How To Make Money Without Spending Years in College

How To Make Money Without Spending Years in College

In today’s economy, a college degree is no longer a guarantee of high-paying employment. While higher education remains extremely valuable, it is also extremely expensive and time-consuming. For many people looking to start their careers and make money sooner rather than later, spending years in school is simply not an option. Fortunately, there are numerous ways for motivated and skilled individuals to pull in a decent living without ever setting foot in a college classroom. This guide aims to outline the most common paths for career success without a degree, as well as how to develop the skills necessary to take advantage of these opportunities.

Options for Making Money Without a Degree

1. Trade Jobs

The trades – jobs in skilled labor like plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, and more – have long been a reliable route to earning power without higher education. Most trade jobs start as paid apprenticeships where on-the-job training allows newbies to be productive while earning an income. After completing an apprenticeship program, trade workers can obtain licenses to work independently. Median salaries for trades like electricians, plumbers, and carpenters range from $50,000 to over $80,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As infrastructure ages and repair/replacement needs increase nationwide, demand for trade remains strong.

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2. Freelance Work

The rise of the gig economy and remote work has opened up freelancing as a major way to make money online without a degree. Popular freelance paths include writing, coding, designing, tutoring, consulting, and more. Freelancers can find projects on platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer or work directly with individual clients. While the work may fluctuate, successful freelancers earn into the low six figures according to surveys. The flexibility is also a major draw, allowing freelancers to live practically anywhere while pursuing varied jobs.

3. Entrepreneurship

Starting one’s own small business is the ultimate way to make money without a degree. There are now more opportunities than ever to entrepreneurially succeed through retail, service businesses, e-commerce brands, apps, websites, and more. Key steps involve developing a business plan, identifying a market need or niche, and building products and services to fill those needs. While a start-up requires capital investment and involves risk, business ownership can lead to huge rewards with effort and perseverance, with no cap on potential revenue growth. Popular self-start options include convenience stores, restaurants, cleaning services, and online shops.

4. Hospitality Industry

Jobs in food service, accommodation, tourism, and other hospitality sectors have long been viable career tracks without higher education requirements. Roles for chefs, restaurant managers, hotel managers, and tourism operators often only require on-the-job training. The hospitality industry pays much more than minimum wage as well, with the National Restaurant Association reporting that chefs earn on average over $60,000 annually. Those willing to pursue hospitality as a career can work their way from entry-level positions into higher-paying management roles with enough hard work and experience in the field.

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Developing Marketable Skills

While the above options present concrete paths to earning power without a degree, success in any field relies on possessing strong, transferable skills. Here are a few skills that are essential across industries and can be developed independently through self-study, online courses, reading, apprenticeships, and more:

  • Technical Skills – e.g. coding, graphic design, accounting, project management
  • Soft Skills – e.g. communication, time management, leadership, problem-solving
  • Business Skills – e.g. budgeting, marketing, sales, customer service
  • Industry Knowledge – e.g. finance, healthcare, web development, construction
  • Foreign Languages – e.g. Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic can open global opportunities
  • Certifications – e.g. Microsoft Office Specialist, Six Sigma, CompTIA A+ lend credibility

Developing a portfolio of hard and soft competencies makes a candidate much more appealing regardless of educational background. With motivation and dedication to self-improvement, skills are easily gained outside a traditional classroom setting.


Q: How much money can I realistically expect to earn without a college degree?

A: Earnings will vary widely depending on the chosen field, location, experience level, and individual performance. However, it’s certainly possible to make a decent living of $40,000+ per year or more. Trade workers, certain healthcare roles, and some business owner territories have median salaries upwards of $60,000 annually according to Department of Labor data. Freelancers and entrepreneurs report incomes from $50,000 into the six figures depending on client volume and business success.

Q: What kinds of jobs or opportunities might be closed off without a degree?

A: Some fields like law, medicine, R&D science, and upper-level corporate roles may require specific educational credentials. However, many companies now focus more on skills than degrees when hiring. Demonstrating proficiency through experience or certifications can still position a candidate well. Traditional degree requirements are also relaxed for some roles with various vocational training programs as suitable alternatives. Overall the career landscape without a degree remains quite open, though some paths may require more legwork.

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Q: How can I pursue ongoing learning if I don’t enroll in school?

A: Lifelong learning is essential in any career path, and it’s easily achieved outside the classroom. Popular options include online courses on platforms like Coursera and edX, industry certifications, reading websites and blogs, attending seminars and conferences, joining professional associations, and even auditing college classes without receiving course credit. Many excellent free learning resources are also available nowadays through open educational initiatives. The self-motivated individual has countless ways to continuously build skills while earning an income.

Q: What’s the best first step if unsure of a career direction without a degree?

A: Start by self-reflecting on interests, strengths, values, and work preferences. Research in-demand fields and potential starting roles. Consider informational interviews with professionals in interesting areas. Obtain an entry-level position even if just for experience. Enroll in a short vocational program to test your interests. Try internships or apprenticeships. Develop a general skillset while exploring options. Consulting free career counseling services can also offer guidance. With an open and curious mindset, relevant opportunities will emerge along the journey.

Q: How can I Make Money Without A Degree while caring for family members or with other responsibilities?

A: Many careers without degree requirements offer the flexibility demanded by complex personal situations. Freelancing allows working from home on a schedule that fits family needs. Evening/weekend trades apprenticeships allow 9-5 availability. Frontline hospitality careers provide steady part-time hours. Some fields even thrive remotely with advancements in technology – for example, online tutoring, bookkeeping, and social media management are all very conducive to blending work responsibilities with other commitments. With creativity and commitment, earning power can be forged alongside important life priorities.


In summary, while postsecondary education can expand opportunities, it is by no means a necessity to achieve career achievement or financial security. Though the path may differ slightly, dedicated and skilled individuals have abundant options for Make Money Without A Degree through practical careers, skilled trades apprenticeships, startup entrepreneurship, and online income sources. With the self-development of in-demand competencies and a strong work ethic, immense earning potential awaits outside the lecture hall. Success relies on finding the right motivations internally and exploring all available avenues for turning interests and talents into rewarding work.


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