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?

  • Fiona July 29, 2013, 5:42 pm

    Here’s another occupation that is pretty well paying and does not require a degree: Paramedic. The salary varies throughout the country, but in a metropolitan area you can start in the high 40k’s for someone with no experience. This can quickly be bumped up with overtime, and in my area (Washington D.C) it is not unusual for someone who has been in the profession for several years to earn over 120k (regular salary plus overtime). The overtime is easy to come by because we always have a shortage of people. By the time we get new folks trained fully, we have more positions that are available. Unlike an office job, the position can not just be absorbed by other employees. We are mandatory employees and each position has to be filled every day. Also worth noting: the benefits are pretty good for government employees.

  • David July 29, 2013, 7:36 pm

    I’m so glad you mentioned how the vocational skills go wanting for workers. I myself went to one year of vocational school and I am doing much better than most college graduates.

    If you want to get a job easily and be in demand focus on those hands on jobs Mr. Money Moustache mentioned. Everybody else has been brainwashed into thinking college is where the action is. Not. Maybe 20 years ago. College is a business and they make you pay to believe you are smart. It’s quite an ego trip.

    And yet another day has gone by and I did not use algebra. :)

  • Philip Ogren July 29, 2013, 9:12 pm

    Here’s a suggestion for future and current under-employed college grads. Check out Mayo’s school of health related sciences:


    Not all of them fit the constraints of the blog post’s title, but there are several that do.

  • R.A. July 29, 2013, 10:41 pm

    Court reporter! No degree required. Certification required to write 200 words per minute at 97% accuracy (give or take, depending on the state). Some states have no certification requirements, but that severely limits earning capability. Training takes from two to four years in general. I did both community college and court reporting trade school. Trade school was much better!

    It’s a really amazing career that focuses on new technology, new venue every day (depositions in law firms), new legal cases every day (many of which you hear about on the news). The only downside is we don’t get to see how the cases resolve most of the time.

    I’m never bored, and the money is great. Three days a week in the field doing depositions, and I make $85,000 a year. On track for $95,000 this year, and that’s with three good vacations so far this year. I could up my income even more, but I like my down time. Add more certs and up your skill level to earn even more.

    The best part is this field needs new recruits like crazy. Smart ones that like technology, have a client-focused attitude and are willing to work hard for great pay.

  • Mike Rowell July 29, 2013, 11:17 pm

    You forgot stenographer! Court reporters don’t need college degrees (though we do attend vocational programs with some academic courses); we just need to pass our licensing exams, and away we go! :) I enrolled in a court reporting school in October of 2007, and by December of 2009, I obtained a national certification and one specific to the state I work in, and I was reporting my first paying proceedings.

  • mediocre mustache July 30, 2013, 5:58 am

    I’ve been looking forward to a post about this for a good, long time. I was so excited to see it, because I am keenly interested in changing careers and finding what would be a plausable move.

    Inspired by a few of your better jobs, I thought up some that were similar:

    You mentioned being an ‘intersting idea man.’ I love the Tim Ferris books, and figure that perhaps up to 10 people might make a living in such a field. I’ve got a better career path: professional football or basketball player. At least hundreds might be employeed in such fields. To boot, the majority of these professional athletes have either no college, or are college dropouts, so don’t let the degree-thing stop you. If friends or family tell you you can’t do it, tell them that you will practice the power of optimism.

    You also mentioned being a writer. It worked well for JK Rowling, and how tough could that be? My idea: What do Maculy Caulkin, the Olsen Twins, and Jonathon Lipnicki all have in common? You guessed it, parents! Put your kids into show-business. Now you are set for life.

    One more for the road: Lottery winner. I’d guess that 90%+ of lottery winners have no degree at all. Some might say that you have to have incredible luck to win the lottery; I call those people complainy-pants.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 30, 2013, 6:37 am

      Your luck continues, Mediocre! The post I wrote immediately after this one addresses complaints exactly like yours: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/07/28/you-can-spare-us-both-the-outrage/

      In more seriousness, it’s all in the numbers. Do you have to be JK Rowling to make $50k as a writer? No, you need to be her to make literally BILLIONS as a writer. There are hundreds of thousands of writers you’ve never heard of that do just fine.

      Teeny-tiny internet guru? MUCH easier than you think.. you just haven’t heard of many of these people because it doesn’t take a big fan base to make a good living. In my weird position as an internet writer now, I have run across many more of these people. (Tim Ferriss sits at the top of the heap because of his books.. and makes many millions per year as a result, not just the thousands we’re talking about here).

      Professional athletes? A much smaller field, requiring a rarer form of genetic gift up-front and more hard work on the back-end to get into that job.

      What you’re doing here, is knocking some ideas you probably don’t know much about.

  • Stachian July 30, 2013, 8:53 am

    I would like to add several different kinds of call-center jobs that pay $50k + specifically collections, I have worked in collections for 2 different banks, I never made less than $50k doing it, and sometimes as much as $65k, no degree or specific experience required, just be good with people on the phone and be persistent.

    Also, after 10 years I finally finished my associates degree in Computer Information Systems while working in the IT business, my salary is 100k+ and I charge $150/hour for side consulting. (degree irrelevant, that was just a personal goal of mine) So there’s that option too.

  • cptacek July 30, 2013, 10:18 am

    I’ve heard that selling fireworks can be very lucrative. There is a guy in Wichita that has multiple brick and mortar stores just to sell fireworks, and though I don’t know how much he makes, I know he has a private airplane. Order product in August, get inventory in May/June and sell in July/August. I think he has expanded to also sell Halloween costumes.

    For the fireworks, I also think he “partners” with non-profit groups (school groups like cheerleaders/FFA/band, or other groups) where they do the selling in small towns, he lets them keep 10% of the sales, and he doesn’t have to pay for labor or a building or anything. They provide labor and a place to sell it, and if they lose or ruin any, they are on the hook for it. Kind of a bad deal for the non-profit groups when you think about it. But he makes a boat load.

  • mark burrows July 30, 2013, 10:30 am

    Another profession in which there are fewer people available than needed, is audio/visual. I’m not talking about the home stereo system setup people but the A/V tech that works for (mostly) medical conferences at hotels (pharmaceutical companies seem to have no end of money to pay out). I freelance out at a minimum $35 an hour but could make more if I choose to live in a large city instead of small town Colorado where it’s a three hour drive to Denver International Airport. If you can pay attention, enjoy making things work and like being with people it’s a great gig.

    Once you’ve established yourself you can charge more and get paid to travel.

  • Nikki July 30, 2013, 12:16 pm

    My brother works on the power lines (called a lineman) and consistently makes nearly what I make or more each year – only he didn’t go to undergrad and then law school! He works his rear off but has flexibility to live just about anywhere and always has opportunities to pick up extra work if he wants it when storms roll through in the summer months.

    • Glen August 25, 2016, 10:05 pm

      When I was working as a temp for the local power utility back in 2002, one of the linemen mentioned that he had been working A LOT of overtime, but he was over $250,000 for the year. This was right after Easter.

      • Javahead August 26, 2016, 7:30 pm

        I think lineman work runs so high for a number of reasons – requires specialized training, high risk of potential injury, often-unpleasant working conditions, and high demand to supply.

        More power to ’em, no pun intended. It’s not a job I’d want to do – high-power electricity scares the snot out of me, even if I started as a hardware guy. Given the feast-or-famine nature of the job, and the likelihood that the majority of the overtime happens when conditions are at their worst, I think they deserve every dollar they’re paid.

  • Chris D. July 30, 2013, 1:49 pm

    If you are the creative sort there is a new way to be funded on the internet using an old idea. John and Hank Green are brothers who have a strong following on Youtube where they make entertainment and educational videos. They just started Subbable (https://subbable.com/) to try to break away from the advertising-based revenue stream that so many creators have to rely on. Subbable allows supporters to easily make a monthly pledge in any amount. That money is banked and can be traded in at different levels for different rewards. So it is a PBS or public radio fundraising campaign mixed with Kickstarter. The idea is that creators can do excellent work without having to lower their standards to create “viral” videos that get millions of hits.
    This could be an excellent way to generate money if you make something that people really care about. One negative I see is that people might withdraw support over time. Also there will likely be copycat sites with the same format but focused on being middlemen that take much more of the money before it goes to creators. Nevertheless it is great to see a new way of making money for people who make good things in the world.

  • David Beer July 30, 2013, 3:58 pm

    Avionics Engineer turned Software Developer here. And it’s not a problem earning £100k (USD 150k) without a degree. That said, I’ve massively shifted the equation to the life side of the work/life equation, so now only earn around £40k (USD 61k) which is still way more than I need, but manage to take 6 months off each year to travel doing so…

    MMM has some great advice on minimising expenditure and being less of a consumer. Just following Charles Dickens Advice makes a lot of sense:

    “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” (Basically spend less than you make) Charles Dickens

  • Klean1079 July 30, 2013, 6:05 pm

    I started a window washing company when I was 16 years old in high school. It’s pretty damn easy to learn how to wash windows, but I discovered that people where so lazy that they would pay big bucks for someone to do it for them. I gave my business card to all my teachers, and it grew from there. I made $65,000 my second year in business, I averaged over $100,000 a year, every year for 7 years after that, and ended up selling the business for $750,000. There are hundreds of ways to make 50k a year without a degree.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer July 30, 2013, 7:05 pm

    My awesome husband works his tail off as an engineering technician for a large mfg. company. Base pay? 46k to start, easy to hit over 50k with raises and overtime, and he’s never been to college. What amazes me is that this company, a great company by the way, gives several people chances to prove themselves worthy of permanent hire by working as temps, and by and large the crowd, mostly 30 and under, don’t want the jobs. Too much work, not enough sitting on your behind. Amazing!

  • Jane July 31, 2013, 4:32 am

    Or, you can do what I did and attack the problem the other way around. I left school in the UK at 17 and went straight into a clerical/admin job with the sort of company I wanted to work for. Then, I basically over-performed massively in that role and caught their attention. I persuaded them it would be worth it to them to pay for me to study and get a relevant university degree in my spare time.

    After that, I steadily worked my way up in my chosen field and – later – persuaded another employer to pay for me do to a further degree (again, I put in the study etc in my own time). In the UK, part-time study costs a fraction of what the full-time degree course would cost.

    So, I finished up with all the qualifications I needed to progress in my chosen field. They cost me an investment of time and effort, but no money. My employers benefitted from my hard work and application while I worked for them and it got me where I wanted to be – and earning way more than $50,000. Because I always lived on much less than my income, I was able to ‘stache loads away and I now chose to work just 2 days a week – which pays me more than enough for my needs.

    Yes, there are many good jobs that do not need a degree but, equally, it is important not to limit your choices by assuming you have to approach a career the conventional way!


  • Emre July 31, 2013, 3:09 pm

    How about this for an idea…we license the MMM name, then open up Badassity centers where we hand hold and show people how to do everything so that they can also retire early.

    Just something I dreamed up over the last couple of nights after reading this post. We’d all wear our uniforms with the mustache and bike to work. No parking spaces…etc…

    Oh yeah, first time poster here, been following the blog for about a year now. Yay!

  • serious coinage July 31, 2013, 4:34 pm

    Great article! I totally agree that many far too many people are ignoring the “trades.” Maybe they look down on them or think they are “better” than that. But even if you don’t do it as a job your whole life, knowing how to do carpentry, plumbing, or welding are all extremely useful and practical skills. Would you rather be a self-employed electrician making 90K a year or an underemployed Ph.D. in Sociology making 30K and having massive debt? There are a lot of unemployed and underemployed Ph.D.’s, J.D.s, and others without marketable skills out there who are also saddled with massive student loans.

    I totally loved college and recommend it for nearly everyone, if, and it’s a big “if” they can afford it without going into massive debt. All the so-called “smart” kids are told they must go to college and get a degree. The so-called less smart kids are pushed into trades. Why is this? I think a truly smart person could pursue both. If you have business and marketing skills combined with an in-demand trade, you could do very well.

  • Sam July 31, 2013, 5:23 pm

    Hard to make sure I read all the comments but I’ll second window washer and add pool maintenance; my neighbor told me he averages 60k a year with his pool route.

    Knowing how to do 3D drawing / modelling will likely get you there too. I know a college dropout who knew AutoCAD, turned that into a job drawing up pools for pool salesmen to show their customers, and turned that into the operations manager at that pool company. Most of the salesmen there were former pool maintenance guys who sold their routes.

    Gutter installer – I paid someone $750 to install my gutters, it took him and one other about 2 hours (750 less the material cost which probably wasn’t more than 200).

    Landscape alteration that takes some brains – I paid someone 3k to route water from said gutters to the front yard. Took him and about 4 other guys part of 1 day and the overhead in that business appeared to be food and shovels.

    – Tree remover – people will pay you up to and over 1000 per tree if you look like you won’t let that tree fall on their house.

    – private pest control – our pest guy makes a good hourly rate based on what I’m paying him.

    I have to stop now, this list is depressing me because it forces me too recap excess spending :(

    • Alexis Devan August 7, 2013, 5:48 pm

      Yup about autoCAD–relays to my post project manager. At my job we have an “architect” who is not registered as one but is trained/qualified and he makes at least 40k a year just off us. He also does work for other clients.

  • Heather July 31, 2013, 5:59 pm

    Urban farming. This is one book that covers it: http://www.amazon.com/SPIN-Farming-Basics-Thinking-Farming-again/dp/0615384099. I’ve encountered a few people online who are making around $50K doing this. People let them use their yards in exchange for fresh produce. Then they sell to local farmer’s markets or restaurants. A lot of upfront capital isn’t necessary. One dude in Canada does everything with his bike, actually. It’s called something like “Pedal Powered Farm” I think.

    Another thing I’m looking into currently: tax prep, planning and representation. You can become an “enrolled agent” with the IRS by taking a test. This basically gives you the creds similar to a CPA in regards to taxes (not audits, though), but you don’t even have to have any formal education to qualify for the test (CPA usually requires 150 credit hours). Then you can do tax returns, consulting, and you can represent people before the IRS when they are being audited (only CPAs, Tax attorneys, and EUs can do this…and you can charge $100/hr or more if you know what you’re doing!). Tax prep seems to be really lucrative as well. You can easily make $50-100 an hour doing that, but it’s a competitive market.

    I have to say though, almost all of your suggestions (and mine) involve starting businesses. Not everyone is cut out for owning a business. Almost all of your suggestions rely on excellent marketing skills (or tons of luck!) for $50K to be realistic. They also will probably require a few years in the red before profits start coming in, not something many can do when they are already drowning in debt.

  • Katie July 31, 2013, 10:11 pm

    My husband quit his job, as a mechanical engineer, after we had our daughter because his hobby was making more money than the day job. He parts out wrecked sport bikes. I want to also leave the engineering field and plan to do so after we have baby #2 to get a job in the travel field, which is my dream. Having several years of 3 incomes has allowed such moves to happen stress free. We never imagined how big his side business would grow!

  • Caroline August 1, 2013, 9:24 am

    In my website link, I have uploaded a table that shows employment projections from 2012 to 2017. It is sorted by annual openings and all jobs that earn less than $26.00 a hour or require more than on-the-job-training or a postsecondary non-degree award are filtered out. What is left is a list of high wage / high demand occupations that meet your criteria – 23 of them.

    Note that these are projections not forecasts. In addition, openings includes not just new jobs but also incorporates turnover rates and demographics of the current workers in those jobs.

    Here is the link again: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/25645491/High%20Wage%20-%20High%20Demand%20Occupations.docx

  • Elwood August 1, 2013, 2:38 pm

    Here’s a good one for all the smart young folks who did great in HIgh School and college but have no real job-related skills: Test Prep Tutor.

    I work at a tutoring company in the SF Bay Area where starting tutors make $35 per hour—and many new tutors are fresh out of college. Or you can always do this freelance and build up your own practice to make a lot more per hour (we bill our clients $130 per hour!). All you need to tutor the SAT/ACT is a good foundation in reading/writing/grammar as well as math, great social skills, and a talent for teaching. You’ll also need to live in a city with a lot of wealthy, anxious parents.

    Great article!

  • Jake Peters August 3, 2013, 6:25 pm

    I would like to add a job to the consideration pile:

    Auto window tinter

    I only know of 1 guy doing this, but he charges $250/car and $350/SUV.

    It takes him about 2.5-3.5 hours per vehicle, so he can earn about $800 in an 8 hour day.

    The day I was there he was doing 4 cars, so probably working closer to 10 hours, but grossing $1k.

    I do not know his costs, but his tools were inexpensive (razors, towels, squeegees) and of course there is the film (I doubt is is $100/car, but even if it is, you’re at about $400/day).

    He started in his garage, but now has his own space (which adds to the costs).

    This is all in Cleveland/Akron Ohio.

    This guy has made more, as down south (TX, FL) the going price is more like $400/car, apparently.


  • Julianne August 4, 2013, 4:53 pm

    I run my own sewing business out of my apartment, and right now I charge $20/h. This is suplimented by my Etsy shop, where my ready-made items bring it between $20-50/h. Granted, I’m not yet working 40h/week, but I make enough to put food on the table and still have time to maintain my home and do yoga.

    Sewing machines are relatively inexpensive, and even if I pay a mechanic for repairs (I’m learning to do these myself through trial and error), the overhead cost is low (I invest about $300 each year in repairs and new tools, and maintaining my fleet of vintage machines).

    Although there are always cheap clothes to be purchased at the mall, most people really appreciate the skill that I’ve been developing since before starting elementary school. I design and produce costumes, make samples for local designers and inventors, and always have mending projects.

    Now that my husband was just laid off, I’m excited about really pushing my business and frugality to a new level.

  • Chris Zee German August 5, 2013, 3:29 am

    A good job (in Germany, at least) which requires no degree is that of a Chimney Sweep. It requires 2-3 yrs. of training and an additional course to get a license.

    While you will get your hands dirty in the first few years, once you start your own business you will have your employees doing most of the work. You will be enjoying a 2-3 day workweek while making around 50k and you will be having enough time on your hands for other projects (e.g. “adjecent” and highly profitable businesses, such as selling/installing fireplaces, wood, etc.)

    The other option is not employing anyone, doing all the work yourself, cashing around 80k-120k for a 5-6 day workweek.

  • Cas Hout August 6, 2013, 2:34 pm

    Electricians are skilled tradespeople, and in Ontario, it takes 5+ years to get your license. It is not a job you can just “pick up”. While some of that learning time is apprenticing and getting paid, the pay is only slightly higher than minimum wage to start (for most of those 5 years). As you progress in your schooling, it gets harder to find work and get a company to take/keep you on because you get more expensive. I’m the wife of an electrician and it has not been an easy road. In his younger years, Ontario had a lack of work. Being a unionized electrician (better benefits, pension, etc), he was on a 2 year waiting list for work with an inability to apply for jobs (you’d be blackballed).
    As a licensed trades person, you are a professional, and qualified. People who are not trained can burn down your house. You should not hire just anyone. Ever watch Holmes on Homes?
    Sorry, but I took offence to this post. Now, yes, my husband makes six figures. He has built up a reputation; but there are disadvantages too. Big money often means long hours and out of town living. But in our leaner years he made well under $20 000. Full-time, 36 hours a week, licensed would net $50-60 grand. But, in Eastern Ontario where industries are shutting down, steady work is not easy to find.

  • Alexis Devan August 7, 2013, 5:44 pm

    A construction project manager. After 7-10 years you could become a director of construction for a construction company, commercial real estate company or retailer and easily make six figures.

  • Tax Nerd October 7, 2013, 6:28 pm

    Another job that pays well over $50K – cardioplegic technician. What is that, you ask? Community college two year degree gets you a certificate in it. When they do open heart surgery (bypass, etc.) they have to stop the heart and put the patient on a heart/lung machine. The cardioplegic technician perfuses the stopped heart with special fluid that keeps it oxygenated while the surgeon does the bypass grafts (or whatever else that needs repairing). These technicians can make well over $100K with five years’ experience. If I had known about this field, I would have gone into it instead of into accounting and taxation.

  • Matt October 10, 2013, 11:42 am

    Actually….you can make money in the fast food business, even without being a General Manager or District Manager or Exec. Hell, I’m an Assistant Manager of a convenience store and am looking at making close to $45,000 this year. My goal for next year is $50,000. No college degree and yes, I said Convenience Store! If you have half a brain you can get promoted to shift supervisor fairly quickly in these industries and salaried management is the next step after that. I’m so sick of fast food part time idiots crying about not making any money at it. If you could, everyone would be doing it. Put forth a little effort and the money will come.

  • Deborah Hubbard October 29, 2013, 4:52 am

    October 29, 2013

    I always wanted to do something on my own. I thought about making sweet potato pies and going door to door selling them until I run out. I figure I need to make 130.00 bucks a day so I can keep my apartment and car. It’s been very difficult finding a job, and California unemployment is not paying the payments on time. So this must be a sign that I need to get started.

  • Jessica W November 9, 2013, 8:01 am

    Don’t know if you saw this article with Mike Rowe, but he seems to be channeling exactly what you have been saying a few different articles!


  • Ryan December 5, 2013, 6:28 pm

    What do you think of a business where I change oil for people at their place of employment or even at their homes?

  • mike December 12, 2013, 7:54 pm

    I make around 80= 100 thousand in my pocket a year…. i rebuild chimneys with ice and frost damage since 1996… you can get used to heights i started liking the birds eye view years ago…. no degree or licensing is required because you are restoring not building…. nice! mike

  • Bill Underwood December 16, 2013, 8:27 pm


  • L April 21, 2014, 7:15 pm

    Not to rain on any potential plumber’s parade, but here in the east coast mid-Atlantic states, I’ve never met a plumber’s assistant who wasn’t related to the owner of the company. Even to make a start, you’ll have to be very convincing and very lucky. So educate yourself as much as you can before you get out there and apply for work with every local plumber, electrician, etc.

  • Amazing Alice June 11, 2014, 3:45 pm

    Ok so to all the negitive Nancy’s out there, I mean seriously you can’t think of a job that can earn you $50k????! Seriously it’s not as though Mr MM said what pays a mill a year!!!! These days in nearly every industry if you work hard enough and use your brain a tiny little bit, you can earn at least $50k. I am now onto my third buisness that pays over $50k and I’m in one of the hardest industries in the world (horses) but I actually “Begin with the end in mind!!!!” For goodness safe people , read more and talk less, Mr MM is always right, so don’t argue with him. Oh and also to the peeps out there that think a trade isn’t well paid, I have been a hairdresser now for 15 years and I earn excellent money. I have been semi retired for 3 years and I work from home!

  • Ted Hu June 25, 2014, 1:07 am

    There is an impactful TED talk by a CMU comp sci professor and side hobby self-help guru who researched the topic, concluding it’s not really passion that dictates success. It’s actually the ability to incrementally build on a relative strength – where one has comparative advantage in – and where one can succeed incrementally without drastic setbacks on a regular basis, that is the primary determinant of success.

    That really resonated with me. Far more than the vapid advice of “follow your passion”, a sort of ex-post facto non-advice for those who conflate passion with being good at something and being able to persist at it. Life is a marathon. As the underrated great microeconomist Alfred Marshall once declared, life is had at the margins.

    • GailNYC August 27, 2016, 11:48 am

      But in order to “incrementally build on a relative strength” it’s good to be passionate about it. It’s really really hard to keep doing something day after day, getting better and better at it, if you don’t like doing it. In fact, if you actually *dislike* doing it, it could make you a very unhappy person.

  • Rebecca B July 3, 2014, 11:17 pm

    My brother, who dropped out of community college, makes 80K a year in the Midwest managing a construction materials warehouse. Plus, they bought him a truck, send him to baseball games all the time, and pay him a yearly bonus. He started out as a salesman for a competitor (with no experience in sales really), and hustled hard. He is punctual, friendly, remembers people’s names and faces, and does whatever he says he’s going to do. His new company fell all over themselves trying to hire him away and he pretty much set his salary with them.

    My husband is also in management, and although his company prefers a degree, it’s not required. He says he has this job because he does exactly what his boss tells him to. He makes not quite 80K. Many people think we’re very broke because he manages a retail store; in our case it’s not true. Retail has been very good to us.

  • sjpowder July 21, 2014, 4:16 pm

    I work as a Rope Access Technician in Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope of AK. I am a college dropout and am earning six figures. My schedule is 3 weeks on, 3 weeks off all year long. I never thought I could earn this much, let alone do it and have 6 months off every year! This enables me to spend lots of real time with my family, and enjoy myself for more than 2 days at a time, which to me is barely enough time to stop and think after a week of work. This occupation is started with a one week certification which costs about $1500. I never paid for any training as my employer covered the costs. Starting pay is around $20/hour, and it is possible to move up the scale pretty quickly. It is not for everybody, but for those with the aptitude, it is a great occupation for folks without a college degree.

  • Mudman August 7, 2014, 8:33 am

    Drilling Fluids Engineer- Google it….

  • danny August 20, 2014, 9:14 am

    Automotive and boat detailer i make $100 a car in 2 hrs and do 2-3 a day. boats i charge 25$ a ft a average 20ft boat brings in $500 in 4 hrs it also has a very low overhead my 3m polish is the most expensive item i buy. my startup way only about $250 only need knowledge of cleaning and how to use wax amd a high speed buffer

  • Daphne October 23, 2014, 10:26 am

    I’m curious how you are making over six figures a year from your blog as I see no advertising or products that you sell?

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 26, 2014, 4:04 pm

      Thanks Daphne, I’m glad that you find the site not overly promotional, since that is what I am hoping for – income is fun, but not if it annoys the readers.

      This site makes cash from the little ad banner at the very bottom of the page (also present in the forum section), plus affiliate links to a few products where I found they were available: republic wireless phones, personal capital financial software, etc.

  • Kym November 11, 2014, 8:24 am

    Hi MMM, great article – thanks. Just have a quick question: what blog site do you recommend for starting a blog with the intentions of making $$. Is this blogger that you are on? The reason I ask is that wordpress wouldn’t allow me to use google adsense?

    I also wonder if you could direct me to an article on your site that explains how specifically you make your money on here. Is it on click through ads or something else? Much appreciated :)

  • johnathan November 16, 2014, 12:02 pm

    I look at these websites that tell peolp about high paying none college jobs but none ever mention river boats if you have a Ok background with the law a willingness to work and can handle being away from home for a month with 2 weeks off after that you can start out first year at 32000 and move up quickly to a 80000 year job within 2 years and then if you can handle going in to a steersman program to learn to drive the boats you can make between 100000 and 200000 a year plus 401k and a pension as well with my company after 5 year health care mileage food reimbursement for crew changes plus pay and room and board during training and classes and when on boat they feed you

  • Colorado Hiker December 1, 2014, 10:38 am

    I’d also like to add bartending to this list. I have consistently earned between $50k and $85k tending bar over the past 10 years. I’ve been able to move to different areas of the country several times, without taking a pay cut and with plenty of jobs available (antimustachians love to spend $$ at the bar!). If I had been more diligent with savings in the past I would be close to FI right now at age 35. It is not the most gratifying job as you’re not doing anyone any favors by serving them drinks, but it is a stress-free way to make decent money, and I can take a (granted, unpaid) day off any time I want (i.e. to take advantage of a great forecast for hiking here in the Colorado mountains!).

  • Grinch December 25, 2014, 11:38 am

    My brother is an e-reader writer now and is making very good money. His niche is horror stories in the Appalachian mountains. He worked as a newspaper writer by day while he labored at night on his manuscripts. He suffered many years of rejection slips from publishers and drove all over the country pushing the books that did get published at book signings. Then he discovered Amazon and electronic books. He self-publishes and sells his books for 99 cents each. The recent fascination with zombies and vampires has been a boon to him. He paid everything off and lives happily with his wife on a small piece of land, now promoting heirloom seeds when he is not writing his next best-seller. He wrote one free e-book that every wannabe writer has read and has expanded to several overseas markets and comic books. I believe his success is due to his focus on one niche and his desire to constantly improve his product.

  • Ap999 December 27, 2014, 9:11 am

    No one mentioned here I think. But enlisting in the military is one way to eventually land your self a great paying job even in the 6 figures. Joining the military is a lot like picking a college major, do your research and find a job that teaches you the skills needed for the civilian world. The pros are its paid training and paid work experience, get as many technical schools completed while you are in. You need to do at least 4 to 8 years. Get out and find a job in that field and make the big bucks, not only that you will have the GI bill for additional college education if you want too. I did this, and now I’m in a career making 6 figures, this is probably not for everyone but it’s a path though if done right.

  • Chase July 6, 2015, 12:45 pm

    I am 33 y.o. living in DE, married with 2 kids 12 and 8y.o. I have been working in the engineering and design field for 15 years, I started straight out of Vo-Tech high school. I took 1 course in college like 8 years ago that doesn’t even apply to my job. I make close to 90k a year.

    Many young people around me it seems are perplexed about what they want to do, Delaware has great Vo-Tech schools and it may not be a popular opinion but I say skip college, learn a solid paying vocation and roll with it. I specialize in mechanical piping and equipment design using 2d and 3d programs like AutoCAD and Aveva PDMS. I never once in my life regretted not going to college.

    I also taught myself website design over the last several years, I own a couple large online forums and build and maintain websites for many companies all over the US.

  • Brad September 11, 2015, 4:30 pm

    Funny enough I read your blog on optimism before this one, and seeing many of the comments here…lol…but I love your site! I’m 27, made some really bad financial decisions up until recently. Your site has truly been a blessing. And dude, you can do ANYTHING YOU WANT TO IN LIFE. You just have the balls to believe that, and the willpower to consistently grow.

  • Cody November 19, 2015, 1:08 am

    I bartend and make on average 60k a year. Not a bad gig, only have a 2 year degree but that’s not relevant to my job.


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