Home 6 Career Paths You Can Dominate Without a College Degree

6 Career Paths You Can Dominate Without a College Degree

The percentage of Americans aged 25 or older with at least a bachelor’s degree jumped 7 percentage points last decade, from about 29% in 2010 to 36% in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But there are career paths you can dominate without a college degree.

The U.S. Census Bureau statistic means roughly one in three U.S. adults has graduated from a four-year degree program. And if the trendline holds, the number of university graduates is likely to increase significantly in the years ahead.

It would seem that choosing not to go to college is a losing proposition. Rightly or wrongly, many employers see educational attainment as a proxy for intelligence and competence. Thus, any CV with a thin education section prompts the question: “Why?”

6 Career Paths You Can Dominate Without a College Degree

So is it a foregone conclusion that you need a four-year college degree to get ahead in the present-day job market? That you should go back to school if you’ve been skating by with only a high school diploma up until now?

Nope. Although not every career path is open to people without college degrees, choice career opportunities remain for high school graduates. In fact, high school graduates can absolutely dominate any number of fields with surprisingly high earning potential and good job growth prospects.

Here’s a snapshot of the best opportunities for people who haven’t graduated from college.

  1. Real Estate Sales and Investing

The housing market ebbs and flows, but the general trend is upward.

For aspiring real estate agents and investors, that’s excellent news. Neither occupation requires a four-year college degree, although agents and brokers need to pass licensing exams and gain market experience before really setting out independently. In addition, investors need some startup capital, a requirement that’s significantly easier to meet for those targeting turnkey investment properties in lower-cost markets.

Either way, real estate professionals are limited only by how hard they’re willing to work. Not some piece of paper that stands in for their experience.

  1. Plumbing, HVAC, and Electrical

One doesn’t become a master plumber, electrician, or HVAC technician overnight. It takes years of training and hard work to dominate this career path. But it doesn’t require a college degree. And these fields’ earning potential is more impressive than assumed. Plumbers and electricians in business for themselves can easily earn six figures.

  1. Renewable Energy

The renewable energy industry is a place to make your mark in a career path. Renewable energy is the wave of the future and every part of the entire field is experiencing a period of unprecedented expansion. While solar and wind energy generation isn’t as labor-intensive as dirty alternatives like coal and gas, renewable energy companies still need lots of capable bodies to install and maintain turbines, PVs, transmission infrastructure, and more.

There will always be skilled technicians in almost any part of the renewable energy supply chain and structure to produce all the needed parts in this vast and deep resource. Few entry-level renewable energy jobs require four-year degrees, and given the industry’s vast growth potential, capable employees can easily grow into positions of greater responsibility.

  1. Hospitality Management

Hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues run more efficiently every year, but they still require capable and experienced professionals to manage them. And in all but the most exclusive hotels, those professionals don’t need to prove they spent four years learning the ropes. Instead, a two-year culinary or hotel management degree is all that’s needed, and sometimes not even that.

  1. Project Management

Many project management professionals spent the early years of their careers learning the basics of their industries: how to build houses, design infrastructure, assemble products, design websites, and deliver healthcare. As a result, you probably won’t land a choice project management gig right out of high school. But if you work hard and show that you’re capable of managing your time (and other people) better than your coworkers, a more comfortable occupation awaits.

  1. Securities Trading

High-speed algorithms do most of the heavy lifting in the modern securities trading environment, but it still falls to humans to spot subtle patterns that the machines miss. Plus, the algos only care about money because we tell them to. So if you have a high tolerance for risk and a healthy drive to maximize profit, you don’t need a fancy degree to make your way in the market.

Dominate Your Field and Career Path Without a College Degree

What do all these fields have in common? For starters, they all pay well, even the ones not known for minting millionaires. You might not get rich as a journeyman plumber, but you’ll be able to pay your bills and live a solid, middle-class life.

They’re also all here to stay. Sure, technology and automation are set to disrupt practically every line of work in the near-ish future. But it isn’t easy to imagine a world without human electricians, web developers, or renewable energy technicians. And people will always need places to live, even after robots and algorithms take over the thankless jobs they used to do.


So, if you don’t have a college degree and don’t plan on getting one, you have lots of career choices available to you. The direction you choose depends on your preference and the type of work that makes you happy and supports the lifestyle you want to live.

Just understand that you have many options. Search for the best opportunities you can find and set yourself up for the great success you deserve in your life.

Ask around and find someone in the area that you are interested in pursuing. Find information in your chosen field and, better yet, seek advice from those who have gone before you. Nowadays, you have many options, and statistics show that you will have many different career changes and choices that previous generations have never had.

Image Credit: george milton; pexels; thank you!

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Brad Anderson
Former editor

Brad is the former editor who oversaw contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase.

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