With the cost of college tuition rising by more than 25% in the last 10 years, many would-be students are wondering whether a four-year degree is worth the cost — both in time and student debt.
While college is generally a sound investment, it isn’t a requirement for landing a good-paying job. You can have an excellent career without a university degree.
To prove the point, we’ve compiled a list of jobs that pay $30 an hour without a degree across a variety of fields. Some of these are trade positions, which means training or certification may be required — but there are many options that are desk jobs too.
The possibilities might surprise you.
Traditional Jobs That Pay $30 an Hour or More Without a Degree
There are plenty of ways to make good money without investing four years of your life and thousands of dollars into a college diploma, but in most cases you will still need some level of education or training to command $30 an hour.
For the purposes of this article, we’ve included jobs that require a certification that takes no more than one year to obtain. If you’re willing to put in more time than that, check out our “What about…” section below.
Note that we’ve taken the median wage data listed throughout this article from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, and we’ve ranked the jobs starting with the highest median wage first.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the jobs are ranked in order of the best or most realistic opportunity; each field has pros and cons, so check the description of each job (including its future prospects) to determine if it’s right for you.
#1. Transportation, Storage and Distribution Managers
Median wage: $45.46 per hour.
About the job: This job oversees the transportation, storage, distribution and other logistics for companies. Managers are responsible for complying with government regulations, coordinating with various facilities and departments, maintaining budgets and optimizing systems that move goods from Point A to Point B in a safe and efficient manner.
How to get started: A college degree in business or a related area will put you on a fast-track for this career, but you can get there with a high school diploma and five years of relevant experience as well. Look for a warehouse or distribution center job (temp agencies are a great way to find these) to get your foot in the door.
Transportation, storage and distribution managers need a variety of skills, so aim for positions like forklift operator, inventory controller or receiving clerk that will expand your knowledge and responsibilities.
Any management or communication training you can get will be helpful, since this job requires you to not only manage processes but people as well.
Where it leads: There’s quite a bit of upward potential for transportation, storage and distribution managers, with earners at the high end topping $75 an hour.
Transportation, storage and distribution managers are also prime candidates for management promotions, due to their intricate knowledge of company systems and how they interrelate. If you set your sights high, the sky’s the limit as there is a growing trend of supply chain employees rising to CEO status.
Further reading: Transportation, storage and distribution (collectively called supply chain or logistics) is no longer viewed as just a blue-collar sector of the company but a huge competitive differentiator for businesses.
Check out the stories of these people who made the switch from high-profile fields like politics and engineering to supply chain logistics.
#2. Power Distributors and Dispatchers
Median wage: $43.61 per hour.
About the job: Power distributors and dispatchers monitor and operate the equipment that delivers the flow of energy to end-users. These jobs aren’t just in power plants; industries like railways, transportation and government employ power distributors and dispatchers as well.
Distributors and dispatchers reroute electricity during disasters or maintenance to protect linemen from shock. They also start up extra power generators at times of peak energy needs.
How to get started: Employers look for high school graduates with math and technology skills to engage in the on-the-job training program that qualifies them to become power distributors or dispatchers. Workers that have vocational degrees or an associate degree may have more advancement opportunities.
Nuclear power plant operators require much more training and they have to pass a licensing exam.
Where it leads: While power distributors and dispatchers enjoy a high median wage, their growth outlook is rather poor — it’s slated to decrease 8% by 2029.
With experience and training, this career can lead to a shift supervisor, trainer or consultant position. Skills acquired in this position may lead to other similar, high-paying professions such as nuclear power plant operator.
Further reading: Want a more in-depth look at what a power distributor or dispatcher does every day? This website is a great resource. It includes a video on the workings of a power company in Seattle, as well as a detailed list of day-to-day activities a power distributor or dispatcher can expect to perform.
#3. Commercial Pilot
Median wage: $41.38 per hour.
About the job: Not to be confused with an airline pilot (which typically requires a bachelor’s degree), a commercial pilot cannot fly planes for airlines but can fly charter planes, jump planes, air ambulances, banner-towing flights and agricultural flights.
How to get started: All pilots have to be licensed through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including commercial pilots. Licensure comes after flight training and at least 250 hours of flight time. This training can be quite expensive (up to $83,000), but you may be able to apply for financial aid for flight school.
Where it leads: A commercial pilot’s license is one of many steps on the way to becoming an airline pilot. With additional training, hours and licensure, you may be able to land a job as an airline pilot for a regional airline without a degree. It will be significantly harder (or impossible) to do so for a major national or international airline, however.
Further reading: Curious about the costs, exams and requirements involved in becoming a commercial pilot? This website has a step-by-step guide to gaining your commercial pilot’s license.
#4. Elevator Installers and Repairers
Median wage: $40.86 per hour.
About the job: These people repair, install, and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways and similar machinery. Elevator installers and repairers should be comfortable in small spaces and with heights, as this job often requires them to work in both.
How to get started: Taking high school classes like shop, math, technology and physics will equip you with some necessary skills for this field.
Almost all elevator installers learn the trade through a four-year, on-the-job apprenticeship. These are often sponsored by a union or employer and are easy to find with a quick search on Indeed and other job sites.
Of the 50 U.S. states, 35 require full elevator installers to be licensed.
Where it leads: The need for elevators isn’t going anywhere, and neither are elevator installers. The industry is expected to grow 7% by 2029. With additional specialization or training, elevator installers can move into inspector, supervisor or mechanic-in-charge positions.
Further reading: If you’re interested in what a typical day as an elevator repairer looks like, this website has a few videos, including an interview and job shadow of an elevator repairer on the job.
#5. Lighting Technicians
Median wage: $35.32 per hour.
About the job: Lighting technicians set up lights and other equipment for concerts, plays, churches, cruise ships, TV shows and other venues.
The job often involves lifting heavy equipment and securing it at dizzying heights. Lighting technicians also operate lightboards during events. They are usually responsible for the set-up, take-down and transportation of the equipment as well.
Many lighting technician positions are gig jobs, and depending on the crew and venue, work can be sporadic. Much of the work is done at night and on weekends. When you’re on the road for a gig, expenses like food and lodging are usually covered for you.
How to get started: Classes in technical theatre or shop will introduce you to the skills and tools you’d be working with as a lighting technician. A great way to get started is by volunteering at your local community playhouse.
Newbies to the lighting industry may work as production assistants, stagehands or assistant lighting technicians while they gain experience.
Where it leads: Lighting technicians with sufficient experience can become lighting designers, produce their own events or go on to become technical directors.
Further reading: This article gives highlights from an interview with Adam Hoeldke, a lighting technician and technical director for one of Toronto’s premier music venues. He outlines what lighting techs do, what the career path looks like, and how to get your foot in the door.
#6. Subway and Streetcar Operators
Median wage: $32.63 per hour.
About the job: Workers operate subway trains or streetcars along rails, ensuring the safety of their passengers. They may make announcements about safety regulations and delays, or give directions to riders in an emergency. They keep the lines running on schedule and inform supervisors of any problems or hazards via radio.
How to get started: As streetcar and subway drivers often need a commercial driver’s license (CDL), obtaining CDL training is a great first step toward this career.
Work as a bus or taxi driver is often a good transition to securing a position as a streetcar or subway driver, as there’s a lot of crossover between the skill sets needed for each.
Candidates must complete a training program before they become subway or streetcar drivers, and each city or organization will have its own training program.
Where it leads: There’s not a whole lot of upward potential for subway and streetcar operators, though there is a lot of potential for overtime pay. Many operators work more than 40-hour work weeks, and some work up to 60.
The skills obtained as a subway or streetcar operator could transfer to other jobs, such as a heavy equipment operator.
Further reading: Think you’d like to be a subway or streetcar operator? Job shadow this Londoner on her daily route as a tube (subway) driver. This collection of interesting stories from NYC subway operators might also be of interest.
#7. Electrical Power Line Installers and Repairers
Median wage: $31.83 per hour.
About the job: Line installers repair, replace, install and maintain electrical lines and fiber optic cables. Working at heights and the risk of electrical shock are the main hazards of the job.
Most of the work is during normal 8 to 5 hours, but power line repairers get called out when there are outages and other emergencies to repair downed electrical lines. The work can be physically demanding and often involves construction equipment to dig trenches for lines or drill holes for electrical poles.
How to get started: Electrical line workers require technical instruction, as well as on-the-job training. Many companies offer apprenticeships. Electrical power line workers start as apprentices before they are fully licensed journeymen.
Where it leads: The career ladder starts at apprentice, then progresses to “journeyman lineman” after an on-the-job training program (which usually takes four years). After that, one might work up to a “lead lineman” position that leads a crew, or a line superintendent that supervises electrical power line workers in a particular region.
Further reading: If becoming an electrical power line installer appeals to you, this site is dedicated to the profession. There are job openings advertised, as well as a place for you to post your resume. It also has links to events and the Powerlineman online magazine.
#8. Police Officer/Detective
Median wage: $31.33 per hour.
About the job: Police officers are sworn to protect and defend citizens. They patrol traffic, arrest suspects, interview witnesses, maintain public order and much more. A police officer’s job can be dangerous but is rarely boring, as officers perform such a wide variety of duties.
How to get started: While it’s not a prerequisite, service in the military is a fantastic segue into law enforcement. The training and skills acquired in the military complement the needs of a police officer very well.
Some departments favor new recruits with volunteer experience, which demonstrates a willingness to serve and work with the public. A job as a security guard is another good way to prep your resume for police work.
New recruits must complete the police academy, which involves at least 800 hours of training and numerous tests before they can graduate and join the police force. Training can be physically and mentally intense and involves subjects like firearms safety and accuracy, defense tactics and vehicle operations.
Where it leads: Similar to the military, the structure of the police force has a clear route to advancement. Police officers can rise to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain and detective. Detectives are different from patrol officers in that they spend most of their time investigating crimes, rather than stopping crimes in progress.
Further reading: Thinking of joining the men and women in blue? Here’s a good rundown of what to expect from police academy training.
#9. Construction and Building Inspectors
Median wage: $30.00 per hour.
About the job: Construction and building inspectors review and approve/change building plans. They make sure buildings are up to code by monitoring the construction site and documenting their inspections.
Inspectors review plans and inspect new builds as well as remodels and additions. They flag any code violations and ensure the structure is safe for use.
How to get started: Without a secondary educational degree, you’ll need a few years of work experience in the field to be considered for a building inspector job. Try signing up for a mentoring program or take a job in construction to gain exposure to the field.
Though not every state requires a license, taking the B1 Building Inspector Exam will lend you credibility as an inspector and help you get hired. (Here’s some more information on what the B1 Exam covers, including how it’s scored and what to expect.)
You can take a self-paced course and study for the exam on your own, even if you have no industry experience.
Where it leads: Construction or building inspectors often work for a company, a city or a county. However, with a few years of experience and licensure, you can start your own inspection business.
Further reading: Licensing and education requirements for construction and building inspectors varies widely from state to state. Check here to see what your state requires before you can become an inspector.
Freelance Jobs and Businesses That Pay $30 an Hour or More Without a Degree
Freelancing opportunities are many, and they come with a distinct advantage: clients trust your portfolio and track record much more than a shiny seal from a university. That means these are jobs you can start quickly, even with limited experience.
Plus, they often have upside that goes way beyond $30 per hour, depending on your skill and determination.
At the same time, be aware that $30 per hour as a freelancer may not go as far as it does with traditional employment.
You’re running your own business, and that means you’re responsible for the extra costs associated with doing so. Some of these include self-employment taxes (since you’re paying your employer’s share of your Social Security and Medicare), utilities, paper, ink, cell phone, etc.
Salespeople find customers to buy their company’s products or services. They may make inquiries in person, on the phone or via social media. They’re experts at building trust and relationships, as well as assessing the needs of the customer and solving their problems.
And yes — this is a position with growing demand in the freelance realm.
How much you can make: This depends a great deal on what you’re selling — so much so that the median pay is irrelevant. If you’re selling sneakers at a retail store in the mall, plan on around $13 per hour. If you’re selling financial services and securities, you can make over six figures.
Why we like it: Almost every enterprise on the planet requires a sales team, whether you’re selling hockey pucks or jet planes. Because so much of sales relies on human relationships, these positions aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Plus, many sales positions are paid on commission, making the earning potential nearly unlimited.
Potential downsides: The pressure to close the sale and meet certain performance metrics can be stressful. Also, if your salary is entirely based on commission and a big deal falls through, you don’t get paid. You may also have to work long, irregular hours to be available to your clients.
How to get started: Pick up a book on sales psychology (here’s a great list to get you started). Some people are born with the charisma needed to sell ice to polar bears, but the ability to sell (like any other skill) can be learned, honed and developed.
Getting any job where you serve customers and/or sell things will help you develop the skills needed in a sales job. Many employers with entry-level sales job openings are willing to train, so going directly into the field is also an option.
#2. Growth Marketer
A relatively new career path, growth marketing is quickly replacing traditional marketing.
Growth marketers run experiments to determine how to reach and engage more customers. They are data-driven and test multiple variables on multiple demographics to see what is working and what isn’t in a business (usually one with a strong online presence).
They can work for agencies or they can work as independent entrepreneurs.
Equal parts creative and analytical, growth marketers hone in on opportunities for growth and brainstorm ways to capitalize on them and raise a business to new levels.
Why we like it: This is a new field and there is a huge demand for it. All businesses want to grow; growth marketers create personalized solutions to show them how to do it.
Most of these positions are remote, so you have the flexibility to work from anywhere. Like many freelance jobs, your clients care far more about what you can do for their business than your degree (or lack thereof).
Potential downsides: Growth marketing is very results-oriented. You may be held responsible for not meeting target metrics, even if some other company employees are to blame. As with sales, it can be a high-pressure, high-stress position.
How to get started: The internet is full of training courses and boot camps designed to help you hit the ground running as a growth marketing professional. Becoming familiar with tools like Google Analytics, social media sites and HTML coding will be extremely helpful as well.
#3. Web Developer
Web developers design websites, from the user interface to the technical stuff on the back end. With the guidance of their clients, they optimize the site’s function and user experience. They also provide ongoing maintenance and updates to websites.
How much you can make: The median pay for web developers is $35 per hour. Front-end developers (those that create the forms and pages that the user directly interacts with) do not make as much as back-end developers do (those that deal with things like the servers that support the website and databases). Junior front-end developers make about $63,000 per year, whereas back-end developers pull in $123,000.
Why we like it: Web developers are in heavy demand. With the right skills and some experience, finding a position shouldn’t be difficult. With each new client comes new challenges and opportunities, so the work stays fresh. Most of the work is remote.
Potential downsides: Having to market yourself, unrealistic client expectations, making existing websites play nice in the sandbox, fixing other developer’s messes, and competing with international players that will do it for less.
How to get started: Start by learning the applicable programming languages for the specialty you want to pursue. There are online courses you can sign up for, and some are even free! While you can learn to code on your own, enrolling in a coding boot camp or certificate program will boost your chances for employment.
Create websites for friends or just for practice. Work on testing and debugging them to get some experience under your belt. These test websites can become part of your portfolio.
#4. Graphic Designer
Graphic designers create visual components of advertisements, websites, logos, brochures and more. They use software to render their artwork, which is used to sell products, engage customers and inform clients.
While this profession relies more on your portfolio than a degree, it does require a high level of artistic knowledge and computer skills.
How much you can make: Graphic designers make an average of $54,320 annually, but this varies based on niche and experience. Marketing and advertising projects (websites, branding, landing pages, billboards) are consistently some of the most lucrative.
Why we like it: No two projects are ever the same when you work in graphic design. It’s cool and fun to ride through the creative process of bringing ideas to life.
Potential downsides: Many graphic designers do have a college degree in the subject, so differentiating yourself without one will be a challenge. Competition is stiff in the industry, and the job market for graphic designers is shrinking slightly.
This one is my personal favorite option (obviously).
Freelance writers create compelling, grammatically correct copy for websites, blogs, resumes, brochures, white papers, books and more. Editors perfect the copy created by others.
How much you can make: You’ll likely start out making around minimum wage as a writer if you have no experience, but this jumps up quickly after you have a few great client reviews. Experienced freelance writers can make $50 per hour or more.
Why we like it: Freelance writing has untold flexibility. Your clients don’t care whether you write an article in your basement or on a beach in Bali. (I’m currently writing this while in the car to the trampoline park for my daughter’s birthday.)
Once you get some experience, you can also choose the jobs you take on and write only about things that interest you. It doesn’t take long to develop a niche, a few loyal clients, and a higher pay rate. As with web development and graphic design, proving what you can do for a client is much more important than having a degree.
Potential downsides: If you’re not a self-starter, freelance writing isn’t for you. This job requires a lot of internal motivation to meet deadlines and hone your skills.
The income can also be unpredictable if a star client suddenly no longer needs you. On the other hand, some clients want more and more, but don’t want to pay for the additional work. Making sure your deliverables stay within the scope of your client agreement can be a challenge.
How to get started: Create or compile a few articles, resumes or papers you’ve written for a portfolio (bonus points if any of these are published, even if it’s just an op-ed in the local paper). After reading our guide on how to get started as a freelancer, set up an account on Upwork or Fiverr to find paid freelance writing or editing jobs.
See also: How to apply for writing jobs on Upwork.
#6. Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents help people buy and sell property. Most agents specialize in a specific type of property, such as residential homes, luxury homes, commercial real estate or land.
Real estate agents help a client find their ideal home or property and guide them through the negotiating process and paperwork involved in closing the deal.
How much you can make: Real estate agents take a commission on the sale price of the properties they list. They may split that commission with the buyer’s real estate agent and/or the brokerage they work for.
The median salary for a real estate agent is $48,390 per year, but this varies greatly based on the price of homes in the area and how many homes the agent closes on each year.
Why we like it: A high level of flexibility and unlimited upside.
Potential downsides: It can take a while to establish yourself as an agent in a local area. You will also be doing a lot of work at nights and on weekends when your clients are off of work and available to view properties.
The real estate field is also subject to the boom-and-bust cycle of the housing market. And if you aren’t selling properties (even if it’s no fault of your own), you aren’t getting a paycheck.
How to get started: The first step to becoming a real estate agent is to take a real estate education course to prepare you for the real estate exam. The number of classroom hours varies by state.
Concurrently with this step, you can set yourself up for success in the field by building an adequate emergency fund. This will come in handy during your first year as a real estate agent during periods when your sales are few and far between.
The jobs below are often cited as examples of positions that pay $30 or more per hour. But, based on our research, these options either fall just short of the $30 per hour threshold or require a degree.
Aircraft mechanics do make over $30 per hour, and this position does not technically require a college degree. However, it does require a full-time, 2-3 year training program that resembles a college degree.
These positions pay over $30 per hour, but the vast majority of states and employers require an associate degree and certification to work as a dental hygienist. The requirements for becoming a dental assistant are less extensive than for a hygienist, but the pay doesn’t reach $30 per hour.
Despite what some websites may claim, walking dogs won’t make you $30 an hour — even if you walk multiple dogs at once. There are no education requirements to be a dog walker, but this is a side hustle for most people, not a full-time job.
Becoming a personal trainer only requires you to pass the certification exam (which involves a few months of study). But it falls short of $30 per hour in all but a handful of cases. Some experienced independent trainers can make that much, but average trainers make just $19.42 per hour.
Phlebotomists don’t make $30 per hour, and they must be licensed — though this only requires 4-8 months of training. However, if you’re looking to get your foot into the medical field or working your way through nursing school, a phlebotomist position is a good choice.
Becoming an online tutor is easy and doesn’t require a degree, and you can make more than $30 per hour. But here’s the catch: only tutors with expert knowledge (usually obtained with a college degree) make upwards of $30 per hour. Those without make less (usually less than $20).
Here’s a rundown of the best online tutoring jobs.
While registered nurses easily top the $30 per hour mark, a bachelor’s degree in nursing is required (along with passing the requisite exam). While certified nurse’s assistant (CNA) jobs only require a certificate, they make considerably less at $13 per hour on average.
Surgical technologists set out surgical instruments and assist doctors and nurses during operations. To become one, you need to graduate from an accredited surgical technology program (1-2 years) and to pass the Certified Surgical First Assistant exam (CSA). These jobs fall shy of the $30 per hour mark, averaging about $24.15 per hour in pay.
Virtual assisting as a profession is very new, though it is slated to grow considerably, especially in a post-COVID world where remote work is normal. Salaries vary widely, though the average is around $19 per hour. As long as you have the skill set required by your employer, you don’t need any degree or training to be a virtual assistant.
If you’re interested, check out our guide to getting started as a virtual assistant.
How much is $30 an hour in a yearly salary?
$30 an hour is roughly $60,000 per year.
To calculate this, we multiplied the hourly rate by 2,000 (40 hours per week X 50 weeks per year, allowing two weeks for vacation).
Jobs That Pay $30 An Hour: Wrap-Up
If you’re aiming for a high-paying job but don’t have a degree, there are a lot of options available — and even more if you’re willing to invest a little more time in education or accept less than $30 per hour.
That said, plan on augmenting your skills and abilities through some form of education. That doesn’t necessarily mean college, or even classroom training. You can get your foot in the door through an entry-level job in your desired field, a paid apprenticeship, a company with an on-the-job training program, or by partnering with a mentor.
To get most of these jobs, you will need to have completed high school. If you didn’t, check out this list of good-paying jobs that don’t require a high school diploma.
And if you’re looking for something you can start today, try this list of entry-level jobs that pay $20 per hour or more.