Why you don’t need a college degree

Here are plenty of careers you don’t need a college degree to pursue.

First, let’s figure out what you’re good at.

If you enjoy physical activity…

Welder: Teach yourself metalworking online and practice on some cheap materials. Print flyers, offer welding services (and show some examples!) to wealthy homeowners for $50/hour.

Electrician: Community colleges offer cheap classes to get licensed as an electrician. After that, your time is worth about $60/hour.

Carpenter: Teach yourself basic carpentry online or at community college. Print flyers offering to do basic stuff for free in a middle/upper-class neighborhood. Once they trust you, charge $50–70/hour for all future work.

Plumber: People tend to call plumbers by looking them up at the moment of an emergency — so find an apprenticeship working for $10–20/hour, and eventually start your own plumbing service at $70–90/hour.

If you enjoy working online…

Publishing: Write eBooks and publish them on Amazon. Romance is the most popular genre, but there’s plenty of money to be made writing books about healthy eating, finance, self-improvement, etc.

Blogger: Write short articles (like this one!) and publish them on WordPress, Medium, Tumblr, or any other blogging platform. Pick a niche (like Personal Finance, or Baking!) you’re interested in, otherwise it’ll show.

T-Shirt Designer: Create T-shirt designs using stock photos and free images on sites like Teespring. You’ll earn an average of $4–5 profit on each sale without investing anything except time.

Podcasting: Create a Podcast about a topic you’re interested in — like blogging, but in audio form. You may need to find guests to talk with, unless your voice is just that good.

Writing: Freelance writing on sites like Upwork can earn decent money — but beware, there are thousands of people willing to provide low-quality writing for less than minimum wage. In order to stand out, you’ll need to “sell yourself” — who are you, samples of your writing, etc. You don’t need real credentials — people can judge good writing by looking at it.

Youtube: Like blogging and podcasting, find a niche you’re interested in and make high-quality content. You’ll need some video editing skills and software — but hey, you can learn how to do that on YouTube!

Note that with most online businesses, particularly blogging, podcasting, and youtube, there’s a 95% chance that you’ll make basically no money — and have no audience — for the first six months after starting out. You’ll need a plan to grow your audience once you’ve got some content up and running, and often that means “shouting it from the streets” across the internet — share your posts/videos/episodes on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and every popular site related to your niche. But don’t sound too thirsty — people can tell.

If you’re outgoing and don’t mind “selling”:

Real Estate Agent: You can make a killing on commissions if you’ve got the right persuasive demeanor. You’ll need a license — a two month course should do it for around $1,000. You only need to sell one house a month to make a good salary as a real estate agent. That means the other 30 houses you show never go anywhere — so don’t be discouraged by a “failure rate” of 90%.

Sales: Degrees are nearly irrelevant in most Sales careers. You need domain knowledge — about the properties, software, products, or services you’re selling, and an outgoing — and sales-y — attitude. If you have that, you can work your way up any Sales ladder on the backs of your raw numbers. Working more hours — and selling more — pays off in Sales commissions more than any other industry.

If you do well with structure and discipline:

U.S. Military: Seriously, the military is a great starting point for most careers. Most members of the military have nothing to do with combat operations — we’re talking about the world’s largest organization. You can perform almost any function — and they’ll test you to find out what you’re good at — gaining valuable experience for a future career. You can even work towards a college degree while serving, and Uncle Sam will pick up most of the tab. You can become a private contractor, join the CIA, FBI, or NSA, or work in any number of industries valuing high levels of security clearance — like Boeing.

What I *don’t* recommend:

If you have creative ambitions — wanting to become an author, screenwriter, singer, musician, or actor — there’s a good chance you’re doomed to fail. If you spend 6 months writing a novel without any prior experience, your chances of getting a publishing deal are probably less than 1%. Publishing your creative work online in small doses to validate the existence of your audience is the way to go. If you want to be a writer, write short stories and publish them online. Do people love your stuff? Expand on it, and include evidence of your audience in your pitch emails to publishers. Same goes with acting — try YouTube first — and most other creative professions these days. Don’t move to New York and try to get on Broadway. Don’t move to LA and try to audition for movies. I mean, you can, but for most people it doesn’t work out and they end up making $10/hour at a shitty job they hate, always dreaming of the future.