20 Ways to Make Good Money Without a College Degree

Table of Contents

Most everyone will agree that doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. are careers with high income skills. But all of these require at least four years of college, if not more. Because these specialized skills need formal education, it’s understandable why they demand a high income.

However, did you know there are skills you can learn to generate six figures without a formal education? Keep reading for a list of 20 valuable skills and how you train for them. 

Image Credit: LightFieldStudios / iStock.

What is a high income skill? The difference between a skill and a JOB

A skill is something you do. Hard skills are things like being able to type, whereas a soft skill would be something more nebulous like “good communicator.” Soft skills are often much more challenging to learn than a hard skill, partially because everyone’s perception of what constitutes a “good” mastery of a skill is subjective.

It is easy to see if you can type 65 words per minute with no errors, while it is not easy to know if you will be able to get along with members of your team.

A job requires you to trade time to start making money. It is where the acronym J.O.B. (Just Over Broke) comes from. You are expected to employ skills to perform work for an employer. In the end, it still is directly trading time for money unless you are being paid for piecework (i.e., x dollars for x pieces of work).

There are very few high-paying jobs that do not require a college degree of some kind. Even for something like project management, most employers will expect some type of underlying college degree.

Image Credit: Depositphotos.

The economics of a ‘six-figure’ income

If you want to determine your take-home pay from a $100,000 job, here is a nifty online calculator that figures it out for you. If you play around with it a bit, you will find that where you live matters. Money just goes further in some states, especially when you look at the cost of living calculators.

The average working month contains 173 hours. A general rule of thumb is that an hourly rate of $50 per hour will result in a six-figure income. By using this as a baseline,  any kind of service you choose to provide where you can bill a client $50 per hour is a high-paying skill by this definition.

As you will see, the majority of the list focuses on becoming an entrepreneur. The tax advantages of owning your own business are substantial and can lead to a high income. Not only that, but most of the skills listed can also be used exclusively in an online business, with no brick and mortar storefront required (with a couple of notable exceptions). 

Therefore, if you can work from virtually anywhere, there are significant advantages to living where the cost of living is low while earning a six-figure salary. Your money will go much further.

Image Credit: monkeybusinessimages/iStock.

How do you develop high-income skills?

By avoiding formal college classes (not full-time or for a degree), most high-income skilled workers attend a trade- or certificate-specific training. Almost everything in life requires time and money to learn. There are only a couple of the skills in this list where good looks and charm will get you the money you desire (being a con man is not recommended).

Not every skill will be worth $100k from the start. You will most likely need to suffer through the school of hard knocks to get to the top level of the skill. There is no substitute for hard work. To earn top dollar, you have to BE top dollar. These are not “get rich quick” schemes.

Image Credit: Depositphotos.

Break out of the 9 To 5: Becoming an entrepreneur

You will find that many of the skills on this list are interrelated. This is the reason the “related skills” section has been included. If you become an entrepreneur, be prepared to start outdoing everything on your own until you can afford to hire out some of the more mundane work. 

Being an entrepreneur allows you to break out of the J.O.B. by working at your own pace. No other team members are slowing you down, no endless, pointless meetings, no other corporate distractions. It also allows you the freedom to figure out how to create something once and sell it to multiple customers.

This will enable you to break free from trading time for money. If done correctly, the result is usually more time and more money.

Image Credit: iStock/fizkes.

The top 20 best high income skills

These skills are presented in no particular order. For each skill, the training involved and the business ideas where it could be utilized have been provided. There is also a “related skill” section to link skills together that appear on the list. Some are only loosely related, while others are tightly integrated.

Image Credit: fizkes / iStock.

1. Copywriting

Copywriting is a specialized form of writing that is intended to sell a product. There are examples of copywriting all over the web. If the words are designed to inform, then it is a form of copywriting. As you will see, this is a very relevant skill and is related to many of the other skills listed here.

How You Can Learn This Skill

Some several companies and organizations teach copywriting on the web. In fact, some of them even offer certifications for the skill, which are useful when starting as a novice copywriter.

How You Can Use This Skill

You can use this high income skill almost anywhere. Good copywriters are few and far between, and if you master this craft, you will never have to worry about money again. Some copywriters make seven-figure incomes merely by getting a percentage of the sales that their copy generates.

I write for several large companies, and they pay me per article. Because I can type faster than the average person, I can quickly produce quality content that converts into money in my pocket. Your earning potential depends on the amount of time and effort you’re willing to use on networking and writing content.

People can make decent money by listing their services on Fiverr and writing articles for bloggers.

Related Skills

Content Creation/Content Marketing, Online Course Creation, Social Media Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Digital Marketing, Email Marketing, Podcaster, YouTube Creator, Real Estate, Public Speaker

Image Credit: FlamingoImages / iStock.

2. Content creation/content marketing

Content creation or content marketing is when you write informative content and sell the content itself or sell advertising on the site you’ve created content for. Content marketing is actually what many people think of, like blogging.

However, blogging is not a business. It is a means to attract visitors to a site where you will sell them something. If you blog without any kind of content marketing associated with it, you have a hobby of producing free content for the fun of it.

Besides creating content for an online company or blog, paid speakers are routinely compensated to present actionable information during conferences and events. Top-level experts in their field with real-life experience can make a substantial income by traveling to give their information in person.

How You Can Learn This Skill

If you have graduated from high school, you have the skill required to become a content creator or content marketer. You don’t even have to have expertise in something to create content. You just need common sense and the ability to research any given topic.

There are also online companies that will provide specific training in content marketing from a business perspective, but the base skills are research and writing.

How You Can Use This Skill

If you can write compelling content that will bring people to your website to sell them e-books, or advertising on your site, you are a content marketer. Note: this is closely linked to affiliate marketing, but the difference here is that the content you are selling is your work, not the work of others.

See also  13 Side Hustles You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Related Skills

Copywriting, Online Course Creation, Social Media Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Digital Marketing, Email Marketing

Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

3. Online course creation

One of the hottest trends in online marketing these days is online course creation. This is where you create an online course and sell it to people who want to learn about what you know and how your knowledge can fix other people’s problems. Of course, you have to have a related skill that you can teach, but this can be overcome with extensive research. 

Have you taken an online course that you liked? Do you have personal experience to add to the content of the original course? Then you can emulate the course, making sure not to copy it, but to rewrite the material in your own words, based on your own experience with the topic.

Online courses offer a high opportunity, especially with the recent increase in online events. Even if existing resources exist on the internet for free, people will pay for the work you have done to curate and present the information in an easy to understand format.

There are several learning platforms and software that make course creation simple. The hardest part is the “expertise” piece, but even that can be overcome.

How You Can Learn This Skill

You can learn how to do course creation and increase your yearly income by following the tutorials on any learning platforms such as Udemy. Each specific platform has its method of doing course creation, and other software companies have course-builder software you can implement on a website.

How You Can Use This Skill

Once you learn how to use the various tools that allow you to create online courses, you can sell course creation services to those who have the expertise but do not have the technical skills to complete a course. If you have any skills as a video editor, you can quickly push yourself into the next income bracket with a substantially higher income.

Related Skills

Copywriting, Content Creation/Content Marketing, Web Designer, Social Media Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Digital Marketing, Email Marketing

Image Credit: fizkes/iStock.

4. Graphic designer

Graphic designers create the visual elements of both online and offline advertisements. They are the logo creators, the banner designers, the artists that draw the cute characters that sell products. They should not be confused with web designers who can create websites without drawing a lick. Graphic design requires some artistic talent.

I also routinely hire graphic designers to create infographics for my pages to illustrate a point I am trying to make. Graphic designers are great at helping small business owners creatively display their personal brand.

How You Can Learn This Skill

You can learn the principles of graphic design online or at your local community college or university. You do not have to complete a degree program to benefit from taking college-level classes in graphic design. If you have a high school diploma, you can learn design skills from many free online sources. There are also technical colleges that may offer programs in graphic design as well.

How You Can Use This Skill

Graphic design is a highly marketable skill. You can hang out your shingle as a freelance or work for an ad agency, newspaper, or magazine. Anything that requires a visual element requires a graphic designer. There are multiple freelance sites where you can display your portfolio of work and land jobs.

Related Skills

Web Designer

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

5. Web designer

In this context, a web designer creates websites using one of the website-builders such as WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace, or many others. They do not make custom CSS or JavaScript. That is included in the next skill, web development. Web design is tightly integrated with graphic design, but a web designer does not have to create their images. They can use someone else’s work.

How You Can Learn This Skill

There are multiple online courses, and each individual website-building platform will usually have free tutorials on how to use their software. There may also be classes at your local community college available.

How You Can Use This Skill

This is another highly desirable freelance skill to have. You could also go to work for a large company and design their website, but you are unlikely to command the same salary that you could obtain by doing this as a freelancer.

The high earners in this field are usually freelancers who can charge a substantial rate due to the high value and rare skill sets they offer. Advanced networking through digital media and word of mouth can add credibility to the web design services provided.

Related Skills

Graphic Designer, Web Developer

Image Credit: Depositphotos.

6. Web developer

Web developers are the technical gurus behind websites. They are versed in CSS, JavaScript, and other platforms like Joomla or Ruby on Rails. They can build a website without a website builder such as WordPress or Wix. This is a much more technical approach to websites than web design.

Companies such as Microsoft boast some of the highest median wage salaries for web developers in the corporate sector.

How You Can Learn This Skill

There are online classes that will teach you the technical skills encompassed by web development.

How You Can Use This Skill

Again, this is an excellent skill for freelances. There are also jobs for web developers at most major companies as well. However, if you have the resume and work experience to back up freelance pricing, you can make even more as an independent contractor.

Related Skills

Web Designer, Software Developer

Image Credit: Deagreez / iStock.

7. Software developer

Software developers create apps. They can also contribute to web development by providing interfaces to back end databases and external applications. Of course, software development is relevant everywhere computers are used. Software developers are the people who bring ideas to life and command computers to do their bidding. Mobile app development is a niche in the software developer world.

How You Can Learn This Skill

You can teach yourself to program using online classes. This is the one skill on this list that might benefit from a formal college education, but many programmers are self-taught. There is even app-building software these days that can help you bring your app to life without knowing how to code.

More than likely, if you do not want to freelance, you will need to take college classes in one or more programming languages such as Java, JavaScript, Python, etc. to learn app-building skills.CodeAcademy is another excellent resource to gain these tech skills and build a strong foundation.

How You Can Use This Skill

You can use this skill to build any app that you can think of, and then sell the app on an app store such as Apple or Google, or freelance as a coder for others who have ideas for applications. You can also work as a coder for companies like HP, Apple, etc., but most of these employers will require a college degree.

Related Skills

Web Developer

Image Credit: Sushiman / iStock.

8. Social media marketing

Social media marketers use social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., to sell products and services. Typical clients include motivational speakers, life coaches, and other professionals who don’t have the time to offer clear communication and networking through social media.

How You Can Learn This Skill

You can learn social media marketing skills by taking online tutorials on the various platforms you want to advertise. In addition, there are lots of online courses available on social media marketing as well to become a sales funnel expert.

How You Can Use This Skill

Social media marketers are in high demand by individuals and companies who want someone to manage their social media presence. Most social media marketers are freelances, and they may have products or services of their own that they promote in addition to working for others. Although there may be some corporate jobs out there for this skill, most openings are designed for freelancers.

Related Skills

Copywriting, Content Creation/Content Marketing, Online Course Creation, Affiliate Marketing, Digital Marketing, Email Marketing

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

9. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is what most people think of when they consider making money online. Affiliate marketing occurs when you receive a commission for selling someone else’s product or service online. Most people think of Amazon when they think of affiliate marketing, but platforms like eBay, Walmart, and many manufacturers also offer affiliate commissions to those who sell their products.

How You Can Learn This Skill

There are many course providers online that will teach you the ins and outs of affiliate marketing. Many of the affiliate programs themselves have tutorials on how to be a good affiliate.

How You Can Use This Skill

You use this high income skill to sell products and services on your website.

Related Skills

Copywriting, Content Creation/Content Marketing, Online Course Creation, Social Media Marketing, Digital Marketing, Email Marketing

Image Credit: CentralITAlliance / iStock.

10. Digital marketing

In this context, digital marketing is creating content that makes money through ad revenue. You are not selling anything in particular, but using the traffic to your website or YouTube channel to produce advertising revenue from Google or another ad network.

This is the current monetization method I use on this website to continue to offer my information for free. The digital content and information I produce allow me to create an income without selling a physical property. This side project provides me financial security and is a great way to increase my revenue.

How You Can Learn This Skill

There are online courses related to digital marketing. This includes skills such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and other techniques to drive lots of visitors to your online platform so that you can generate money solely from advertising revenue.

How You Can Use This Skill

SEO experts are in high demand. You can work as a freelancer or work for a digital marketing agency. Usually, digital marketing requires expertise in one or more of its related skills, such as copywriting.

Related Skills

Copywriting, Content Creation/Content Marketing, Online Course Creation, Social Media Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Email Marketing

See also  Avoid These 7 Common Side-Hustle Mistakes

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

11. Email marketing

Email marketing is selling products and services via an email list. You must build an email list of contacts interested in a particular topic. Marketing includes writing useful content in a regular newsletter that contains links to products you where you receive a commission. This includes affiliate marketing, content marketing, online course creation, or advertising space in your newsletter, also known as digital marketing.

How You Can Learn This Skill

There are a plethora of courses on email marketing online. This skill is closely related to copywriting as well, as you intend to sell along with information.

How You Can Use This Skill

Once you build a substantial list of subscribers (1k or more), others may approach you to sell their products or services to your list of subscribers. As the saying goes, “the money is in the list.”

This is not something you can do as a freelancer — wiring emails for others would fall under the copywriting skill, not email marketing. In this case, you need to build and own the list of subscribers yourself.

Related Skills

Copywriting, Content Creation/Content Marketing, Online Course Creation, Social Media Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Digital Marketing

Image Credit: Pixabay.com.

12. Podcaster

podcaster broadcasts an audio program designed to either entertain or inform listeners with and provides a great user experience.

How You Can Learn This Skill

This high income skill is another skill that requires you to know something you want to talk about. You might not know anything about the topic you wish to broadcast on, but you would create shows based on interviews with experts or guests. This skill is just talking for a living.

How You Can Use This Skill

You can use this skill to create your podcast or lend your vocal talent to another podcast. You can get started for free using various online platforms, but the money comes from building a subscriber base and generating ad revenue.

Keep in mind, there is a startup cost to become a podcaster that requires base equipment purchases. Studio quality headphones and a production mic are two of the most common components of a podcaster’s business.

Related Skills

Audio Production

Image Credit: vadimguzhva / iStock.

13. YouTube creator

Having a popular channel on YouTube is very lucrative. Being a YouTube creator requires rudimentary video production or animation skills, and a topic or theme for your channel.

How You Can Learn This Skill

The YouTube Creator Academy will teach you everything you need to know about creating and growing your YouTube channel.

Create a YouTube channel, build a following, and generate ad revenues when your videos go viral. This job requires creativity and rudimentary video production skills.

How You Can Use This Skill

Create your own YouTube channel or create YouTube videos as a freelancer for others who have a channel on YouTube. It does require some kind of video production or animation skills to do this successfully unless you hire freelancers to do the videos for you.

Related Skills

Video Production, Animator

Image Credit: Dziggyfoto / iStock.

14. Audio production

Audio production is the process of making professional-sounding audio tracks using various audio production tools. Some of these tools, like Audacity, are free.

How You Can Learn This Skill

Again, online classes and tutorials for the various software tools. You might also consider college classes as well, but a degree isn’t generally required unless you’re trying to get a job for someone else.

How You Can Use This Skill

Podcasting, creating soundtracks for videos, working with independent music arts to produce tracks, there are lots of ways to put this skill to use as a freelancer. Most industry jobs will require some kind of technical degree, however.

Related Skills


Image Credit: Drablenkov / iStock.

15. Video production

Video production can be as simple as creating videos with your cellphone. It can also be as sophisticated as working in broadcast journalism as a camera operator. There are tons of tools available to create and edit videos. Video editing software can be quite expensive, so be ready for significant startup costs if you want to be a videographer.

How You Can Learn This Skill

You can learn how to produce a video from online courses, helping out someone who is already doing it and needs an assistant, college or technical school, etc. Again, as with most of the skills on this list, all you have to do is search for a way someone else has done it, and then replicate the steps they have used.

How You Can Use This Skill

You use this skill to make videos for yourself or others.

Related Skills

Video Production, Animator

Image Credit: BartekSzewczyk / iStock.

16. Animator

Believe it or not, you no longer have to know how to draw to be an animator. I have absolutely no animation skills yet I was able to produce a video in about ten minutes. The proliferation of “doodle” videos online gave rise to dozens of platforms that can create these videos using a stock set of characters already embedded in the software.

How You Can Learn This Skill

You can learn this high income skill through the tutorials provided in your animation software. It will teach you how to make the images move, apply soundtracks to your animation, and import images from outside the standard image set into your program.

How You Can Use This Skill

You are creating doodle videos to market products or services for yourself or others.

Related Skills

YouTube Creator, Video Production

Image Credit: LightFieldStudios / iStock.

17. Sales (Offline)

There is some element of sales in many jobs and professions. Companies hire salespeople to sell their products face to face, usually in business to business (B2B) type endeavors.

How You Can Learn This Skill

Sales is a talent. Yes, you can be trained to sell anything with the right script, closing techniques, etc. But the most successful salespeople are those born with “the gift of gab.” They tend to be likable people with prominent personalities. They are an excellent judge of people and just always seem to know just what to say.

How You Can Use This Skill

You can sell products in multilevel marketing (MLM) type of organization such as Pre-Paid Legal Services, Amway, Mary Kay, Avon, Tupperware, the list is endless. While many MLMs are now moving online, think of other things like car sales or any time of door-to-door sales that still markets face to face.

Related Skills

None, if purely focused on offline sales.

Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / iStock.

18. Real estate

Real Estate is the selling of property. You can act either as a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent. Typically, the agents split 6% of the sales price of any property. So if a property sells for $100,000, then the buyer and seller agents would get $3,000 each on the sale.

As you can see, this money can mount up very quickly if you sell a high volume of properties. There are other revenue streams available, such as listing fees, referral fees from related services, etc.

How You Can Learn This Skill

Every state has different laws governing the licensing of real estate agents. You will need to find a class in your area that teaches you what you need to pass the real estate exam in your state. Initially, you will go to work for another real estate broker, as most states do not allow someone to become a broker until they have had multiple years of experience as agents. Once you become a broker, you can hang out your shingle.

How You Can Use This Skill

You use this skill by joining a real estate agency under the tutelage of a real estate broker.

Related Skills

Digital Marketing, Email Marketing, Video Production, Sales (Offline}

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

19. Public speaker

Anyone can hang out their shingle as a public speaker as long as they have information that people are willing to pay for. Most speakers can command $2,000+ depending on the topic. You may also be able to charge per diem rates for travel as well. Your public speaking can be combined with book sales if you are an author.

How You Can Learn This Skill

You can learn everything you need by joining Toastmasters.

How You Can Use This Skill

Becoming a public speaker is a matter of learning to tell your story and then selling it to the people who want to listen to it. Anyone can establish themselves as a public speaker. Have you done anything noteworthy?

  • A runner who has completed a marathon in all 50 states speaks to business groups about how running helped him be a better employee.
  • A formerly incarcerated individual who speaks on the topic of prison reform.
  • A director at a nonprofit who speaks at conventions that are related to their topic.

None of the examples above require a specific skill, although it does help. Passion is what drives many of these individuals.

Tony Robbins is a successful entrepreneur and a great example of a public speaker.

Related Skills

Although many of the skills on this list would help promote yourself, none of them are required to become a public speaker.

Image Credit: monkeybusinessimages / iStock.

20. Sports arbitrage

This is perhaps the most unusual high income skill on the list. Sports arbitrage is where you bet on both sides of a given sporting event across multiple bookmakers so that no matter what the outcome of the game is, you will still make money. This is because different bookmakers place different odds on the matches.

This is perfect for the sports fan who is good at math and has some kind of bankroll to start with.

How You Can Learn This Skill

There are multiple books and online tutorials on sports arbitrage.

How You Can Use This Skill

Gambling on any kind of head-to-head contest. Caveat: You must live where this kind of sports betting is legal. There are many online bookmakers to choose from. You will need multiple accounts to get started and can increase your bets over time. This is a great “side hustle.”

Related Skills


Image Credit: Wpadington / iStock.

BONUS: High income skills not specifically related to a single profession

The skills in this section are often referred to as “soft skills.” They are sometimes more of a talent than a skill because they are not easily taught in a book. Skills that can be taught are considered hard skills. 

Here are five soft skills that everyone should try to develop:

Listening — A good listener becomes an effective communicator, and effective communication is at the heart of all successful endeavors.

Efficiency — Look for the little things that save you time. Time is money.

Persistence — Sometimes, that last bit of effort makes all the difference in the world.

Do You Have a Question You'd Like Help With? Contact Debt Coach Damon Day. Click here to reach Damon.

Kindness — When you are in business for yourself, you will stand out from the other guy if you are always kind to your customers and clients. Send thank-you notes with large orders, send birthday wishes, mention customers in your newsletters, etc. These small gestures add up over time.

Generosity — Be socially conscious. People gravitate toward people who give themselves to causes that they believe in.

Use these soft and high income skills to take your earning potential to the next level. While starting out on your own may seem like a great idea, according to Fundera, 20% of small businesses fail within the first year and a total of 30% fail in the second year. To make matters worse, 50% fail after five years.

I don’t cite these statistics to scare you, but to make you recognize that in order to be successful, you have to be better than your competitors and refuse to give up.

Other Posts You May Like:

This article originally appeared on ArrestYourDebt.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

The post 20 ways to make good money without a college degree appeared first on mediafeed.