When it comes to earning a substantial income, a common belief is that a degree is an absolute must. However, this doesn’t hold true in all cases. A number of high-paying jobs do not require a university education, instead demanding a unique blend of skill, experience, persistence, and sometimes, specific licensing or short-term training. Jobs such as real estate brokers, air traffic controllers, and transportation, storage, and distribution managers are prime examples. Despite not requiring a degree, these professions can often secure an annual income of over $100,000.

Real Estate Brokers

A Lucrative Career Without A Degree: Real Estate Brokers

Working as a real estate broker provides an opportunity to earn a six-figure salary without a college degree. The key function of a real estate broker is to act as an intermediary between buyers and sellers in real estate transactions, ensuring both parties’ interests are represented.

Earnings for this job are primarily commission-based, providing a strong incentive to close property sales and rentals successfully. The sales commission usually ranges between 5-6% of the house’s sale price. Therefore, the income potential can be particularly high in areas where property prices are steep. In such markets, it’s not unusual for a real estate broker to earn well over $100,000 annually.

However, it’s important to note that becoming a real estate broker isn’t as simple as just applying for the job. You’ll need to pass a licensing exam. Before you can take the state licensing exam, you’ll need to complete a pre-license education course. These courses can vary in length, but they can typically be completed within a few months.

Despite these barriers, a career as a real estate broker can be highly rewarding, offering the chance for significant earnings without a traditional college degree. It also presents the opportunity to meet new people and assist them in making one of the most significant decisions of their lives – buying or selling a house.

Illustration of a real estate broker holding a house key.

Air Traffic Controllers

High Paying Job Without A Degree: Air Traffic Controllers

Air traffic controllers play a critical role in ensuring the safety of air travel. These professionals are tasked with the challenging job of managing the flow of airplanes both entering and exiting the airport spaces. This includes guiding pilots during takeoff and landing, monitoring aircraft as they travel, and helping to handle any emergency situations that may arise.

Though the job doesn’t require a traditional four-year degree, aspiring air traffic controllers must undergo specific and rigorous training provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This includes completing an FAA-approved education program, passing a pre-employment test, receiving a qualifying score on the Air Traffic Standardized Aptitude Test (AT-SAT), and finishing a training course at the FAA Academy.

In terms of stress, it’s undeniable that this role is one of the most demanding. After all, the safety of hundreds, if not thousands, of passengers rests in their hands every single day. Despite this, many are drawn to the position due to its substantial pay. In fact, it’s a commonly held view that air traffic control ranks highly among the most lucrative jobs that don’t necessitate a college degree.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, air traffic controllers earn a median annual salary of over $120,000. However, that’s not to say that you can walk right into the salary bracket without paying your dues first. Starting salaries for trained air traffic controllers often begin at around $38,000 but can substantially increase with experience, location, level of responsibility, and the size of the airport.

As such, if you have a strong willingness to manage stress, boast excellent communication skills, and are interested in aviation, then a career as an air traffic controller could very well be both a stimulating and rewarding high paying job without needing to invest in a degree.

Image depicting air traffic controllers managing the flow of airplanes at an airport

Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers

The Backbone of Supply Chain: Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers

Supply chains are vast, intricate ecosystems, with countless products moving from points A to B every day. Ensuring this process unfolds smoothly are transportation, storage, and distribution managers. These professionals stand at the helm of logistics and distribution activities, coordinating every step of a product’s journey, from manufacturing plants to warehouses and finally to customers’ doorsteps.

A job in this field might sound complex, but it doesn’t require a degree. Instead, experience is what counts. Typically, those who thrive and succeed as transportation, storage, and distribution managers have several years of work experience in related fields. They may have started their career at an entry-level logistics role and gradually worked their way up the ladder, acquiring important skills and knowledge along the way.

Duties and Responsibilities

Transportation, storage, and distribution managers’ job descriptions go far beyond overseeing shipping schedules. They also determine and monitor the budgets for transportation operations and are in charge of safety procedures to ensure the workforce and goods are secure. Moreover, they plan routes and what transportation methods would be most cost-effective. In the event of an unanticipated glitch, they have the expertise to solve issues in a timely and efficient manner.

No Degree? No Problem

While it’s true that many lucrative jobs require at least a four-year degree, it’s not the case with being a transportation, storage, and distribution manager. Many successful professionals in this field have climbed to their positions without having a formal degree. In this industry, experience, skills, critical thinking abilities, as well as leadership skills, are often valued more than formal education.

Salaried Positions That Make A Difference

The financial potential as a transportation, storage, and distribution manager is enticing. Not only can these professionals work in a variety of sectors, from retail to manufacturing, but they also earn well-above-average salaries. In fact, the job can pay over $100,000 per year, making it one of the high-paying jobs attainable without a degree.

Overall, transportation, storage, and distribution managers play an essential role in keeping commerce moving. While they may not have the formal educational credentials of some other roles, their impact on the businesses they serve is undeniable.

A group of transportation, storage, and distribution managers discussing logistics strategies


While a degree often opens the door to high income prospects, it’s important to remember that it is by no means the sole means of achieving financial success. Opportunities such as those in real estate, aviation, and the logistics industry prove that success can also be experienced by those who pursue licensing, or harness their years of experience and innate skills. Therefore, one may conclude that success is not so much a matter of the right degree, but rather a matter of the right attitude, commitment, perseverance and an openness to opportunities as they present themselves.