Good Careers That Don’t Require a Degree


The high cost of education, the increase in student debt and the lowered odds of landing a job after graduation have all combined to make a lot of people reconsider whether a formal college education is worth it.  Granted, there are still many careers that require at least a two-year associates’ or a four-year bachelor’s degree, and some that still require graduate or post-graduate work to be taken seriously.  But you might be surprised at the number of lucrative career paths out there that do not require a four-year degree—and with an ever-changing job market, the number of these careers is on the rise.

The list below is not comprehensive in any way—there are many more job and career possibilities out there—but this is just to give an idea of what is out there.  Furthermore, for some of these careers (we’ll show you which ones), you might still benefit from having a bit of technical training or an occupational associate’s degree; but for many others, you can get by with simply a high school diploma or equivalent, or even by learning on-the-job with an apprentice.  Take a look and see if your chosen career is on this list.

Educational requirements: none
Might benefit from: business school, one-on-one mentoring
Entrepreneur CareersThe best thing about being an entrepreneur is that you are in business for yourself—which means you make the rules about the educational requirements.  If you have a great business idea and know how to make it happen, no one is there to tell you that you don’t have enough training.  That being said, there are some common-sense business principles that would help you succeed, and if these don’t come to you naturally, you could pick these up with some business and accounting classes.  Better yet—find a successful entrepreneur who is willing to take you on as an apprentice. This is how many of the richest people in the world got where they are today.

Educational requirements: high school diploma or equivalent:
Might benefit from: on-the-job training
Claims AdjusterInsurance claims adjusters work either for insurance companies or individuals to assess the damage when someone files a claim, and help determine the amount the insurance company will pay.  The median income from this job is nearly $60,000 per year, and it requires no formal education beyond high school, although a bit of specialized training from the company would certainly help.

chef_john_1Educational requirements: high school diploma or equivalent
Might benefit from: culinary school, on-the-job training, one-on-one mentoring
The culinary arts are based on results—if you can prepare great food, you can be successful, regardless of your formal training.  Many chefs start at the entry level and work their way up the chain, getting mentored by master chefs along the way. Culinary school can help, but it can be expensive. One-on-one mentoring in the kitchen is a great alternative way to learn these skills. Whether you just like working in a professional kitchen, or whether you want to open up your own gourmet restaurant—the sky is the limit!

Educational requirements: none
Might benefit from: film school, on-the-job training, one-on-one mentoring
shutterstock_56136439Many colleges and universities offer degrees in film, but most people in the film industry realize these degrees aren’t necessary to launching a film career. Many famous directors got their start simply by making great films and making connections, skipping film school completely.  The best way to get into this business is by getting your foot in the door, making connections, and being trained by a mentor in whatever field of the industry you want to work in.

Educational requirements: none
Might benefit from: art/design school, mentoring, practice
Fashion DesignerIt might surprise you how many successful artists were never formally trained.  A basic knowledge of art principles can certainly help, but there are other ways to learn these things besides being a college art major—for example, being apprenticed by a master painter, attending art classes and workshops, and lots and lots of practice.  There are many possible careers under the artist umbrella, as well, including fine art painting, sculpture, music, graphic arts, commercial arts, animation, 3D modeling and more.

Educational requirements: high school diploma or equivalent
Might benefit from: technical school, 2-year degree, on-the-job training, mentoring
Fashion DesignCareers in design are also results-oriented, meaning that no one really cares how advanced your education is as long as you can produce outstanding designs.  Similar to the “artist” career (designers are usually artists, after all), a creative eye and a bit of practical know-how can take you a long way. Design school can help, but so can a bit of mentoring by a successful professional.

Educational requirements: high school diploma/equivalent, apprenticeship
Might benefit from: technical training, associate’s degree
ecc_fc_006This is one of the few technical professions that still officially relies heavily on apprenticeship as part of the educational process. Most electricians earn their “stripes” through a four-year apprenticeship progression, working with master electricians on the job. Formal school training can help, but the real education happens in the work force.

Educational requirements: none
Might benefit from: trade school, on-the-job training, mentoring
Studio_front_leftThe recording industry is another field in which no one really looks at your formal education, as long as you can do the job well. There are trade schools offering certificate training in audio engineering, and even degree programs in college, but most industry insiders agree the best way to learn audio engineering and music producing is hands-on in the studio, usually with the guidance of a mentor.  Like the film industry, a lot of your success in this business will ride on connections, which again can only be made on-the-job.