasks to keep the organization running. They’re the behind-the-scenes support to the most powerful men and women in any given organization.

8. Police Officers and Detectives 

Median salary: $66,020
Education needed: varies
Job growth: 3%

Law enforcement is a demanding, exciting and rewarding career. Obviously, it’s pretty straightforward: Protect those under your care, get the bad guys, and solve the case. Most positions do not require anything beyond a high school diploma, but certain positions prefer hiring candidates with an associate or bachelor’s degree, so going back to college might be worth it.

7. Aerospace Technician

Median salary: $73,580
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 6% 

If you’ve always had a fascination with planes and enjoy technical work, then you might consider becoming an aerospace technician. You’ll work with aircrafts or spacecrafts to test and calibrate systems, as well as install and repair various parts. 

6. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers/Cardiovascular Technologists

Median salary: $75,380
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 10%

Sonographers use medical equipment to create images of organs, tissues and blood vessels that allow people to understand what’s going on inside their bodies. Cardiovascular techs work with physicians to perform complex procedures related to heart health, such as inserting stents or pacemakers. They also help perform tests to diagnose cardiac health problems in patients.

These jobs are experiencing higher than average growth, which means you should have plenty of employment opportunities if you go this route!

5. Dental Hygienist

Median salary: $77,810
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 9%

While cleaning teeth may not be for everyone, dental hygienists get a chance to impact their patients’ lives by take caring of their oral health. They screen patients, take x-rays, remove plaque from teeth, and counsel patients about good hygiene and nutrition habits. Most programs take three years to complete, and you must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam in order to practice.

4. Web Developer

Median salary: $78,300
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 23%

Web developers blend a unique set of technical and creative skills to design and build websites. This is a high-demand job that you can find in a variety of agencies or businesses. Or you can even strike out on your own as a freelancer if you’re willing to make solid connections. And the pay is great!

3. Nuclear Technician

Median salary: $84,190
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: -19%

Nuclear techs work in nuclear power plants and use computers and other equipment to monitor and run nuclear reactors. They work closely with scientists and engineers. This job offers competitive pay, but keep in mind that it’s on the decline, which means poor job security in the future.

2. Elevator Installer and Repairer

Median salary: $97,860
Education needed: high school diploma
Job growth: -17%

This is one of those random jobs that most people take for granted! As it turns out, elevator installers and repairers make good money working with their hands. It’s no surprise that they often work in cramped spaces around heavy machinery. They’re often required to be on call 24 hours a day for repairs. But if you’re afraid of heights, this probably isn’t the job for you!

1. Air Traffic Controller

Median salary: $129,750
Education needed: associate degree
Job growth: 1%

Air traffic controllers have the exciting, high-stakes job of directing air traffic from the ground. They sit in those towers with lots of windows that you see at airports. Air traffic controllers often work nights and weekends to keep up with travel schedules. It’s a demanding job with a rewarding result—making sure people take off, travel and land safely!  

What Career Is Right for You?

Don't get me wrong—going to college may very well be the best path for you to pursue a career that lets you use your talents, perform your passions, and create results you care deeply about. But it also may not be, and I want you to be open to that possibility.

College degrees have become a status symbol, and we've been told that we're set up to fail in our careers if we don't have one. That we're "less than" if we take a different route after high school. Don't listen to that garbage, folks! The 25 jobs we just looked at—and plenty of others—are proof that you can excel and be fulfilled without a degree.

You are the secret sauce to your success in life, not a fancy (and expensive) sheet of paper.


Next Steps

1. Start tuning in to The Ken Coleman Show to hear more career tips and strategies. You can even call in to the show at 844-747-2577 or email your questions to

2. Look through the list we just went over to see if any of those potential roles stand out to you. Do any of them fit within your talents or passions?

3. To really get clear on what role is right for you, check out my free Career Clarity Guide. Discovering what you were created to do isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

Get the Guide

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Ken Coleman

About the author

Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is a career expert and author of the national bestselling book From Paycheck to Purpose and the #1 national bestseller The Proximity Principle. He hosts The Ken Coleman Show, a nationally syndicated, caller-driven show that helps listeners discover what they were born to do. Ken makes regular appearances on Fox News, and he co-hosts The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk show in the nation. Through his speaking, broadcasting and syndicated columns, Ken gives people expert career advice, providing strategic steps to grow professionally, land their dream job, and get promoted.  Learn More.

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