50 Jobs over $50,000 – Without a Degree (Part 1)

Marquese Scott - world's best robot-like dancer

Marquese Scott – world’s best robot-like dancer

When people write to me for help, I’m often confronted with a dilemma. Many of them are hardworking and intelligent people who are making reasonable financial choices, but due to the non-negotiable nature of Math, not ending up with as large a monthly surplus of cash at the end of each month as their higher-income counterparts.

Even more troubling are letters from recent graduates in fields like liberal arts or even law.

“My degree was expensive”, they tell me, “But the jobs that are out there in my field don’t pay enough to get me out of this huge student loan debt hole.”

“How am I supposed to get a nice bushy ‘Stash, when we don’t have a six-figure household income like so many of the other MMM readers seem to have? I’m over 30 years old, and I only recently cracked $40,000 in income.”

The thing about earning money is this: nobody is going to pay you any more money than they have to. So if you want the benefit of a higher income, the first step is to make sure you’re not being complacent with your lower one.

In fact, why bother with a job that requires a degree at all, if it doesn’t pay accordingly?

In my current position of Man Who No Longer Needs a Job, I have the rare privilege of circulating around the country and meeting many people, then hearing about what they do for a living. And what I have learned has blown my mind. While our parents always told us that you need a degree to get anywhere in the job market, the reality has been flipped on its head in the last two decades.

There are all sorts of people out there quietly making a mint, in occupations that I thought were either nonexistent or low-paying. Some of them have questionable skills and you could easily outperform them in their own job. And yet, many of the university-educated job seekers are stuck on the other side of this easy money divide.

To help whet your alternative moneymaking whistle, here are a few of the ways I have recently learned that people make reasonable incomes, without any formal training. Since there are about 2000 work hours in a year, we can define a $50,000 job as one that pays over $25 per hour (or $200 per workday).

Good Old-Fashioned Manual Labor

While everyone streams through the university and competes for the office jobs, the traditional trades have seen a shortage of new arrivals for many years. As a result, wages have gone up. But to capture the good pay in this area, you generally need to run your own small business, rather than working for an existing company. The wage differential is often over 300%.

1: Carpenter – my perennial favorite. Once you have a good reputation in an area with nice houses and good incomes, it is easy to earn over $50 per hour building things – even things as simple as fences or decks. Kitchens and bathrooms generally pay even better. No formal training required, but it helps to work alongside another good carpenter for a year or two, or take classes at a community college.

2: Plumber – slightly more traditional and formal, in my area this job requires a two-year apprenticeship before you can get your own first level license. But that really just means you get paid $20-$30 per hour while learning, then you start your own business and start charging $80 (and hire your own apprentice to further increase profits).

3: Welder – I stumbled across this self-employment goldmine when I learned metalworking myself in 2005. In summary, rich people always need custom steelwork done on their houses. Not many people know how to do it. So it is easy to charge $50-$70 per hour for running your welder and grinder alongside some basic design skills.

4: Electrician – I recently quizzed an apprentice electrician working in my own area. He was a degree-holding geologist who ended up taking this job because it paid better. Two years of apprenticeship (or a shorter amount in community college), and you can write the test to get your first level license. His boss was billing him out at $65 per hour, and the boss’s time itself comes at $85.

5: Painter – Nobody does their own painting these days, and thus they often go searching for painting companies to handle it. But most of these companies are run by disorganized and occasionally rude owners who don’t know how to return an email. So YOUR company, with its polite and professional management, will have very little trouble carving out all the business it can handle. Once established, pay can be $25-$40 per hour depending on how wisely you bid; higher if you hire employees to work for $10-$15 to speed you up.

6: Tile Setter – An ideal combination with “Painter” above, because the same skills make you good at both. This pays a little higher, and you get to create fine bathrooms and kitchens. Bid out both tiling and painting, and watch the customers line up.

7: Landscape Company Owner – a little trickier because it requires knowledge of plants and design principles as well as heat tolerance, but in general a lucrative field if you work in a high-income area. Nobody does their own gardening these days.

8: Excavator – An oddball choice, but it can work if you like ultra-powerful machines and do the math right. You can rent a huge track-drive excavating machine, delivered, for $400 per day plus fuel. Or buy a used one for about $50,000. This qualifies you to dig foundations and other work (often under contract for local custom house builders or city governments), which yield about $1000-2000 per day of work. The guy I hired for my own housebuilding company was a former math major who found the excavating business to be more profitable. You might invest $200k into equipment if you have a dump truck, trailer, bobcat, and digger. But if that $200k is allowing you to make $100k per year more than you otherwise would, it is a huge ROI. Plus you are a hero to little boys all over town.

9: House Builder – although doing this professionally didn’t agree with my own temperament, the pay is good if you focus on building dream homes for rich people (as opposed to speculatively building houses to sell as I foolishly did). Builders get about 15-20% of construction costs, which works out to roughly $100k for a six-month project of full-time work. You must enjoy supervising other trades, however, which is like herding cats

10: Mechanic – once you know how to fix a car, all your friends and neighbors will want you to fix theirs. Even if you underbid the real garages, you can still earn over $50 per hour in your own garage.. then later expand to a real facility once the customer base grows.

The Internet

These occupations are exotic, because they are new and often silly-sounding. But they are real, as I am learning as I meet more of these people earning ludicrous amounts of money. The key to it is the size of the Internet: it’s effectively infinite, so you only need a tiny market share to be bigger than the big local tycoons of the olden days.

11: WordPress Developer: What do I use to write this blog? WordPress, just like everyone else with a blog. That means millions of people and companies need this system to work for them, and many thousands of them are depending on it to make a living. If you’re an expert at making it work, they will pay you – lots. Relatively simple programming and a high-level, open architecture make it one of the easier forms of software development to learn. With an established customer base, pay is $60-$100k+ per year.

12: Blogger: I thought this just involved occasionally typing some shit into the computer for a few laughs. But when attending last year’s “Financial Blogger Conference” in Denver, I saw over 400 bloggers gathering in a swanky hotel, with fancy sponsors and VIP treatment, some of them like Ramit Sethi now running entire organizations with millions of dollars in annual profit. Given interesting enough content, it’s not all that hard to build up a blog with the following of a small newspaper or magazine, and with some low-key sponsorship or advertising, that is good enough to make a living.

This blog, in case you are curious, now generates a six-figure income just under three years into its existence. And my income is on the very low side for sites of this size (5.4 million page views in February 2014).
(See article: How to Start a Blog)

13: Passive Income Guru: One of my internet heroes Pat Flynn has a radar-like mind for finding ways to create little “niche websites” that sell nicely-packaged information to people who search for it. These lodge themselves into search engines and start generating low-effort streams of money. I’ve noticed the same effect with my own articles on how to build a shower pan and the cheap mobile phone plan*- people show up every day from search engines looking for these topics. If I took the time to make a nice shower-building eBook or an ultimate phone plan guide, I could actually sell those for $5 each and make hundreds of dollars per day.

14: Interesting Ideas Guy/Girl: This is an elusive one, but Chris Guillebeau and Tim Ferriss are great examples. You learn about and do amazing things, and then teach others about what you learned. Eventually, you can write books about it, which people will buy. And, companies will hire you to be on their boards, just because of the amazing allure and buzz you have created. But it all starts with becoming an expert in something that everyone wishes they were an expert at.

Creative and Artistic

As manufactured items become more played out and commoditized, creative people are increasingly finding ways to get paid for their work. After all, Apple Computer is rich because of its mastery of design, not its technical sophistication.

15: Writer: the job that used to be thankless and underpaid (and still is if you work in the rank-and-file at a newspaper or magazine.)  But these days if you write an amazing novel and self-publish it on Amazon, you have a far better chance of paying for your groceries than the hapless “I got 75 rejections in the mail today” authors of yesteryear.

16: Techno Music Composer: just like writing, music has become an open meritocracy. Through Pandora streaming, I discovered the music of a youngster and fellow Canadian named Deadmau5. And he has made it huge, rocking stadiums full of people around the world whenever he likes – just because great dancy music pops into his head and he produces it using the awesome power of Ableton Live. This idea is close to my heart, as I made loads of music using older versions of the software throughout my youth, and now my 7-year-old son has become both a Deadmau5 fan and a composer himself, with over 30 cute catchy house songs under his belt. If the habit sticks, he could be on the turntables in front of stadiums before he even graduates from high school. Or the hobby might open other doors. Either way, there’s no bad reason to learn a new creative skill.

17: YouTube Channel Owner: With broadcast TV being obsolete, there are now millions of viewers available to watch anything you create. Some guy named Randall talked for two minutes about the Honey Badger, and it’s over 61 million views now – and he’s probably set for life. Marquese Scott happened to make himself into the most awesome dancer in the world, and is now paid appropriately for it after 91 million views on his Pumped Up Kicks recording. World-dominating fame, which he achieved by simply setting a camera on the ground and rocking out in front of a bank building for a few minutes – the efficiency is beautiful.

But YouTube is just not for freaky stuff that unpredictably goes viral. Much of the money being made there is meat-and-potatoes hard work stuff. Teenagers create hundreds of well-made Minecraft instructional videos with their own personal brand and style. Eric the Car Guy does well telling us how to fix our cars. Guitar and piano lessons, done well, earn their makers more than they would from teaching live students.

Like any of the jobs above, successful video production requires an attention to detail and conscientious bit of hard work. None of these jobs are easy get-rich-quick schemes – as far as I can tell, easy riches are not a reproducible model. But the point is, there’s more than one way to make a buck, if you keep your eyes open and step outside the conventional.


Well look at that – we’ve got a long article and we’re only getting warmed up. But the REAL story of entrepreneurial moneymaking is not the stuff that I think up off the top of my own head. It is the things that YOU dream up, and share with the rest of the world.

Because of this, I’ve requested Mrs. Money Mustache, Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology and World Domination Summit fame, and Treehouse founder Ryan Carson to help out with part two of this series. And I’d also like to recruit YOU.

Jump directly to Part 2 of 50 Jobs over $50k


In the comments section below, share your own ideas and experience in ways to make $50,000 or more annually in a field that does not necessarily require a university degree. I’ll incorporate some of them into the next article. The more ideas we dream up and share, the wealthier we all become. Stay tuned!


Also on MMM: An interview with Ryan Carson on higher education vs do-it-yourself technical training.

* note that just by linking to my own articles from this popular one, I build the search engine ranking of those other articles, furthering the cycle of people being able to find them in the sea of results. And in the passive income world, search ranking for good keywords is very important. Isn’t the Internet a bizarre place?

  • Chris July 26, 2013, 9:28 am

    How about tutoring. My husband charges $40 per hour in our house and $50 per hr. In the clients home for math tutoring. He does it part time but if uou are willing to fill evenings and weekends, the demand seems high.

  • Chipper July 26, 2013, 9:32 am

    While not the most exciting job on the planet, it was an occupation I had for about ten years. Casino table game dealers frequently make more than $50K/year where even a high school diploma is not necessary. You give up your weekends and every single holiday, as well as ALWAYS working a 5-day week (six or seven during the busy times of the year) but you have decent medical benefits, usually only work 6 out of the 8 hours of your shift (you get six 20-minute breaks) and get a free daily meal. You are usually only paid minimum wage but your tips can be quite substantial. There are Las Vegas dealers in a few select higher-end casinos that easily crack the six-figure mark each year.

    • MandyM July 26, 2013, 12:12 pm

      Good one. My dad and brother both work at casinos. I’m not sure what they make, but its enough. And they love it for all the reasons you list. My brother used to be terrible at keeping a job, but has been doing this for a few years now and he might even stick with it. You can also move up the ranks – dad went through the training program that the casino was offering to go from dealer to floor supervison (aka pit boss).

  • Dancin' Mustachian July 26, 2013, 10:10 am

    Tipped positions tend to do well. They are 80% not being a giant asshole to people, 20% being good at your job. This includes things like:

    -Wait Staff

    From my own experiences, bartenders and strippers are making bank. I live in the middle of nowhere, and this 50,000 mark is not hard for either of these jobs. Personally, I think it’s a combination between people turning up their noses at the work, and the competition sucking. My husband and I are currently planning on moving into an rv to better work in busier places. We’re looking at each having over half the year off, and trading who’s working so we never have to pay child care again, and still potentially doing better than we are now.

    Financial independence, here we come!

  • Kirsten July 26, 2013, 10:27 am

    Freelance Bookkeeper. It’s not glamorous, but you can make some decent money working for small companies that don’t want to deal with their own bookkeeping but don’t have enough work to hire someone on full time. All you need is a basic understanding of accounting (a couple community college classes will do just fine), and knowledge of Quickbooks software. It’s also a great opportunity to learn how a variety of small businesses operate. (You would be amazed at some of the weird shit that some people have turned into lucrative business ventures.) I have a full time gig but do some freelance bookkeeping on the side for $40 an hour (which is a bargain in my area). It’s easy to work remotely, and if you get a steady client base going you could easily make this your primary source of income while you’re growing your ‘stache.

  • HearMeOut July 26, 2013, 12:00 pm

    Hearing Aid Dispenser/Hearing Instrument Specialist

    I am an audiologist with 8 years of college/grad school education…and it just so happens that the sub-specialty I practice can also be performed by someone with a high school diploma and a written licencing exam from their state. Crazy, but true.
    With the aging (and retiring) of the Baby Boomers there is a predicted shortfall of qualified professionals and a rising demand for services (there are currently 469 job postings on one industry website).
    It is always listed on every major business mags “least stressful jobs” list.
    Starting salaries (at places ranging from Costo to ENT clinics) are over the 50,000 mark and generally offer benefits and a bonus structure. And you have the ability to set up your own office if you so choose.

  • Gerard July 26, 2013, 12:28 pm

    Obviously MMM is talking about how much you CAN earn in these jobs, if you’re good (reliable, organized, somewhat trained, willing to go out on your own). I thought it would be useful to see how some of these jobs stack up against each other, though, to help with the discussion.

    Here’s some average salaries I could find for Ontario/Canada, from multiple sources, for jobs on MMM’s list and in the comments.
    1. Carpenter $22/hr
    2: Plumber $25/hr
    3: Welder $19/hr
    4: Electrician $26/hr
    5: Painter $21/hr
    6: Tile Setter $30/hr
    10: Mechanic $18/hr
    15: Writer: Journalist $26/hr, Book Author $12K/yr
    16: Music Composer $46K/yr
    X. Police Officer $36/hr

    Compare that to a couple of degree-type jobs that I know people on this list have:
    Elementary school teacher: $29/hr
    Secondary school teacher: $34/hr
    Software engineer: $37/hr
    University professor: $46

    I started looking up this stuff, frankly, to call bullshit on MMM’s anecdotally-driven and optimism-enhanced claims. But damn, it looks like the dude has a point. His occupation didn’t earn shitloads more than other people, HE did, by changing towns and jobs and, I assume, working well and hard. So if the average tilesetter earns 30/37 of the average software engineer, then a highly mustachian tilesetter should be able to retire in 7*37/30 = 8.63 years, which would be FASTER than MMM by avoiding all those years of schooling.
    (Granted, there may be more opportunities for promotion or recruitment in some of these fields than in others…)

    • Kenoryn July 27, 2013, 5:07 pm

      Also as someone from Ontario who has never found anything crazy like a mechanic who billed at $18 or a carpenter at $22, I suspect these salaries are the average not among freelancers but in salaried positions, i.e. from people who work for a company which takes a big cut of the profits for the business and overhead etc. My mechanic charges $62/hour labour, and Canadian Tire charges I think $55 or something? If those mechanics making $18/hour at a garage quit and did it freelance and charged $40/hour (a bargain!) they could do much better. Tradespeople in my area, in ANY trade, always seem to be busy, so I don’t think it would be hard to build up a client base if you’re any good.

  • Brian July 26, 2013, 12:30 pm

    Enrolled Agent.
    These are people licensed by the IRS to prepare tax returns.
    As far as I can tell, there’s no degree requirement; you just have to pass their test.
    Bonus! You can get free training and experience by volunteering in the VITA program (instead of paying H&R Block to train you).
    You can easily charge between $100-$300 per return (or more) and returns generally take an hour or two to do. If you focus on building your client base, you can easily make $50k or more a year.
    A lady I know *doesn’t* try to get more clients because she doesn’t want more, but she tells me she still seems to pick up one or two new ones every year.
    Is the work seasonal? It can be, but you could also carve out a niche doing late or extended returns.
    (I’m not sure what the tax prep chains pay, but you *might* also be able to clear the $50k through working for one of them)

  • Anthony July 26, 2013, 12:56 pm

    Swimming Pool/hot tub maintenance is a relatively easy gig to get into if you live in an area with a lot of them. You can learn a lot of what you would need to know (and at a very young age, e.g. 18/19) if you work for a pool company for a season or two in the summer. Then working solo, it’s very easy to undercut big company prices and still make a tidy profit with a relatively small customer base and low capital investment (e.g. purchase or rent a trash pump for openings/closing, some basic tools, a vehicle to transport them). It is highly seasonal, but you can attend to hot tubs in the winter months to help offset this (or maybe switch gears to managing snow for those who have it in quantity?). Types of activities would include, opening/closing pools (300-500 bucks a pop @2-4 hrs /pool/opening or closing), weekly maintenance (1hr @ $40-50/hr per pool/week, cleaning pool and balancing chemicals which the client provides), basic troubleshooting and repairs ($50-80/hr). Also if you develop some of the other skills in the manual labour section, this is a great way to meet new potential clients as most of the people who are paying for routine pool maintenance are not DIY type folks – but they often want to chat.

  • Mike July 26, 2013, 1:32 pm

    Sales – I have worked in the Automotive industry for a number of years now and there are plenty of people working here that make more than $50k/year with little formal education. If you can talk to people, you can make $100k/year in sales. Be honest, build a business, and the customers will follow. Referrals build your own profits and eventually you can create your own business within a business where customers come to that store looking for you specifically because of the reputation you have developed. Once you have that, it’s no problem to make the money you are talking about.

    You can do it in the service department too, just by checking in cars. It’s one of the most unassuming jobs on the market and you would never expect the people there to be making almost 6 figure incomes.

  • Bonnieventure July 26, 2013, 3:05 pm

    Cool list! Sometimes it’s not the job you have, but how you are able to get people to pay you for it. I’m a social media coordinator who makes music on the side. I know people who do both of these jobs for free, or for very little pay. I make my living doing one, and make some pocket change doing another.

    Being a carpenter is great, but you have to make sure you’re charging enough and not getting trapped working for favours.

  • Mr. 1500 July 26, 2013, 3:43 pm

    The wife and I are looking at opening a bed and breakfast. With just 2 or 3 rooms, we feel that 50k/year is attainable. The startup costs are high, but we like the flexibility. If we want to go out of town for a week or 3, we’ll just hang up the closed sign.

    Also, the commute will be great!

  • Tansy July 26, 2013, 4:40 pm

    Equine body worker here. Make $100+ per hour making rich peoples ponies feel good. I work on carriage horses in Manhattan, polo ponies in connecticut, and hunter/jumper/dressage horses in upstate NY who’s monthly rent on a 12 x12 ft stall is 1700 bucks a month.
    Study was three four day classes and about a hundred hours of self managed practical work. Total cost of education <$1000

    • Becky August 4, 2013, 12:11 am

      This is fascinating… I did a quick google search and saw a couple different programs offering courses. If you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear which program you went through. It was obviously a good one as you sound quite successful. I actually rent out pasture for the summer, and so (with the owner’s permission, of course) would be able to walk out my back door and have practice subjects if I were to take a course!

  • Cat July 26, 2013, 5:35 pm

    My suggestion: scientific editing. There are loads of non-native english speakers looking to get published in english language peer-reviewed journals, particularly in the sciences. Many of them are willing to pay serious $$ to get their papers professionally edited. If you have a science background and are looking for a good way to make some side money, this can be a pretty good option (I’m not sure I would recommend it full-time as most science majors DO have decent full-time job options, but if you don’t, you can probably make it to full time).

    I did this briefly with a company that acts as a middleman (they find the papers and collected fees from authors, I did the editing, then they paid me). Initially, the pay is not so great as it will probably take you a while to get through your papers (i.e., a paper that they say should take 1 hour may take you 8…yikes), but once you get up to speed you can be earning $30-$60/hr (depending on how “senior” you get to be). I ultimately quit because I got a “real” job that paid quite a bit better, making my free time more valuable to me (plus I’m just not *that* good at editing quickly, so I was never able to really crack further than the $15/hr threshold). But a friend stuck with it and is making good money now.

  • Peony July 26, 2013, 7:50 pm

    Court stenographers make good money, and to me it’s always sounded like an interesting job. So far, no one’s figured out how to replace them with technology — you still need a human being in that room to record what’s being said, and to stop the action and make someone repeat themselves if something’s not clear. The learning curve’s steep — you have to learn how to use the equipment (two years or so, I think?) and get your speed up, and you might have to move to an area where court stenographers are in demand. It used to be that you had to go to expensive trade schools to learn court stenography, but now there are some state schools that offer the training. Another “do something no one else knows how to do” solution.

  • Froogmeister July 26, 2013, 8:15 pm

    I’ve got a couple to add…apologies if these are duplicates from comments, as I didn’t read them all:

    – Networking associate (Probably requires a CCNA certificate, though).
    – iOS Fake Money Gambling Gamemaker (Poker/Slot games are seriously cheese money)
    – Technical Support Specialist (Certainly doesn’t start at 50 in anywhere but a high COLA, but you can get there relatively quickly.)
    – Professional Gamer (Some guy named Azazel makes over 100k/year on WoW)
    – Ebay/Craigslist/Etc. Reseller

  • Sue July 26, 2013, 9:35 pm

    My dad is a coal miner. Without a college degree, he makes more than my husband and I combined. I am a teacher and he is an optician.

  • Rebecca July 27, 2013, 4:46 am

    All great ideas. I would also suggest keeping your eyes and ears open for what is needed in YOUR area. A co-worker at my hospital bought a home to eventually retire to in upstate New York. Either the closing or the CO required a termite inspection. My coworker found these were nearly impossible to get, and confirmed with his new neighbors the wait times could be months as there was no one directly serving the area. So my coworker is now studying to get certified ( a relatively simple process) as an inspector and plans to “retire” up there a few years early, as he knows he’ll have a lucrative part time job. Very Mustacian!

  • Joe July 27, 2013, 8:48 am

    I’ll tell you, this is one of my favorite posts MMM has done so far. And not because of the post itself, but the comments!! MMM has always had this contagious sense of optimism. It’s great to see so many people thinking outside the box and able to rattle off these great ways to earn a living without being awash in college debt. It’s optimistic, for me, because you hear so often from the common population how bad things are. But, here, I’m seeing so many people beyond MMM able to have an optimistic look on earning a living. I love it.

    I’m an accountant, I’ve got my BS and MBA. But, I can honestly see, in this day and age, how anyone can get the necessary entry level skills to do almost any job via the Internet. Competence and mastery then come from nothing else but experience.

    Love it.

  • James B. Shearer July 27, 2013, 10:18 am

    … Since there are about 2000 work hours in a year, we can define a $50,000 job as one that pays over $25 per hour (or $200 per workday).

    You have to be careful here, an independent contracting job billing at a rate of $25 an hour is not the equivalent of a salaried position paying $50,000 a year for a number of reasons.

    Particularly when you are starting out it is difficult to bill 2000 hours a year. You may not have enough customers or the work may be seasonal or involve some stuff (like traveling between work sites or giving estimates) that isn’t billed. And you have to account for your expenses which may be substantial. And the salaried position will usually have some benefits (health insurance, vacation and holidays, etc.) when aren’t counted in the salary number.

    On the positive side a distant acquaintance seemed to do ok for a while with a dog grooming business. Like many independent contracting jobs it required some basic business skills but I don’t think much in the way of formal credentials.

  • Taylor Kubik July 27, 2013, 11:01 am

    Hello, long time reader and evangelist here. I currently run a company called captain fargle which sells hammocks to non traditional campers that would never walk through the doors of an rei store. I have not earned 50k just yet but it pays the rent. I have a steno notebook full of. Usiness start up ideas; one that could easily earn more than 50k and is in the same yourself “no degree do it yourself” would be an intensive 6 month to a year graduates job for highschool graduates that would be offered in alternate to going straight into college. This experience would be WAY cheaper than a year in college, and the participants would be paid! The other advantage is perspective, these kids could work for a trainyard on the other side of the country and get an experience to mold their lives early on as opposed to 5 years later digging out a marianas trench of debt! Ultimately it would be an amazing benefit to later generations and a huge cost saving down the road.

    Thanks for reading and doing what you do!


  • Dina July 27, 2013, 11:13 am

    I just stumbled across Mike Rowe’s (Dirty Jobs) web site that talks about just this – trade labor isn’t something that should be seen as “for those who can’t go to college”, but as a viable, important part of the economy.


  • Sandra July 27, 2013, 1:49 pm

    I work as a legal administrative assistant (used to be called a legal secretary) and make $52,000.00/year. I took an 8-month course at a college to get my certificate. In my city anyway, there is a lot of demand for this and i’ve never had a hard time finding work.

  • victoria July 27, 2013, 2:10 pm

    A few not mentioned yet: postpartum doulas (folks who provide support to families with new babies — some baby care, some light housekeeping/cooking, answers for medical needs, etc.) can make over $50K a year. I believe lactation consultants can make similar amounts of money.

  • ClevrChico July 27, 2013, 5:03 pm

    I would add that a degree or advanced training can allow you to make $100k – $150k in some of these fields, instead of $50k. The payback would be pretty quick, so don’t limit yourself if you’re motivated.

    “Useless” required courses like accounting can give one a huge advantage in life. Simply understanding how form 1040 works can help you make better decisions. I’m sure things can be discouraging with a lot of student loan debt, but long term it could be worth it.

  • sam July 27, 2013, 11:08 pm

    Best job ever, Process Engineer (Chemical Engineering BS). Never had to worry about finding a job or make money, but it does, unfortunately, require a college degree. I feel as if this article unfairly ties one hand behind a college degree’s back, making it look easy to succeed as an ‘independent’, whereas a professional (in engineering, passing the PE exam process) puts a floor under what sort of salary you will earn (six figures). If every single person that reads this gets a ChEng BS, we will still be short of what the world needs to solve all of the problems like climate change, longevity, better beer…. pretty much all the major challenges, however the entertainment, internet, and sports industries are growing like kudzu….

  • stagleton July 28, 2013, 3:34 am

    Marquese Scott is good, but he’s no Robert Muraine.

  • Fugawe July 28, 2013, 7:52 am

    How about an Organizer?

    In my regular 9-5, I organize people, places and things for a high tech company. We make our own hdwr/sftwr that’s in use all over the world.
    But I’ve been furloughed since 2009. I’m a musician on the side and usually make ~$400/month doing that. Which I would do for free because its fun.

    But by nature I tend to be meticulous and organized. It surprised me when someone hired me to help them organize their garage. That segued into helping them organize their home office, then with lots of what I’ve learned from my circumstances and here at MMM, their finances.

    With the sequester hitting Federal jobs here in the D.C. area, there are tons of people that need help with their “stuff”. I’ll have a web site up soon and in the future even get accredited.

  • Mark ferguson July 28, 2013, 7:57 am

    I wasn’t able to read all the comments, but here are some more ideas.

    1. Realtor-can easily earn more than $50,000 or hundreds of thousands a year without a degree. I know agents personally who make over a million a year.
    2. Loan officer
    3. Property manager
    4. Network marketing
    5. House flipper
    6. Real estate investor

  • Jason P July 28, 2013, 10:17 am

    My niche job is aquarium technician. I have had my company 6 years now and it keeps growing especially with the recent show Tanked and Fishtank kings.

    Basically my main jobs are going out on weekly,bi weekly, or monthly are cleaning and analyzing saltwater aquariums for people and businesses. Most people are really bad at keeping fish so we make it easy. Jobs start at $60 a visit typically for about an hour of work.

    Overhead is fairly low.

    I just found your site. Very cool and look forward to following it.

  • phil lang July 28, 2013, 11:39 am

    I just bought a book off amazon called “The Hustler’s Mindset: Preparing you for financial freedom” by Carlos Hustle . It’s a self published book written very Mustachian I recommend reading it only costs .99 downloadable to Kindle

  • Jeff July 28, 2013, 11:46 am

    Loved this post MMM. If I’d listened to people espousing their personal beliefs or fears, I’d still be in a dead end job. Back in ’87 I left the aerospace industry making $30k a year as an electric tech with no degree. Of all things, I went into auto detailing. Go back to my childhood and I used to spend all of my money on car magazines for the aesthetics of cars, not for the engines. Throughout high school I lived in a large apartment complex and washed tenants cars on the weekends. I wasn’t college bound so I took whatever job I could get, not realizing that auto detailing was a real profession.

    When I got tired of sitting at a lab table, I ventured out despite the ney sayers who said I wouldn’t have insurance coverage or weekly income or or or..I left a basically good paying job and struck out to detailing. Living in L.A., there is plenty of opportunity and work for anyone. So I went from $30k a year and in two years I was t $50K. The work wasn’t easy but I got instant gratification with each car I made look brand new. Like the cars I ogled in the mags, I ogled the jobs I could do to bring them new life. I guess you could call this passion.

    Within a few years of that, I was at $85K and still working on my own. Then, I made a mistake and opened a shop and had employees. Because I was no longer mobile, business slowed. I should have been mobile and maybe had a stationary shop… my mistake. After dealing with large overturn in employees, I dropped the shop and decided that I wanted a 4.5 day work schedule. I fine tuned my business to make between $75-80K. I also was raising kids so by declaring my own hours of operation, I enjoyed coaching my son’s baseball teams every year. There is much I could write regarding auto detailing and the business end of clients and $$ but maybe I’ll save that for a book.

    I no longer detail unless an old client calls and I want to make a quick $150+ bucks. I turned my second passion, writing, into a career and have been successful but not to the degree I am comfortable with… so, what am I doing… I’m fine tuning my writing and will do so until I find the income level I want. It really is that simple. MMM— I wish I had run across the info that you share when I was younger, and I hope I would have listened <—- key element to success. I spent a lot of cash back when but am the wiser now that I see so many struggling. I don't agree with everything you write but I have saved quite a bit since cutting out on the non-necessities. Keep up the sage-like work you're doing. Perhaps one day with my new venture we will share a blog or two. Becoming more of mustachian daily – Jeff

  • Neil July 28, 2013, 12:22 pm

    Worth noting that a lot of corporate jobs that university grads compete for don’t actually require much formal education. I started in accounting with just a couple of community college courses that I’d paid for, got my employer to pay to move me into an accounting job and pay for the rest of the community college program (the work experience was MUCH more valuable than the piece of paper), and crossed the $50k mark before I graduated. I still don’t have a degree, but make around $70k these days.

    Also, I work with “techs” who do the drafting/modelling for architects and engineers, and they make over $50k. Some have 2-year college diplomas (not degrees), some just know the software.

  • Kim July 28, 2013, 12:54 pm

    Repairing medical equipment seems to be a really lucrative career. I am only familiar with optical and ophthalmic equipment, but one of our machines is down right now, and the nearest repairman is four hours one way. They charge $256/hour for the repair with one hour minimum, plus $125/hour travel time, which is 8 hours in this case. Even just for basic cleaning and maintenance, they get paid a crazy amount of money. I imagine other types of medical equipment are similar. If you had some knowledge of computers and wiring, I don’t think it would be too difficult to transfer that to this profession.

  • Frugal in DC July 28, 2013, 2:48 pm

    This isn’t for everyone, but there is always a need for family providers for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities (ID/DD). Here in my neck of the woods, individuals or families who agree to care for an adult with ID/DD in their homes, including meals and housing, are paid over $60,000 annually per person. Some family providers have more than one adult with ID/DD living in their homes. Companies that hire these providers usually look for applicants who have some professional experience caring for adults with ID/DD. Sure, some of these providers have college degrees, but folks without college degrees like special education instructional assistants, in-home caregivers, respite care providers, or those who have worked or done volunteer work with adults with ID/DD would also be eligible to apply to be family providers.

    There is going to be increased demand for these jobs as adults with ID/DD and their families choose housing in their communities rather than far-off group homes or institutions. For additional information in the US, contact your state agency that handles ID/DD matters; if you don’t know who that is, contact your local or state Arc chapter to find out – http://www.thearc.org/find-a-chapter.

  • mark July 28, 2013, 3:19 pm

    Day trading. I know of some people that avg 1k a day, it isn’t for most people but if you have the capital and take some classes with really good people you can make some serious money.

    Warning some people are not cut out for it and will fail.

    Another job that pays well is garage door sales 80k and commercial garage door tech 100k. That tech job was with lots of overtime but you can make good money in blue collar jobs sometimes.

  • Peanut Butter July 28, 2013, 3:25 pm

    Sadly, most of the manual jobs are pretty closed to women looking to get into them. I wasted quite a bit of time trying, only to be told, “We don’t hire girls,” or “I just can’t guarantee the safety of a female on the job site,” (So why don’t you fire the out of control males who are apparently walking liabilities?) I grew up doing manual farm labor in exchange for riding lessons and saddle time, so it’s not like I couldn’t do the work.

    Oh, and then I get to listen to boomers bitch about how “Your generation just doesn’t want to get your hands dirty, you’re all lazy!” etc etc.

    (The follow up is usually about how I’m lazy specifically because I don’t have a car, and walk or ride my bicycle everywhere. I’m not quite sure how that works.)


    For the brainstorming session, I really wish I had known about all of the technician jobs in the medical field before I earned my BA. Hell, I wish I knew about all of the jobs before I became a Paramedic. I could be making twice what I do now with the same amount of time invested in my education.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 28, 2013, 4:56 pm

      Regarding the discrimination in male-dominated trades – this is another reason why starting your own business works so well. There is a woman down the street from me who has her own contracting and painting business, and it is doing very well from what I can see. She plays up the female-owned aspect of it, which is a nice market niche.

      Also, the Xcel energy lead electrical inspector for a recent project was a woman – she said she enjoys being rare in the field.

      • Peanut Butter July 29, 2013, 6:35 am

        The problem with starting your own business in trades like electrician, plumber, carpenter, etc is getting an apprenticeship, and if no one will give you an apprenticeship, you’re stuck unless you shell out $$$ for classes. Where I live now, I think if I tried to go the same row it would be much easier, as it’s a more liberal city.

        Not that I don’t think they’re not good jobs to try and get into, just that women have to put in much more effort to break into them as men. But that means that the ones who do make it are usually awesome at their jobs. :)

        Mostly it’s just a sore spot with me because I get older people telling me simultaneously that they won’t/wouldn’t hire me for manual labor, and that I’m lazy because I’m not doing what they view as manual labor. (Working in a busy ER is definitely hard manual labor!)

        I love your blog! I’ve been using your advice to get my financial house in order – now that I have a job in the medical field, I’ve been letting my finances get sloppy because my tastes are simple and I always have enough money, but you’ve inspired me to get disciplined about saving and frugality!

      • Peanut Butter July 29, 2013, 11:05 am

        Addendum to above comment:
        While I was picking heavy things up and putting them back down in the gym today, I was thinking about it, and working on my Stoic mindset. I ended up feeling pretty sorry for those fat old guys who wouldn’t hire women – just think about how much more successful their businesses would have been if they hadn’t closed themselves off from half of the labor market!

        I knew them from the church my step father attends (his favorite hobby is whining about how all the immigrants are taking Amurricun jerbs, if that tells you anything about his mindset and that of the people he chooses to associate with) and I know that at least three have folded their companies since.

  • MMMfanreader July 28, 2013, 6:39 pm

    Regarding cake decorating: I would focus on doing unusual cakes that are not obtainable anywhere else. Divorce cakes are becoming very, very popular (just do a Google search for design ideas). San Francisco has an X-rated bakery with some –ahem– very unusual designs, shall we say. Whatever is unique to your specific area could be used for cake decorating ideas. This will enable you to charge premium prices for a unique product unobtainable anywhere else.

    My dentist’s hygienist in Fairfax County, VA told me that high school German tutors get $95 an hour; that really amazed me. I have a degree in German and speak it fluently but don’t use it in my current job. Spanish tutors get a lot less than that, as apparently the supply of Spanish tutors is much greater than for German.

  • Ray July 28, 2013, 8:39 pm

    Clock repair has been a fantastic source of income for me.

    A decade ago I invested about a thousand dollars in books, DVDs, and tools and took a couple of week-long classes offered by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors. The classes were great, but really just reinforced what I taught myself with the books. I spent about a year figuring out how to do everything correctly by taking apart and repairing broken clocks that I bought for peanuts on eBay or from antique shops.

    Eventually I felt I knew enough to fix a few broken clocks for friends. Things took off from there. Working out of my walk-out basement, I consistently cleared about $2000 per week for years.

    Most clocks just need a good cleaning to run well, though I am proficient at rebushing, repairing, and making new parts. The big money is in case repair. I like woodworking, so that is fun. I discovered that owners will pay unbelievable amounts to have a clock run and look like new. A clock is usually a treasured family heirloom, and having it run well is a source of joy and connection with their past.

    I am very good at communicating with clock owners as well and fully document my work for them. Every owner gets a file showing the work I’ve done for them, with photos. They love that!

    A professional presentation is important in this business. Some of these clocks are valuable (though most are not) and it’s important that you look trust worthy. I always wear a suit and tie when dealing with my customers.

    Many of my customers are on a maintenance schedule. I take their clock in for a cleaning and tune-up every couple of years. Antique clocks, like all machines, need regular maintenance. This is very easy money.

    I’ve semi-retired from clock repair now, though I still make about $3000 a month for part-time work. With no mortgage, and a workshop full of clock and woodworking tools, I don’t need to hustle as much anymore.

    I am teaching my young teenage son and daughter the business. They are getting pretty good at it, and are starting to make _serious_ money. I am proud of them and love seeing the self-reliance they’ve developed. College might eventually be in the cards for them, but it won’t be to just get a job.

  • AussieCMB July 28, 2013, 11:45 pm

    Greetings from a long time Australian reader.

    This is a great article. I have been thinking along similar lines however with the view of doing something to supplement my income when I take early retirement somtime in the next few years (It won’t be real early as I am currently 49).

    I like the idea of excavator operator however I may go for something involving less capital and skill. I live in an acreage area and slasher operators are in high demand. I could outlay about 30K from my stash for equipment and earn around $100 an hour.

  • Phil July 29, 2013, 4:34 am

    You can make 50k a year playing poker as well.

    If you played 2/5 NL and made 20 big blinds an hour, assuming that you play 25 hands an hour in live poker, you would make 25 bucks an hour. If you played 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, that would come out to be 50k a year. However, to make 20 big blinds an hour, you’d need to be a pretty solid. The best 2/5 nl live players probably make around that in today’s games. If you aren’t the best, you could just put in more hours and get to the 50k mark.

    5/10 NL live games also run daily, so you could double your hourly if you get good enough to crush the 5/10 NL games. For 2/5 NL live poker, I would recommend a bankroll of at least 20k (40 buyins) in liquid cash solely dedicated to poker.

    I would not recommend the lifestyle long term though. It’s unhealthy and it becomes a big grind. Most pros are not very happy. It’s a good way to get capital though if you can reach the top and crush those games.

  • Frugal in DC July 29, 2013, 6:14 am

    I have a friend with his own plumbing business who charges $125 per service call and then just under that amount per hour. He went to college on a scholarship and figured out quickly he can make really good money as a self-employed plumber. He doesn’t advertise and has plenty of work because he’s one of a few plumbers in my area with an A+ review from the Better Business Bureau. His wife schedules his appointments and helps run their business out of their nice home.

  • Chuck Hall July 29, 2013, 7:43 am

    The key is to use as much of the 24 hours in each day to generate revenue. I was actually inspired by a mediocre restaurant that has a great model. One small building is 4 different restaurants: Coffee Shop, Doughnut vendor, Deli, and Mexican fast food. By doing this, they’re able to have a product for all hours of the day in a high traffic area. Even if they don’t do anything really well, they at least attract passive customers all day based mostly on volume.

    I took a similar mindset into my life. I am an accountant from 9-5, making 45k per year and saving about 10k of that income (22% = 37 working years until retirement), but that is only working 40-50 hours/week. There are roughly 120 waking hours during a week that you can use any way you want.

    With that extra 70 hours, I started bartending weekend nights for 6 hours/night, earning anywhere from $15-25/hour. (10k annual)
    I also began working side jobs painting houses with my cousin on Saturday/Sunday mornings; an additional $20/hour, an average of 5 hours per week. (3k annual due to weather constraints)

    Now I have an additional 13k of revenue to work with. And that’s just the start, because now I can invest that 13k and earn 8-10% to add a 4th revenue stream. Very simple to do, with very little unique skill, just a willingness to devote a little more free time to work.

    By making those small changes I am able to save a total of 23k (51% of my salary, which should shave about 20 years off my required working career).

    Seems worth it!

  • Eric July 29, 2013, 8:02 am

    One thing I hadn’t noticed on here was a bookkeeper. If there’s one thing business owners hate doing, its keeping track of their business expenses. Anyone with a little QuickBooks knowledge can charge $35 – $45 an hour. And if you actually have accounting knowledge and can prepare financial statements or help clients evaluate their cash flow, then you can charge over $100 an hour for that type of work. My company right now charges $45 for straight bookkeeping and $150 for CFO type work. CFO work is a little bit tougher to come by, but I have no problem finding bookkeeping work at that rate.

  • Freeyourchains July 29, 2013, 8:10 am

    Another beauty to creating your own side business or educational club for college students, is that it will keep going on well after you have sold it or chosen to make it more passive and take a royalty fee from it, or have graduated.

  • Nathan Friedly July 29, 2013, 9:28 am

    +1 for Wordpress development – and I’d expand that to general web design / development. If you’re any good, you should be able to charge $50-100/hr in no time.

    I also know three different window washers. That’s a job that requires very little in the way of training and equipment. I don’t know exactly how much they earn, but two of them to provide for a family on just their window washing income and one even bought a fairly nice house.

  • Sister X July 29, 2013, 11:17 am

    So this isn’t a $50,000/year job but as a nice sideline of work, wild berry pickers in my area can actually make a decent amount of money from it. I’ve seen wild blueberries going on Craigslist for $75-100/gallon, which takes about an hour-hour and a half to pick if you know a decent area. Wild cranberries claim a comparable price. It’s hard work, but worth it. I’ve never sold any berries myself, but that’s because so far I’ve only ever managed to pick enough for my family for the winter.
    And if you’re thinking that these prices are ridiculously high, please keep in mind that A) they are comparable to grocery store prices (in interior AK), B) wild berries are better for you (they have more nutrients) and C) after eating them, you realize what tasteless little pieces of watery nothing commercial berries are. So they’re worth the price to many people.

    • Hybrid July 29, 2013, 11:19 am

      Holy cow, I picked over seven gallons of wild blackberries this year, made preserves out of most of them, and gave them away! Had no idea people were paying that kind of money for berries…. Hmmmm….

  • Hybrid July 29, 2013, 11:17 am

    Have you ever seen how much Best Buy charges for The Geek Squad, and they aren’t very good at what they do nor do they combine much in the way of customer service? That’s because by-and-large these guys haven’t landed in better IT jobs for whatever reasons. Be your own improved version of The Geek Squad. Everyone needs a good plumber, a good mechanic, a good electrician, etc. It’s no different with home computers and the like. People are willing to spend good coin for someonewho is polite, courteous, and competent. I charge $50 an hour for my side business and I know I could make more at it if I wanted to, but I already have a full time job with good benefits so I haven’t chased the business, it usually finds me. But if I did need to go into business for myself? I could definitely gross well over 50K a year doing this sort of work.

  • Faith July 29, 2013, 12:05 pm

    Since I work in business banking, I see a lot of income tax returns for business owners. The best incomes without a degree that I have found are:

    1.)environmentally friendly logger/clear cutter $150k per year

    2.)importer of olivine sand for a local industry $1.5 million per year

    3.)golf pro $75k per year

    4.) sheet metal workers $75k per year (owner makes $2.5 million w/o a degree)

    5.) mobile container rentals $200k per year

    6.) storm shelter builder $750k per year

    7.) pet resort and spa owner $250k per year

    8.) Construction site inspector $50 per inspection (takes 15 minutes to do and banks pays inspector for 10 inspections upfront )

    9.) Notary closing agent $150 per closing (cheaper than an attorney)

    10.) property manager $75k per year

  • Sheena July 29, 2013, 12:28 pm

    Many people making a living as artists, decorators and performers using balloons. Round balloons, twisty balloons, special shapes and prints are all used as an artistic medium to provide wedding and event decor, educational shows for schools and libraries, costumes and dresses, strolling entertainment, advertising displays, life-sized walk-through art installations. Anything that is manufactured and sold in stores has an industry behind it, constantly looking to innovate. The balloon industry is no different. Ice, food, legos, sand, etc. are other art media people use for similar purposes. Party planners, jugglers, stilt walkers, face painters, spending time to perfect any of these skills can bring in extra income at the level of a hobbyist to a full-time endeavor.

    • Frugal in DC August 24, 2014, 10:52 am

      I just got back from the farmers’ market. I talked for a bit with a guy selling balloon animals at a stand. He charges $5 minimum for each balloon creation and can make one in 5 minutes. He said he had worked non-stop for 12 hours yesterday and 4 hours this morning. So that’s over $50,000 in revenue on a half-time schedule. Hiring a trained assistant would of course double the production capacity. The start-up costs are pretty minimal. In addition to farmers’ markets, I imagine he works at birthday parties, summer camps, fairs, schools, etc. I didn’t want to take up too much of his time since there was quite a line of families waiting to order their balloon animals – this was on a week when lots of people are away on vacation.

      It looks like there are a lot of balloon twisting tutorials online. There are also opportunities for additional revenue from ads on YouTube tutorial videos and a website.

  • allyall July 29, 2013, 1:42 pm

    You don’t need a degree to be a music teacher though it does take lots of training and practice. But I pay my son’s violin teacher $27 a half hour. And that’s fairly cheap, I’ve seen Suzuki violin teachers who charge almost $40 a half hour. And yes, they have full and thriving practices and have to turn people away.

    I work part time as a tutor and make pretty good money doing that. Though most tutors have degrees, it isn’t necessarily required. Some tutors specialize in dyslexia training or elementary students’ math or writing problems and get certifications but not necessarily need a degree and charge $50 an hour for their services.


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