30 Great Options For Making Money Without A College Degree

Last Updated: November 29, 2020   MoneyHacker

College Isn’t Right for Everyone 

According to recent research about 4 out 10 undergraduate students dropout of college with most of these individuals leaving college before their sophomore year. This suggests that the college experience is in many cases not what students were looking for–and there’s nothing wrong with that. College is both expensive and time consuming, so there is no reason to waste resources on a college degree if it does not align with your career goals or personal interests. 

In America’s 2020 many of the most lucrative strategies do not require a college degree, but instead rely on in-demand skill sets. For instance, a day-trader on the stock exchange with no college degree might make more in a year than a top-tier medical doctor. Similarly, a self-taught programmer might earn a six figure salary working from home. That is to say–there are some great opportunities out there for the highly motivated and many of them do not require a college education at all. 

A Word on the Earnings Divide 

Let’s say you are a high school student who wants to approach your parents about foregoing the college experience, or you are a professional looking to make a career change. One of the most obvious challenges to the idea of college alternatives is the widely touted divide between average annual earnings of college graduates and their non-college educated counterparts. 

According to some statistics, college graduates earn roughly $17,500 more than those who do not hold a degree. But here is the problem with this figure, and any argument that follows this logic. Comparing college graduates to the entirety of the population who does not hold a degree is misleading, because college works as a natural indicator of success–that is, generally the people who earn a college degree are motivated for their futures and are willing to invest time, effort, and money accordingly.  

The group of people who decide against earning a degree is made up of many personality types–some of whom do not care for professional achievement whatsoever and some of whom do not value financial success. While there are certainly some of these personality types who graduate with a college degree, the process of earning a degree tends to eliminate these types. So what this means is that if you were to compare the group of non-degree holding professionals that more closely resembles college graduates in terms of self-motivation and career focus then you would see the chasm between annual earnings shrink drastically. 

All this is to say, there are plenty of ways to make money that do not involve a college degree; and moreover the idea that college is a mandatory requirement for financial success is one that is continually disproven every day by self-motivated individuals from backgrounds of all sorts.  

6 Investments and Methods of Forward Thinking 

  • Invest in Real Estate 

Real estate can be one of the most stable and lucrative forms of investment if you approach the market cautiously with a well thought out plan of action. Many forward thinking individuals invest in a starter home early in life that they then work on as a fixer upper. 

One financials allow, the individual moves to a more valuable house and converts the starter home into a rental property to generate income, which in some cases is even enough to cover the mortgage of the next rental property purchased. With this model in mind, it is easy to see how some real estate investors are able to scale their income into monumental proportions. 

  • Invest in the Stock Market 

The stock market was originally designed as a method for the common working class Americans to participate in the enormous corporate wealth that our country is known for, but today it is somewhat stigmatised as something only the rich can afford. This is absolutely not the case, and in many cases, the unwillingness to invest in the stock market is what contributes to an element of financial stagnation within the lower and middle class populations. 

Investing in the stock market cautiously in portions that are appropriate to your budget will–more often than not–generate positive returns. That is, most of the more popular stock options are relatively safe. One encounters the real risk of stock trading when one delves into the stocks with high margins and high volatility. Start small, trade smart. 

  • Invest in Alternative Currencies 

Cryptocurrencies have been all the rage since the explosion of value of BitCoin, but you might be interested to know there are many new up and coming cryptocurrency companies. While few of them have reached the levels of astronomical growth as Bitcoin, every year there are a few front runners that represent excellent investment opportunities. 

If cryptocurrency isn’t your thing then you might want to consider investing in alternative currencies in the form of gold, silver, or currencies on the foreign exchange market. Individuals have made fortunes off of playing these markets. 

  • Invest in Skill Workshops

Of the developments within the education industry, the renewed focus on skill-centric courses and workshops has been among the greatest. This allows for reputable universities and institutions to offer accelerated workshops or skill development courses without the need for students to enroll in a lengthy degree program. 

These skill workshops allow for professionals to target in-demand skills that are most needed in their current position. In many cases, an employer might pay for you to attend one of these workshops or might offer a raise upon returning from one. In any case, investing in industry-centric skills is one of the best ways to get a quick return on investment. 

  • Invest in a Financial Advisor 

A financial advisor is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only do they save you money, but oftentimes their advice can lead to financial windfalls. Some good advice here is to build a professional relationship with a financial advisor early in life, so that they can get to know your and your goals. Because the more a financial advisor knows about you and what you want, the more they are able to advise you on how to get there. 

In any case it is never too late to start to reap the benefits of smarter financial decision making. If you are intimidated by their fees, just remember that in many cases a good financial advisor will be able to save you money in amounts that dwarf their fee. 

  • Invest in Budgeting Tools 

Budgeting is sort of the inverse of traditional investment. Instead of investing large sums of money in the hopes of a larger return, a budget represents a small investment of time and effort in behaviors that will provide a return in the form of money-saved, which in some cases can be as large or larger than returns from the stock market.

Simply put there is no excuse to put off budgeting in 2020. There are simply too many free budgeting tools and applications that will do all the heavy lifting for you. While it is granted that not all budgets are created equal, all budgets are equally helpful in the right context–that is, there is a perfect budgeting strategy for whatever financial niche you might find yourself. 

6 Skills, Projects, and Side-Hustles 

  • Start a Service Business

Starting a service-based business is a great option for making money without a college degree, because they often require little or no startup cost and in many cases won’t come with high overheads. If you ever had a lawn mowing business in your neighborhood as a teenager then you will know how lucrative service based businesses can be. 

The upper earning potential is accessed when you leverage an in-demand service, which you are able to deliver on in a unique or interesting way. For instance, if you are great with animals you might consider offering a dog-walking service in an urban part of town where you know many working professionals keep their animals cooped up while they work. Or if you live near a nice neighborhood that’s full of nice cars, you could offer a mobile car washing and detailing service. 

  • Learn to Code / Program

According to some analysts, everyone should learn to code in some capacity. While we won’t comment on that extreme position, the value of learning to code is something that cannot be understated. What’s great about coding is that there are so many free resources available that many professional coders are entirely self-taught through free online materials that anyone can access. 

Whether you are looking to improve your resume or begin a new career, learning to code can be an excellent springboard in either direction. To make the most of your coding efforts however, it is probably best to approach to effort with some idea of where you want to take your skills–that is, do you want to focus more on easy-to-make projects in Java or would you want to develop a better understanding of how coders communicate with machines through C++. Answering this question will help you determine what coding language you should pursue, and thus which learning materials will be of most benefit to you. 

  • Consider Affiliate Marketing  

While there is certainly some well-earned stigma surrounding affiliate marketing–it can be exceedingly scummy in the wrong hands–there are many examples of morally upstanding companies who employ affiliate marketing strategies to engage their communities. Credit cards and wellness products rank among the most popular options with companies of high standing. 

And do not be deceived, while affiliate marketing is often packaged as a side hustle, many affiliate marketers have made millions off their affiliate program. If you have strong skills of salesmanship or a personal story that connects you to a product, you might consider skipping the sales job altogether and moving directly into affiliate sales marketing. You will be taking more on your shoulders, but the potential financial gains are tremendous. 

  • Offer Consulting Services

If you have some specialized knowledge about an industry or are able to contribute to problem solving efforts of a company, you might be surprised to learn just how lucrative a career in consulting services can be. If you enjoy advising groups of people on how to approach a project or an issue, then this path might be a great option for you. 

If it is then consider building expertise in an industry either through hands-on experience in the workforce or through conducting independent research. A great way to accomplish this is to determine an area of focus, and then to pursue a research or analytics position in that area, or through a research bootcamp. You could also attend conferences and build a body of knowledge strictly on your own time. 

  • Start an Equipment Rental Service

Many types of equipment are just too expensive to justify purchasing for many small businesses. For this reason, there is good money to be made by investing in said equipment yourself and then renting it out to businesses in need. This strategy requires both industry foresight and strong technical knowledge, so be sure to approach this option only after building the necessary level of knowledge and skills. 

Afterall, you wouldn’t want to invest in an expensive piece of industrial equipment only to find out that it is being replaced by a more efficient technology next month. Similarly, you will need to have a good understanding of what the market needs in your area, so you’ll need to conduct some research as well. 

  • Become an Expert Researcher 

People always need information–even if this information is readily available online, clients will often pay big for someone else to collect it and organize it for them. Many marketing companies employ contract researchers to conduct baseline research for their content marketing efforts. Similarly, many web developers outsource research needed for content on their websites. 

In short, if you enjoy exploring the interwebs to delve deeply into new topics and niche questions, then you might really enjoy a career in research. This profession can also act as an excellent segway into working in a specific area. That is, if you have always wanted to work in an area of science that is typically reserved for researchers with advanced degrees, you might get your foot in the door by working as a researcher for different clients (websites or marketing firms) in your area of interest.  

  • Turn a Hobby into Earnings 

What’s great about hobbies is that they are often shared by thousands if not millions of other like-minded individuals. So if you have a hobby that you are highly passionate about then consider what options you have to monetize your hobby–if not to generate new income, then maybe to cover the costs of your hobby which would make it a hobby that pays for itself, a win–win for sure. 

For example, if you are a mountain biker or road cyclist, you might consider becoming a local bike repairman. Or you might want to buy and sell bikes. If you are an exotice pets enthusiast like someone who keeps rare snakes or lizards, you might consider breeding them and selling the offspring. 

  • Start a YouTube Channel 

While the margins are undeniably brutal for those starting out, a successful YouTube career can quickly become a dream come true when your daily routine consists of talking about things you love to a community that values you. In the case of starting a YouTube Channel, we only recommend it if the passion for your chosen area of focus precedes your desire for YouTube Success. 

That is, many of the YouTube success stories came about because they were simply making content about something they loved. You can certainly strong-arm success by bull-heading yourself through the startup phase, but we suggest pursuing this route only if you are someone who is sustained by your own levels of passion. 

  • Learn Social Media Marketing 

Social media marketing is a broad area that encapsulates a variety of professions of varying expertise, but it represents an excellent entry-point for both side hustles and full-blown careers alike. In many cases, social media marketers manage the accounts of small local businesses or social media influencers. 

This means that at the entry level, it represents a fairly manageable amount of work that can be scaled up or down according to one’s goals. A great way to break into this type of work is to invest in a social media marketing workshop, or bootcamp which delivers a diploma upon completion. 

  • Become a Virtual Assistant 

Virtual assistants work in a variety of environments to deliver different kinds of customer or client service. Virtual assistants might work within a corporate environment to help coworkers navigate certain technologies or procedures. Likewise, these individuals might work as a self-employed contractor and offer up their services to local businesses. 

In this capacity, they might function as mobile front-desk assistant, scheduling client appointments or services accordingly. Similarly, a virtual assistant might be employed by a busy entrepreneur who needs help managing all his or her various responsibilities. If you are a detail-oriented individual who likes delivering help on the fly, then this might be the ideal job for you.  

  • Become a Web Designer

Web design is one of those fields that contains many different levels of expertise and requisite training. At an entry-level one can generate some great side income by building websites for clients. Depending on the type of website being created, this can generate enough income to become a full-time job. 

What’s great about this side hustle is that you can start out at any level of expertise. Many small business owners will pay for someone to set up and manage even the most basic website setups like those created through squarespace. 

  • Cash-in on any Creative Talents

Are you a talented actor, writer, or singer? Websites like upwork are networks designed to offer compensation for an individual’s creative talents. No matter how quirky or unique you think your talent is, do not be afraid to offer it up to the talent-share industry. Everyone from carpenters to electric guitarists are getting paid on these kinds of websites, so if you enjoy leaning into your creative projects then don’t hesitate to see if you can get paid for them as well. 

12 Lucrative Jobs that Don’t Require a Bachelor’s Degree

Lucrative Jobs by Category

  • Jobs with Tips 

The service industry can be a tough one, but if you enjoy working with people then the service-industry can generate some excellent earnings. Anyone who has tended a popular bar or worked as a server at a top-tier restaurant will know the truth of this. The great part of these type jobs is that you are rewarded for your social skills.

So if you enjoy getting to know people and interacting with different personalities then you might excel in this line of work. And if the tips are your goal do not shy away from pursuing the jobs with the most exposure to tipping opportunities–such as working at resorts, on cruises, etc. 

  • Jobs with Commission 

You have probably heard some horror story of someone working a commission job, only to have non existent commissions resulting in near inhumane levels of compensation. But for every horror story there is another of someone who has excelled, someone who has made an absolute killing from their commissions. You just have to understand what the commission work is asking of you and how to lean into your strengths. 

Jobs with commissions can be found in pretty much any industry that relies on big sales, that is to say, you can find these jobs just about anywhere. Do be forewarned however, that this job type is often the kind of job that is most predatorial to the inexperienced. So if you want to chase the big-time commissions that dreams are made of, just make sure that you’re well-prepared to assess the moral standing and expectations of your employer. 

  • Vocational Skill Jobs

Vocational skill jobs–while not known as the most glorious professions–are in many ways the backbone of the American job market. These jobs are always in high demand and they offer steady employment and income to those who take them on. These professionals work as plumbers, electricians, or construction workers. 

Though among the most well-compensated of these careers is the electrician. While not requiring a bachelor’s degree, the upper echelon electrician positions require years of experience and specialized knowledge. So if you want to build highly technical knowledge in a schooling experience that is relatively similar to an undergraduate education, a vocational skill job might be the option for you.  

  • Small Business Owner 

Small business owners can make great money, okay money, or awful money–all depending on their operation and their targeted industry of business. For this reason, starting a small business is just not something for everybody to pursue. The sad fact is that the large majority–nearly 9 out of 10–of small businesses will fail in their first three years. 

With this in mind, it is still one of the best ways for someone without a degree to make the big bucks. But the risk involved means that before approaching such an endeavor one should be totally prepared for either success or failure with ideas of how to handle either outcome. 

In order to prepare for success, you should get involved in your local entrepreneurial community, take someone’s startup incubator courses on how to run a business, and hire an accountant. This third step should be done first before you file any of the necessary paperwork for establishing your business, because your accountant will be able to see several steps ahead and tell you the best way to establish your company. 

Lucrative Jobs by Position

  • App Developer: $57,000 – $110,000

One only needs to peruse the app store on one’s iphone or android in order to grasp the explosive growth of the applications market. If you can think of it–there is probably an app for it and if not, there will be one soon. App developers are the professionals who are riding the waves of this explosive growth and are raking in the cash because of it. 

App development can be a very deep profession requiring graduate level education in computer science, however as a hustle job there are countless entry points into the field. Many applications serve a very simple purpose and can be designed with even a rudimentary knowledge of applications design. So if you are interested in this area, your best bet is to develop some core skills in a bootcamp or take a skill set course, and then leverage those skills in the contract job market to leverage bigger and better jobs, and so on. 

  • Patrol Officer: $61,000 – $86,000

The most dangerous jobs are often the most well-paying jobs. This is most definitely true in the case of a patrol officer, who is a police force professional tasked with patrolling the highways and interstates of America. Driving is in itself a dangerous task, but when you factor in the impending risk of potentially pulling over a murderous criminal, the danger is multiplied. 

For this reason, the position of highway patrol officer is highly lucrative and in many cases is not as competitive as other positions of similar compensation–mostly due to the risks associated with the position. But if you are someone who does not shy away from risks on the path to getting what you want, then you might want to consider joining our brothers in blue on the road. 

  • Executive Assistant: $50,000 – $76,000

Executive assistants are assistants at the top of their game. As such these professionals are paired with an organization’s top management or executives. In many cases, executive assistants take on the roles and responsibilities associated with the typical role of a manager. These professionals must be flexible and adaptable with impeccable organization and communication skills.  

The most appealing aspect of the executive assistant job is that it is entirely merit-based. While someone might certainly have an easier time getting this job with a bachelor’s degree, there is no reason a talented individual could rise to the same rank in a shorter amount of time simply by demonstrating skill and aptitude. 

  • Sales Representative: $36,000 – $71,000

Sales representatives employ strategies developed by research and marketing teams in order to land product sales or the sale of a company’s assets. Sales is a notoriously social kind of work, and as such, there is an element to sales that many employers suggest cannot be taught. 

This is music to the ears of anyone who wants to pursue the lucrative work of sales. To break into this industry you will likely want to build some knowledge of the industry you will be representing and polish your presentation and communication skills. While not the most appealing, entry level positions should be viewed as opportunities to demonstrate skill and earn promotion. 

  • Sound Engineering Technician: $13,000 – $71,000

Sound engineering technicians work in a variety of environments from music festivals, to movie sets, to concert halls.They aim to either improve the sound of musical equipment, or they aim to engineer a new sound altogether. The former is the more entry-level line of work and the latter is reserved for the skilled and experienced, but is much more lucrative work. 

If you have ever wondered where the sound for the spaceships in Star Wars came from, you might be surprised to learn that they were created in an audio lab by a group of sound engineers who created those sounds by melding audio captures of things like chainsaws and motorbikes with new audio manipulations. Professionals interested in this line of work will want to build experience through boot camps or skill courses to increase their chances of landing the more interesting jobs. 

  • Insurance Sales Agent: $30,000 – $120,000

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen. With this in mind, the insurance industry looks to help individuals hedge their bets against the chaos of life. Whether that means the death of a loved one, a car accident, or a house fire, there is a form of insurance for it all. And for the financially inclined, many of these insurance policies provide residual annual yields to the insurance agent who signed the policy. 

This means that insurance agents often reap the benefit of a previous year’s work for years and years to come. This business model is really appealing to some, and it requires minimal training to break into the entry level positions. Excelling and earning promotions in this career will depend on one’s personal performance and professional record. 

  • Firefighter: $32,000 – $84,000

Firefighters can earn some great money depending on their seniority and area of employment. There is exponentially more risk associated with firefighter positions in cities of dense urban population, but this risk is counterbalanced by enormous salaries. So it is up to the individual to decide whether this tradeoff is worth it. 

For this reason, firefighters are honored members of the community and are often hailed as heroes and lifesavers. If you are someone who feels the urge to put your life on the line to save another, then this line of work may be just the thing for you. 

  • Real Estate Agent: $35,000 to $98,000

Real estate agents stand to make great money if they can close on sales, and for this reason it is a very similar job path to a commission based sales position. The difference however is that real estate agents choose their own product–that is they choose the homes, buyers, and sellers they will represent, which gives them much more control than traditional commission sales agents. 

Similarly, since real estate agents work within the housing market throughout their careers, success usually comes down to networking and social skills. So if you are someone who enjoys salesmanship, but wants that extra element of sociality then a career in real estate is something to consider.