10 High-Paying Six-Figure Jobs You Can Get Without a Degree

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Did you know that you still have access to plenty of six-figure jobs without a college degree? According to a study, roughly 16% of high school graduates earn more than half as much as workers with bachelor’s degrees!

Remember, we’re not talking about an overnight success story. While a start-a-business-make-a-million-dollars idea can spring from extraordinary skills, the truth is that there are lucrative careers that do not require a college degree—and many would prefer such opportunities!

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Perhaps what makes college unattractive to many is how financially challenging it is! A four-year college program from a reputable institution now costs five times what it did two decades ago! Even with students qualifying and getting financial assistance, it’s startling that the national federal student debt for outstanding loans now exceeds $1.6 trillion.

The rise in student debt is primarily due to the widespread belief that a college degree is required to earn a decent living, particularly a six-figure salary. For the most part, that notion may be correct. On average, a bachelor’s degree holder earns 40% to 60% more than someone with only a high school diploma.

You will find real, regular jobs that don’t require a college degree if you know where to look. If a four-year degree isn’t your thing, here’s a list of ten six-figure jobs you can get with a high school diploma, trade school certification, or other non-formal college programs:

High-Paying Six-Figure Jobs You Can Get Without A Degree

Solar Panel Salesman

Annual Median Wage: $166,641

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Salespeople are some of the highest-paid workers. Sales positions in the solar industry stand out as they are frequently advertised to earn more than $100,000 per year. Others earn up to $500,000! While working in places where the sun barely shines will not net you six figures per year, selling solar panels in shining cities will make you very wealthy in a short period.

It is expected that by 2024, 2.5 percent of all homes in the United States will have solar panels installed. This number may not appear significant, but it presents a massive market for exploration! To reach this figure, solar companies must cover an extensive network and sign numerous contracts. The sale transaction happens, and as a result, a career in solar sales may be an appealing one to pursue in the coming years.

Although solar sales is a fairly technical field, anyone can pursue it as a career. According to those who work in this field, you can learn the ins and outs of the industry in a matter of days after receiving training, and you’ll be ready to start making calls or visits.

There are thousands of YouTube videos from successful sales trainers and many sales mentors are available online for free to help you improve your sales skills. Your time is the only investment you need to make in sales training. The more you practice, the luckier you can be!

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Annual Median Wage: $33,400

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The male grooming industry is rapidly growing. The right strategies and experience provide an excellent opportunity for growth for savvy barbers. The industry is expected to be worth $81.2 billion by 2024, with hairstyling accounting for a sizable portion of that growth. While barbershop businesses dropped by 25% between 1992 and 2012, the industry has since rebounded and grown exponentially.

A barber’s salary range can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors, including the number of hours worked, the number of cuts performed, the price per haircut, the location of the barbershop, and the number of years of experience.

Barbers earn around $35,000 per year on average. It means that most barbers earn between $14 and $18 per hour or between $110 and $150 per day on an 8-hour workday. Nonetheless, these figures do not provide a complete picture; some barbers earn $100,000 per year!

A barber’s versatility and talent can easily earn them six figures per year. A basic haircut, for example, costs about $20 on average. If a barber can cut 15 people’s hair in a day, they will make $300, excluding tips. That equates to at least $93,900 per year. If you include tips that run typically from 15% to 20% of the total bill, the barber will earn at least $110,000 per year.

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Garbage Collection

Annual Median Wage: $45,560

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A new report claims that the average American generates 1,704 pounds of garbage yearly, roughly three times the global average. And that trash, which includes everything from junk mail to empty grocery bags, has to go somewhere. With few exceptions, most households hire a collection service and dispose of their trash at the curb.

Garbage collectors charge monthly fees ranging from $20 to $300. The rate is primarily determined by location and type of household or business. People in rural areas are likely to pay more because collectors travel farther than they normally do to reach these places, requiring more fuel and work hours.

The average American household spends at least $50 per month, while the average American business spends at least $100 per month on garbage disposal. Assuming you can cover at least 1,000 households, your annual earnings will be $600,000. You could earn an additional $10k-$100k per year if you collected garbage from commercial establishments. These figures are feasible, but they will not be easy to achieve.

To make six figures, a garbage collector must work 55 to 60 hours per week from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., do a lot of heavy lifting in dangerous environments and all kinds of weather, and deal with things that no one else wants to deal with. And some people believe there is still a stigma associated with garbage disposal.

However, it is a relatively simple field to enter: many private companies do not require a high school diploma, and firms will frequently train for the necessary commercial license to drive a truck. Furthermore, industry wages have been steadily rising, qualified workers are in high demand and are expected to have plenty of job security.

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Graphic Design

Annual Median Wage: $64,500

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Graphic design is not typically thought of as a profession that pays in the six-figure range yearly. The average graphic designer in the United States earns between $50,000 and $60,000 per year. Making six figures as a graphic designer entails more than doubling that. It’s an ambitious goal that will require a lot of work, but it’s not impossible.

The explosion of the internet and the digital revolution, in general, has given a significant jolt to the career of a graphic designer, resulting in intense competition for available jobs. Graphic designers’ employment is expected to grow 3 percent from 2022 to 2032, adding 8,900 jobs. 

To earn six figures per year, you must first generate demand for your graphic design services. Start by producing a large amount of content that attracts the attention of thousands of people every day. As a result, you’ll frequently find yourself with more inquiries than you can handle at one time, forcing you to raise your prices, even more, to ward off some of that unmanageable demand. It’s a great problem to have! If you increase your demand to the point where you have clients willing to pay you $1,000 per project regularly, you only need to acquire 9 of them per month to make six figures as a graphic designer.

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Tree Removal Service

Annual Median Wage: $47,578

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Homeowners rely heavily on tree service providers. These companies are in charge of installing and removing trees for both homes and businesses. They also assist property owners with weekly, monthly, and annual maintenance, such as pruning and trimming. In an emergency, a tree service company removes roots, stumps, fallen tree branches, and trees. They are well-versed in local codes and regulations, which allows them to assist property owners in operating legally.

You can expect to be paid between $150 and $2,000 for tree removal services, with the average cost being around $600–$800. Tree removal prices vary depending on the size of the tree in the topic, with giant trees generally costing more to remove than smaller ones. People usually cut their trees down when they become too large (36 inches in diameter or larger) for their lawns. This type of tree costs around $2,000. You only need at least 50-60 calls to earn $100,000 a year if you cut down large trees (19-36 inches in diameter).

A tree removal specialist does not need formal education or certification because they can learn enough about tree health and conditions in general through on-the-job training. However, if you are educated and obtain certification, your chances of landing a well-paying job increase. The best-case scenario is to get several certifications through a government-approved program and continue your education to learn new methods and practices and improve your game.

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Truck Driving

Annual Median Wage: $60,326

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A truck transports 90% of all consumer products and food in the world to their final destination; thus, a truck driver is critical to an economy’s growth. A truck driver’s salary is determined by various factors, including where they are based, the size of the vehicle, the distance traveled, the hiring company’s size, seniority, driver qualifications, working conditions, pay structure, and so on. However, most surveys of a truck driver’s average annual median wage do not account for drivers who may not work full-time or compare the differences between independent and company drivers. 

According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the difference for America’s roughly 3.5 million truck drivers is that wages should remain stable in the foreseeable future as the industry struggles to find enough drivers to fill orders, particularly as many experienced drivers retire. As a result of this data, the trucking industry is expanding and becoming more popular.

Given the current demand, is it now possible to earn six figures a year as a truck driver? Yes, indeed! The journey, however, will not be easy. You can make six figures annually in the trucking industry in three ways: become an ice road trucker, an oversized load driver, or a trucking business owner.

The highest-paid truckers in the specialty are ice road truckers and oversized load drivers. According to reports, an ice road trucker can earn more than $120,000 per year for a three-month season. On the other hand, an oversized load driver can earn up to $150,000 per year! However, because you’ll be driving one of the largest and most complicated pieces of equipment, you’ll need to pass your state’s regular driver’s license exam, go through professional training, obtain your CDL, and obtain any necessary endorsements.

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Annual Median Wage: $50,570

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Construction and extraction workers’ supervisors coordinate and inspect work activities to ensure that safety standards are met on construction and extraction sites. This position typically requires five or more years of experience in extraction or another construction trade. However, with this industry growing at a faster-than-average rate of 5%, there will be plenty of job opportunities available once you have the necessary experience. The median salary for construction managers is just under six figures, but the top ten percent earn $159,560 or more.

Most estimators and pre-construction managers earn six figures, ranging from $100,000 to $110,000 or more. Entry-level junior estimators can earn $40,000 to $60,000 per year with many commercial general contractors across the country right out of high school. 

Many factors align with the salary of a truck driver – the region you’re in, the company’s size, the type of work/facilities being built, your experience, and so on. Most, if not all, such positions are filled by someone who does not hold a GC license.

Most, at least on the management side, have degrees in construction management, architecture, engineering, or a related field, but many have no formal education and have worked their way up through the trades. In terms of the owners, CEOs, Presidents, and executives in these companies, many are multi-millionaires, many with no formal higher education.

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Annual Median Wage: $60,090

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A plumber specializes in installing, developing, and maintaining pipelines necessary for civilization to function. These pipelines may transport substances, gasoline, or even sewage, in addition to vapor. Plumbers are indispensable for society’s functions because they perform everyday tasks. Unfortunately, only a few are aware of this fact. Even with the promise of a high salary, most of today’s younger generations fail to recognize the financial security that the plumbing industry offers.

Many people do not believe that people in this profession earn a good living. A professional plumber can make up to $101,190 per year. They earn this much by receiving large sums of money for a few minutes of plumbing work. Plumbing is one of the professions that can earn you a six-figure salary.

On the other hand, becoming a plumber is a difficult process that may take several years to complete (though not as difficult as endless college classes and student debt). With a license, you can make way more than a regular tradesperson with no special skills would make! It would be best to enroll in a technical plumbing course and obtain an apprenticeship. Plumbing unions typically run apprenticeship programs. The plan is to pair aspiring apprentices with plumbers who already have a license to work in the field.

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HVAC Installation and Service

Annual Median Wage: $51,390

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A career in the HVAC-R or heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration industry may appear to be pretty blue-collar. But did you know that the average, everyday HVAC technician’s salary today may be comparable to the wages of careers requiring a four-year university degree? That’s right. You read that correctly. HVAC technicians who do not have a college degree have the potential to earn a high salary.

The median annual wage for HVAC-R mechanics and installers was $50,080 per year or $24.71 per hour. Those in the bottom 10% earned less than $36,170 per year, while those in the top 90% earned more than $82,670 per year. These figures, however, do not include commissions or tips. A senior HVAC technician will earn $100,000 or more per year when parameters are factored in.

While this is one of the six-figure jobs available without a college diploma, the $100,000 is not always guaranteed. If you genuinely want to make six figures per year, you should start your own HVAC Installation and Service business. Regardless of whether you want to be a business owner or an employee, you’ll need HVAC certifications.

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Nuclear Power Reactor Operators

Median Annual Salary: $97,570

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Energy-related careers can be challenging, enjoyable, and financially rewarding. Aside from the pay, nuclear power reactor operators can impact their communities due to the critical service they provide. However, considering how risky the job is, it’s not for everyone.

Salaries for nuclear power reactor operators will vary depending on location, facility, and job description. On the other hand, senior operators earn more than $100,000 per year. Compensation for this job may increase with experience and training, so it may be worthwhile to pursue additional education as you begin your career as a nuclear power reactor operator. Location is another factor that can influence the salary for this role. Nuclear power reactor operators may earn different wages in different parts of the United States worldwide.

A high school diploma qualifies for the nuclear operator role, but vocational school completion makes you a stronger candidate. You can also get training by enlisting in the United States Armed Forces, specifically the Navy. Many employers use the Edison Electric Institute Power Operation Selection System (POSS) test to assist hiring. This test determines whether an applicant is qualified to work in this occupation. To work independently as a nuclear power reactor operator, you will also need a United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license.

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor