10 Profitable Careers That Can Be Pursued Without a College Degree

About this article
In today's job market, there's no guarantee that a college degree will land you a high-paying career. In fact, some people are choosing not to attend college even if they have the opportunity. While most reports still agree college is a wise investment, there are many profitable careers that don't require postsecondary education. Read on to learn more.
View available schools

#1 - Administrative or Executive Assistant

Administrative assistants can enter the workforce with only a high school diploma, and those who gain enough experience may become executive assistants. Professionals in this field who have a good understanding of the latest office software programs should have the best employment opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), general administrative assistants earned median annual wages of $32,410, while executive assistants earned a median of $47,500 per year as of 2012.

#2 - Electrician

While a college degree isn't required in this field, most electricians complete 4-year apprenticeships that prepare them for licensure. Electricians can work for themselves, start their own companies, or work for larger contracting groups. In addition, self-employed electricians can work flexible hours, which may be appealing to many people. As of 2012, the median salary for electricians was $49,840, per the BLS.

#3 - Web Developer

While many web developers hold a bachelor's degree, many others are either self-taught or have only completed a few college-level courses. Every company and agency needs savvy developers to design, implement, and manage their websites. Median annual earnings in this field came to $62,500 in 2012, reports the BLS.

#4 - Plumber

Plumbers can do much more than fix a leaky sink, and they are paid pretty well for most jobs. Many of these professionals gain the necessary skills through apprenticeships that last 4-5 years, after which they can pursue licensure. The BLS reports that plumbers took home median salaries of $49,140 as of May 2012.

#5 - Fashion Designer

Fashion designers have above-average earning potential, but the path to get there may be a little harder. You don't need any formal training to become a designer, but most professionals in this field start out as assistants, interns, or pattern makers. Experience and a strong portfolio that showcases your creativity is important for advancement. According to the BLS, the top 10% of fashion designers made $126,290 or more per year as of 2012, while the bottom 10% made $34,110 or less.

#6 - Insurance Sales Agents

If you like sales, going into the insurance industry might be a good choice. As of May 2012, the median salary was $48,150 for insurance sales agents, reports the BLS. The number of available jobs in this field was projected to grow 22% between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the national average rate of 14%. Sales agents don't need formal education beyond a high school diploma, and they gain most of their knowledge on the job. State licensure is typically required.

#7 - Commercial Pilots

If you like to be off the ground and in the air, this could be a great job for you. Commercial pilots go through extensive training and licensing processes, and it's important to note that most airline pilots do, in fact, hold an associate's or bachelor's degree. As of 2012, the median salary for commercial pilots was $73,280, reports the BLS.

#8 - Detectives and Criminal Investigators

While there are some police detectives and criminal investigators who choose the college route, most start out as police officers and climb the ranks. Almost any qualified applicant can become a police officer in a few months time through a departmental training program (no degree required). According to the BLS, detectives and criminal investigators earned median salaries of $74,300 as of 2012.

#9 - Nuclear Power Operators

This job may not be as mainstream as some of the careers listed above, but nuclear power operators are often well-paid, and a college degree isn't required. However, extensive on-the-job training is necessary, and all operators must be licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The median annual income for professionals in this field was $74,990 as of 2012, per the BLS.

#10 - Power Distributors and Dispatchers

Most kids don't say they want to grow up to be power distributors, but this job can lead to a very decent wage. The BLS reports that these professionals earned a median of $71,690 per year in 2012. What exactly will you be doing in this field? Monitoring how electricity moves from power stations and re-directing power if there is an outage or emergency. This job requires on-the-job training, and certification is required for some positions.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
      • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Independence University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Information Systems (MS)
      • Nursing Administration (MS)
      • Nursing Education (MS)
    Bachelor's
      • Accounting (BS)
      • Business Administration (BS)
      • Business Administration - Human Resources Emphasis (BS)
      • Business Administration - Marketing Emphasis (BS)
      • Business Administration - Technology Emphasis (BS)
      • Health Services Management (BS)
    Associate's
      • Medical Assisting (AOS)
  • Online Programs Available
    3. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
      • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
      • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences
      • MSHS in Translational Microbiology
      • MSHS Clinical Operations & Healthcare Management
      • MSHS in Clinical Microbiology
    Bachelor's
      • BSHS in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management
      • BSHS in Medical Laboratory Sciences
      • Dual Degree: BSHS/MSHS in Clinical Research Administration
      • BSHS in Biomedical Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology
      • Master of Public Health
      • MBA: Human Resources
      • MBA: Health Care Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
      • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
      • Accelerated MS in Finance Option
    Associate's
      • AASBA in Business
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • Associate: Accounting
      • AASBA -Entrepreneurship
    Certificate
      • Medical Assisting Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Addictions
      • Graduate Certificate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
      • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate
      • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal
      • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Liberty University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction Elementary Education (Online)
      • Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction Middle Grades Education (Online)
      • Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction Secondary Education (Online)
      • Doctor Of Education - Leadership
      • Doctor of Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Doctor of Business Administration: International Business
    Master's
      • MA: Communication
      • MED: Curriculum and Instruction: Urban Education
      • MA: Professional Counseling
      • Master of Arts in Public Policy - Public Administration
      • MA: Applied Psychology: Developmental Psychology
      • MA: Applied Psychology: Industrial Organizational Psychology
    Bachelor's
      • BS: Psychology
      • BS: Psychology - Christian Counseling
      • BS: Interdisciplinary Studies
      • BS: Business Administration
      • BS: Business Administration: Communications
      • BS: Early Childhood Education in Interdisciplinary Studies
    Associate's
      • AA: Military History
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Post University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Business Administration
      • B.A. in Psychology
      • B.S. in Legal Studies
      • B.S. in Finance
      • B.S. in Marketing
      • B.S. in Accounting
    Associate's
      • A.S. in Criminal Justice
      • A.S. in Legal Studies
      • A.S. in Management
      • A.S. in Accounting
      • A.S. in Marketing
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Winthrop University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Arts Administration
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Marketing
      • Master of Education in Special Education Intervention
      • Master of Business Administration - Strategic Leadership
      • Master of Social Work
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA - Management
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
      • DBA with an Emphasis in Marketing
      • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
      • Education Specialist in Teaching and Learning
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
    Master's
      • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
      • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education with an Emphasis in Humanities (ITL)
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education with an Emphasis in Humanities (NITL)
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education with an Emphasis in STEM (ITL)
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Psychology
      • B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sports Psychology
      • Bachelor: Business Admin
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Communication
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Counselor Education & Supervision
      • Ph.D. in Education
      • Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies
    Master's
      • M.A. in Communication
      • M.A. in Journalism
      • M.A. in Business & Design Management
      • M.Ed. - Individualized Degree Program
      • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction
    Bachelor's
      • B.A. in Communication
      • B.A. in Communication Studies - Journalism
      • B.A. in Communication Studies - Organizational Communication
      • B.A. in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
      • B.A. in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication
      • B.A. in English - Communication

Featured Schools

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

What is your highest level of education completed?

Independence University

  • Information Systems (MS)
  • Accounting (BS)
  • Medical Assisting (AOS)

What is your highest level of education completed?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
  • BSHS in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management
  • BSHS in Medical Laboratory Sciences

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University Global

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
  • AASBA in Business
  • Medical Assisting Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Liberty University

  • Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction Elementary Education (Online)
  • MA: Communication
  • BS: Psychology
  • AA: Military History

What is your highest level of education?

Post University

  • B.S. in Business Administration
  • B.A. in Psychology
  • A.S. in Criminal Justice
  • A.S. in Legal Studies

Education Level:

Winthrop University

  • Master of Arts in Arts Administration
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing

What is your highest level of education?