10 High-Paying Jobs That Don't Require a College Degree

By on February 18, 2013

Psst, here's a secret. College is not for everyone...

And that's perfectly okay.

10 High-Paying Jobs That Don't Require a College Degree Society has conditioned us to believe otherwise. We all grew up believing that we were supposed to pursue the American dream: a well-paying job, a beautiful house, a happy family, and financial independence. "There's only one way to achieve the American dream," they would tell us. "You have to go to college."

Because if you don't go to college, you're going to flip burgers for the rest of your life, right?

Wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While a few people - even college graduates - will work minimum wage jobs for the rest of their lives, many people without a college degree go on to live healthy, prosperous lives full of happiness and financial success. A college education is not a ticket to a successful career.

Just look at John D. Rockefeller, Richard Branson, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, and Dave Thomas. Believe it or not, none of them had a college degree. Because those notable men maintained hard work and diligence throughout their careers, they found great success…

And guess what? So can you!

There are plenty of prosperous careers out there that don't require a college education. Let's take a look at 10 of them.


Air Traffic Controller

This is a stressful job, but it pays quite handsomely. An air traffic controller works in a control tower, an approach control facility, or a route center where she ensures that the air traffic is safe and orderly. She monitors details such as altitude and course, gives pilots clearance for takeoff and landing, and determines the schedule to prevent heavy traffic in airports.

Average salary: $139,300

Salary of top earners: $166,000

General requirements: Air traffic control experience (from the military or another aviation program) or completion of a Federal Aviation Administration certified program, a score of over 70 on the FAA pre-employment test, flawless English, and excellent communication skills

Job growth: Air traffic controller jobs are expected to increase by 13% through 2018.


Construction Manager

A construction manager's job is to ensure that every construction project runs smoothly from start to finish. He plans, budgets, obtains permits, schedules, coordinates, hires workers, supervises, and essentially orchestrates the whole project.

Average salary: $94,000

Salary of top earners: $150,000

General requirements: A high school diploma, 10+ years of construction experience, communication skills, time management, and the ability to make on-the-spot decisions

Job growth: Construction manager jobs are expected to grow by 17% (or nearly 140,000 new jobs) by 2018.



An entrepreneur takes a big financial gamble to start a business from scratch. He runs the business assuming all its risks and rewards. An entrepreneur's career can wildly succeed… or fail. This sort of career is the perfect example of this popular quote: "If you want big rewards, you got to take big risks."

Average salary: $1,000 - $1,000,000+

Salary of top earners: $1,000,000+

General requirements: Creativity, confidence, diligence, self-motivation, the willingness to take risks, and a great business idea

Bottom line: If you want to start your own business, go for it!


Executive Pastry Chef

If you have a sweet tooth, this job might be perfect for you! An executive pastry chef oversees the design, creation, and presentation of all pastries, sweets, breads, ice cream, fillings, and toppings in a professional kitchen. You would find executive pastry chefs at restaurants, casinos, cruise ships, hotels, resorts, or a private catering companies.

Average salary: $77,347

Salary of top earners: $102,000

General requirements: A high school diploma, a pastry chef apprenticeship, 5+ years of experience as a pastry chef, and a profound knowledge of pastries

Job growth: The amount of available executive pastry chef jobs is predicted to remain the same until 2020.


Massage Therapist

A massage therapist gives massages to relax overworked muscles, relieve discomfort, treat pain, rehabilitate athletic injuries, or maintain good health. A massage therapist can either work at a clinic or a spa or run her own practice.

Average salary: $67,600

Salary of top earners: $141,000

General requirements: A high school diploma, certificates that meet your jurisdiction's licensing requirements, knowledge of CPR, the patience of a saint, and people skills

Job growth: The demand for massage therapists is predicted to grow 20% by 2020.


Nuclear Power Reactor Operator

Have you ever wondered what Homer Simpson does for a living? Well, this is it. This lucrative job commands the use of a control panel to directly control a nuclear reactor. A nuclear power reactor operator is the only person who can alter large amounts of reactor reactivity. His responsibility is to distribute power among generators and keep electricity flowing.

Average salary: $76,590

Salary of top earners: $142,000

General requirements: A high school diploma, adequate on-the-job training, and 3+ years of power plant experience

Job growth: Nuclear power reactor operator jobs are expected to increase by 19% through 2018.


Personal Trainer

A personal trainer designs a customized training program for each client, monitors the client's fitness progress, and motivates the client to continue exercising. Most personal trainers work at fitness centers, but you can find some at country clubs, clinics, retirement homes, or their clients' homes.

Average salary: $51,400

Salary of top earners: $141,000

General requirements: A high school diploma, knowledge of CPR, patience, an outgoing personality, and completion of a personal trainer course

Job growth: Personal trainer jobs are expected to grow by 24% through 2018.


Real Estate Broker

A real estate broker is a professional who helps sellers sell their property, as well as assist buyers in purchasing a property. He has a thorough knowledge of the real estate market and the financial and legal aspects of the purchase process.

Average salary: $79,500

Salary of top earners: $100,000

General requirements: A high school diploma, a passing score on a test administered by the state, trustworthiness, good judgment, enthusiasm, and people skills

Job growth: Employment of real estate brokers is expected to grow 11% through 2020.


Ship Captain

Yes, this is an actual job! A ship captain navigates his vessel, manages his crew, complies with international and local laws, oversees the cargo, and manages on board accounting. A ship captain can serve on a cruise ship, a fishing boa, a tugboat, or a freighter. Cruise ship captains usually get paid the most.

Average salary: $87,000

Salary of top earners: $108,120

General requirements: Thousands of hours of deckhand experience, a healthy physique, perfect vision, good balance, problem solving skills, and the willingness to spend a long time away from home

Job growth: The demand for ship captains are expected to go up by 17% until 2016.


Web Surfer

A web surfer spends all day surfing the web. Sounds like a breeze, doesn't it? Not exactly. Also known as a web campaign analyst, a web surfer has to scour through multiple websites to collect, analyze, and compare data to help clients understand online user behavior.

Average salary: $86,200

Salary of top earners: $91,000

General requirements: Self-discipline, good memory, a keen eye for details, the ability to work well under pressure, and a reliable Internet connection

Job growth: The demand for web surfers is predicted to grow 14% by 2020.

Chiara Fucarino
Chiara Fucarino
Contributing Writer at ExcelLiving.com
A proud resident of the pristine High Rockies, Chiara Fucarino happily spends her days writing in front of a breathtaking view of the mountains. When she's not crafting words, Chiara cooks innovative meals, embarks on scenic hikes, travels to exciting new places, hangs out with domesticated animals, and takes her motorcycle out for a spin.

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