These Are the Top-Paying Careers That Don't Require a College Degree

Think you need a college degree to make a decent living? Check out these lucrative careers that won’t leave you deep in student debt.

Remember the "Game of Life" board game where you could pick between starting a career right away or going to college—and you could end up winning regardless of this particular decision? Well, that's pretty much how the real world works, too. Of course, some jobs do require a degree, but remember: College comes with a hefty price tag.

In fact, according to the Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2020 report, the average cost to attend a four-year college in 2020-2021 was over $26,820 for in-state students, and a whopping $43,280 for out-of-state students. Also, the average student loan debt in the United States is over $37,000. That's a heavy debt burden to carry.

Many believe that they have to obtain a college degree in order to make a decent living, but that's just not true. You can make a great salary without a college degree—if you know where to look.

So whether you are just starting out in your career or making a mid-life move, check out these top-paying jobs, no college degree required.

01 of 07

Real Estate Agent

If you are a self-motivator and love to hustle, then consider becoming a real estate agent. reports that the average real estate agent salary in 2020-2021 was $94,000. Who would have thought you could make almost six figures a year without a college degree?

You can get started by completing prelicensing courses online or in person. Of course, training varies depending on your state, but most states require a minimum of 60 hours of education. Once you complete your training, then you will have to pass your state's real estate license exam.

The cost of training and the exam can range from a couple hundred to over a thousand dollars. Not too bad, considering how much a college degree would run you. The cost of education versus the salary payout makes this an excellent career choice.

02 of 07

Freelance Writer

Have you always dreamed of becoming a writer but thought you needed to go to college first? If so, you'll be excited to know that you don't need a fancy English degree to become a freelance writer. Basic grammar skills and some creativity can help you change careers to make money off your words.

Take the guesswork out of how to get started by checking out courses like Write Your Way To 1k and Killer Cold Emailing. You can also create samples by starting your own blog or joining a site like Medium.

According to ZipRecruiter, the typical salary for a freelance writer is over $60,000 a year. Of course, the income potential is pretty much unlimited, because you can work and earn as much as you want. It also depends on what type of services you offer as a writer.; for instance, you can write blogs for businesses, product descriptions, web copy, and more. Basically, you can use whatever knowledge you have and write about it to make a living.

03 of 07

Flight Attendant

Want to fly the friendly skies and make some serious cash while traveling? Then becoming a flight attendant is the career for you. The basic requirements to finding a job in this field are excellent customer service skills, good communication skills, and a high school diploma or GED.

However, there are minimum height and maximum weight requirements (you need to be able to reach the overhead bins and move through tight aisles). You also need to be over 21 (to serve alcoholic beverages to customers).

If you can land a job at an airline, most will provide on-the-job training, and you will become certified with the Federal Aviation Administration. The median flight attendant salary in the United States is $78,831, according to

04 of 07

Massage Therapist

Plenty of people love a good massage, and massage therapy is utilized to reap many health benefits too. That's probably why employment for massage therapists is projected to grow 32 percent by 2030, which is considered an above-average rate. Plus, the median pay is $43,620 per year.

To become a massage therapist, you need to attend a post-secondary school and receive a certificate or diploma after 500-1,000 hours of training. The amount of training depends on your state's requirements.

Keep in mind that you will be using your hands a lot, so this is a pretty physical job. However, if you have the right qualities, such as being friendly, discreet, and comforting, this can be a very rewarding career.

05 of 07

Wedding Planner

Are you a super organized, take-charge person that loves a fun party? Then you should consider becoming a wedding planner. Weddings are a billion-dollar industry in the United States. So there is always a need for a superb wedding planner to make someone's special day perfect.

You can take an online course through QC Event School and become a certified wedding event planner. lists the average wedding planner's salary at $42,266 a year, which doesn't include bonuses or tips. Wouldn't you want to get paid to throw a party?

06 of 07


A talented hairstylist is worth their weight in gold. Or something like that. Although you'll need to go through some lengthy training, you can complete a cosmetology program in under two years. You will learn how to cut, color, and style hair—which may sound easy, but is actually far from it (and much of your training is actually learning about mixing chemicals and colors correctly).

Once you complete your program, you will have to pass a state board cosmetology test in order to receive your license. The U.S. Bureau of Labor lists the median pay for a hairdresser at $27,630 a year. However, this is usually a good deal lower than the actual take-home pay, because hairdressers tend to receive hefty tips. So if you are always styling your own hair and find it fun, why not learn how to get paid for it?

07 of 07

If you decide college isn't right for you or your child, don't worry: It's not the end of the world. Nor is it the only option to earn a good salary. These well-paying jobs are a fantastic choice for anyone looking to have a lucrative and rewarding career.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles