Highest-Paying Jobs: 12 You Can Pursue Without a Degree

Updated June 30, 2023

A college degree isn’t a requirement for a high-paying job. Hailing from various fields, including technology, medicine and sales, there are many types of jobs you can pursue without a four-year degree that not only offer employees high salaries but opportunities for advancement as well. If you don’t hold a bachelor’s degree, you may want to start your job search by learning more about the jobs available that don’t require a B.A. or B.S. degree for consideration.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the highest-paying jobs you can get without a four-year degree and provide tips for your job search.

Related: How To Make Money Without Having a Degree

Best-paying jobs that don’t require a degree

While many of the following jobs do indeed have educational requirements, even for a degree program, the time needed to complete it will be typically shorter than the traditional four-year degree. Further, to advance in the role, you may need to complete on-the-job training, a certificate program or an apprenticeship. This said, these jobs all pay, on average, at least $60,000 per year and are open to applicants who may not hold a bachelor’s degree:

Related: 6-Month Certificate Programs: 10 That Lead To High-Paying Jobs

A group of employees who work in different industries, including one in a surgical mask and scrubs that shows health care. One with a hard hat that shows the construction industry and one carrying supplies with safety goggles.

1. Executive assistant

Primary duties: An executive assistant is an administrative professional who provides support to high-level executives or administrators. Typical job duties include clerical work, managing schedules, booking meetings and making travel arrangements.

  • Education requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

  • National average salary: $60,025 per year

Read more: Learn About Being an Executive Assistant

2. Licensed practical nurse (LPN)

Primary duties: Among the highest-paying jobs you can pursue without a four-year degree is that of an LPN. As a licensed practical nurse, you’ll work with registered nurses (RNs) and doctors to provide patient care. LPNs take vital signs, maintain medical records, change bandages, insert catheters and bathe patients among their duties. While this job requires a specific license and training, including challenging coursework in the sciences, it can be worthwhile for those who want to work in the medical field.

  • Education requirements: LPN program lasting 12 to 24 months

  • National average salary: $60,367 per year

Read more: Learn About Being a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

3. Carpenter

Primary duties: Also among the highest-paying jobs where you can start your career without a B.A. or B.S. degree, a carpenter constructs wooden structures using specialized tools and/or machines. Some carpenters frame houses and buildings, while others build furniture like kitchen cabinets.

  • Education requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

  • National average salary: $60,665 per year

Read more: Learn About Being a Carpenter

4. Drafter

Primary duties: Drafters use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create technical plans and drawings. Drafters may produce building plans, wiring diagrams, topographical maps and equipment assembly drawings.

  • Education requirements: Two-year degree in drafting (or related field)

  • National average salary: $64,934 per year

Read more: How To Become a Drafter (With FAQs)

5. Sales representative

Primary duties: Sales representatives sell products or services to organizations, businesses and governments on behalf of wholesalers or manufacturers, and, considering the potential for commissions, sales reps can earn a relatively high salary. Sales representative job duties include delivering sales presentations, negotiating prices, maintaining customer relationships and finding new customers.

  • Education requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

  • National average salary: $72,123 per year

Read more: Learn About Being a Sales Representative

6. Occupational therapy assistant (OTA)

Primary duties: Occupational therapy assistants are in charge of helping patients perform therapeutic stretches and exercises as directed by an occupational therapist. They may also instruct patients and their families in at-home therapy programs, adaptive equipment usage and living skills. Occupational therapy assistants are typically expected to take vocational training programs that take roughly two years, with some of that coursework being in the sciences.

  • Education requirements: Two-year OTA degree

  • National average salary: $74,002 per year

Read more: Learn About Being an Occupational Therapist Assistant

7. Physical therapist assistant

Primary duties: A physical therapist assistant helps patients recover from an injury or illness. Job duties include instructing patients and their families regarding at-home rehabilitation, therapeutic massage, ultrasound therapy and prosthetic rehabilitation. An associate's program along with proper certification is typically required to enter this profession.

  • Education requirements: Two-year physical therapist assistant program

  • National average salary: $75,405 per year

Read more: Learn About Being a Physical Therapist Assistant

8. Aircraft mechanic

Primary duties: With a median pay above $65,000, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, aircraft mechanics are among the highest earners without a degree. Aircraft mechanics are responsible for keeping aircraft safe and in top operating condition. They inspect planes for damage, perform required maintenance and make repairs. Aircraft mechanics also keep detailed logs on plane maintenance and repairs.

  • Education requirements: Federal Aviation Association certification

  • National average salary: $75,513 per year

Read more: How To Start a Career as an Aircraft Mechanic

9. Real estate agent

Primary duties: A real estate agent helps their clients buy, sell or rent properties, and depending on the market they work in, a career in real estate can be among the highest-paying careers in any context. Real estate agents prepare buildings for sale, conduct open houses, negotiate sales prices, attend home inspections and advise clients on market trends.

  • Education requirements: Pass real estate license exam

  • National average salary: $94,497 per year

Read more: Learn About Being a Real Estate Agent

10. MRI technologist

Primary duties: MRI technologists are responsible for performing medical tests using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. Job tasks include injecting contrast dyes into patients, positioning patients in the scanner per physician orders, maintaining MRI equipment and keeping detailed patient records. MRI technologists do complete vocational training programs that may result in associate's degrees.

  • Education requirements: Some states may require ARRT certification

  • National average salary: $102,826 per year

Read more: Learn About Being an MRI Technician

11. Nuclear medicine technologist

Primary duties: A nuclear medicine technologist performs tests for patient diagnosis or medical research. Common job duties include the preparation and administration of radioactive drugs, patient imaging, laboratory analysis of specimens and protecting patients from unnecessary radiation. Training for this position consists of a two-year educational program.

  • Education requirements: Two-year degree in nuclear medicine technology

  • National average salary: $108,328 per year

Read more: How To Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist

12. Radiation therapist

Primary duties: A radiation therapist is another high-earning health professional who administers radiation treatments to cancer patients. Job duties include preparing patients for treatment, protecting patients from unnecessary radiation, maintaining medical equipment and recording treatment data. This program typically requires a two-year program.

  • Education requirements: Two-year radiation therapy degree program

  • National average salary: $126,551 per year

Read more: Learn About Being a Radiation Therapist

Tips for your job search

Here are some tips if you're looking for a high-paying job and don't have a four-year degree:

  • Start with certain fields: Jobs in the technology, customer service, administration and medical assistance fields often only require a high school diploma, industry certification or on-the-job experience.

  • Focus your studies: Note that for jobs in the medical field, many require some additional schooling, often requiring you to perform well in science courses. On the other hand, some other careers instead may require manual labor or some finesse in mechanical thinking.

  • Get some training. Give yourself a competitive edge by exploring online learning, on-the-job training, apprenticeships and/or certificate programs. Many of these programs are flexible, allowing students to continue working full time simultaneously.

  • Modify your resume. When you don't have a bachelor’s degree or higher, make sure your resume showcases your skills. Personalize your resume so that it includes skills listed on the job posting for the position you're applying to.

  • Research potential employers. Learn as much as you can about prospective employers before going in for an interview. Use websites, professional publications and articles to learn about a company's mission, policies and structure.

Related: $100K-a-Year Jobs That Don't Require a Bachelor's Degree

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