40 Ways To Make Money Without a College Degree
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Nowadays, it's taken for granted that having a degree is the only way to make money beyond minimum wage. However, many ways to learn how to make money without a degree exist that don't require selling a kidney.
We'll cover odd jobs you can do, then get into high-paying jobs both online and offline you can do without a degree. Check out our list!
- Someone Who's Made It Without a College Degree
- Ways to Make Money Online Without a Degree
- 1. Niche Websites/Authority Websites
- 2. Digital Marketing
- 3. White Hat Hacker
- 4. SEO expert
- 5. Translator/Interpreter
- 6. Website Designer/Web Developer
- 7. Copywriter/Content Writer
- 8. Virtual Assistant
- 9. Photographer
- 10. Graphic Design
- 11. Investor
- 12. Blogger
- 13. Affiliate Marketing
- 14. Dropshipping/eCommerce
- 15. Start a YouTube Channel
- Odd Jobs You Can Do Without a Degree
- Highest Paying Jobs That Don't Require a College Degree
- 27. Air Traffic Controller
- 28. Culinary, Executive, or Head Chefs
- 29. Insurance Agent
- 30. Professional Athletes
- 31. Carpenters
- 32. Sheet Metal Worker
- 33. Sound Engineering Technician
- 34. Hearing Aid Specialist
- 35. Masonry Worker
- 36. Wind Turbine Technician
- 37. Real Estate Agent
- 38. Elevator Installer and Repairer
- 39. Electrician
- 40. Commission Sales Work
- When Is it a Good Idea to Skip College?
- When Is it a Good Idea to Go to College?
- Final Thoughts on Making Money Without a Degree
Someone Who's Made It Without a College Degree
As a bit of reassurance, I'm one of those who has made it quite well in life without a university degree.
While I've had a few years of college and university, studying journalism then business administration respectively, I've never completed the program.
After a few years in, I decided to take everything I had saved and began backpacking throughout Central America and Asia. Along the way, I managed to upskill my writing, learn how to make money writing, and began earning a living as a content writer, one of the ways to make money listed below.
Doing this has helped me avoid tens of thousands or more in student loans and other living-related expenses I would have accumulated to obtain a degree. I've also managed to carve out a living that provides a lot of flexibility, which I thoroughly enjoy doing.
So, if you are at the beginning of your journey, take comfort knowing that there are many people out there without degrees making great money and enjoying life. You just need to be persistent and consistent to see the results.
Ways to Make Money Online Without a Degree
Working online is a great way to learn how to make money without a degree if you're looking for flexibility, semi-location independence, and potential for high earnings.
Many opportunities for working online don't require anything beyond skill in that area, which often can be self-taught with dedication and consistency. Some of these jobs can go from side hustles to full-time gigs.
1. Niche Websites/Authority Websites
Niche websites are sites that cover a sub-segment of a market. An example of this might be a website that reviews golf clubs.
We have a guide on how to build a niche website that explains more about this.
Authority websites are similar but are designed to be a definitive resource on a topic. An example would be Bodybuilding.com or Healthline.
The downside to niche or authority websites is that they take time to get going. You also need either money to hire people or skills to do the work on your own.
Want to learn how to make money with an authority website? Check out the Authority Site System below.Learn With The Authority Site System
2. Digital Marketing
Digital marketing is a rapidly growing field that encompasses many skills. As with most areas of marketing, the results you provide are more important than your degree.
This is another area I have personal experience in, running a web agency since 2020. To get started in digital marketing, you need a skill such as:
- Content Writing
- Web Development
- Web Design
- Link Building
- Graphic Design
The earning potential with a digital marketing agency is relatively high, with top earners pulling in seven figures or more. However, expect long hours at the beginning and a lot of rejection on the path to your first few clients.
3. White Hat Hacker
Just as casinos often hire former card sharks and counters to help patch security holes, companies also hire hackers to help strengthen their online security.
White hat hackers can make a decent salary performing tasks such as penetration testing to find weaknesses in the website and software of a company or organization.
The average white hat hacker can expect to earn around $70k per year. With bonuses, that can quickly move into the six-figure range.
4. SEO expert
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of improving both the quality and the quantity of traffic from search engines.
There are a few different skills that go into this. Many SEOs are, in fact, SEO managers, delegating out individual tasks to specialists in areas such as content, link building, and web development.
Search engine optimizers can make anywhere between $50-80k per year working for an agency and even more as an agency owner. This is another performance-based industry where your degree doesn't matter as much as your results.
If you benefit from being bilingual or, even better, a polyglot, you can find plenty of translation work. This is especially true for in-demand translators such as Chinese and English or Arabic and English.
Translators can work for companies or their businesses but average between $30-70k per year. That number can go much higher for specialized translators or interpreters in business fields.
6. Website Designer/Web Developer
Web designers are responsible for designing the layout, usability, and visual aspects of a website. Developers are typically involved with creating the core architecture of the site.
Many designers and developers are self-taught by working on their projects. Degrees don't matter in this field as much as your ability to deliver results.
The average salary for a web designer is between $40-70k per year and between $40-90k for developers. That number can go a lot higher if you run your agency.
7. Copywriter/Content Writer
Copywriters are tasked with sales-focused writing designed to convert readers/listeners (radio, TV, podcast ads) into buyers. On the other hand, content writers are focused on writing long-form content that informs readers about a topic (like this article).
As mentioned above, many other content writers I know and I do not have a degree. Instead, I learned about digital marketing and internet-based businesses through first-hand experience.
Content writers can earn an average of between $30-70k per year and sometimes higher. The real money, though, is in copywriting with good copywriters commanding mid-six figures each year.
8. Virtual Assistant
Virtual assistants perform a variety of administrative tasks for business owners. While the common idea is that virtual assistants are low-paid workers in third-world countries, this is far from the truth.
Many virtual assistants are well-paid specialists capable of performing tasks that save business owners hundreds of hours each year. This can include handling phone calls, automating email outreach, scheduling appointments, and more.
The average salary for a virtual assistant is between $20-50k per year but goes much higher for specialized virtual assistants that perform revenue-generating tasks.
Photography has long been an excellent way for people with the right skillset and no degree to make money. With the advent of digital technology, entry into the field has become much easier without the need for dark rooms.
There are many types of photographers. Some of the more common types include:
- Food Photography
- Wedding Photography
- Lifestyle Photography
The average salary for photographers ranges between $50-80k per year. That number can go much higher for specialized fields or photographers selling stock photography.
If you're interested in this, check out our guide on how to start a stock photo website that makes money.
10. Graphic Design
Graphic designers create logos, menus, brochures, and other visual elements for individuals and companies. While you can get a degree in graphic design, it isn't necessary.
There are many online courses free and paid to learn graphic design, and your abilities will count in the long term more than a degree.
The average salary for graphic designers in the U.S. ranges between $25-50k per year. However, graphic designers in major metro areas or those who freelance via the best freelance graphic designer websites can earn much more.
One of the top graphic design websites for freelancers is 99designs.Check Out 99designs
Modern technology has made investing more accessible and decentralized. Common investment opportunities include:
- Mutual Funds and ETFs
You should expect to spend thousands to tens of thousands on your way to proficiency. It's also not a career for the faint of heart as earnings can be sporadic and losses extreme.
Average investors with a consistent strategy and proper initial funding can expect to earn between $100-200k per year. Top traders have made millions to tens of millions each year.
Bloggers write content either for their personal websites or for established online publications such as BuzzFeed or Men's Journal.
While blogging has a connotation with low-paid interns, that isn't always the case. Many well-paid bloggers are earning a comfortable income working full-time.
A good rule is that blogging for companies will pay proportionate to the level of expertise needed. Attorneys writing for a law publication will earn more than celebrity bloggers.
The average salary for bloggers is between $30-50k each year. However, personal bloggers from the top money making blogs make hundreds of thousands to millions each year.
13. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing. Affiliates get paid by businesses for each conversion, whether it's each person that buys a product or a per-metric rate.
Getting started in affiliate marketing takes time. When it comes to affiliate marketing for beginners, you should expect to spend at least a year or more before seeing any real results.
Though hard to pin down, estimates of average affiliate marketing earnings are between $50-100k each year. However, affiliates that run multiple websites can earn mid to high six and even seven figures.
Dropshipping is one of the best online business models whereby a person sells products to be fulfilled by a wholesaler or manufacturer.
The primary benefit is that this is a lower-cost way to get started than traditional eCommerce, and an excellent way to make money without a degree.
Earnings for dropshippers and eCommerce store owners will vary drastically. However, an estimated average is around $80k per year. Successful dropshippers and eCommerce owners can earn as much as mid-six figures to seven figures yearly.
15. Start a YouTube Channel
YouTubers create video content, usually in a specific niche but also based on their personal lives, for viewers to consume.
You could be a professional YouTuber if you have something interesting to talk about, such as a hobby you're passionate about.
Becoming a pro-YouTuber is an uphill battle that requires years of patience and consistency. However, the rewards can be significant. The average salary for successful YouTubers is between $30-100k yearly.
Top YouTubers have been known to earn millions with advertising, appearance fees, and sponsorship deals. For more information, check out how long it takes to make money on YouTube.
Odd Jobs You Can Do Without a Degree
Let's start with odd jobs that you can do when first trying to learn how to make money without a degree.
These are in no particular order, with some simply allowing you to fill in the gaps in your income and others offering a much more substantial income opportunity.
16. Property Rental
Whether you've saved up over the years or you've inherited property, real estate remains one of the best ways to make money.
The best part about renting out a property is that no one will ask which school you graduated from. Real estate is still one of the best ways to create a recurring income stream without a degree.
17. Start a Consulting/Coaching Service
There is likely something you are an expert in that others would be willing to pay you for. This can be anything from tech skills to cooking and everything in between.
The great thing about consulting is you don't even need to be an expert in a field, just more knowledgeable than the people you are coaching.
Make a list of everything you are good at worth money and start looking for people through social or other payment methods.
18. Service Industry
Bartending and waiting tables may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to making money without a degree, but don't discount it entirely.
Depending on the location, bartenders and waitstaff can be highly compensated by way of tips. This is especially true in high-volume tourist locations in the United States such as:
- Los Angeles
- Las Vegas
- New York City
In Las Vegas, for example, bartenders can pull in as much as $73,000 or more with tips factored in at larger casinos.
19. Deliver Food
Depending on where you live, working as a delivery driver for companies like UberEats and GrubHub can be quite lucrative.
As long as you treat it like a business, tracking your miles and factoring in wear and tear on your vehicle, you will come out well ahead in the end.
20. Give People Rides
As with food delivery, ridesharing can be one of the great ways to make extra money in your spare time or a full-time income in major metropolitan areas and medium-sized cities.
This can be an excellent way to go if you don't mind having random strangers in your back seat throughout the day. No degree is required.
Some downsides exist, such as dealing with drunks and sometimes irate passengers late for an appointment. However, many people find ridesharing to be rewarding monetarily and enjoyable.
21. Teach Something You Love
With the advent of learning platforms such as Udemy, anyone can become a paid teacher. As with consulting, you don't have to be a subject expert. Just know more than entry-level people.
Think about your hobbies and passions and what people may pay to learn. Are you a good writer, have a knack for painting, or maybe you're an expert on medieval Slavic studies?
Somewhere out there, someone is likely willing to pay a few dollars to learn from you, and those dollars can add up. Find out more about how to make a Udemy course.
A tried-and-true classic for teenagers and young adults, babysitting can be a great weekend side job to earn extra income.
At the higher level, some babysitters can earn a high full-time income. However, a degree and advanced certificates are usually preferred for these positions as teaching and tutoring are often involved.
There are apps such as Urbansitter that can help you connect with needy families. However, working with a placement company can also be a good option.
23. Show Your Love for Pets
If you don't mind being around other people's furry friends, there are a whole host of ways to earn money with animals that don't require a degree.
Some of the best ways to make money with animals include:
- Pet Sitting
- Dog Walking
- Boarding Pets
- Dog and Cat Grooming
Some jobs can even allow you to transition into a full-time career, such as owning a grooming or boarding business.
24. Help People Clean Up Their Yards
Lawn care is a booming $100 billion+ industry in the United States. While some jobs in the sector require advanced degrees (landscape architects, botanists, etc.) many jobs do not.
As with the pet-related jobs listed above, landscaping can quickly become a full-time career and even an extremely lucrative entrepreneurial endeavor.
At the higher end, landscaping companies can make upwards of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in larger metro areas.
25. Create a Product/Company
This is easier said than done. However, creating a product that people need and are willing to pay for is one of the most lucrative ways to make money without a degree.
Some of the best examples of entrepreneurs who hit it big despite not having a degree include:
- John Paul Jones DeJoria (Paul Mitchell, Patron Tequila)
- Richard Branson (Virgin Group)
- Ray Kroc (McDonald's)
- John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil Company)
The key to success when going this route is persistence and consistency. You will face a lot of rejection, but the upsides are astronomic if you succeed.
26. Offer To House Sit
House sitting isn't necessarily the most lucrative way to earn money, but it does eliminate one of your most significant expenses.
As a house sitter, you will be responsible for taking care of a property, including the inside and outside, while an owner is away. For temporary stays, this may include pet sitting.
It's pretty common for people with vacation homes to hire house sitters, especially in winter climates where the house needs to be used and maintained throughout the winter months.
Highest Paying Jobs That Don't Require a College Degree
While the above odd jobs can help you fill the gaps in your income, most of them won't provide a stable career or lead to long-term riches.
The following are high-paying careers that don't require you to have a university degree. Some, however, may require certifications and specialized training.
27. Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controllers are some of the highest-paid non-degree holding workers, and for good reason. This is not a job for you if high-stress environments cause you anxiety.
One thing to note is that training and certifications to become an air traffic controller can take as much as three years, almost as much as a traditional university degree. However, salaries can go into the hundreds of thousands at the higher end.
28. Culinary, Executive, or Head Chefs
While not all chefs will have the glamour of celebrities like Gordon Ramsey or Anthony Bourdain, it's still a high-paying position at the right restaurant.
The annual mean wage for head chefs is between $55-70k. Culinary and executive chefs can earn over $100k at the higher end.
Be aware that the path to this isn't easy, and the road is filled with high-stress work environments and long hours.
29. Insurance Agent
Insurance agents in the United States earn an average of between $45-60k per year. However, the sky's the limit, especially when you start getting into high-earning markets such as New York City or specialized insurance types.
While no degree is required to become an insurance agent, having a background in mathematics can help and may give you a leg up over other applicants for training programs.
30. Professional Athletes
It's estimated that there are over 11,000 professional athletes in the United States across all sports. While that may not seem like a lot, if you have a genuine interest in athletics and an indisputable talent, it can be a great way to earn a living without a degree.
The average professional athlete in the U.S. earns just over $50k with top athletes making tens of millions of dollars. That's before you factor in speaking engagements, sponsorships, and other money-making opportunities.
Carpenters are responsible for constructing, repairing, and installing building frameworks. Their average salary in the United States is between $40-80k per year.
One of the great things about carpentry and other skilled labor jobs is earning money while going through your apprenticeship program.
So, even while learning and just getting started, you can support yourself and put away some money.
32. Sheet Metal Worker
Sheet metal workers fabricate, build, and install products made from metal sheets such as air ducts, ventilation systems, and furnaces.
As with carpentry, sheet metal workers generally go through an apprenticeship program that provides on-the-job education and training.
The average salary for sheet metal workers in the United States is between $40-80k per year.
33. Sound Engineering Technician
While there are many sound engineering programs where people can become certified, many still make it in the industry from on-the-job training.
A way to get started is by becoming a stagehand for a production company. You can usually get on-the-job training and move into audio engineering.
The average salary for an audio engineer in the U.S. is between $30-50k. However, that number can go much higher for audio engineers who tour with bands or who work in busy metro areas.
34. Hearing Aid Specialist
Hearing aid specialists perform various duties, including administering hearing tests, interpreting results, taking ear impressions, and more.
While a degree isn't required, you will usually need to complete a training program and apprenticeship. Knowing American Sign Language can also give you an advantage and help you to potentially command higher pay.
The average salary for hearing aid specialists in the U.S. is between $45-55k.
35. Masonry Worker
Masonry workers are responsible for laying bricks and concrete for construction projects or making building repairs.
This is another trade where having a degree isn't necessary. Instead, you will learn through on-the-job training and education, typically through a multi-year apprenticeship.
Brick masons in the U.S. can expect to earn between $35-65k yearly after completing their program and becoming certified.
36. Wind Turbine Technician
Green energies are a rapidly growing market, which means the salaries for skilled laborers in these industries can be pretty high.
As with other skilled labor positions, wind turbine technicians will learn on the job and are not required to have a degree. Many start with only a high school diploma.
Wind turbine technicians can expect to make around $50k per year after completing training.
37. Real Estate Agent
Real estate has long been a way for people without university degrees to make money, and becoming an agent is a great way to break into the industry.
One thing to be aware of is that being a real estate agent is a boom or bust business. Getting in at the wrong time can mean low pay until the market picks up again, which can be years.
The average real estate agent in the U.S. makes between $40-100k per year. However, top earners in cities like New York and Los Angeles can earn as much as $500k per year or more.
38. Elevator Installer and Repairer
Another skilled labor job with high earning potential, elevator installers and repair technicians are in high demand around the U.S.
No degree is required to become an elevator installer, with many having only a high school diploma. Instead, you will go through an apprenticeship and obtain your certification and license.
The average elevator installer can earn between $60-90k per year or more in major metro areas.
Electricians are highly-skilled laborers with solid earning potential, like brick masons and carpenters.
As with the other skilled labor positions on this list, you will complete a paid apprenticeship with on-the-job education and training.
The average electrician in America can earn between $40-70k per year. That number can go much higher with more specialized work.
40. Commission Sales Work
If you have the gift of gab and don't mind the rejection faced on the way to the top, sales can be an excellent job for people without degrees.
A caveat to this is that some sales jobs will require you to have a degree, such as pharmaceutical sales or other high-level positions.
When Is it a Good Idea to Skip College?
There's an easy way to determine if college is right for you. Before deciding to take out the loans and signing up for courses, ask yourself:
Can what I want to study be learned on my own or through on-the-job training?
If there are no professional licensing requirements, such as with attorneys or engineers, you likely don't need to go to university to study the subject.
Think of the different ways you can learn what you want from hiring mentors, joining mastermind groups, taking non-university courses, or apprenticeship programs.
These are usually more affordable than universities and will likely deliver better results.
When Is it a Good Idea to Go to College?
If you plan on going into a field that requires professional licensing, such as architecture or medicine, university is the way to go.
Any field where you will be responsible for other people's lives is heavily regulated, and university is the place to learn these regulations.
It will also make finding internships and on-the-job training easier after completing university. The good news is these are usually higher-paying careers, so paying back student loans shouldn't take as long.
Final Thoughts on Making Money Without a Degree
Don't let the lack of a degree discourage you from a rewarding and lucrative career. Whether you decide to go into a skilled trade or take a less traditional career path and develop the next big affiliate website, there are plenty of options.
The most important thing to know is that you will have to work hard and be patient. Most of the jobs or activities listed above will take a few years to get going, especially with online work.
With that said, given enough time and consistency, you can expect solid returns. Try to remain persistent and don't overestimate what you can do in a day or underestimate what you can do in a year.
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