It is a frequent misunderstanding that all high-paying careers require a college education when that is not always the case. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately six percent of US jobs need only a postsecondary non-degree award. In retrospect, that is nearly eight million jobs. Jobs that pay $80K a year without a degree aren’t as hard to find as you might believe.
If you want to learn how to earn $80K without a degree, then you’ve come to the right place. Read on as we discuss the best jobs that don’t require a degree in greater detail.
How Common Are $80K Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree?
Jobs that don’t require a degree and pay an average annual salary of at least $80K are few and far between. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Finder lets you filter the listings according to a median wage of $80,000 or more. Such career paths without a degree requirement are fewer than those that do require a degree.
However, this is not a reason to become disheartened in searching for high-paying careers without a degree. Even though opportunities are fewer for those without a college education, getting a lucrative job is still possible. All it takes is the right skill paired with unwavering efforts to land your dream, high-paying job.
How to Earn $80K Without a Degree: 3 Alternative Paths to Your Dream Job
To earn $80K without a degree, there are three alternative paths to consider in order to obtain your dream job. The list below highlights the most straightforward and common paths to take in order to earn $80K without a degree.
Consider Certificate Programs
Many of the highest-paying jobs don’t require college degrees and instead only need you to have a certificate. Thus, consider looking for certificate programs that align with your career goals and interests. With this path, you may be able to land a high-paying job in industries like law enforcement or healthcare.
Attend a Coding Bootcamp
Aside from certificate programs, coding bootcamps can also help you attain a freelance job with an $80K salary. Most programming jobs require degrees, but companies also consider non-degree holders as long as they prove skilled enough for the job. If you think the field of tech is interesting, then this path may be for you.
Look Into Entrepreneurship
If you would rather be your own boss, then entrepreneurship is also a possible path into getting that $80K salary. Starting your own business comes with risks, irregular hours, and a heavy workload, but it can pay off generously. It may even be the path that leads to your six-figure salary, as long as you have the right mind for it.
Best Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree and Pay $80K a Year: At a Glance
|Job||Average Salary||Top 10%||Minimum Job Requirements|
|Air Traffic Controller||$130,420||$184,780||Federal Aviation Administration-approved Air Traffic Collegiate Training associate degree|
|Makeup Artist: Theatrical and Performance||$106,920||$157,680||Postsecondary non-degree award|
|Nuclear Power Reactor Operator||$104,040||$133,170||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Manager||$96,390||$164,140||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Commercial Pilot||$93,000||$200,920||Flight training, high school diploma or equivalent, and related certificates|
|First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detectives||$92,970||$152,090||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Elevator and Escalator Installer and Repairer||$88,540||$128,500||High school diploma or equivalent and on the job training|
|Detective and Criminal Investigator||$86,940||$146,000||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Electrical and Electronics Repairer||$85,340||$110,110||Postsecondary non-degree award and on the job training|
|Power Plant Operator||$84,650||$111,470||High school diploma or equivalent|
Best Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree and Pay $80K a Year: A Closer Look
There are many high-paying jobs without a degree available, as shown in our list. If you don’t have a degree and have found yourself in a job that pays way less than the national average, its time to move on. Below is a closer look of the best jobs that don’t require a degree and pay $80K a year to help you find a high-paying career that suits you and your interests.
Air Traffic Controller
- Average Salary: $130,420
- 90th Percentile Salary: $184,780
- Projected Job Growth: 4%
Air traffic controllers are responsible for ensuring the safety of aircrafts and directing aircraft efficiently to minimize delays and accidents. They usually manage multiple aircraft at once, thus they must be capable of making quick decisions. You only need to receive federal aviation administration-approved air traffic collegiate training that awards you with an associate degree.
Makeup Artist: Theatrical and Performance
- Average Salary: $106,920
- 90th Percentile Salary: $157,680
- Projected Job Growth: 37%
Makeup artists for the theatrical and performance industry are responsible for altering and enhancing the appearances of the cast. Their makeup design must be accurate according to the character design, the time period, and other scripted requirements. You only need a postsecondary non-degree award to become a makeup artist, but it must be a certificate from a valid cosmetology school.
Nuclear Power Reactor Operator
- Average Salary: $104,040
- 90th Percentile Salary: $133,170
- Projected Job Growth: -33%
A nuclear power reactor operator is responsible for handling the flow of energy in a nuclear power plant. They may also work closely with the electric power levels of nuclear reactors, which makes this role somewhat hazardous. The only formal education credential you need for this role is a high school diploma or equivalent, but you must also pass the NRC licensing exams.
Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Manager
- Average Salary: $96,390
- 90th Percentile Salary: $164,140
- Projected Job Growth: 8%
The transportation, storage, and distribution manager supervises the workers that receive, ship, and test products and materials. For some workplaces, the minimum requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent, while employers choose to raise this requirement to a bachelor’s degree. The job outlook for this role is not covered in detail and is instead briefly reported as 8 percent on a BLS page alongside other roles.
- Average Salary: $93,000
- 90th Percentile Salary: $200,920
- Projected Job Growth: 11%
A commercial pilot is responsible for flying fixed-wing aircraft or regular planes that transport cargo and passengers. Other tasks and operations may include aerial survey, search, and rescue. The minimum requirements for a commercial pilot are a high school diploma or equivalent, a commercial pilot certificate, and a required flight time.
First-Line Supervisor of Police and Detectives
- Average Salary: $92,970
- 90th Percentile Salary: $152,090
- Projected Job Growth: 7%
This role is responsible for administrative and leadership duties, including coordinating investigations and ensuring actions in the department comply with laws and regulations. Supervisors must have a high school diploma or equivalent, with some districts pairing it with an associate degree or technical training at a police academy.
Elevator and Escalator Installer and Repairer
- Average Salary: $88,540
- 90th Percentile Salary: $128,50
- Projected Job Growth: 6%
Elevator and escalator installers and repairers are responsible for assembling, installing, repairing, and maintaining escalators and elevators. They use dedicated equipment on the job and have to respond to on-call emergencies. This role typically only requires a high school diploma or equivalent, and candidates learn through on-the-job training.
Detective and Criminal Investigator
- Average Salary: $86,940
- 90th Percentile Salary: $146,000
- Projected Job Growth: 2%
Detectives and criminal investigators are responsible for conducting investigations to prevent and solve crimes. Candidates for this role must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Aside from that, the candidate must first have law enforcement experience and be promoted into the role.
Electrical and Electronics Repairer: Powerhouse, Substation, and Relay
- Average Salary: $85,340
- 90th Percentile Salary: $110,110
- Projected Job Growth: -2%
Electrical and electronics repairers are responsible for maintaining, repairing, testing, and inspecting electrical equipment. They must work with electrical systems and identify defects and malfunctions. Candidates for this role must have a high school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training. Some employers prefer those with vocational training.
Power Plant Operator
- Average Salary: $84,650
- 90th Percentile Salary: $111,470
- Projected Job Growth: -14%
Power plant operators operate and maintain machinery in general power plants and handle electric power. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent, but some employers prefer those with a college or vocational school degree. The outlook for this job shares the same page as the nuclear power reactor operator role, which handles different types of power plants.
How to Earn $80K Without a Degree
Earning $80K without a degree may seem daunting, but with the right skills and determination, it is possible to be successful in obtaining these high-paying positions. Knowing where to look for such roles and leveraging your network is another important factor in locating these jobs and securing them.
Getting a four-year college degree is not as easy as many people make it seem. It requires time, effort, and financial security that some people are unable to provide. After reading this article, however, you now know the best jobs that pay $80K a year without a degree that will ultimately lead you to a lucrative career path. Seize the opportunity and change your career for the better.
Jobs That Pay $80K a Year Without a Degree FAQ
The right job that pays $80K depends on your previous skills and interests. For those with tech industry interests, consider power plant operator roles. Those with more artistic tendencies may benefit from makeup artistry. A data scientist’s salary is also around $80K, and this job is very rewarding as well.
Yes, many high-paying jobs will accept an associate degree. High-paying jobs for people with associate degrees include radiation therapists or nuclear medicine technologists. It’s important to know, however, an associate degree can’t satisfy a bachelor’s degree requirement.
Yes, there may be fewer opportunities for those without a degree. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t have the chance to make a high salary and live comfortably. Make the most out of the opportunities that you do have.
Yes, it is a high salary. However, it depends on your other needs in life. For many, an $80K annual salary is high enough to live comfortably, while others may need a higher salary. Considering the average salary in the United States is around $50K, an $80K per year salary without a degree is a great accomplishment.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.
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