50 Jobs over $50,000 – Without a Degree (Part 2)

panelAfter the first article in this series, ideas started coming out of the woodwork. You might be amazed to hear about what some of your fellow readers have been up to. We ended up with more than enough to reach the goal of 50, and quite a few were new to me.


Real Estate Related
(thanks to Mrs. MM for many of these)

18: Real Estate Agent – a two month course ($800 at Kaplan) and you are out there. Then after 2 years of working beneath an existing agent, you can even go independent and keep everything you earn. With commissions around 3% of the sale price, you only need to handle about nine $200k houses per year (or four $450k ones, which is silly when you are on the customer end of things but cushy if you’re the agent).

19: Home Inspector – another short training course (plus good building knowledge and interpersonal skills in general), and you can get paid about $300 for 2-hour inspections.

20: Sewer Line Inspector – run a camera wire down through the floor drain in the basement, record the resulting video while looking for cracks in the pipe, charge about $200 per 20 minutes of work.

21: Appraiser – tour the house, run the numbers, email the report. $400 or so for a few hours of work. Initially your agency will take a cut, but of course you’ll start your own when ready.

22: Property Manager – You don’t have to actually buy rental houses, you can just handle the tenants: collecting rent, coordinating maintenance, shielding the landlord from the messy business. Pay can be great at around 1/12th of annual income of each property. With a stable of 20-50 units under management, you already have a $50k job that occupies well under 40 hours a week.

23: Mortgage Broker – understand and originate loan products to people buying houses. Meticulous and lightning-fast customer service is the key differentiator here rather than financial skill or education level. We know several people making well into the six figures in this area.

24: Title Insurance Provider / closer / salesperson – a mysterious industry with a high profit margin.

25: Fixing up Your Own House – With design sense and construction skills, you can move into a junker, renovate it efficiently, and sell it. If you live there longer than 2 years, the profit is tax free in the US. Eliminates most of the hassle of running a professional contracting business with fussy customers. Works best in the more expensive property markets so you do need roomates or spouse to pay the mortgage while you do the work, unless you already have savings to live on.

More Manual Jobs

26: Oil/Gas/Mining industry work – The energy boom in the US, Canada, Australia, and other places continues. In states with high demand, wages have risen far beyond average for people to run the equipment (and even higher for engineers and scientists able to run the overall operation). This story about the lad in Australia making $200,000 (and blowing it all) personifies the industry.

27: Wallpaper hanger – Sound antiquated? Think of hotels, what’s on most of their walls, and how often they renovate: From a reader: “I’ve been consistently pulling in anywhere between $400-$1000 per day for years now

28: Lady Mechanic/Garage owner – Mrs. MM suggested that today’s auto repair garages are generally male-oriented and clueless to the needs of a certain 50% of our drivers. Enter this Rosie’s Garage style of business that would combine full mechanical competence with a better understanding of how female vehicle owners would like to be treated. A very large niche market indeed!

29: HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) technician – furnaces and air conditioners (and their related ducting) are simple machines, but there are not many people in the trade. So the pay is high if you run your own little business.

30: Cable/Phone/Internet Installer: the larger companies subcontract this job out to independent contractors. Readers report that earnings can exceed $50k per year, especially in a growing metro area which tends to result in overtime or holiday work.

On the Road:

31: Truck Driver –  a grueling job at times, but the perpetual shortage of drivers has driven up rates. Bonus earnings if you own and maintain your own rig, and/or work in a remote or high-demand area (seek out the oil boom areas mentioned earlier and specialize in safely transporting drilling/mining equipment or piloting 300-ton rock trucks, for example).

32: Airport Shuttle Driver – on a recent trip to the airport, I got to talking with the Super Shuttle driver. A former electrician, he reported to me that all drivers are now independent contractors who own or lease their own blue vans. This fellow, with a mind for efficiency, was running a van with a smaller diesel engine and optimizing his routes and road selection. He also gives out free beverages and treats people well, which optimizes tip income. Earnings were over $100k per year.

 More Tech and Internet

33: User Interface Specialist – From a reader: ” In a nutshell, I make websites easy to use. I charge $80/hour, but will soon be raising that to $90. There are so few people who do what I do that I turn down about five offers for every project I accept.

34: Computer Technician – “You get a small roster of local business people who need their computers to work, and fix their minor Windows and networking issues. You can even branch into home theater and home automation, and the hotel and conference market. Geek Squad makes big bucks at this, but you can easily outperform them and charge $50-$100/hour”

35: IT Guy at the South Pole – the National Science Foundation contracts out workers in all fields to run the science labs on the bottom of the planet. In exchange for unusual conditions (-100F outdoor temperatures, months of blackness), you get free living with interesting people which allows you to reach the storied 100% savings rate. Honorable mention goes to this South Pole reader/photographer who sent me pictures of daily life in Antarctica. This concept can be applied elsewhere, even on tropical islands: live temporarily where your skills are in demand, get paid more, plus free living expenses.

36: Software Designer – Back in my day, the better jobs in this field required a full degree. Nowadays, you can prove your competence without one and get the same jobs at the more open-minded companies. This doesn’t mean it is easy – it takes a certain type of mind to be marketable at this, and a certain amount of practice on top of the base learning of the language itself. But for those with the prerequisites, Ryan Carson of Treehouse finds these sub-fields are in demand:

36(a)iPhone and Android app developers – Every big company needs phone and tablet apps developed to meet their own specifications. Or you can go it alone and bring your own ideas to fruition. A friend of mine is a tech worker by day, brilliant Ph.D. physicist by night. In his spare time he developed a beautiful iPad physics-based game where you get to shoot planets around each other. Occasionally, people buy it for 99 cents, and if your app catches on, it becomes a source of passive income. With the skills he developed making this game, he can now make other apps very quickly.

36(b) Web Developer- where you create the technology and algorithms that make websites work. Sort of a form of software design or programming.

37: Web Designer – where you create the beauty and functionality seen by users – more of an art/design job.

Catering to the Rich

This is a general category, because once you master the philosophy, you can apply it anywhere.

What do rich people have? Lots of income. What are they lacking? Time, and a supply of people to satisfy their numerous particular demands competently without screwing up.

If you can meet these needs, they will pass your name around the Rich Person Network of Friends and you are set for life.

38: Dog Walker – Four dogs at $15.00 per hour each. Walk around in the park for four hours a day and you’ve got a $50k job that is only half-time (and a great set of legs to show for it too).

39: Doggy Daycare or Pet Spa Owner – a natural extension of the Dog Walker. Dog owners need to go on vacation, and when they do, they pay hotel-like prices to have their pets cared for in their absence.

40: Frugality Consultant / Personal Shopper – I made this job up myself: Rich people spend more on groceries and wine alone than you spend on your whole lifestyle. What if you could run their errands, keep their pantry stocked, and coordinate maintenance of their mansions and vehicle fleets.. and yet save them more than they pay you in salary because you are an expert at efficient shopping, energy conservation, and maintenance? A valuable proposition if you can get your name into the right hands. I often fantasize about creating a “job” like this for myself in Hawaii or Malibu. Sydney would be nice too.

41: Interior Designer or Color Consultant – Here you get paid simply for having good taste and sharing it with others. Start by optimizing the homes of your own rich friends or family members, then getting them beautifully photographed. Then get the portfolio out into the network of high-end home builders and their customers. I have met several of these people and envied their relaxing and profitable jobs.

42: At-home Waxing, Haircuts, Massage, or Spa treatments – who has time to go out to a strip mall to get their pampering these days? Take the business to the customers.

43: The Pooper Scooper – from a reader: cleaning up the back yards of wealthy dog owners pays about $1.00 per minute. Not a glamorous job, but more efficient than flipping burgers for one tenth the pay rate.

People Jobs

44: Salesperson – a general category to be sure, but it pays well if you have the right skills and select the right industry. One hot area today: finding placements for consultants in the software and technology industry. Sales is a dream job for some, hell for others.

45: Debt Collector – hassle late payers over the telephone, collect commissions. I would not have guessed that this pays well, but a reader reported that it is fairly lucrative.

46: Private Tutor – whether teaching younger children or college students, this is an area where solid knowledge of a useful field, and a comfortable manner with people, are what determines your pay. But this rate is usually much higher than $25 per hour.


47: Ebay/Craigslist / Etsy / Freecycle / Kijiji Reseller – If you know the value of a certain product, you can identify undervalued items when they go up for sale. In my case, this might be appliances. By spending five minutes per day scanning new listings (or setting up automated alerts), I could scoop underpriced appliances and buy them immediately.. then re-sell them at a large profit. Bonus points if you have the ability to repair or refurbish things. Better photography and marketing also increases your resale price.

48: Food Truck Owner – the age-old mobile food vendor is back in vogue these days, but with a gourmet twist. By getting your food and your image right, you can develop a cult following in an area and clear $1000 per day in gross sales from a single vehicle. Enormous bonus if you can set up your truck in an area anywhere near a tour bus stop, then get the word out to the tour operators.

49: Boutique Organic Farmer – with the rise of “Foodies”, and big agribusiness companies like ConAgra and Monsanto rightfully deep in the public relations gutter, there is a now a lot of money flowing to people who can produce healthy food locally in high-income areas. In Colorado, I know two entrepreneurs who sell things like organic basil, eggs, and heirloom tomatoes to fancy people and gourmet restaurants, and make more money than either of us doing it. Startup costs were surprisingly low, but you do need to know how to grow.

49.5: Medical Marijuna Grower – in states where this is legal, it is a lucrative field. Competition is growing, but the window of opportunity is still open since many of the early success stories were potheads rather than business people. If you meticulously study and comply to the laws and efficiently grow the fast-growing plants, this is a $100k job out of a single basement.

50: The Military – formerly a mysterious field to me, I learned more about this when living in Hawaii last winter, where many high incomes are derived from the large US bases in the area.  Far from the usual stereotype of a bunch of musclebound guys with guns, the US military is in reality just the world’s largest high-tech company. Most of the jobs are related to circulating enormous amounts of technology, people, information, and equipment around the world. So there is far more engineering and office work than there is shooting and jet piloting. Pay and benefits are generous, especially if you can get assigned to a post far away from where you originally lived, thus scoring a tax-free housing allowance. Or get the fully funded university education that comes as part of some contracts. And that’s before we even get to the part where you work for 20 years and then qualify for a plentiful pension and free healthcare for life afterwards. It’s not easy and there is the chance of danger, but it is a real career.

We’re up to 50, and I didn’t even get to the end of the list submitted by family, friends and readers. The field of Alternative Moneymaking really is a big one, but hopefully these examples serve to illustrate the general theme.

To earn more money, you just need to identify one of the many showers of cash that are spraying in this prosperous but inefficient world, then position yourself under it with a bucket. Starting a new business can be risky, but if you do it from a position of strength (minimal startup costs, a day job, and a low personal cost of living), your chances are much better.

Further Reading: some of the ideas above were from Tyler Tervooren, the chief “Professor” at Advanced Riskology. I enjoy his blog because the stories and philosophy revolve around kicking ass at life in general through diligent risk-taking, which is exactly the right way to approach job hunting.

  • Glen June 5, 2014, 5:14 am

    Great article MMM! I chose public safety mixed with online business. I work two or three days a week as a firefighter with pension after 25 years then do part-time internet consulting. The BS our kids hear about a 4 year degree is difficult to fight against, I have been trying to convince my kids to go unconventional with little success, but the Internet has opened so many opportunities for me with zero training and a lot of on the job/learn it myself experiences. I love your blog.

  • Meg July 2, 2014, 10:20 am

    I’ll add a high demand field that has strong pay, demand and longevity, and is challenging and rewarding.
    Government Contract Management

    If you enjoy business and want to be in a sector that has solid resiliency and intellectual challenge, welcome to the world of government contracts. Both the private and public side of the house staff this role and need someone who has good business acumen, strong analytical and negotiation skills, reason, and logic. Plus, you’ll have the added sense of purpose that you are putting your own tax dollars to work and working to make sure that the government is getting value for its money.

    This is a high demand field in the Washington, DC area and throughout the country with salaries for top people well into the six figures. Yes, contracts come and go, but the US Government is always in business and the business of buying for and selling to the US government continues to grow.

  • ecmcn August 21, 2014, 6:11 pm

    Don’t forget my dream job from childhood: Live-in private security for a millionaire’s Hawaiian vacation home. You may have to put up with a couple of aggressive dogs and a cantankerous caretaker (who’s actually the owner?!?), but you’ll get to drive a Ferrari and likely have a friend with his own helicopter. Luckily the main qualification is a mustache!

  • RB September 4, 2014, 2:25 am

    I’m a magician performing at parties. My income is about $130k a year. I only actually physically work about 15 days a month, and on a busy day am only working for 4 hours in that day. I never wake up with an alarm. :)

  • Rena November 10, 2014, 7:59 pm


    Can someone please do the math for tutoring? I’m a native English speaker teaching ESL in a French-speaking part of the world, and I work for an agency that gets me 30$/h . Saves me a bit of legwork as I don’t have to run around too many sites, but even then, it’s pretty tough for me to fit in more than 25 hours of teaching per week. And there’s slow seasons where, for about 4 months of the year, it’s tough for me to make more than 1500$.

    Way under 50000 k!!

  • EricJ December 19, 2014, 5:22 am

    One comment on you military portion. Health care is not free for retired military, granted it currently runes me about $175 a month including dental. But it is not free. The housing allowance is only if you are eligible to live off the installation which most soldiers can not for the first few years. The military is a good one but it sucks for the first 5 years or so.

  • Marybeth February 21, 2015, 12:34 am

    Clarification on real estate commissions. Your math is correct that if an average house sells for $200,000 & you sell 9 that the average commission would be around 3% and equal $54,000/year. But, the agent does not get that. The agent has to split that with the broker/owner and the split can be anywhere from 50%-75% depending on the agents sales volume & years of experience in the business (each million you sell usually bumps you up) So in your scenario the agent would have to sell 13-18 houses to get $54,000/yr. According to National Association of Realtors and the U.S. News Report, there are approximately 1.5-2 million actively licensed agents in the U.S.A. with the income range from $21,000-$98,000 and median $39,000-$45,000. Keeping in mind a real estate agent is considered self-employed and so has to pay for health insurance, retirement/social security, taxes, vacations & many business cost out of that stated income. Also these days agents are expected to have competitive technology at home with printers, computers, camera or smartphones, electronic lock boxes, etc. whereas our broker use to only have that expense. Some higher end agents have assistants they have to pay. There are also membership dues to real estate boards locally & nationally at around $1,000-$1,500/yr. But, I will admit my advertising cost are much less thanks to the internet. There also is the cost of “image” with car, clothing, & socializing. I have been doing it for 29 years and during the housing market crash I had to get another job for 5 yrs. to do with the real estate until market improved. The profitable agent uses their time wisely, chooses clients carefully and better have excellent people skills or employ an assistant who does. The flexible hours allowed me to do full-time parenting activities with my kids while also being able to service clients full-time. I also like that the job has many areas you can specialize in & you can form a niche for yourself based on your hobbies or interest. The industry encourages community service & socializing at a variety of levels which is rewarding & fun. You can earn $50,000 working 40 hrs. a week if you work wisely, but many cost have to be deducted from your earnings from being an independent contractor.

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 23, 2015, 9:03 am

      Thanks for the feedback, Marybeth.

      I have heard that same explanation from many real estate agents, so in 2008 we decided to conduct an experiment to see if we could work around those constraints:

      – Mrs. MM got her own real estate license
      – She worked for the minimum two years for an employing broker, then immediately branched out to become independent.
      – She is not a member of the “REALTOR(r)” lobbying group, and just maintains the minimum certifications to remain licensed (maybe $200/year)
      – Absolutely no image spending – she rides an old cruiser bike to showings and wears jeans. She also only accepts business within cycling distance of home.
      – BUT she does the work where it counts: instant response to emails and insanely precise and thorough contract and negotiation work.

      Result: she keeps almost 100% of commissions, has to turn down 95% of potential business because there are more customers than she needs, and she works only when she wants.

      I’d highly recommend this approach for any real estate agent.

  • Lee February 21, 2015, 5:20 pm

    This one might have the potential to earn too much money to even be on this list, but anyway, it is an interesting read. I read all these comments once upon a time, but I acant remember now if high end dumpster diving was mentioned or not.


  • Tim March 16, 2015, 12:01 pm

    Yep mining is definitely an awesome way to become financially independent if you are sensible. But it is very difficult to get into without a lot of luck and persistence unless you have a friend or relative already in the industry.

    I work as a truck driver in an Australian mine and earned AUD 150k last year. But it is a boom and bust industry so that will not last forever. However it is a golden opportunity for me to get my fuck you money together through earning big and spending small and that is exactly what I am doing.

  • elisha April 25, 2015, 3:17 pm

    Actually, you can’t be an interior designer without a degree. You are a decorator. There is a difference. The designer needs to know about all the building regulations, etc. they usually have drafting experience and design classes. The decorator just has great taste and a natural eye.

  • FT June 26, 2015, 2:29 pm

    My husband has the first few skills in this 50-job list. He has combined them become a general handyman. Unlike most handyman, he is available for small half-day or one-day jobs.

    This can be very lucrative. You can gross $60/hour with just a little marketing and networking. Of course, you don’t start at that rate; but it is a field where you can get paid to learn. You could work for another handyman for 5-10 years, making twice the income of a a typical college grad and quietly amassing your own inventory of tools as you go.

    Of course, there’s lots of overhead in this business. There’s insurance, time spent pricing jobs, licensing (in some states), your truck and your tools, your work clothes, and so on. If you want to *net* $60 per hour, you’ll need more than just a Craigslist ad. Do lots of networking, get a good website, and so on. You’re going into your client’s home, so they have to trust you. There are lots of shoddy, stoned handymen out there; set yourself apart by being friendly, punctual and clean-cut.

    You also need to live in a place where people don’t know how to do anything. In other words, you won’t get much work if you live in a rural area where everyone fixes their own houses.

  • Rob Hess January 3, 2016, 2:53 pm

    I think it’s a mistake to think any well-paying job/business that doesn’t require college/university graduation also doesn’t require years of training and hard work to be successful.

    Here’re my comments about the suggestion that there’s not much involved in starting a small repair shop or garage, in case it helps anyone avoid a whole lot of pain… I think they apply to a whole range of businesses.

    I’m a licensed, journeyman (which means I did a registered 4 year apprenticeship with an older mechanic) marine engine mechanic with 30 years experience & about $60,000 in hand tools (a mechanic without his own tools is just a shop helper). I’ve worked for somebody else for 10 years, however I had my own business for 12 years (Vancouver) specialising in sailboats with inboard engines, as well as a marine engine rebuilding business. The only trainee mechanics that could be trusted to do the work properly without full-time supervision were young men who were already actively reading everything they could find find about engines, had their own basic set of well-used, good-quality tools, AND we’re constantly working on the engines of their own vehicles on their own time (the best ones ALWAYS had one or more fast motorcycles in various stages of disassembly and a dream of going racing). The ones that showed up for an interview with long hair, tattoos, sandals or flipflops, weird earings/piercings, an ipod around their neck, or short pants, didn’t get hired at all (if you want to get hired as a mechanic you need to look like one… which applies to most jobs).

    After we hired a new apprentice or mechanic and he’d shown up for work on time for about a week, without asking for time off or a pay advance, we’d give them an engine service manual on Friday and tell them to read a specific section over the weekend (usually the valve adjustment procedure in a Yanmar diesel manual… which is written by an engineer). If they forgot to read it, or they read it but they couldn’t explain how to adjust the valves on a Yanmar diesel first thing Monday morning we let them go right away. Sad-to-say most high school graduates these days can’t read and understand a technical manual (they may get into university but they’ll never make it as mechanics, although they may be able to keep a job at Mr. Lube).

    To start an engine repair business in most of the US and all of Canada you need a mechanic with a provincial/state government license (either you or an employee) to legally work on cars or motorcycles & so you can hire apprentices & trainees (you don’t need a license to work on boats or small engines).
    You need a business license ($250+/year), liability insurance ($4000+/year), shop fire & theft insurance ($1000+/year), shop equipment/tools/shelving($5000+) & a workshop in an area zoned for commercial/industrial ($500+/month depending on size). You can’t work out of your house for long without risking big trouble.

    Either you need an-house book-keeper, or one nearby, that will do the books weekly and prepare the monthly tax forms so you can pay them on time every month ($300+/month) along with the bi-weekly payroll, and then do the annual tax forms/profit-loss statements at the end of the fiscal year ($500+). Plus you then have to pay the income tax!

    If you’re the mechanic then you need somebody who knows what they’re talking about to answer the phone and man the counter so you can get some billable work done, or you need to hire a mechanic ($60000+/year) and do it yourself. You can try doing the books yourself using some goofy computer program if you don’t have a life outside work and you don’t sleep.

    Most small shops fail after a few years of struggling because the owner was never properly trained to manage a business and make a profit, and/or they have a seriously unhappy customer who wants his money back and wins in court.

  • Katie Estelle January 5, 2016, 8:57 am

    I am a social worker by day, in the field of child welfare, and make $31,500 in Michigan. I filmed a friend’s wedding as a gift this past year and decided that I could turn my newfound skill into a side job. I booked 5 weddings this fall at $600 a pop and have increased my most popular package up a couple of hundred dollars to $800, since I’m just starting out and my lower prices seem to be what seals the deal for people. I already booked 8 weddings for this year and it’s barely January. I’ll be making $6400 off those alone and will undoubtedly book more weddings in the meantime. If someone were to do this full time and charge for packages that range from $1000-$2000 per wedding, especially if they live somewhere that doesn’t have such a set wedding season as Michigan does, they could easily pull in 50k per year.

  • Helene January 8, 2016, 8:45 am

    Personal trainer is one that was missed on your list. Some basic certifications and a lot of self-learning/curiosity/personal experience/easy-going personality can make one an excellent personal trainer, especially with all the baby boomers retiring and wanting to stay strong and healthy.

    Another one: personal chef for those who work. If you enjoy cooking and can get even just 4-5 families/clients, it will pay for your own food throughout the year. You would just have to make greater quantities of your own meal. Assuming those clients have the same food tastes as you of course!

  • Cameron April 12, 2016, 10:09 pm

    Did gap-year English teaching in Japan in the 90s which paid 5000 yen per hour, minimum. I only needed to work 12 hours per week to make ends meet (played, partied and learned the language in the other hours), but met heaps of gaijin there saving for house deposits for when they returned to their homeland.

  • ElbowWilham April 19, 2016, 11:27 pm

    I saved money from working in the Mortgage industry pre 2005 and started a Wireless Internet Service Provider. You find a rural area that doesn’t have access to DSL or Cable. Hook up to a fiber optic provider, build a tower and start offering high speed wireless. It’s hard work and you have to be on call for outages, but I love it and it has made me rich. After about 200-300 customers you start making good money. If you offer a good service at a reasonable price, they will pay you every month forever.

    No degree required. I switched majors in College 5 times and never graduated.

  • Colin May 2, 2016, 7:17 pm

    Having worked in an oil boomtown for 2 years, I can confirm that during the peak 1 out of 2 guys was pulling down 6 figures, and nearly everyone drover a newly leased pickup. Virtually nobody, at least among the pipe-wrench turning crowd, saved any of it. I had one buddy who lost his job during the crash, and decided to visit family in California for a few weeks before returning to look for another job. He had to borrow money to come back despite earning 12k per month only weeks prior. Truly mind-boggling.

  • Anonymous May 22, 2016, 9:22 am

    I spent a few hours reading all the great comments, knowing full well “my little secret” wouldn’t be on the list, and for good reasons I both want to keep it that way and yet tell the world.

    My wife and I are foster care providers to children who have had tremendous trauma, abuse and neglect in their lives. We retired from “other lives”, we own a big home near a great school, and already have retirements / pensions.

    Our foster children are classed as “Therapeutic Foster Placements”, and subsequently are funded at a higher funding level than regular foster care placements.

    Tell the world: There are thousands of children who need someone to love and care for them, no degree necessary!

    Keep it a secret: The reimbursement we receive is utterly tax free, and ours is $70.00 per child per day, 365 days a year. We have four children that we provide long term care for. We are “reimbursed” $102,200.00 a year. Yes, we spend a lot of it showing these beautiful children how good life can be, and providing for basics too. We “vacation” as a family, and they’ve probably more experienced and been loved more than they could know.

    It’s taboo to talk about compensation in the foster care sphere, and clearly no one should ever do this for the money, but as retired couple these children have brought real purpose to our lives while our own retirement money just adds up like a silent green army. Yes, there are down sides, but we love (and value) what we do.

    • Megan April 12, 2017, 10:03 am

      Wow this is something I never knew existed? Does it vary by state? How does someone get involved in something like that?

  • CG June 30, 2016, 10:03 pm

    I read a report today from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce on job growth and the current job market since the recession, and it made me think of this article. This article is great for getting us to think outside the box and realize there are options out there, and I can attest to making your own way, and in my own life I have a degree in music but I am employed as a web developer – self taught. However, I think it’s also important to understand the box, and in this case, trends are not in favor of those with only a high school diploma. I think in a political climate where certain candidates choose to blame immigrants for taking jobs away, (both here and overseas where we’ve seen Brexit happening), it is really important to understand that the nature of jobs themselves is changing, and that the recession saw a loss for unskilled jobs that have not returned, while skilled jobs have grown. The future of our workforce is going to be increasingly more demanding of specialized skills and training, and in general just critical thinking skills. I think we as a nation need to address the issues of cost of higher education and whether we choose to make it a priority to invest in, even while individually Mustachians can look at their skill sets and work ethic and risk tolerance and decide to take a dive into new ways of earning money without a degree. We can’t have a victim mentality in either direction, either individually or as a nation. Otherwise we’ll end up spending money on… oh say… a giant wall… instead of higher education. I would be curious as to your thoughts on the report.

    Here is a link to the report: https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/americas-divided-recovery/
    “The post-Great Recession economy has divided the country along a fault line demarcated by college education. For those with at least some college education, the job market is robust. The economy has added 11.6 million jobs since the recession bottomed out — 11.5 million, or 99 percent of them, have gone to workers with at least some college education. By contrast, workers with a high school diploma or less hear about an economic recovery and wonder what people are talking about. Of the 7.2 million jobs lost in the recession, 5.6 million were jobs for workers with a high school diploma or less.”

  • Tracy September 18, 2016, 1:12 am

    I was working in retail sales, hourly + commission & doing very well ($50k). However, my employer was bought out & our shop shuttered. Five days afterwards, I was involved in a car-totaling accident. I was a single mum w/ two kids in high school. Suddenly I had no job & no car!

    I sought out & was accepted into a gov’t program providing a stipend + paperwork help for 12 months to get my own business going. I earned a certificate IV in small business management whilst researching & writing my business plan & getting things started. Mind you, I’m not even from AU (a US to AU migrant only a few years prior).

    I’m now working from home as an I.T. consultant after studying, on my own. This is my fourth year & have tipped the scales at mostly referral business. I specialize in residential clients only (my “niche”), & work every day (tho generally most folks don’t ring on the weekend).

    So, you can do it, but it might be some time before you start to see ends being met. We all wear tight-belts- lol. I also have two kids I have to support as they make their way through uni…. I might not get as far as some as I’m stating late (now in my 50’s) but I’m already a lot happier working from home & setting my own hours/schedule/being available for my kids.


  • Craig December 23, 2016, 11:47 am

    In the creative fields:

    Theater musician. with the right gigs, this is pretty lucrative, even for those of us who are not virtuosos. Joining the pit orchestra for a university production of a musical I made $700 for about 20hours of work. I think the general rate per call at the storefront level is $50/ 4hrs, but I’ve also done one off gigs for $100 for just one call. being able to sight read music is key.

    Church musician. A friend sings in choirs in Chicago. He started at a couple smaller churches recommended by his voice teacher which paid maybe $50 a call, but is now singing for the archdiocese at often $125 per call. The right church can also have a lot of weddings, funerals, and formal services creating a lot of demand, plus (outside of practicing) he’s generally only busy with this for one rehearsal on thursdays and then about 4 hours of work on Sundays, freeing him up to take other choir gigs or teach singing lessons, or whatever else. He’s applying in the spring for a gig in minneapolis that pays $60k/year with benefits…same working hours as the church in Chicago.

    Cover band. again, if you can read music and shred you can make a couple hundred bucks a night. I’ve heard legend that one of the bands hired for upscale corporate events in Chicago charges several thousand for a night. Get enough gigs and you can skip the rehearsals because you’re getting paid every night to play the material.

    Rock musician. not a superstar, just hard working. done strategically you can actually earn some money doing this. Again, if you’re good at reading and you have the chops it’s an easy thing to jump in to new bands that are paying for a fill in for one night. But also by selling merch and selling out your gigs you can actually make some cash (just don’t squander it at the bar). Generally $100 a call to fill-in or for studio work (and this is on the “amateur” circuit). There’s always a cut of the door to the venue, but it’s usually they’ll pull a $100 minimum and the bands cash out on top of that. Larger venues have a larger minimum, but if you’re smart you won’t play larger venues, you’ll just sell out the small ones so the talent buyer invites you back. From the door alone we’ve made $250 for 75 people through on a wednesday night. If you move product (maybe 15 recordings at $5/each) that’s another $75 (some nights we did name your price…especially when we jumped on a show from a group that we knew we could “steal fans”…and sold a few cds for $50, over all making close to $300 off of only 10 discs). Also, you save money on rehearsal space by playing more gigs.

    Most musicians I know work as teachers, pit musicians or chorusters, and perform in cover bands and rock bands. Also day jobs…but either way, if you do music with the intent of making money and you are up front with people about that expectation, you will get paid.

  • ADeafGuy February 2, 2017, 7:20 pm

    I have a question…

    What can a deaf man do in order to get a job at $20/$25 an hour with minimal schooling? I have looked into the plumbing profession, will be inquiring at a local union for this, and find out more information. So far, I have not been able to get in touch with someone yet; though an email has been sent.

    I work two jobs, go to college full-time, and I’m trying to find a way to balance my life, work, and earning more $$$. It’s not enough as I need to downsize the number of jobs working and start thinking of expanding my own rates as well as improving the quality of living than the one I’m in now.

  • DLcygnet February 15, 2017, 2:22 pm

    I’m rather curious to see the rest of the list your friends & family submitted. Any chance you’ll make a follow up post? Has inflation increased the number of jobs over $50K?

  • Dana March 12, 2017, 9:52 am

    I like both lists but would add medical fields; Radiologic Technologist (X-ray), Surgical Technician, etc. The pay rate depends on the state and hospital system you work and there is plenty of room to grow into different modalities (CT, MRI, US, Mammography). To obtain your certification in these fields you don’t necessarily need a degree but a certification from an accredited school which qualifies you to sit for your national board exam.

  • Dorothy March 20, 2017, 8:46 pm

    Stumbled upon here as I am active duty military getting medically separated, and since it’s been 11 years since I’ve had to write a resume, well, research is needed. Lots of good ideas on here, and then I see you’ve listed the military. On the one hand, it can be fairly lucrative. However, I feel the need to point out that I don’t hit 11 years as an E-5 until May, and my pay last year was a whopping $37k. Enlisted doesn’t make nearly enough to offset the hours you’ll put in, both at work and ‘off-duty’, the stress, and how badly you will break yourself trying to do the best you possibly can to take care of your troops and your work.
    In a nutshell, I would recommend that you include that the military enlisted is a very stressful career, and that officers make far better money. A first year second lieutenant makes damn near as much as I do at 11 years.

    • Tony August 30, 2019, 4:11 pm

      Can I ask how you’re making so little? I’m E-6 with 9 years in and I’m bringing in $80k+ a year after taxes.

  • Randy April 15, 2017, 10:55 pm

    I drive for a major us trucking company my particular job starts at 61500 a year with benifits .in the chicago area they start at 72k a year . Also after 6 months with the company they have a tuition reimbursement plan and promote drivers into management . Also i dont stay on the road weeks at a time working crazy hours we are talking overnights or home everyday with full weekends off.

  • Alan April 29, 2017, 12:11 am

    I know this comment is 4 years late, but, with regards to truck driving, I’ve read about and heard first hand too many stories about truck drivers (owner operators) getting f*cked by dispatchers. These companies are squeezed, and they squeeze down the line, and after hauling a load across the country guys often don’t get paid or are forced to accept less than agreed upon because of things outside of their control. Some guys take on a loan on their rig, and once they’re locked in get exploited. Not a job I would recommend to anyone.

  • Julie August 4, 2017, 12:42 pm

    You are confusing the jobs of ‘interior designer’ and ‘interior decorator’. Interior Designers do require an education (although not always a degree – depending on location) and they are required to understand construction methods, building code and health and safety requirements. Just “having good taste” as you put it, is a very small portion of the scope of this job and saying that belittles a career that involves a lot of years of training, education and experience. An Interior Designer is much closer in role to an Architect than to a Color Consultant.

  • David June 6, 2018, 6:29 am

    I’ve been painting for over 12 years. I stay busy seven days a week. But staying busy does not mean I am making money. In only one year, 2017, have I ever managed to bring home $2000 a month in take home pay. I’ve been well below that in all previous years. Painting is a terrible business to be in. My recommendation is never go into the painting business. Flee!!!

  • Stephanie October 26, 2018, 9:42 am

    I have a few comments about the haircutting, waxing etc. in people’s homes suggestion. In most states you have to have a license that requires training and testing from your state board to perform these services. In many states it is illegal to give services in people’s homes. There are laws covering mobil services.

  • Last Ditch Laura April 23, 2019, 4:16 pm

    I stumbled upon the eBay / Etsy reseller thing a number of years ago. Lots of people don’t do well with it, but if you think contrary to others and sell things other people don’t even think of selling (things that are odd, ugly, whatever), there can be an excellent market, high prices, and you can pick up the items for next to nothing.

  • Tony August 30, 2019, 4:07 pm

    I’m really surprised you mentioned the military career. Not a lot of people ever reference that. But yes, you are very correct, it is not the stereotypical infantryman or pilot. There are jobs for people with and without degrees, with work in technology, intelligence, supply, welding, plumbing, AC repair, aviation mechanic, the list goes on. The pay and benefits are great, with half your income sometimes being tax free, or all of it depending on where you go. Medical, although not always the best, is completely free for you and your family. You’ll transfer every few years, but that could be a good thing if you like to see new places. Overall, a good career choice but not for everyone.


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