31 Jobs That Pay $100K Without an Advanced Degree
| Last Updated June 7, 2023
Jobs that pay $100K a year typically require a bachelor's degree or higher. For example, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), physicians, surgeons, chief executives, lawyers, pharmacists, and dentists in the U.S. all earn more than $100,000 per year, on average. So do some types of engineers and scientists, including astronomers and physicists.
But what if you want to make $100K a year without spending any longer than four years in college?
For some high-paying careers, you may only need two years or less of post-secondary training to put yourself on the path to earning over six figures. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2020, just over twelve percent of Americans 18 and older earned $100,000 or more. With short training, you could be one of them.
Check out these 31 career-driven ideas for how to make $100K a year without earning an advanced degree.
Salary information in this article is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook unless otherwise indicated.* Rather than including average salaries over 100K, we have focused on median annual wages and what the top 10 percent earn. Median wages reflect the amount where half the people in that career make less than that amount and half earn more, so it is a more accurate representation than average wages. The salary for the top 10 percent could be significantly higher than the amount stated for certain careers.
Jobs That Pay $100K a Year Without a Degree (Based on Top Earners)
Popular artists, musicians, actors, dancers, choreographers, and other entertainers can develop careers that pay $100K a year or more with very little education. Quite a few other options exist, and they often provide better opportunities for reaching your income goals. In fact, number one on the list below is a skilled trade; no advanced degree is required.
Depending on your interests, you may only need a career diploma or certificate to get started in a field that offers high salary potential. And that generally takes only a year or less of training. Then, after enough experience, you might qualify for the six-figure positions you're aiming for.
Salaries in this category reflect national averages for the top 10 percent of earners in each occupation.
Jobs that Pay 100K With 1 Year of Training
1. Commercial Pilots
You don't need a degree to fly aircraft for purposes such as aerial firefighting, search and rescue, aerial photography, or charter flights. All you need is flight training to earn a commercial pilot's license, instrument rating, and certifications required by employers or the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for particular types of work. Note that the high earning potential is significantly higher than $100,000.00 a year.
- Median pay: $99,640
- Top pay: $205,940 or more
2. Web Developers and Digital Designers
For professionals who build or modify websites, the best promotion tools for finding high-paying clients or employers tend to be strong portfolios and good references based on past work. Although a degree isn't necessary to earn high wages in this field, web design and development training can help you achieve good pay more quickly.
- Median pay: $79,890
- Top pay: $168,200 or more
3. Computer Programmer
Although many programmers have college degrees, it's not uncommon for people to start succeeding in this field after taking shorter computer programming courses. That's because employers often care most about the skills you can demonstrate in specific programming languages. And many programmers work on a freelance basis and get to choose their clients, rates of pay, and projects.
- Median pay: $93,000
- Top pay: $155,240 or more
4. Special Effects Animator or Artist
Although many great degree programs exist for this creative field, some animators and digital artists have attained success after completing a short diploma or certificate animation program. Either way, a quality portfolio or demo reel tends to be the most important marketing tool for finding top-paying opportunities in the film, gaming, and visual effects industries.
- Median pay: $78,790
- Top pay: $131,370 or more
5. Detective or Criminal Investigator
Investigating crimes through observation, evidence collection, witness interviews, and other procedures doesn't typically require a degree. While criminal investigator training programs exist, in most cases, the training to become a criminal investigator happens at a police academy. But completing some college-level courses in criminal justice or law enforcement before applying to a police academy can help you stand out from other candidates.
- Median pay: $66,020
- Top pay: $105,540 or more
Even in today's digital age, written communication is a dominant way of conveying and exchanging information and stories with each other. But not everybody does it well. As a result, many organizations will pay top dollar for excellent writers and editors. And numerous avenues exist for building a writing career that pays well (regardless of whether your interest lies in creative, technical, informational, or marketing-oriented writing). Plus, successful writers and editors vary significantly in their educational backgrounds. Online writing programs can easily be taken anywhere.
- Median pay: $63,350
- Top pay: $129,420 or more
7. Sales Representative
Selling products or services is a unique art that can be learned in many ways. But getting a business education is a good way to boost your chances for success if you want to earn good money through sales jobs that offer high commissions. Sales wages vary dramatically, depending on the industry.
- Median pay: $61,600
- Top pay: $125,750 or more
8. Real Estate Agent
Helping people buy and sell residential or commercial properties can be very lucrative. Real estate agents earn most of their income from commissions on the sale of land, homes and office buildings that are often worth hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars.
- Median pay: $48,340
- Top pay: $102,170 or more
9. Computer Network Support Specialist
Most organizations rely heavily on computers, Internet access, and internal digital information networks. Skilled network support professionals who troubleshoot problems with those systems and find timely solutions are often well-compensated, regardless of whether they have a computer networking degree.
- Median pay: $62,760
- Top pay: $102,410 or more
Jobs Paying Over $100K, With Only 2 to 4 Years of College
By earning a career-focused associate or bachelor's degree, you may be able to unlock even more $100K opportunities. And many of the occupations in this category are known to have median salaries in the six figures (i.e., not just at the top end of the pay scale).
The annual wages for the following eight jobs that pay over 100K are based on the nationwide median wages for each occupation.
Jobs that Pay 100K With 4 Years of School
10. Computer and Information Systems Manager
It's possible to get on the path to management-level roles overseeing an organization's computer systems and related activities with a bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology (IT).
- Median pay: $159,010
- Top pay: $208,000 or more
11. Marketing Manager
Having the skills to identify new markets, predict demand, and create effective pricing strategies for an organization's products or services can be incredibly valuable. After all, they can produce results such as larger profits, greater market share, and better customer or client satisfaction. That's why some marketing managers are compensated so well. Marketing degree programs are widely available online or on campus.
- Median pay: $135,030
- Top pay: $208,000 or more
12. Sales Manager
With a bachelor's degree in business and real-world sales experience, you can pursue sales management positions that involve directing and setting goals for entire sales teams.
- Median pay: $127,490
- Top pay: $208,000 or more
13. Human Resources Manager
Large and medium-sized organizations often have a human resources department with staff who coordinate recruitment and hiring. They also frequently handle employee benefits, disciplinary actions, and communications between executives and staff. So, the managers who oversee all those responsibilities tend to earn high salaries. They generally have a bachelor's degree (or higher) in human resources or business administration.
- Median pay: $126,230
- Top pay: $208,000 or more
14. Purchasing Manager
Many companies have special teams of professionals who handle the buying of the products they sell to customers or use in their operations. That's because evaluating potential suppliers, reviewing the quality of their products, and negotiating contracts are all essential tasks that can impact a company's bottom line. With a business-related education and some experience as a buyer or purchasing agent, it's possible to attain a management-level role in this field that pays six figures.
- Median pay: $127,150
- Top pay: $206,540 or more
15. Air Traffic Controller
Keeping aircraft at safe distances from one another while in the sky is one of the most crucial jobs in our modern world. That's why the people who coordinate air traffic are paid very well for their efforts. Many aspiring air traffic controllers earn a specialized two- or four-year degree in aviation that helps them qualify for the Air Traffic Standardized Aptitude Test (AT-SAT). If they pass, they will have a chance at being accepted for training at the FAA Academy.
- Median pay: $129,750
- Top pay: $185,990 or more
16. Medical or Health Services Manager
From hospital departments to group medical practices, every kind of healthcare facility requires administrative professionals to coordinate and direct staff, schedules, budgets, record keeping, and other aspects related to providing effective and timely services to patients. A degree in health care management can help you progress to this position.
- Median pay: $101,340
- Top pay: $205,620 or more
17. Computer Network Architect
With a degree in computer networking technology and enough experience in network or database administration roles, you can pursue jobs that pay over 100K in this area of IT.
- Median pay: $120,520
- Top pay: $168,890 or more
Jobs Paying $100K With 2 to 4 Years of College (Based on Top Earners)
Like the previous eight occupations, you can often pursue the career options below with a bachelor's degree. And for some of them, an associate degree may be all you need to put yourself on the path to jobs that pay over $100K.
In this category, the annual wages being cited are based on countrywide estimates of the highest 10 percent of earners in each vocation.
18. Art Director
This type of leading creative professional gets to oversee the development of designs, layouts, style guidelines, and other visual elements of publications, film productions, product packages, or other fun projects. It's a role where you can earn good money while working alongside talented artists, writers, designers, and photographers. And many art directors first began their careers in a field like graphic design that allowed them to gain experience and move up into higher-paying positions relatively quickly.
- Median pay: $100,890
- Top pay: $194,130 or more
19. Film or Video Editor
Have you ever thought about collaborating with other film enthusiasts to create movies, television shows, documentaries, or music videos? Taking a director's raw footage and organizing it into a sequence that fulfills their vision is a skill that is often rewarded with high pay.
- Median pay: $62,680
- Top pay: $138,910 or more
20. Administrative Services and Facilities Managers
Many large organizations employ staff members capable of overseeing the many support services that keep the organization running smoothly. Education in business management and administration can provide great qualifications for high-paying jobs.
- Median pay: $97,930
- Top pay: $168,910 or more
21. Construction Manager
Most construction projects require professionals skilled at preparing budgets, coordinating schedules, collaborating with tradespeople, engineers, and architects, and supervising all other aspects from beginning to end. Completing a post-secondary program in construction management can help you succeed in this career.
- Median pay: $98,890
- Top pay: $163,800 or more
22. Software Developer
Before computer programmers can begin writing code, they need instructions based on detailed plans for what the applications they build are supposed to do. As a software developer, you could make a high income by designing computer programs or mobile apps and overseeing their testing and development. Mobile app developers are known to experience good career satisfaction. According to CNN Money, software developer ranked as one of the best jobs in America. Bachelor's degrees in software development are most common. However, associate degree programs are also available.
- Median pay: $120,730
- Top pay: $168,570 or more
23. Funeral Home Manager
Helping grieving families honor and mourn their recently deceased loved ones will always be an important and necessary job. Managing staff, budget, marketing, and various funeral home or mortuary activities can be a reliable way to earn a high income.
- Median pay: $74,000
- Top pay: $135,660 or more
24. Information Security Analyst
The importance of computer security is increasing as more and more hackers target organizations' and institutions' networks and information systems. As a result, specialists in this area of IT are in big demand. They can make great money by helping to protect such systems from cyber-attacks and other threats.
- Median pay: $102,600
- Top pay: $165,920 or more
25. Fashion Designer
New styles and fashion trends continue to be created by visionary designers who are able to anticipate what will appeal to buyers and manufacturers of clothing, footwear, and accessories.
- Median pay: $77,450
- Top pay: $130,870 or more
26. Network Administrator
Installing and looking after the daily needs of an organization's computer networks is an essential job, especially when problems arise. With the skills to make networks operate faster or more reliably, you may be able to earn a six-figure salary.
- Median pay: $80,600
- Top pay: $130,830 or more
27. Property Manager
Many property owners rent out their residential or commercial spaces to earn a good financial return from those assets. But they often don't have the time or ability to look after their property investments' daily needs, including aspects like finding tenants, collecting rent, and arranging for maintenance. Because property managers help preserve the resale value of their clients' or employers' assets, they are frequently able to earn excellent compensation.
- Median pay: $59,230
- Top pay: $124,680 or more
Every organization needs to maintain accurate financial records. Plus, many individuals require help with tasks like preparing income tax returns. But accountants can contribute to the success of people, businesses, and institutions in many other ways, which is why they often make good incomes. You can earn advanced credentials, take on a broad range of positions, and much more after earning a degree in accounting.
- Median pay: $77,250
- Top pay: $128,970 or more
29. Market Research Analyst
Many companies will pay high salaries to marketing professionals who are able to accurately forecast what demographics of consumers will buy and how much they'll pay for specific products or services.
- Median pay: $63,920
- Top pay: $128,320 or more
30. Public Relations Specialist
Whether or not an organization succeeds can depend on how the public perceives it. The same is true for many entertainers and independent entrepreneurs. As a result, communications specialists who help build awareness and positive public perception for their clients or employers can frequently command high salaries.
- Median pay: $62,800
- Top pay: $124,620 or more
31. Social or Community Services Manager
Every day, all kinds of community service organizations throughout America provide help to people like disadvantaged youth, abused women, the homeless, the elderly, veterans, and individuals with physical or mental disabilities or illnesses. And they all need managers and administrators with an understanding of the social sciences to lead their staff and volunteers and to coordinate and oversee their various operations.
- Median pay: $74,000
- Top pay: $118,650 or more
Training for High-Paying Careers
Getting jobs that pay $100K or more usually requires post-secondary schooling. But you don't always need an advanced degree to earn that much money. The right undergraduate degree, diploma, or short training program at a college or trade school can help you get the skills you need to succeed in the high-paying job you most want.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/. Some careers listed may be part of a combined occupation profile (visited June 7, 2023).