32 Jobs That Pay $100K Without an Advanced Degree
By Luke Redd
| Last Updated March 4, 2020
How many jobs that pay $100K or more can you name? It's pretty easy to do if you think about careers that typically require advanced degrees beyond the bachelor's level. For example, according to the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, 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? Is it possible?
The answer is yes. In fact, for some high-paying careers, you may only need two years or less of post-secondary training at a vocational school, college, or university in order to put yourself on the path to earning over six figures. In 2018, roughly 9.8 percent of Americans above the age of 15 made $100,000 or more, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That equals almost 26 million people. With short training, you can be one of them.
Check out these 32 career-driven ideas for how to make $100K a year without earning an advanced degree.
Salary information is based on 2018 data from the OES program.
Jobs That Pay $100K a Year Without a Degree (Based on Top Earners)
Most people know that it's possible for popular artists, musicians, actors, dancers, choreographers, and other types of entertainers to develop careers that pay $100K a year or more with very little education. But that kind of path isn't for everybody. Quite a few other options exist. And they often provide better opportunities for reaching your income goals.
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 just qualify for the six-figure positions you're aiming for.
In this category, the salaries being cited are based on national estimates of the top 10 percent of earners in each occupation.
You don't need a degree to fly aircraft for purposes such as aerial firefighting, search and rescue, aerial photography, or charter flights. Instead, you just need to undergo the proper flight training to earn a commercial pilot's license, instrument rating, and any specialty certifications that might be required by employers or the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for certain types of work.
- Top earning potential—$160,480 or more
2. Detective or Criminal Investigator
Investigating crimes through observation, evidence collection, witness interviews, and other procedures doesn't typically require a degree. 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.
- Top earning potential—$138,860 or more
Although many programmers have college degrees, it's not uncommon for people to start succeeding in this field after taking shorter courses or programs. That's because what employers often care about the most are the skills you can demonstrate in specific programming languages. And a lot of programmers work on a freelance basis and get to choose their own clients, rates of pay, and projects to work on.
- Top earning potential—$134,630 or more
For professionals who build or modify websites, the best self-promotion tools for finding high-paying clients or employers tend to be strong portfolios and good references based on past work. But even though a degree isn't necessary for earning a lot in this field, having at least some formal training in web design and development can often help you attain good pay more quickly.
- Top earning potential—$124,480 or more
Although many great degree programs exist for this creative field, a lot of animators and digital artists have attained success after completing short diploma or certificate programs. 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.
- Top earning potential—$124,310 or more
6. Writer or Editor
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 greatly in their educational backgrounds.
- Top earning potential—$121,670 or more
7. Sound Engineering Technician
Music recordings aren't the only projects made possible by the skills of sound engineering pros. You'll also find professionals in this field making major contributions to film and television productions, video games, sporting events, theater productions, and live concerts. That's why some of them enjoy a $100K salary at the height of their careers.
- Top earning potential—$117,600 or more
8. Sales Representative
Selling products or services is a special art that can be learned in a lot of different ways. But getting some kind of business education is a good way to boost your chances for success, especially if you're aiming to make a lot of money through sales jobs that offer high commissions.
- Top earning potential—$116,090 or more
Helping people buy and sell residential or commercial properties can be very lucrative. After all, real estate agents earn most of their income from commissions on the sale of land, homes, office buildings, retail spaces, and similar assets that are often worth hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars.
- Top earning potential—$112,610 or more
Most organizations today rely heavily on computers, Internet access, and their own internal networks of digital information. So it isn't surprising that the professionals who troubleshoot problems with those systems and find timely solutions are often well-compensated for their skills, regardless of whether or not they have a degree.
- Top earning potential—$105,770 or more
Jobs Paying Over $100K, On Average, 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 average 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 averages for each occupation.
With a bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology (IT), it's possible to get on the path toward management-level roles that involve overseeing an organization's computer systems and related activities.
- Average annual pay—$152,860 or more
12. 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 a lot of marketing managers are compensated so well.
- Average annual pay—$147,240 or more
13. Sales Manager
By earning a bachelor's degree in a relevant field and acquiring some real-world sales experience, you can start pursuing jobs that involve directing and setting goals for entire sales teams.
- Average annual pay—$140,320 or more
Large and medium-sized organizations often have an entire department or team of human resources professionals who coordinate the recruitment and hiring process for new employees. They also frequently handle issues related to employee benefits, disciplinary actions, and communications between executives and lower-level staff. So the managers who oversee all of those responsibilities tend to earn high salaries. They generally have at least a bachelor's degree in business administration or human resources.
- Average annual pay—$126,700 or more
15. Purchasing Manager
A lot of 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.
- Average annual pay—$125,630 or more
16. 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), which, if passed, can then give them a chance at being accepted for training at the FAA Academy.
- Average annual pay—$120,830 or more
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.
- Average annual pay—$113,730 or more
18. Computer Network Architect
- Average annual pay—$111,130 or more
Jobs Paying $100K With 2 to 4 Years of College (Based on Top Earners)
Like the previous eight occupations, the career options listed below can often be pursued 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 fun 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.
19. 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 in which you can earn a lot of 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.
- Top earning potential—$172,570 or more
Have you ever thought about collaborating with other film enthusiasts to put together movies, television shows, documentaries, or music videos? Being able to take a director's raw footage and organize it into a sequence that fulfills his or her vision is a skill that is often rewarded with high pay.
- Top earning potential—$170,040 or more
21. Administrative Services Manager
Organizations that have a lot of departments and employees often need business professionals who can direct and oversee the many support services that keep things organized and running smoothly. So getting an education in business management or administration can be a terrific way to earn qualifications for great-paying jobs.
- Top earning potential—$165,470 or more
Most construction projects, especially large ones, require professionals who are skilled at preparing budgets, coordinating schedules, collaborating with tradespeople, engineers, and architects, and supervising all other aspects from beginning to end.
- Top earning potential—$161,510 or more
Before computer programmers can begin writing code, they need instructions that are based on detailed plans for what the applications they build are supposed to do. As a software developer, you could make a great income by designing computer programs or mobile apps and overseeing their testing and development. Mobile app developers, in particular, are known to experience of a lot of career satisfaction. According to CNN Money, their occupation even ranks as the best job in America.
- Top earning potential—$161,290 or more
Computer security is continuing to take on greater and greater importance as more hackers target the networks and information systems of organizations and institutions. As a result, specialists in this area of IT are in big demand and can make great money by helping to protect such systems from cyber-attacks and other threats.
- Top earning potential—$156,580 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.
- Top earning potential—$155,470 or more
Helping grieving families honor and mourn their recently deceased loved ones is always going to be an important and necessary job. So managing the staff, budget, marketing, and various activities of a funeral home or mortuary can be a reliable way to earn a high income.
- Top earning potential—$151,680 or more
Installing and looking after the daily needs of an organization's computer networks is essential work, especially when problems arise. So with the skills to make networks operate faster or more reliably, you may be able to earn a six-figure salary.
- Top earning potential—$130,720 or more
28. Property Manager
A lot of property owners rent out their residential or commercial spaces with the goal of earning 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, which can include aspects like finding tenants, collecting rent, and arranging for maintenance. So because property managers help preserve the resale value of their clients' or employers' assets, they are frequently in a position to earn excellent compensation.
- Top earning potential—$126,200 or more
Every organization needs to maintain accurate financial records in order to have sustained success and comply with the law. Plus, many individuals also require help with tasks like preparing income tax returns. But accountants can contribute to the success of people, businesses, and institutions in a lot of other ways as well, which is why they often make good incomes.
- Top earning potential—$122,840 or more
30. Market Research Analyst
Many companies will pay high salaries to marketing professionals who are able to accurately forecast what particular demographics of consumers will buy and how much they'll pay for specific products or services.
- Top earning potential—$121,080 or more
31. Public Relations Specialist
Whether or not an organization succeeds can depend a lot 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 are frequently able to command high salaries.
- Top earning potential—$112,310 or more
32. Social or Human 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.
- Top earning potential—$111,150 or more
Find Training for High-Paying Careers Now
Getting jobs that pay $100K or more usually requires some post-secondary schooling. But you don't need an advanced degree to earn that much money. You can get skills for the high-paying career you're most interested in through a short training program.
Simply enter your zip code into the following search tool for a list of nearby schools!