Growing up, many of us were taught that a college degree is basically a guarantee that you'll enter into a financially secure career — but one $1.6 trillion student loan debt crisis later, that advice isn't exactly aging well. Recently, u/milly-0607 asked redditors who make over $50k without a degree to share what they do, and the responses were eye-opening. Here are some of the top replies:
1."I deliver bread to grocery stores, and I made $120k last year working six to eight hours per day. Healthcare, pension, paid vacation, union representation. It's great work if you can find it."
2."I do autopsies as a autopsy tech and make $50k without over time. I take out peoples' organs and give them to a doctor to do the actual autopsy. Then I sew up, clean up, and release bodies to funeral homes. It's smelly work, and you see things you can never unsee. But the death industry is the last Wild West, and I have a lot of down time for reading and naps."
3."I rotisserize chicken at Costco for $63k a year. Bought a house and everything. Great times."
4."I’m a career nanny. I’m in my 20s at $90k plus benefits, 45 hours a week."
5."I work at a union warehouse for Kroger, and I make about $80k–$85k a year, but that’s with overtime. I work about 50–60-hour weeks. I do pay $80 a month for union dues, but that’s all I pay. I get free healthcare, dental care, vision care, and a good retirement plan. Not bad for a 10th-grade dropout."
6."I do loss prevention for a Fortune 10 company. With bonuses and stock grants, even entry level brings in $50k+ a year."
7."I'm a hairdresser. I work hard and a lot of hours. I make well over $100k post-tax, honestly reporting and legit. After 33 years in the business, I still love it. It’s honest work, but still work."
8."I learned how to configure Salesforce for free and immediately started working with a Salesforce partner. My income went from $45k to $75k, and I hit six figures within my first year in the industry."
9."I'm a project manager for a health insurance company making $100k working remotely. I worked my way up over the last six years. I started in data entry. The trick is just finding a good company that likes to promote from within."
10."Real estate. Spent my last dime on my license. Last year, I did over $120k, and I am on my fourth year in the industry. Best decision I ever made."
11."I make $138k working as a baker, no degree, seven years of experience. I'm in San Francisco, California at a Michelin 1-star restaurant."
12."Industrial rope access. I make between $50–$75 an hour. Plenty of work. It's not too expensive to get started. You work from ropes to get to places that are difficult to access with traditional methods and conduct work. I have worked on oil platforms, wind turbines, the roofs of stadiums, dams, and bridges. It can be very quick to move through your certs and make more money. Prevailing wage work comes around and can change your life."
13."I'm a welder. I did an apprenticeship through the federal government. Started almost five years ago at 28 at $18 an hour. Now I'm making close to $35 an hour as a journeyman. I'm pushing $100k this year with overtime and bought my first house last spring. My work is dirty, but it isn't crazy hard, and I'm not forced to travel. That being said, I would not recommend welding as a trade — there are lot more trades that make more money and are less rough on your body and lungs."
14."I'm a server/bartender making roughly $60k with 50-hour weeks."
15."Aircraft maintenance for a major airline, two years of trade school. I make over $200k."
16."I make $64k as an emergency 9-1-1 dispatcher. High stress and long hours, but a satisfying and interesting job nonetheless."
17."I make $60k as a supply chain account manager. It’s basically glorified data entry for the most part. Fully remote since COVID."
18."Bank and credit union jobs. I've worked my way up and make $66K. They are by far the easiest jump from retail to a career path. You just lose the flexibility of the retail schedule. Typically, banks pay more. Credit unions have better benefits. You get 10+ paid holidays a year. Not including vacation. Some offer tuition reimbursement, and some will help you pay for certifications. If you find a mentor and a career path, there are TONS of options to grow. It's a small world, so people know people."
19."I work for the post office as a part-time flexible rural carrier. I make $24.84 hourly and will clear $90k with overtime this year."
20."Industrial maintenance tech. I work 40 hours a week with some overtime here and there and gross around $70k yearly. I could move to other plants making more, but I choose not to live at work. I enjoy my family time."
21."Pest control. I make about $60k pre tax. I work from 8 to 4 most days, but I do make my own schedule, so somedays, may be 8 to 6, and some may be 10 to 3. Company vehicle and phone. I buy my own health insurance, though. Some days can be a dream, some can be absolute hell. Still can't afford a house or nice car, but I can enjoy my life."
22."Retail. Moved my way up at a grocery store and then a big retailer, currently making $70k and looking to be a store director by the end of next year. That job pays around $110k plus bonus. Most people don’t move up in retail; it’s a short term stop on their way to something else. But if you get good at it, like managing a super Target or becoming a district manager, you’re making bank."
23."I make about $65k–$70k a year as a patient placement coordinator. We're basically off-site case managers finding doctors and hospitals willing to take patients who can’t receive the care they need in the hospital where they’re currently located. I was working at Starbucks and Macy's three years ago and make about $13 more an hour now."
24."Live entertainment. I started at 21 doing corporate AV in hotels. Learned as much as I could in four years. Eventually, I got to operator status, and now I make around $75k–$80k a year running lasers at one of the hottest clubs in New York. It also helps to be friendly and build a good network of people."
25."I started in IT support as I was always a computer dork. If you are even slightly technically inclined, you can pretty much learn everything on the job. Started at $35k back in 2016 and worked my way up to a systems engineer making $75k now. I did get a few certificates along the way, but when I first landed the job, I just had a high school diploma. It's a solid career path. I have worked with numerous people without any degrees, and they make over $100k a year."
26.And finally, "I make $110k a year doing application testing for an insurance company. I started as customer service making $25k and worked my way up over the last 16 years."
Comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Do you have a good paying job without a degree? Tell us all about it in the comments.